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The gist: If you want to become successful, there are three important leadership lessons from Marvel’s story that will help you become a superhero leader.

Like his superheroes who rush into danger and defy the odds to save the day, the creator of Marvel, Martin Goodman, is a leader who understands the importance of taking risks.

After a few jobs and mild success in the publishing industry, Martin decided to start his own company. Since superhero characters were becoming popular, he made an enormous bet. He hired a company to develop a super hero comic book and printed a million copies. His first comic and he was already betting the company on it.

If they called him crazy, it wasn’t for long. Martin worked hard to develop his leadership and intuition for products that could go big, and he knew he had a hit when his writers delivered the star character in his new magazine: The Human Torch.

If this story is starting to sound familiar but you can’t quite place it, The Human Torch went on to become a founding member of The Fantastic Four—one of the longest lasting and most recognizable comic brands in history.1

If Martin’s story teaches us anything, it’s that, if you want to know how it feels to create something great, you must also know how it feels to go out on a limb and stand at the brink of failure.

If you want to ride that wave and experience it yourself, there are three important leadership lessons and rules for success from the Marvel story.

1. For Big Motivation, Take Big Risks

Have you ever noticed how spending $5 on a little extra at the store takes almost no thought at all but when you’re about to buy something big—a new car, a computer, a vacation package—you spend a considerable amount of time thinking about it?

We’re hardwired to focus and get the big things right because the big things are also the riskiest things. It takes a lot of money to buy something big, and a lot of money, for most of us, means a lot of time spent working. If you blow it, it’ll be a long time before you can try again.

That $5 trinket you picked up on a whim? If it turns out to be a bad choice, you’ll just toss it and try again.

Martin Goodman sold a million copies of his first comic book because he didn’t have any other choice—the printer wasn’t going to take them back if they didn’t sell. He was motivated to make it work because any other outcome would have been disaster.

I call this the “Time Bomb Method” of goal achievement. If you want to make sure you do something big—especially when you’re not sure you have what it takes—put some details in place ahead of time that are permanent and make failure an unattractive option.

That’s not to say you should jump head first into something that could ruin you with no sign that success is possible. Before you take an enormous risk, take a small one first.

When I wrote that Goodman ordered a million copies of his comic, I left out an important detail. He actually ordered 100,000 copies first, as a test.

When those sold out, he knew he was onto something and he was ready to make an enormous bet on a much bigger order. The second run, of course, sold out just like the first, and he made a lot more money by reducing his per-unit cost with a huge order.

2. Set Tight Deadlines to Give Yourself Tight Focus

In 2009, Disney bought Marvel Comics for $4 billion. If that’s not impressive enough, Marvel had lost its way and gone bankrupt just a decade earlier.

Marvel’s story is a perfect reflection of every great comic book. Good has been defeated and it seems evil prevailing is a foregone conclusion.

Just as the scene is about to go dark, a hero appears. They’re unwilling to go down without a fight. Time is short so the hero springs to action. They quickly ready themselves for battle, they rally the townspeople around them and then, against all odds, they defeat the evil intruder and happiness is restored.

Marvel’s real-life hero came in the form of an entertainment leader by the name of David Maisel, and his superpower was the ability to lead organizations around tight, focused deadlines with incredible risk.

Nearly a decade after Marvel took the biggest hit of its life in bankruptcy court and no one would commit to anything, Maisel convinced Marvel’s leadership to take on the biggest challenge of its existence—build its own movie production studio—and do it faster than anyone imagined possible.

They took a $500 million loan with just seven years to pay it back.

Remarkably, they did it. But anyone with a basic understanding of human psychology and Parkinson’s law—the one that says any task will fill up whatever time you give it—would tell you, “Of course they did.”

“Impossible” things often happen when the people who do them work on impossibly tight deadlines. They know that doing the right things is more important than doing everything. And the best way to force yourself to focus on the right things is to not give yourself enough time to focus on anything else.

Maisel knew the path to success was not just to lead his team to accomplish something big, but to do it quickly. He knew an impending deadline would lead the company into a sense of urgency to turn their situation around. It’s what I like to call Big Dream Theory. And it worked.

When you want to accomplish something big—especially when you need the help of others to do it—your team needs to feel like the pressure is on and every action they take really counts. Tight deadlines inspire focus, and focus leads to success.

3. Don’t Hesitate to Steal Great Ideas

Steve Jobs liked to say that “good artists copy, and great artists steal.”2 What he meant is that truly great ideas and products come from leaders who make refinements to ideas that already exist. It’s how Apple built the Macintosh, the iPod, and other products that redefined their generations.

Marvel—in its start and again after bankruptcy—did the same. And so should you.

When Martin Goodman created his first superhero comic book back in 1939, he wasn’t setting the trend with a new idea. Comic books had been around for years and superhero comics were just starting to increase in popularity.

Martin took an enormous risk on something that he saw was already working. He took an existing concept, made it better, and invested everything he had in it.

David Maisel did the same when he led Marvel out of bankruptcy. Superhero movies had been made for decades. Even movies based on Marvel characters had been produced.

He knew they could make a fortune with their own movies because other film studios were already making their own fortunes with Marvel’s own characters. They stopped licensing their characters and started making their own films. They put everything on the line to make it work, and it did.

Chances are, whatever you’re working on is not a brand new idea. That’s not bad news; it’s good news. It means you have a lot to work from. You can see where others have succeeded and failed before you.

You can see what exists that could be better. And if you give it everything you’ve got to make it better, you’ll probably do it.

Do This in the Next 10 Minutes

If you have an idea you want to see become a reality, you have some risks to take. And if you want to lead other people to help you bring it to life, you have some big risks to take. Here’s a reminder of what you need to do:

  1. Make your risk even bigger. If you want to succeed, you need all the motivation you can muster, and that comes from committing yourself to something so big you can’t ignore.
  2. Give yourself challenging deadlines. Big things get done fast when people focus on the important, and there’s nothing like a looming deadline to encourage that kind of focus.
  3. Build on what already works. A new, novel idea is often not as useful to the world as an existing one taken to its greatest heights.

Ask yourself now what you can do to make your vision five times bigger. Then, ask yourself what you would do if you needed to finish it five times faster. Your answers will bring you closer to what will actually work.

To stand at the verge of success, you also have to stand on the brink of failure. That doesn’t mean the odds of success and failure have to be the same—far from it. But the stakes need to be high. That’s when your inner superhero emerges to save the day.3

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The gist: Not all introverts suffer from public speaking anxiety. But if you do, here are some ideas to eliminate it and become a strong communicator.

I stood on stage, looking out over everyone focused on me—waiting for me to speak, to say anything— and the voice in the back of head made its way forward to remind me, “You’re not good at public speaking.”

I was the opening talk for the TEDx event, and it was up to me to set the tone.

This is an extraordinary responsibility on top of giving the most important talk of your life and, had it been any other circumstance, I might have given into that voice. “Yeah, you’re right. I shouldn’t be here. I’m an introvert. I’m an internal editor. I can’t even finish a sentence with my wife without wanting a do-over.”

Thankfully, I’d done my homework. Not just on the talk, but on how to overcome my public speaking anxiety. I knew what I needed to say, I believed in the message, and I had a plan even if the perfect circumstances I spent so much time practicing in didn’t reflect reality on game day.

Today, I can get on stage in front of a few thousand people and speak with confidence and authority. If I’m lucky, some finesse and a few jokes that aren’t total duds. But it certainly wasn’t always like that.

When it comes to public speaking, any confidence I have is the result of a tremendous amount of work, frustration, cold sweats, and embarrassment. But I’m glad I had those experiences because they got me here—a place I can share some lessons about how to go from a terrified, bumbling idiot to a calm, confident communicator.

That, perhaps, will be the most useful part of this article for you—simply knowing that public speaking skills can be learned. You don’t have to be born with them.

From sharing an idea with a small team of friends to standing in front of thousands of strangers, these are the public speaking skills—many from speakers far better than me—that have transformed me from a timid, stuttering speaker to a confident, respected one. I hope they help you spread your own big ideas.

Slideshow by Canva Presentations.

1. Don’t give speeches about subjects you don’t know (duh).

This sounds like lazy, throwaway advice. It isn’t. If you follow it perfectly, the rest of the public speaking skills in this piece will be easy to follow.

Once you’ve given a few talks and put yourself out there as a public speaker, you’ll occasionally be offered opportunities to talk to a large audience somewhere far away and sexy sounding.

The only catch is the content. Maybe you’ve shown yourself as an expert on canary mating habits and you get an email asking you to attend a conference / office / meeting and talk about worldwide paperclip marketing and sales trends.

You should thank them for the offer and politely decline.

The reason is simple: you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Even if you study up in time, you won’t give a great presentation because you won’t care about the topic. You don’t actually want to give the talk, and they don’t want what you could actually present well on. They just like the idea of having you because they saw a video of you and think you’re great.

