Hello from Panama!
I've been in Panama the past few days for Entrepreneurship Week, speaking at the Entrepreneurship Forum and mentoring at Startup Weekend Central America. Wow, right?! If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen pictures I've taken throughout the trip.
To say I'm honored to be part of this is an understatement. But you know what I never expected to feel?
1. You gotta walk the walk.
A few days before I flew here, I hadn't had time to flesh out every detail of my 15-minute talk, because I was busy spending quality time with my little guy before the trip! But I knew the big ticket items I wanted to cover:
- the backstage of entrepreneurship, and
- how to achieve peace of mind as an entrepreneur.
With each passing day, though, my lack of preparation was driving my nerves through the roof. By the time I was on my way to the airport on Wednesday, I told JJ:
"Why did they invite me to this?! I've only been an entrepreneur for a few years. What do I know?!"
But his words grounded me. He told me to just apply the content of my talk!
DUH. *falm palm*
The most humbling experience is realizing you've been talking the talk but not walking the walk. Especially when you know you can.
Being invited to speak in Panama to a crowd of 700 people was part of my entrepreneurial journey, the next challenge required of me... And here I was freaking out about it, when the very contents of my talk was how to relax and feel zen amidst all the crazy that happens as an entrepreneur.
It was time to start walking the walk. Here's how I beat the anxiety:
I was feeling self-conscious about what people might think and judge what I'd say on stage. I needed to beat that. First, I reminded myself to accept reality. I was invited to speak, I accepted, and now I would speak in front of a group of people. Those are the facts. But the facts weren't the problem—the problem was my perception. If I cut my perception out completely and focused on the hard facts—putting on the microphone, walking up on stage, and talking—it really was nothing to be afraid of. After that, I reminded myself to drop my ego. What people think of me doesn't matter. What matters is that I express what I feel I have to express. Wanting to feel validated by people's reactions to my talk? Totally unnecessary.
And guess what? It worked! :-)
By the time I gave my talk, I had talked myself down to about 10% anxiety. Way better than the freak-out I had before my flight, but I wish I hadn't gone through it at all.
Once you know peace of mind is available to you, it's frustrating to know you chose not to access it. You know you could've done better. But peace of mind means having enough self-compassion to try again.
It disappoints me a bit to have gone through this, to have forgotten to apply the contents of what I was telling everyone to do! But the truth is that being constantly aware of your state of mind and heart is extremely difficult. There are times when I'm ultra-in-sync with myself and I can successfully manage those rollercoaster highs-and-lows... But there are times when I lose touch with myself and the rollercoaster takes off again.
My job is to have enough self-compassion to allow myself that relapse and start over.
2. People will not understand.
The thing is, sometimes I'm the only one who feels this way.
When I shared all this with a few people before my talk, they didn't understand why I was being so hard on myself. They'd say,
"But it's normal to be nervous before a big talk! Relax."
They brushed me off as overly analytical or dramatic. They didn't understand the commitment I have to improving my inner self... But of course they didn't! They're not my audience!
This kind of dissonance happens when people value things you don't—especially things that serve to "numb." For example, I try not to give in to materialism or heavy drinking to drown out negative emotions. I'm prepared to brush off judgey comments. (And they happen more often than you'd think!)
What will you do when your journey to self-improvement is challenged? Because it will be. Not everyone is on your path.
When people aren't on your path, they may provoke you to react in a way they feel more comfortable with—a way more similar to their own, perhaps. I invite you to not engage. :-)
Are you up for the challenge?
Marcus Aurelius said it best:
"You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."
Practicing peace of mind isn't without its costs and difficulties. Constant self-awareness is impossible, so you're bound to fall off the wagon into some negative emotions. On top of that, your personal relationships may suffer some misunderstandings and judgement. Your mission—should you accept it— is to bounce back with self-compassion.
Hidden costs or not, peace of mind is always worth the work.