Humans’ #1 Fear

People have been surveyed over and over again on this topic:  What is their number one fear?  Hint:  It isn’t even death.  Death is surely in the Top 10, but consistently, the thing that people are single-handedly most afraid of–the thing many would rather DIE than do–is public speaking.

Many of you who know me will attest to the fact that I have managed to circumvent this fear by virtue of my God-given personality.  I’ll talk to anyone–ever since I was a kid.  At five years old, I would sit and talk with a little, old blind lady at the grocery store who sat on a bench while my Mom was shopping, and just talk with her.  Mom asked me why I did that one day, and I told her, “Because she looks like she needs someone to talk to.”  Kids…anyway, I live by the credo that you never know who you’re talking to.  I met the VP of Castle Metals in Chicago on a flight one time, and didn’t know who he was until three minutes before we landed.  It’s a significant help when it comes to meeting new people, and you don’t get much networking done without actually meeting new people, after all.

About a year ago, I was flipping through websites at three o’clock in the morning one night on a day off (I had to keep that nocturnal schedule to be ready for work from 6:30pm to 7am).  This particular night, I was flipping through a couple of men’s magazine websites–Men’s Health, GQ,, etc etc, and I was searching for the latest and greatest things that successful men have and do, and comparing them to my own habits.  Ticking off the checklist, if you will.  The kind of clothes they buy, the style they have, the fitness regimen they keep, the jobs they have…all of this, I figured, would make me into a better man for Allison, and a more attractive one to her, if that was possible.

I didn’t run out and blow three months’ salary on two hundred dollar jeans and shirts, nor did I particularly care about what the polls said men’s style should look like.  I do my own thing, and have my own style, and don’t really care what everyone else thinks, but I knew that I have a few habits that could stand to change, so I tried to emulate those that were mentioned.

I changed my fitness routine a little, paid more attention to what I ate, and saw some results.  Then, I took a step that many around me would not have:  I joined my local Toastmasters group, just like the magazine said to.  Just turned the paperwork in today, actually.  This was my second meeting, and while my personality lets me enjoy a leg-up on most of the people who are there, the fact that I can address a large group of people without raising my blood-pressure by much is no match for the mental capacity of truly communicating a message in a thorough and engaging way.  I am a far better writer than I am a speaker, and I’m aiming to change that by joining them because one day I want to be comfortable in the position of “group facilitator” or “group leader” or some such role.  In the two meetings I’ve attended at Toastmasters, I see already key areas that need work in my verbal communication.  I have received comments on my apparent ease of communication style, and confidence of posture, but in my own head I know that what I heard was probably different than what the audience heard.

Regardless, I suppose this will be another healthy stretching of myself into an area of growth that I haven’t dealt with since college…and I can tell that it’s healthy because it does make me slightly uncomfortable to have a time limit during extemporaneous speaking (impromptu topics/opinions, etc), and when I run out of things to say or places to go with the story, I get a little nervous.  Then again, I suppose anybody would.

Anybody else in Toastmasters?  How has your experience there been for you?

  1. I have a feeling we read the same article…I was doing the same thing at exactly the same time (around 3 am, trying to keep the nocturnal schedule going) when I read on about TM for the first time. It changed the way I look at speech and being socially skilled! I’ve been in TM about six month or so now, and it’s been really great info to learn about myself. I’ll tell you, nothing keeps you as honest as what you see on a camera when you record yourself speaking and using hand gestures. Great post, man…hope it’s going well for you.

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