Last week I gave a presentation – “The Power of a Polished Message” – to a group of non-profit leaders. This presentation was the third in a series of trainings for non-profits on various topics, taught by various facilitators. Though this was the first time I delivered this presentation, the content had been swimming around in my mind for quite some time.
In fact, about three years ago, upon an invitation to contribute to a blog that serves as a resource for non-profits, I sat down on two separate occasions and hammered out my ideas for what I thought would become the series of blog posts I had been invited to write. The work was all but finished, but guess what?
I never wrote the blog series.
Certainly, there are several explanations for this. The easiest is simply that my life got absolutely insane (Note: this is the first blog post I’ve written in nearly three years, so clearly the never-written blog series for non-profits was not the only thing to fall off the wagon!). In addition to several intense writing and editing projects, I started teaching a college business communications class (I did find time to eek out a post about that), which I absolutely loved (still do!), but that made life, well, a lot more full.
So, the not-so-easy explanation for not writing the blog series is something more personal. As I’ve reflected on it recently, I realize that I didn’t pursue that opportunity with gusto because, honestly, I wasn’t sure I had anything all that helpful to say. My mind was filled with thoughts like, What if people read this and say, “Well, duh, anyone could have told you that!” or “This lady doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” or “This isn’t that helpful” or . . .
The truth is that putting your work out there can be a scary thing. And I was scared.
So, imagine what I thought when I was asked to deliver a presentation on “messaging” for non-profits. “You can take whatever angle you’d like,” they said. “But, if possible, we would like it to connect to the material that was covered in the previous session.”
Instantly, I remembered that dusty old file of notes I had scribbled down for the blog series and thought, Huh, I am pretty sure that what I have already written on this topic is exactly what they want. As I shared with them my main premise, I felt affirmed. Maybe what I have to say would be valuable to these non-profit leaders. I started feeling excited about the opportunity!
Even with this glimmer of confidence, I still felt that familiar doubt creeping in over the next days and weeks.
But, I had committed, and one thing that is true about me – I keep my commitments. So, I pressed on.
The day came for the presentation. I was mostly confident in how it had come together, but I was still engaged in an internal battle to tamp down those pesky doubts. As I began my presentation and got into my rhythm, I started to relax. The non-profit leaders in front of me were not staring at me with blank stares or frowning in confusion or disgust, as I had imagined they might; they were engaged. They were smiling and nodding, and from time to time, I could tell that some of them were having “light-bulb” moments.
Do you know what this experience was for me? A gift.
Here’s the thing. Even if the non-profit leaders didn’t respond as favorably as I had hoped, this experience would still have been a gift. Why? Because my doubts kept me humble and reliant; they pushed me outside of myself.
In my doubt, I could have chosen not to commit or to de-commit. But, instead, I stayed committed even when I wanted, at times, to back out.
In my doubt, I could have chosen to stuff down all my insecurities and put on a confident face. But, instead, I asked for help and prayer.
In my doubt, I could have chosen to discount my experience. But, instead, I shared that experience, hoping that it might help someone else.
I don’t deserve a gold star for this. The only logical response is gratitude that I found myself in a place that pushed me onto this path.
I guess my point in sharing this story is this: our doubts about our abilities (to speak, to write, to whatever) can either drive us to quit or they can drive us to push through. Contrary to what the world shouts at us, our “success” is not only measured in how our efforts are received. In my view, our “success” is also measured by our willingness to be vulnerable, to express our need for help, and to share what we have been given. These are the gifts that sustain us.
Putting ourselves out there is scary. But, denying ourselves the opportunity to be pushed beyond self is scarier because it robs us of the gifts of vulnerability, reliance, and giving back to others.
So, if you are facing something that tempts you to doubt your abilities – professionally or personally – I encourage you to push through, committed to choosing the gifts of vulnerability, reliance, and giving back to others. Regardless of the end result, you will be successful.