Posted on 8 August, 2019 at 6:05

Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels

It's not the style that motivates me, as much as an attitude of openness that I have when I go into a project.

Herbie Hancock

Openness is a valuable attitude to have in any area of one's life, personal and professional. It is that quality of always being willing to consider new / different experiences, ideas and ways of looking at things. It often entails stepping out of your comfort zone, leading to all kinds of delights.  It can also be a bit risky and indeed part of the openness has to be of it going "wrong", but even that can be a contribution to growth and learning.    

Being open doesn't mean you automatically say "yes" to every new experience, although that could be a fun thing to try for a day. However, it does mean that if you do decide to say "no", at least it is coming from having given the invitation proper consideration. It is not just a knee jerk reaction coming out of fear or a "that's not how I usually do it" frame of mind. And you never know where new experiences might lead.

I was once part of a team of freelancers delivering an afternoon of workshops as part of the Artsmart programme. I kicked off proceedings with a talk about Vision. When I was approached to do it I said okay and I really enjoyed the experience.  

Two years previously, I was approached by another group to do a talk on the same subject. My very first reaction was to say no. Why? Because like Sheldon Cooper and an awful lot of other people, I didn't like speaking in front of "any group big enough to trample me to death"*. I had all those fears everyone has - why should anyone listen to me; what if I forget what to say; what if they think I am boring...yadda, yadda, yadda.  But I also knew in the back of my mind that this kind of public talk was a good thing for passing on information and ideas. So, under the cover of asking for more details, I gave myself time to screw up my courage and then said okay.

You know what? My first talk bombed. Absolutely. Completely. Utterly. I have never been asked back. The most entertaining part was watching tumbleweeds roll across the room during the awkward silences. I came home having decided that I would never do a talk again. Oh, but.... I had already said yes to doing the same talk a week later and short of feigning illness or losing my voice, I had to deliver.  

I could have made myself sick with worry by lingering on the bad experience. And I am not too proud to admit that I did have a morning of indulgent, “woe is me”, misery. Then I realised that both for my sake and that of my audience, I had to open my mind to the possibility that the next talk would be a fabulous experience. I spent a day going through every aspect of the talk, tightening it up and making it flow better. Then I spent time every day practising it. Then I delivered it in front of a real audience. And you know what? We all had a ball!  

Since then I have done talks and webinars and although I still get nervous before I start, through doing them I have met some wonderful people, had great feedback and been offered lots of other great opportunities.

So, where will being openminded lead you today?


*The Big Bang Theory: Series 03 Episode 18 – The Pants Alternative

Categories: Attitude, Motivation, Productivity