I haven’t written cold in a while: meaning, I sit down, type, hit publish and move on. It’s similar to standing behind a microphone not knowing what you’re going to say, not being able to see who’s looking at you. Great things can happen…or not.
We look to relate through stories, through analogy. That’s why so many people giving a speech start with a story, a kind of warm-up.
I was at a corporate retreat a few years ago, where we were asked to re-examine our company’s mission statement. There were about 50 of us, including the senior leadership, so it was considered a real treat to be there.
There was a mix of activities for us at our respective tables, all designed to culminate in recommendations for the company mission. One activity was to dramatize the future of the company, 20 years from now.
We had about an hour and a half to eat lunch and agree on how we would portray this, as a group of about 12. The idea was to create a skit, a song, something like that. Each group would deliver their act on stage, and it would be filmed.
One of the people in my group was the head Legal person, and took most of the time talking, but at the end, didn’t want to present in the skit.
Our prep time was up, and we didn’t have much of a plan. The guy in Supply Chain was really excited and had some great ideas he thought, but I didn’t think so. He was going to go first, and we had some people in the middle, but no one in the end. So I offered to do it.
Our group was scheduled to go last. I sat in the audience and watched the others, watched the guy with the camera filming them, his face moving from interest and delight to intense boredom.
The other skits were, unfortunately, superb. People had memorized their lines, they were rhyming, waxing poetic. I grew more and more anxious for our skit. I actually thought about leaving, and feigning sickness. As I thought about that, I actually did feel sick.
We went on stage, and saw all the expectant, happy faces in the crowd. At first, they all want you to succeed. Within 30 seconds, they’re either with you, or want to kill you.
I spoke: it was like lifting off the ground, trying to catch the right propulsion. I got up, and then I realized I was on camera, at a hotel near SeaTac, on a Wednesday, with the senior leadership team, and the world started to blur around the edges. I pulled it off, barely.
I’ve read self-consciousness is the death of all art. So I post now and end by saying, don’t fear the cold.