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Two Worlds 7: Stay Ready, Step Up


It doesn’t matter that I don’t want to send the note. I am going to send the note.


Last Thursday night, I was the kickoff presenter for Nashville PechaKucha Night, presented by the Nashville Civic Design Center. It was a fantastic event, there were nine presenters, and they all did a great job. I was asked by the organizers to share “a personal presentation about my work.”

PechaKucha is a unique storytelling format where a presenter shows 20 slides for 20 seconds of commentary each. This format is audience-friendly in that talks can’t ramble, and expectations are set for how long every talk will go. For the presenter, the slides are on autoplay, and they move without you prompting them. The biggest challenge is that 20 seconds is not a lot of time to get your point across.

I accepted the opportunity to present at Nashville PechaKucha Night on January 10th. Between January 10th and February 20th (the date of the event), I had a lot going on. I didn’t prepare for the event properly. While I should have better measured out my practice time in advance, I said yes to the event for two reasons:

1) I’ve had a lot of practice over the last year, telling my personal story by writing this newsletter every week.

2) I’ve had a lot of practice speaking in public since my TEDxNashville talk in 2014.

I figured that with those two practices, I would be in pretty good shape.

As last week rolled around, I finally got to work on the presentation the day before. 20 slides that I needed to crank out and build a concise narrative around in 24 hours. There was no time to memorize the talk, so it didn’t even make sense to write out the story. The challenge of the PechaKucha format was a big ol’ boogeyman, and I did not feel good about this talk going into it.

I didn’t recognize most of the people in the audience, so I assumed that even if they knew about me, they didn’t know about the wellbeing focus I’ve had for the last year. The MC for the night was my friend Jody Lentz, and after laying down the rules and thanking the sponsors, he brought me to the stage. 100+ people in the room, and now my feelings don’t matter… it’s go time.

For 6 minutes and 40 seconds, the audience heard me talk about my family and my life as an entrepreneur, but they also heard about my divorce, my cousin being killed by police a month after 9/11, my business failures, finding therapy, and sobriety.

I was nervous about the 20 seconds per slide, but I was never worried about sharing things about my life on stage that most people would consider private.

It went very well. It went well because I have committed to the discipline of storytelling in public. I’m ready even when I don’t feel ready.

This brings me to the point of today’s message.

I wasn’t in the mood to send this note to you. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the relationships in my life over the last two weeks. That has taken me out of my usual level of personal focus. It has been a great couple of weeks, but it’s disorienting nonetheless. I’m sure you can relate to that balancing act.

That disorientation makes me feel unprepared to do this work. Feeling unprepared makes me feel like I’m going to do a lousy job, so I shouldn’t do it. Yet, you’re reading the note.

I’ve designed my life such that I learn this lesson over and over again. This force is the thing that most separates those who accomplish their goals from those who don’t.


It doesn’t matter that I don’t want to send the note. I am going to send the note.

It didn’t matter that I felt unprepared going into that talk. I got on stage and did the talk.

You will never accomplish the growth you seek without discipline. It is that simple. Your discipline must be stronger than your doubt, your cravings, and your insecurities. Your discipline must be what you pledge allegiance to.

Discipline allows you to stay ready for the opportunities for growth and achievement that you seek. I didn’t prepare for last Thursday’s presentation in the 24 hours that preceded it. I prepared with over six years of public speaking practice and a year of writing about my trauma in public every week. I developed competence and capacity because of all the times I got on the stage or hit send even though I didn’t want to. I’m always ready to tell my story because I do it even when I don’t want to.

Discipline empowers you to step up to opportunities for growth and achievement when they present themselves. It’s like having a set of hands-on your back gently pushing you towards the stage when your turn arrives because your discipline says that’s what you do when your turn comes.

There is no replacement for prioritizing discipline in your life.

The reward of discipline is confidence. Not some false confidence that masks insecurity. Rather the confidence that arises from knowing you can overcome your weaknesses and rise to the potential that you know is within you because you do it regularly.

Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready. Step up, don’t back down.

Have a grateful day.