How I Got Over a 20-Year Old Fear in Five Minutes

I suck at storytelling. 

So I’m still scratching my head as to why I decided to put my name on that paper when it started floating around the room to sign up for a storytelling event.  I had just listened to the most captivating story I’ve ever heard, live in front of me on a dimly lit stage, and I was gonna do THAT?  

It was late evening, my eyes were glued to that stage and listening intently as the crowd roared in laughter and welled-up with tears.  I was not immune.  Yet, instead of being 100% present in the moment and fully enjoying the story, I couldn’t stop thinking, “how the flip does this guy do it?”  “How does this dude live such a compelling that he’s able to get in front of hundreds of people and have the audacity to believe they want to listen to what he has to say?”  

I’ve never had a fear of public speaking.  Yet, there was something about keeping people engaged with a story of my life that intimidated the hell out of me. 

My life isn’t story worthy!  Why does he get to live a life worth talking about and I don’t?

That’s my typical default…to severely under appreciate the tremendous blessings that’ve that consistently manifest themselves over and over in my life.  With this buttock-clenchingly poor attitude, it must have been Devine intervention that prompted me to sign up. 

What idiot would volunteer to tell a story in front of 100 people if he didn’t have a story to tell?

THIS guy would...

Living Under False Pretenses

Deep down I knew the no-story thing was a facade.  This step out in faith, out of my comfort zone to address a nagging little fear of not living a life worth telling a story about changed my perspective. 

Thank the Lord I was never really plagued with society’s No. 1 fear (greater than death); I wasn’t afraid of speaking in front of an audience.  If it was technical information or I needed to make a presentation about a project or whatever, I was all over it - bring it on baby! 

I give a talk on email efficiency; it's basically how to NOT let email own you and control your day. I do it about once a quarter, just for fun because it’s sort of a passion of mine (don’t get me started on email, this article I wrote a few weeks back should've already scratched that itch). 

You know the most prominent feedback I receive when I collecting surveys about my email talk?

“Nick, I love the presentation content, you’ve really got a great buzz going on here, BUT…we could’ve used a few stories to really draw us in."  -Attendee

Ouch.

Ok.  Well first of all, I’m a frickin engineer and who doesn’t get paid to tell stories!  It’s not exactly a skill I’ve been honing in on during the last 14 years I spent working in Corporate America.  I’m used to giving the facts, answering questions and getting it done, that’s it - no stories. 

Second, they didn’t tell me I need a few more stories; it was a few stories, i.e., I didn’t have ANY stories in my talk whatsoever!

This storytelling fear was worse than I thought.  I’m an entrepreneur now, and storytelling was showing signs of affecting my business; my ability to get work!

Maybe that’s why I signed up for Story Jam Theatre

Perhaps I knew that if I didn’t lick this storytelling thing I’d build a business full of mediocrity. Now there’s a fear for ya.

It’s Not Just Big Fears

I get the big fears: taking a leap and starting a business, confessing to a loved one you’ve hurt them, leaving your kids with a new babysitter, professing your faith in Jesus Christ in a room full of Atheists; I totally understand how the big fears can cripple us from being our best.

Yet, we tend to underestimate the little fears.  They cripple us from within, through small lost opportunities, time and time again, going unnoticed like a thief in the night.

Storytelling is an example of a little fear for me.  It’s not like I wake up every morning beating myself up over being a horrible storyteller, but it was there.

I’m a productivity guy; I know how to get things done, but if I've said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, it’s about getting the right things done.

Further, I’m a firm believer that if there’s a fear built into our work or our lives, no matter how small it is, then that’s the thing we ought most to be doing.

The FEAR is the RIGHT thing!

It didn’t matter if I could connect WHY this little storytelling issue was crippling me.  It was a fear, and if I want to become great, I need to overcome my fear.

So I committed.

Facing the Little Fears

The first step to facing a fear, large or small, is to admit it’s there in the first place.  I’ll save Step One for another blog post.

The second step is to commit to doing something about it.  That’s what signing up to tell a story did for me. 

It forced my brain to consider my life.  It opened my eyes.

For the greater part of two decades I was unconsciously living under the false pretenses that I was living a life unworthy of talking about. 

Do you know how long it took me to think of a topic?

About five minutes.

Seriously, that’s all it took.  The life unworthy of being talked about, the sucky storyteller, the “why is this guy so much better than me” guy came up with a story in five flipping minutes!

20 years of unbelief in myself miraculously dissipated away from my consciousness, in FIVE SHORT MINUTES.

It’s powerful, it’s amazing what a commitment can do to overcome our fears.

Keep it Going

I won’t go into the details, but I told my first story at Story Jam Theatre last night (it’s the reason I’m late posting this article), and they told me I did good.  It’s on video, so when it’s ready I’ll update this with a link to my story.

Sure, I’ve still got work to do but I got this now, I got the bug!

Some of you may know about my podcast launch this Christmas.  It’s a little weird for me to tell people to listen to my show; same sort of reason I used to fear telling people my story.  I didn’t think I was worthy.

I have a fear of marketing; I fear of selling things to people.

Yet, after telling my story last night I found myself inspired to tackle these fears head on now too!

After Story Jam, I was walking to my truck in the parking garage and I saw two families walking to their cars. 

I stepped out of fear again right there, in that moment.  I said to them, “hey, you guys are parents, you might enjoy listening to my show.  We launch on Christmas,” and I handed them a my podcast card.  They were very appreciative, go figure...

I’m inspired now guys, and I invite you to step out and overcome your own little fears.

You know it’s a little weird for me to write an article about my fears.

But I did it anyway.