Dale Carnegie changed my life, so my ears perked up when I heard Charles Osgood mention him on CBS’s Sunday Morning show.
It brought me back to a life-changing event years ago in Des Moines. The event, a near-disaster at the time, quickly led to my stepping ‘way out of my comfort zone.
At the time, I was Book Marketing Director at Meredith Corporation and had flown out to Iowa for the regular results meeting. Halfway through the presentation, my brain froze. No thoughts at all. And, of course, no words.
People’s worst fear is public speaking, #2 is death (So, people would rather die than speak in public).
Numbers don’t come easily for me, and here I was yakking away about response rates, costs, net profit, etc. But it wasn’t the numbers. It was standing up there talking to so many people all focused intently on me. My mind just went blank. Somehow, I recovered and, flustered, finished.
When I got back to New York, “Fred”, one of the executives at the meeting called to say “You need to do better at public speaking. I’d like you to sign up for the Dale Carnegie course.”
Public speaking! Stomach in knots, I went. The wonderful instructor told me later that I was his most frightened student ever.
It’s good to give someone a nudge to be better at anything
It turned out to be a turning point in my life. Dale Carnegie gave me confidence, and soon I was actually getting paid to give speeches. A professional! My mother was astonished. Thanks, Fred, for pushing me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes that’s what it takes. Visit my blog, Joy of Direct Marketing for my speaking tips.
And sometimes, you just do it on your own. Tuesday’s New York Post had an article about Mindy Meyer who’s running for New York State Senator. What’s unusual is that she is just 22 years old and a “fun-loving, Orthodox Jewish law-school student” who believes young people should get involved in politics. She’s running as a Republican which, all by itself, takes courage in Brooklyn.
A work in progress
I have some things I’m still working on to get out of my comfort zone. Travelling alone is high on my list. So is going to networking events. I fight the urge to sashay out of there.
I get into ruts, don’t you? Work, go home, eat, sleep, work, repeat. You get comfortable and have to force yourself to do something totally different.
- A couple of years ago, I took a two week cruise down the Dneiper River in Ukraine. We started in Kiev and wound up in Odessa. Along the way, we stopped in several middles of nowhere to visit farms and small towns. We toured the Crimea on the Black Sea. It was great but friends thought I was nuts. Why not Paris? London? Rome? Well, I’ve been to those places so often that they’re honorary members of my rut.
- Of course, you don’t have to leave town to do new things. Mike, our Creative Director, just bought a series of DVDs about learning calculus, of all things. He’s always doing stuff like that. He was raised in Montreal and never learned about our Civil War. Now he’s practically an expert.
- I always wanted to learn to paint so I took a class at the Ft. Lauderdale Art Museum, and enjoyed every minute of it. My assistant, Rachel, does new things without even thinking about them, things as simple as trying a new restaurant or taking different routes home.
Comfort zone, rut, zombie state (according to my friend Dwain), whatever we call it, when we’re stuck in it our brains get mired in the muck of routine thinking and automatic reaction. We begin to bore even ourselves, never mind our clients and their customers and prospects.