Do I have butterflies in my belly? Often. The size of Monarchs.
Since a very tender age, every time I spoke in public, I thought my head was going to explode. Everyone surely would see how foolish my ideas were.
I had the first opportunity to embarrass myself in front of a couple hundred adults at the tender age of six.
It was a school reunion, at my school. I was there with mother, and they were at the point in the meeting where they started discussing my textbook.
Except for they were getting it wrong. I couldn't believe it — everyone was talking about something they simply had not read.
I kept elbowing my mother and whispering she should do something. My future learning depended on it. Know what she did? She told me if it bothered me so much, I should say something. I looked around at all those faces, surely I could not reach up to the podium?
All of a sudden I was caught between two fears — if I didn't talk, they would pick that horrible book; if I talked, they would laugh at me, and still pick the book. Right then and there, I had a choice. Thinking about it, as I started walking toward the podium, the option was only one.
To a shy kid, the prospect of standing in front of a room full of adults and speak on a mike was a very scary proposition. What was I thinking? I stepped up to the podium — well, behind it, it was quite high for me. Someone pushed a crate toward me, I climbed on it.
Heavens, you'd probably not do that today, a crate for a child to step on. It didn't look safe.
I didn't look at the mike, I looked at my mother. She waited for me to start. In fact, everyone was now looking at me. Here's what I said:
You're talking about my book. Has anyone in this room read it?
My heart was beating out of my chest.
The looks came back as blank stares, some people averted their eyes. Ha! They had not read it. The room was quieter, except for the sound of my heartbeat, of course. I proceeded to explain (quickly) my suggested next steps.
Taking my time while stepping off the crate and walking back to my seat, all I could think about was that maybe what I just did helped. Maybe, someone would read the book, and they would reconsider using it. Mother looked happy, I think she was proud of me.
I never forgot that moment. Never forgot the way I felt after taking those steps, letting my discomfort drive my resolve.
That was the first time I thought it was possible.
My dream of living and working in the US. I could make it happen. I could get up, put a foot in front of the other, and do what needed to be done. And so I did. I came alone, many years later, saving for two summers, nothing to my name, except a suitcase.
By learning to use fear as my fuel, I accomplished quite a few feats over the course of my life.
My biggest achievement is yet to come, though. So I hang on tight to that resolve I discovered when I was six. To that feeling that somehow, I will find a way to do what needs to be done, overcoming my fears.
As a gifted writer once said, I've given my life to become who I am. I don't play to win, I play to stay in the game — to be my best self possible. It can be a challenge, believe me, ego wants its cut. Every time I speak, I see that little girl wanting to explore the question.
How do I do it? I ride the butterflies.
Once an activity becomes comfortable, I change it around. Looking like I have it made in a certain environment? Time to accept new challenges and challenge my own assumptions. Is that run an easy routine? Time to start sprinting uphill at mile 5.
I hope you will take up Jonathan's challenge and write your story. This week marks an important milestone for him: The publishing of his new book. He's chosen to share this occasion with us, with you. He's putting that crate under the podium, so we can step up to it. He's doing it for you, for all of us.
The world needs more makers, not just doers. I know you have it in you. Use fear as your fuel. There has never been a better time to start than today.