Lesson from 2016 – don’t discount people’s fears…

Now we are a couple weeks into 2017 and I am starting back writing again as one of my 2017 resolutions. What better way to start out is to capture lessons from the past and in a series of posts I will do just that based on lessons that I believe we should all take away from 2016.

In 2016 many of us heard about the scary clown craze and some people have significant fears of clowns and others do not so it is a good lead in for this discussion.

One of human’s greatest emotions is fear. We make irrational decisions based on fear. Fear of not being accepted. Fear of not being good at something. Fear ob police. Fear of losing a relationship. Fear of losing security. The rational human actor of traditional economics has been debunked by behavioral economics and the irrational human actor.

This irrational human actor often acts the way they do out of fear. People are motivated by fear and make decisions that are not in their best interest out of fear. For those of us without those fears it is easy for us to discount these choices made out of fear.

One lesson 2016 has taught us is don’t discount people and their fears if you haven’t walked in the same shoes you cannot truly relate. And, instead of discounting those fear-based decisions, understand the fears, empathize with those fears, and help people get past those fears. Only by understanding, empathizing, and helping people get past fears will move people from fear-driven decisions and drive them to data-driven decisions.*

Remember people no matter where they are from, what their education is, or how they grew up still have emotions and fear being one of the strongest. Instead of negatively increasing their fear, try to mitigate fear with empathy and positive messaging.

This week those of us in the United States have a new President and it is good for us to understand that Donald Trump just like all Americans and people in the world has fears. It is each of our responsibilities to understand, empathize, and helping him and all of our fellow citizens get past their fears.

*In a future post I will be speaking about data driven decisioning and lessons from 2016 including the need to have healthy skepticism about data and understanding what it indicates and what it doesn’t indicate.

About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

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Do you fear public speaking more than death?


Public speaking comes natural to a few but for the rest of us it is something we reluctantly do or simply avoid. I am writing this since it is very timely in my life as I recently finished two public speaking engagements.

Over the years I have done many of these in different settings and while I still get nervous prior to starting I feel good every time when I am finished. Further, getting up and putting yourself in front of others and speaking about something you are knowledgeable about will help build your brand and at the same time add value for others.

Here are a few tips to make your next public speaking engagement more successful:

  • Prepare: Few people can just wing it when speaking in front of people. Unless you are very confident this is you or want to experience what the worst-case scenario is like then I strongly advise you to prepare. This does not mean memorizing every line – in fact, memorizing lines comes off poorly and is robotic. Come up with an outline at first and then prepare slides or props or whatever you will use and then practice. For every public speaking engagement I recommend that you go through it at least three times. Further, these three times should be spread out over at least two days.
  • Engage your audience: Really good public speakers engage their audience. This means good eye contact and being conversational with the audience. Speaking in an engaging voice and using emotion in your voice while speaking at a comfortable pace. Further, avoid using big words and acronyms or you will likely lose your audience.
  • Less is more: Often times when doing public speaking you will have slides or some type of props. Stress that less is more. Each content slide should take at least three minutes of time and can be much more. Generally I like to keep presentations to 10 slides or less of content slides and just like a story you need a beginning, a middle and an end. Don’t cram everything into a slide – standard text should be at least 24-point font and use short statements, not full sentences. Most importantly — speak to your slides, don’t read them!
  • Nervous good, petrified bad: Being nervous is healthy and will motivate you to do a good job and to prepare. Being petrified likely will result in you freezing up. Start with smaller audiences or take an improv class to get you more comfortable. Some people find it best to start with an audience of people they know (like a team meeting) while some people find it best to start with an audience of strangers (like an improv class). In short, start small and work towards bigger and more challenging audiences and longer speaking engagements to ensure you stay nervous but not petrified.
  • Practice, practice, practice: There are very few “naturals” in the public speaking game. There are tons of people that look like naturals because they practiced and developed their skills. This practice could be through things like Toastmasters or even taking improv classes. Just find a forum to start practicing public speaking and seek feedback on how to get better.

Now it is time to act – find a way to engage in public speaking. Yeah you might only want to be a database administrator or a market research analyst but if you want to truly be “the” database administrator or market research analyst then you will need to be polished speaking in public – even if just in front of team or department meetings.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Do you fear fear?


All of us have fears – so what makes you afraid? Public speaking, cancer, rejection, or failure. Most people spend to much time worrying about what might happen to us instead of opportunities that come from takings risks. We repeatedly hear the important trait of entrepreneurs taking on risk and conquering their fears but that applies to any profession and life in general.  Fear is a natural response that is not bad and makes us think twice before jumping off a 200-foot cliff — sorry cliff divers. But, fear is also the thing that holds people back in their professional and personal lives too often. Be honest to yourself and ask if you are the person that does not volunteer for that new high-profile project that is starting because you would have to learn a new skill as part of it and are worried you won’t be able to do so? Or, are you the person that has a lot of unspoken ideas because you are too afraid to speak up in front of the group because you are afraid that people will think your ideas are stupid?

Instead of giving into fear recognize it for what it is a basic chemical reaction and think about the upside versus the downside of fear when it creeps up. If you don’t take that project and as part of it learn a new skill you will not fail at it but if you take it and fail you have more skills and are looked at for taking initiative. If you do not speak up in the meeting or bring a new idea forward you will certainly avoid that slim chance that your idea would be discounted but it guarantees that your idea will not be considered. If you find a way to automate some part or all of your job think awesome you may will get to learn something else.

Remember that fear is natural and primeval and is part of our fight-or-flight response that is meant to keep us safe in a world where things would kill us. As information workers there are no bears or tigers in our office, conference room, or cubicle so use fear as a signal to motivate and act. Overcoming a fear can be one of the most rewarding things we experience. And, if we combine this rewarding experience with making us more successful in your job then it becomes a double bonus.

One thing I have found helpful is identify fears and pick something where a fear is holding me back and put together a plan to overcome it. This blog is partly motivated driven to overcome a fear and certainly feel good about doing it.

Next time you feel fear at work, fear the fear itself and then embrace the challenge and follow what it is really saying — it is time to act, volunteer, or speak!

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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