Preparation: Key to Overcoming Fear

25 11 2013

Winston-Churchill-Flashing-Victory-SignAbout twenty years ago, I read a fascinating book–The Sir Winston Method–by James Humes.  At the time, I was doing a fair amount of public speaking.  The book, an exploration of Winston Churchill’s speaking techniques, was apropos.

One practical bit of information I gleaned from this book was this: The way to overcome the fear of public speaking is to know more about your subject than anyone else in the audience.

Hmm.

It is fairly well-known that there are a lot of people in our world who fear getting up in front of people and speaking more than death itself.  Fear of humiliation.  Fear of unpreparedness.  It is quite potent.

I’ve learned that when I do my homework, when I have put myself through the paces, when I own my subject–I am far more unafraid.

Here’s the challenge:  Prepare.  Put in the time and effort to know your topic.  I mean really know it.  Anticipate the arguments and objections.  Indeed, shoot holes through your subject before anyone else can.  Know the weaknesses, the tenuous spots, and strengthen them.

Watch fear dissipate!

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Learn A Language Fast (It Can Be Done)

7 10 2013

LanguageI studied the French language for six years.  Four years in high school; two in college.  I’ve always been fascinated by language, symbols essentially for concepts.  The sounds of different tongues are color and music to my ears.

In my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to meet and interact every day with two foreign-exchange students from Europe who were fellow classmates in my French IV class.  Joachim hailed from West Germany (this, of course, before the Berlin Wall fell) and Bo from Sweden.

Given the close proximity of one country to another, most Europeans are, out of necessity, polyglots.  Both of my classmates could speak numerous languages.  It was inspiring, to say the least.

There are benefits to learning languages other than your native tongue.  You can communicate with those from another country and you can read classics, newspapers and other works that are not English.  Someone once said that reading Tolstoy in translation is like kissing through a veil.  You get the picture.

I read somewhere, once upon a time, how Near Eastern scholar Cyrus Gordon learned a number of foreign languages during the course of a summer.  He said–and he learned over twenty languages throughout his life–that if you took any book in a language other than your own, read the first twenty pages of the same and took the time to up the meaning and grammar of every word, you could have a reading knowledge of that particular language in short order.  During one summer, he mastered six languages by simply giving an hour a day to each following this study pattern.  Among them, he learned Portugese and Danish.

How about adding new language skills to your tool chest?  My eldest daughter Anna–who studied French for two years in high school–is now living in the south of France and has immersed herself in the language of Voltaire and Émile Zola.  She’s become quite conversant in it and can interact with people in places like Paris and Lyons.

You may follow Gordon’s study program.  Or you may benefit from the TED talk in the video I’ve attached.  Try it!

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