That’s what makes this advice so hard to follow. You’re new, you want exposure, and it looks like there’s a big opportunity for you.

If you’ve ever bought something because you hoped it would do something you knew deep down it really wouldn’t (cue every late night infomercial you’ve ever seen), you’ll understand the disappointment you’re setting both parties up for from the beginning.

And don’t forget: You always get more of what you say yes to. If you want to be a world-renowned expert on paperclip trends, step up to the plate. But if you have a specific message you want to spread, stick to it. You can adapt your message to fit a new audience, but never abandon it!

2. Script your transitions and not much else.

If you’re like me, you have a strong internal editor who sits on your shoulder with a red marker and a pair of eye glasses, ready to scribble “F! See me after class!” on every sentence you utter. No matter what you say, you feel like you could have said it better.

When you’re preparing a presentation, the natural inclination for people like us is to write a script. When you write a script, you get all the chances you need to get your wording just right.

As ancient Chinese warrior, Sun Tzu, said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” And this is the problem with a detailed script.

In this scenario, there is no enemy, but there’s a world of uncertainty that comes from stepping on stage where everything is live and there are no do-overs. The more detailed your script is, the more opportunities there are to screw it up, and the more likelihood you will.

When you’re new to the public speaking world, messing up your lines and trying to remember what comes next is the last thing you need.

So what do you do instead? Just wing it? Not exactly.

While a detailed script will probably cause you more trouble than it’s worth, you need some sort of plan. What works better is to base your speech on stories (you know, those things you can’t forget even when you try) and script your transitions. Your talk should look something like this:

Stories are great because:

  1. Audiences love them and need them to have a good experience.
  2. You don’t have to script them because you’re programmed to remember them.

We’ve been telling each other stories for as long as we’ve been human. You’re genetically programmed to remember them (making them easy to present on) and, more importantly, your audience is genetically programmed to listen for them (making them happy when they hear one).

Since stories can be more free flowing, you don’t need to script every last word. The main points will do, and your human tendencies will take care of the rest. A scripted transition will help you wrap up one story and usher you, and the audience, into the next.

3. Practice public speaking (a lot) more than you think you need to.

Chris Guillebeau is the founder and annual emcee of The World Domination Summit. Over the course of a weekend each year, he delivers what amounts to probably 10 keynote talks. Sometimes, he has a story to tell. Other times, he just needs to remind the audience of 15 things before they break for lunch.

As a co-conspirator at WDS and a budding speaker, I once asked him, “How do you remember the sheer volume of things you need to say each time you take the stage?” I was hoping for a secret public speaking tip, but his answer—the truth—was unremarkable: “I practice a lot.”

So, that’s what I do, too. And it works.

Whenever I think I have my presentation down, I practice it at least 2-3 more times. It’s time consuming and often boring—you’ve been doing this for days or weeks and you don’t want to practice your speech again. But it isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. If you want the experience to be remarkable for them, you have to put in the unsexy work of boring, repetitive practice.

4. Build your talk in chunks.

Have you ever noticed most stories can be broken up in to distinct sections? You can do the same with your presentations. I do this every time I speak, and it shortens preparation time.

By working in chunks, you can develop and nail down different pieces of a presentation simultaneously. If one piece in the middle (or worse—in the beginning) is tripping you up, you don’t have to wait until it’s perfect to work on the rest, and you can practice the other parts while you work it out.

The faster you get your talk done, the more time you have to practice it until it’s second nature. Nothing breeds confidence like success, and nothing breeds success like practice.

Few people practice public speaking as much as they should. I guess “practice a lot” is pretty remarkable after all.

5. Slow down. Way down.

A common problem for introverts like me is that once we are talking, our mouths sometimes go into overdrive to keep up with the thoughts we’re trying to get out. My head is an idea generation and connection machine constantly charging forward. My mouth, on the other hand, is slow to speak, lest it make a mistake; there’s that internal editor again.

Once you break the seal and start letting an idea out, trying to keep it coming at the pace your brain is going is like an ant trying to steer a mastodon down a ski slope.

But trying to talk faster to catch up to your head produces exactly the effect you’re trying to avoid—stammering, getting lost, and re-explaining things you’d already explained. All the while, you start to stress yourself out which takes things even further off the rails.

If your idea is important, then it deserves all the time it needs to come out. You can’t just “talk slower” though. A more useful approach is to think more carefully.

The fast-talking babble problem is created by carelessness in how you string together your thoughts. You build loose connections in your mind that need more time to develop but, instead of developing them, you jump to the next one. A few skips down the road and you hardly know where you are anymore.

