What You Don’t Know May Save Your Life

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As a professional speaker I work hard to make sure my presentations are lively, entertaining, and valuable. My goal is to ‘wow’ my audience.   Twenty years experience, working with live audiences, has ‘taught’ me more than a few things about how to deliver powerful presentations. Over time, however, ‘wowing’ the audience, has become formulaic and fundamentally about getting the right reactions. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, so why should I mess with it now?

In order to insulate myself from my fears and insecurities associated with being a public speaker (of which there are many) I must make sure that you think I know something and that I’m smart;  I  must know what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it. I have had my share of sleepless nights, feeling anxious and worrying What do I say? How should I say it? What will their response be? What do I say if they say that? Will I be prepared if this happens? What if I say the wrong thing?”Will I have enough information…What about this detail or that point?”

In fact, I’ve spent hours doing Google searches, and reworking my power points. I will also admit, shamefully, that I have pretended to know even when, in fact, I didn’t.  (If you have never done this then you are a better person than I and you should contact me so that I might learn your secret!) All of this having to know, and looking good is really exhausting!

Does any of this sound familiar? What’s your brand of needing to know?

Maybe I’m growing up a bit, perhaps even maturing (my wife and my therapist get the credit for this evolution) but I’ve come to a point in my personal development and therefore my career where I find that I am no longer satisfied to simply (or mindlessly), regurgitate what I already know, the tried and true in order to get the clap, clap, clap approving reactions that make me feel good.  Don’t get me wrong, I like, no I love the acknowledgment, but that misses the point; that life fully experienced is a moment to moment occurrence, requiring  us to be fully present, open and intuitive.

Whether I am presenting for a group, working one on one with a client, or relating with my wife, I am learning to make the leap from head to heart and trust my intuitive self. I am keenly aware of my disposition to have you think I’m smart, funny, entertaining, with it, knowledgeable and I am willing to let it all go( or, at least some of it) I am working on all of this in order to gain the  insights that will help me to be a better person –which may remain hidden from view if I am replaying yesterday’s news.

There’s an elementary school that my wife and I pass by each day when we go out for a walk. The boundless energy, pure, raw excitement that emanates from these children at play never ceases to amaze me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve remarked about this… “Wow, these kids so alive, what happened to us.” Sometimes we laugh about this or intoxicate ourselves with the buzzing energy from the free spirits at the elementary school. I really wish I could be like that now. I aspire to be more spontaneous, not care what I look like and just go for it. I may not be as free as the six year old, who hasn’t yet learned to be cool or have the right answer in order to make it, asking questions about the universe and life and everything- but I am trying.

Asking questions seems to invoke a part of my brain that feels more like a drawer in a filing cabinet that I use mainly for storage – I have some idea about the contents but I almost never open it.

So, what if we didn’t worry so much about having to know what to say?  What if we could open ourselves up to that mostly forgotten but familiar place within ourselves where we are asking, adventuring , perhaps a bit afraid but feeling truly alive?

The point is to practice going beyond what we already know, coming up with the right answers, and going down well worn paths. Let’s have the courage, heart and discipline to explore the unknown.  That is, if we are hoping to be smarter, freer and more intuitive.


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

Albert Einstein

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