I thought someone out there might be curious about my process of prepping for one of my talks or concerts. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at a recent gig…
Two months before an event, a booking confirmation hits my inbox. I feel excited and a little anxious. "What will I say?" "Will I do a good job?"
About a month out, I begin to plan and practice as part of my daily walks. In my mind, I step onto the stage and get a feel for what it will feel like to be with this group of people. I think of something really great to say and write it down when I get home.
The next day I rehearse the script, but it falls flat. "What was I thinking?" I start over and think of a better thing to say. I get home and write down my new, much better talk.
Over the course of a few weeks, I throw away a lot of talks.
Eventually, I realize that delivering a scripted talk on presence is feels counterproductive. How can I lead others to be present if I'm reciting a script from the past?
I decide not to script the talk, but instead to simply step onto the stage, take in the audience, and do what I'm asking them to do: Breathe. Be fully here. Then share whatever is alive in me. My anxiety skyrockets!
I spend the next couple of weeks trying not to write my talk. Instead, I practice stepping onto the stage and being present.
Before long, I have another realization: I'm practicing for a talk about presence by imagining myself in the future. My practice for this talk is keeping me from being present! Meanwhile, I’m missing a beautiful walk through a beautiful neighborhood on a beautiful day.
I come back to where I am.
I see the trees. I hear the birds. I feel the sun. I feel my breath.
I’m flooded with gratitude for this wonderful moment.
I decide that the best way I can be of service to this future audience is to enjoy my walk today. But, this leaves me feeling even less sure about what I’m actually going to say. My anxiety continues to grow.
My daily walks are now a combination of practicing presence and coping with pretty high levels of anxiety! I try to come back to my beautiful walk—to the trees, the birds, the sun—but I can't seem to “get back.” I feel discouraged. "How can I lead others into presence if I can't get past all of this anxiety??"
I have another realization: the trees, the birds, and the sun are here; so is my anxiety. My anxiety is part of this moment. Being present means being with my anxiety.
I accept that I am anxious. I allow it to be here, with me.
My anxiety subsides. It is still here, but it no longer fills my view—it walks next to me.
I see the trees again. I hear the birds. I feel the sun. And my anxiety. I take it all in.
I feel a rush of gratitude. I feel present again. Today, this is my preparation. This is my practice.
I am learning that practicing presence can never be “ruined” by circumstance. The circumstance—like it or not—points to presence.
On the flight to the event, I continue to practice.
In the hotel, I continue to practice.
On the morning of the event, I continue to practice.
I walk on stage. I look out. I see my anxiety. It is here. But it is not all that is here. I see other people. People who, just like me, long to feel connected, present, and to know that it's okay to be here. I'm not alone. I take it all in.
I am flooded with gratitude for this wonderful moment.
And from that space, I share what is alive in me. But more important than what I say is the place from which it comes.
If you'd like to watch the talk this all led to, here is a highlight video (there’s a link to the full keynote in the description as well):
I’m curious of anyone else has had a similar experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts!