“I can’t do it. I’m just not good at it.” This was the phrase my daughter used with me when it was time to blow dry her show steer. Barn work doesn’t come naturally to her and because she doesn’t think she’s good at it, she was ready to give up. I was ready to step in with a little coaching when her brother did the job for me.
“Caroline”, he told her, “I’m not good at it either, but that’s why we do it every day, we practice and we get better,”
I was so proud of the kid I about picked up and hugged him right there in the barn! He hit on something that I think holds so many people back when it doesn’t have to. When they view themselves as not good at something, anything, they believe that their ability is set in stone with no hope to improve. They aren’t good so they give up before they ever start.
How This Relates To Public Speaking
In no other area do I see this more than with public speaking. To begin with, it isn’t natural. No one stood up in their cradle and began quoting Churchill. Secondly, it can be nerve-wracking. Speaking makes even the most confident people nervous. Every good speaker that I’ve ever met gets a little scared before they start. The difference is that the great ones didn’t let their natural ability dictate how good they could become and they don’t let their fear stop them from starting. Put simply, good speakers are speakers who didn’t give up just because they aren’t good at speaking.
It’s About Mindset!
In her outstanding book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck divides the world into two groups, those with a fixed mindset; people who believe that their ability, intelligence, and skills are fixed from birth, and those with a growth mindset; people who know that how good they are at something doesn’t have much to do with how great they can become. Her research and writing are changing the way that educators are teaching children and it should change the way we develop as communicators.
Focus on Effort!
According to Dweck, the areas where we need to focus are on skill development and effort. We don’t have a lot of control over where we start. Sure, some of us start out better at certain things than others, but we all have the ability to develop the important skills and to work hard to use them. Instead of focusing solely on performance, we should focus on improving the skills that lead to high performance. Going back to public speaking, not everyone will be as gifted as Tony Robbins on the platform, but everyone can focus on the skills that make Tony Robbins a great speaker. We can focus on our energy, our connection, and our story. All of these things can improve if we put forth enough effort. All of us can be better than we are if we develop the skills and put in the work.
This week, there will be challenges and there will be times when we will think that we can’t do it because we aren’t good at it. Like Caroline in the barn, we will be tempted to give up because it doesn’t come naturally. When the moment comes, it’s my hope that you will remember that no one is born great and by developing skills and focusing on the effort, we’ll hang there and grow into how great we can become.