The fix for this is simple: when you notice your brain skipping too far ahead, you just tell it to go back and repeat itself. Wherever your mouth is, that’s where it needs to jump back to, and start over again.

Reminding myself to think slower works because I struggle to slow down my speech unless I also slow down my thoughts.

6. Don’t wander!

As I was prepping for my TEDx talk, I put my friend, Mike Pacchione—a professional speaking coach—in charge of “buzzing me” when he noticed me doing something bad. What he caught me doing often was wandering.

It happens when an idea appears out of nowhere as you’re talking and you decide to follow it. The problem is that wandering rarely stops at one idea. Once you feed the wandering beast, it takes over, and you go down the rabbit hole.

The problem isn’t that you can’t present well while you’re wandering, but that once you’ve wandered, you become lost. How does a hiker get lost in the woods? He takes one step off the trail to look at a plant. And then, oh, there’s a mushroom a few steps away. Hey, that tree up ahead looks cool. And then he turns around and has no idea where he is or how to get back.

The temptation to wander will be high and doing it is easy but, once you have, it’s hard to get back on track.

There are two practical fixes for this problem.

The first is to follow rule #3 above and practice a lot. The more you practice your presentation, the more you know your stories and where they should go. The more you know that, the less tempting it is to stray.

The other fix—the one you can use in the moment on stage when you’re about to wander—is to file your wandering thought away.

Your brain doesn’t want to let go of a wandering thought—it wants to explore it. The best way to stay on track is to remind yourself that you can explore it… just not right now. File it away. Maybe you can use it when you give this talk again in the future. But, for the love of God, don’t try to use it now.

7. Build a pre-talk calming routine.

My heart was pounding through my chest. I could feel my muscles tighten and vision start to tunnel. Breath rate was rising. “What’s happening?” I asked myself. I was on the verge of a panic attack.

I was about to step on stage to deliver the biggest talk of my life and the only thing I could think about was how I was going to screw it up. That triggered the stress response, and it was all downhill from there.

Luckily, I’d been coached on what to do when this happens. Vanessa Van Edwards, one of the greatest speakers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, was tasked with helping me prepare. She confided in me that she, too, gets nervous before big presentations. Had she not told me that, I’d have never guessed it.

The trick she uses? A pre-talk calming technique. Every great speaker has one, and every great speaker knows sticking to it is mandatory for delivering your best performance.

What Vanessa does is find a quiet space a few minutes before she’s scheduled to take the stage—sometimes in a bathroom—and does a two to three minute routine of power posing (think wonder woman pose), deep breathing, and envisioning success.

These things sound and feel a little silly, but they actually work.

Before a big event, it’s normal for your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels to rise. We’ve evolved to become extremely sensitive to stressful events. Just a few thousand years ago, feeling stress and not responding to it could have cost you your life.

That’s rarely the case today—I couldn’t find any reports of “death by embarrassment”—but our biology hasn’t exactly caught up.

The sick irony of it all is the more you give into your public speaking anxiety, the more likely you are to give a poor performance.

So, before you take the stage, make sure you check your stress levels. Excited is good. Nervous is bad. Always hold a few minutes before going on for your own calming session. The pros do it. It works. Ignore at your own risk.

Read next: Ace Your Next Interview With These Science-Based Social Hacks

8. When you screw up, keep going.

Before the show ended, I was a huge fan of The Colbert Report. I rarely missed an episode. And I wasn’t the only one—it was one of the most popular TV “news” shows on the air. If you watched the show, you probably didn’t notice that Stephen flubs his lines almost every episode. He’ll change a phrase to something that doesn’t make sense, miss a word, or mispronounce one.

You might not have noticed because, seemingly, neither did Colbert. When he messed up a line, he never stumbled or corrected. He just kept going because he knew something that us detail-oriented introverts must all learn to be effective public speakers:

Context matters more than the details.

He could flub a line and get away with it because he didn’t call attention to it. And no one noticed because no one is listening to every word you say. They’re listening for context. You can leave a surprising amount of content out of a message and still get the point across.

More damaging than a small mistake is calling attention to it. And if you flub something you can’t gloss over, let your sense of humor handle the situation. Make a joke about it and move on.

Read next: Make Them Laugh: Tom Brokaw Shows How To Recover From A Career-Ending Mistake

9. Remember the audience wants you to succeed.

If you follow the public speaking tips above, you’ll make huge strides in your ability to present ideas to a live audience.

But, perhaps the best advice I’ve gotten in this field that’s helped me actually put those eight rules above into action is this:

Always remember the audience wants you to succeed.

