How do you get better at hitting a golf ball? By hitting golf balls.
How do you get better at riding a bike? By riding a bike.
Some of you probably know and remember that in a previous life, I spent six years training and competing for a spot on the 2000 US Olympic Sailing Team. My teammates and I ultimately finished 2nd at the Olympic Trials, and therefore did not qualify for the Olympics. It was a process that I think back on fondly, and a result that I am now proud of. But at the time, a 2nd place finish was a major disappointment for me and my teammates. But time has a way of providing perspective. So does parenthood…
Anyway, I choose to remember the great experiences and lessons learned from those years on the Olympic circuit. And the lesson that has stuck with the most is a simple one. If you want to improve at anything, you have to work it. You have learn the steps, and practice it until it becomes natural, comfortable, and part of your muscle memory.
Our team used to practice the various moves and techniques over and over and over… and over… and over again. (In fact, I dug out a short video clip of some of the racing from the 2000 Olympic Trials — here’s the link. There is no sound… just silent B roll footage. My teammates and I are in boat #831 (with the PaineWebber logo on the sail). Notice the transitions around the marks. Notice the smooth transitions during the sail changes. That level of competence took countless hours to achieve… trust me!)
Anyway… my colleagues and I coach public speaking for a living, and this is a skill that creates a lot of anxiety for people. But the path to success for better public speaking is the same as the path to the Olympic games. Preparation. Practice. Build the muscle memory. Make the skill comfortable and easy to execute.
If you want to be better at anything, get some coaching, advice and support. And then get to work.
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