Not a Single Word

Apartment in Prague-Petriny. Saturday 10:05pm.

I’m sitting in front of my computer. The screen divided between a blank note in Evernote and an article on intrinsic motivation. A few more items are neatly arranged on my desk besides the laptop. A black flipchart marker next to a pile of post-it notes. A pair of speakers playing the beginning of another episode of Tim Ferriss’ podcast. Cup of black tea with milk and sugar.

Could be a peaceful moment. But it isn’t.

On the shelf above the desk my Toastmasters Division Director badge, a plaque received for being an Area Director last year and a book I got as a gift for the last workshop I delivered in Hamburg.


A look into the calendar reminds me that I’m giving a completely new workshop at the District Conference in three weeks’ time.

In three weeks’ time, I need to be ready to deliver 45 minutes of content in a way that should captivate people for whom public speaking is daily bread.

Right now, I have an idea what the workshop will be about. But that’s it. Not a single word written down.

Not a single word.

Doubt takes control of my mind. “Why the hell did I sign up for this? What if I won’t be able to come up with a good idea? What if my workshop will suck and everyone will see me as an incompetent loser?”

The doubt turns into anxiety. And for a short moment, that anxiety makes me feel physical pain.

The voice of Tim Ferriss in the speakers is replaced by voice of Jocko Willink. Interestingly enough, he’s just answering a question about internal doubt.

Internal doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. And I’ve said this before about fear of failure. Internal doubt is a form of humility. And obviously, humility is a good thing. That internal doubt is what keeps you up at night preparing. It’s the thing that’s not going to let you cut corners.

It’s that little voice. That little voice inside your head that’s whispering: “Rehearse again. Practice again. Do it again.” over and over again. And that’s the voice that says to do everything you can – to be ready. So, I’m OK with that little internal doubt. But this doesn’t mean that you lack confidence.

I pause the podcast to let the thought sink in.

It does not mean I lack confidence. Of course not. I’ve done this before. Many times. This is how it always starts. With pain.

As Mark Manson says in his book The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck, it’s not what we say we want that defines how our life turns out. It’s how we answer the following questions: “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?”

It’s the moment when nothing starts turning into something that I love about writing articles, drafting presentations and preparing workshops.

The higher the stakes, the more the adrenaline.

The bigger the rewards.

I take a sip from the cup. I switch to Spotify to play one of my favorite songs to get my thoughts started. I grab the flipchart marker and the post-its. A thousand mile journey starts with the first step. A workshop starts with the marker touching a square and sticky piece of paper for the first time.

I press the tip onto the paper, writing the first letter of a word I don’t yet know. In search for inspiration.

Hit me baby one more time.

Featured Image by George Lawie, taken from Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

3 thoughts on “Not a Single Word

  1. I share your pain, but also share that moment of joy. The adrenaline is kicking in and then suddenly a spark starts. The spark leads to another spark, which leads to smoke and then you’re burning with passionate discovery of your message and connection. For me, the privilege of being given peoples’ time and attention is so powerful that when I find the right words for them, there aren’t many feelings better.

    It’s an addictive challenge and pain for me.

    I’m sure your workshop will be great. You’re the king after all ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Spark leads another spark, elegantly described Peter! Quite addictive. Now one less then one week to the workshop the slide-deck is almost ready and now working on the fine details. It’s as we predicted ๐Ÿ™‚

      & thanks for your supportive words.

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