Be here, now

You know what’s the toughest bit when the spotlight’s on you? To be yourself. And it gets worse when you’re literally on stage as a stand-up comic or a speaker/keynote presenter. The feeling’s same even when you’re coaching someone.

The problem? We’re wearing different hats and try to “live” the roles.

This might sound normal but if I would urge you to reflect on it a little deeper. Wearing a hat (or a fedora) and a tobacco pipe wouldn’t make you Sherlock Holmes, right? Then why the heck do you have to transform yourself into someone whom you clearly are not?

I’ve seen people who’re so pleasant to talk to transform into “orators oozing passion and motivation” as if they’re gunpoint or too many pills that morning. It’s so unauthentic! Now, I won’t lie to you — I’ve done that myself. I now realize how stupid it was. But now that things have changed and I’m more self-aware I finally get it why people do it! They want to hide behind this persona who’s on stage, hoping that the audience won’t judge them. That’s it!

We fear criticism. And that’s why we believe transforming ourselves into a persona is totally normal and even acceptable. But is it? I’m not sure, it sure didn’t work for me. And bringing my “whole-self” into my presentations, speeches, training workshops took time. Close to five years (give or take a few months) before I decided to just throw away that damn hat and show up as myself! And boy, what a relief it was! I didn’t have to kill myself to prepare for a speech (the keyword is “kill” not “preparation”) or get nervous thinking what people would think of me.

Who cares? The only opinion that matters is my own, not theirs. And my opinion for someone who doesn’t show up fully is that great. The worst part — people can read, yet they would say nice things to you. At least you had the courage to get on the stage and fake it for 15-30-45 minutes to talk something that made sense. But is that enough? I believe the most value any speaker or presenter can deliver is by bringing their whole selves on stage.

Just the way you are off the stage. It’s hard and takes a lot of courage to be yourself when you’re on the dais sharing your ideas with a set of eyeballs that don’t recognize you. But once you do that, life becomes so much simpler and so much more authentic.

As a coach, I’ve gone through a similar phase. Centering myself and getting into the “coach’s” state 10 minutes before the call and sound “normal” or “matured” when I hear something from the client’s side… it’s just super weird, alright. I’m wincing even as I write this. And here’s the worst part, I’ve been coached by friends and acquaintances who’re super nice outside the coaching conversation but super-serious when they’re coaching me. What changed? They did! They become someone else!

Is that a requirement? Actually, no. I’m sensing performance pressure which is totally unnecessary. Sure, you need to be careful when you’re coaching someone new but the focus is on building rapport, trust, and intimacy, right? How the hell would you do that if you don’t even show up as yourself?

You can’t connect if you haven’t lived it. And you can’t live unless you are fully present in the here and now.