Last week, I gave a talk on how to “Future-Proofing Yourself” at General Assembly. In preparation for the talk, I wrote an article sharing 3 initial thoughts on the topic.

Since we’re all friends here, I’ll let you in on a little secret.

I didn’t know the answer to “How Can We Future-Proof Yourselves?” before I delivered the talk. Or before I wrote the article. And I certainly didn’t know the answer before I pitched myself to General Assembly to deliver the talk.

Believe me – my inner imposter was kicking and screaming as I pitched it: “How the hell could you agree to speak on something before you know what you’re going to talk about?!?”

That voice sounds off like a siren whenever I attempt something new. Or frustratingly, even when doing something familiar involving an audience.

Luckily that voice was met with an equally powerful second voice, coming from a stronger source: learned experience. It whispered two truths I’ve discovered about myself since I started writing:

“I don’t know what I believe until I try to write it.”

And:

“If I put in the work, I’ll deliver something of value.”

Not only do I not know exactly I believe until I write it, but I don’t know how to explain what I know in a way that’s useful for others until I attempt to communicate it. The same goes for speaking and teaching.

Which brings up a third truth I’ve learned about myself:

“The quickest way to learn something new is to commit to speak or write about it.”

That doesn’t mean it will be perfect, or even that I’ll do a great job. BUT – I’ll get a hell of a lot closer to learning if I’m on point to communicate it.

Perfectionist types like me get hung up on this whenever attempting something new. We want to understand everything before committing to do it.

This makes intuitive sense. But it’s a trap.

speaking
Image: Victor Jeg

 

There’s great power in committing to a deadline. Even more powerful if this deadline isn’t only self-imposed, but one that an organization or group of people will hold you accountable to.

Not hold you accountable in the sense of them nagging you – “hey, you said you were going to do that thing…” But instead putting you in a position where you’d feel immense pain if you don’t deliver.

For my talk last week, I imagined the embarrassment of standing in front of 40 or 75 or 100 people ill-prepared. It scared the shit out of me. And it propelled me to deliver something I became extremely proud of.

The result: I have another hourlong talk in my toolkit, the beginnings of what might become a short book, and a deeper understanding of a topic I care about.

To anyone putting off starting something until you’re ready… 

Or waiting until you know precisely what you believe or think or how to do it…

Commit to delivering something first. Set a deadline.

Feel the fear. Use it as fuel.

Work backwards from there. Learn something new. Deliver something remarkable.

A closing thought from Vincent Van Gogh:

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”


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