When you’re stressing out over how to do presentation, this simple truth can be easy to forget. Your audience didn’t show up to boo you off the stage. They want to learn what you have to teach them. They want to hear what you have to say. They’ve traded their time and, perhaps, money to listen to you. People don’t give up their time and money to have a bad experience. Just the opposite.

When you have a fear of public speaking, it’s easy to think, “What if someone doesn’t like what I say?” That thought starts to permeate and, suddenly, you’re asking yourself, “What if everyone hates me.”

This is the line of thinking that leads to bad presentations. Don’t let yourself go down that path because the reality is the audience is on your side. They want you to succeed. And if you follow these public speaking rules, the odds that you will are high.

The 30-Second Recap

I’m a highly introverted person who never thought I could be a strong public speaker. It’s taken a lot of work and help from people far better at it than me, but I’ve proven myself wrong.

If you’re an introvert like me, and you have important ideas to share, you can dramatically improve your public speaking skills with these nine fundamental rules:

  1. Stick to what you know. Presentations fail when you try to present yourself as an expert on something you aren’t.
  2. Tell stories, and don’t bother scripting them. Stories are easy to remember so you won’t mess them up. Script your transitions, and you’ll be set.
  3. Practice more than you think you need to. Long, boring practice is what sets professional speakers apart from amateurs.
  4. Chunk your speeches. Don’t get stuck thinking you have to work through it in a linear fashion.
  5. Slow your brain down. When your brain is moving too fast, you start to stumble on your words.
  6. Don’t wander. The temptation to step off the trail will be high. Once you do, it will be difficult to come back.
  7. Save a few moments for your pre-talk calming routine. Never go on stage without doing this first.
  8. Ignore your mistakes. Context is more important than perfect delivery. If you mess up, keep going.
  9. Remember the audience wants you to succeed. Everything is easier when you remember everyone is on your side.

I hope this advice from an introverted public speaker helps you make some strides getting your own important message to more people. It’s sure helped me.

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The gist: If you want more and better relationships, focus more on connecting with people over everyday things and less on impressing them.

Let’s play a quick game. If I asked you which of these movies you’d rather see, how would you answer?

  1. Revenge Of The Dinosaurs (rated 4 stars by other viewers)
  2. Revenge Of The Head Lice (rated 2 stars by other viewers)

You’d probably choose the dino flick, right? I would.

Let’s add another layer. Now you’re the only one who knows about the dinosaur film and all your friends want to watch the lower-rated head lice movie. Which would you pick now?

If you’re like most people (myself included), Revenge Of The Dinosaurs just got a lot more intriguing 1. Higher rated and I’m the only one who gets to see it? Sign me up! Well, not so fast.

You may have a taste for adventure and unique experiences, but do you also want to build strong connections and friendships? If so, you might have made precisely the wrong choice according to relationship research out of Harvard.

If you’re the type of person who wants the best of both worlds—to lead a life of adventure and build meaningful connections with people—you might need to change how your approach.

Here’s what the research found along with my strategy for filling life with meaningful experiences and also building strong connections.

The Lonely Road of Adventure

In 2014, I finished running a marathon on every continent. It was quite the adventure, and I look back on it with a lot of pride and happy memories. But today, I rarely talk about it.

What I’ve learned is these experiences I chase are personally meaningful—and certainly worth sharing when someone wants to know—but not all that useful when it comes to connecting with people.

In fact, trying to force these unique experiences into my relationships can actually leave me feeling pretty lonely—like I’m the only one who really gets me.

That’s exactly what a study out of Harvard found, too. It posed the same scenario that I posed to you earlier2.

68 volunteers were instructed to watch a video, and half of them were told they were watching one rated higher than the movies others were watching. After watching, each person who saw the higher rated video discussed it with a group of others who watched the lower rated one.

Throughout the process, each person was asked, “How are you feeling right now?” As you can imagine, the volunteers initially felt really happy that they got to see a higher rated video than their counterparts. They saw it as a valuable, exclusive experience.

But that happiness quickly faded—reversed, actually—once they had to interact with others who’d only seen the lower rated picture. All of a sudden, they felt lonely and excluded. They struggled to talk with the others because they had nothing in common. Meanwhile, the others chatted away over their “lesser,” but shared, experience.

The 80/20 Rule of Building Connections

Today, I rarely talk about my adventures and big projects unless I’m specifically asked about them. When I meet someone new, rather than convey who I am through my travels or my projects, I try to find something very small, boring even, that we have in common and build from there.

It’s amazing the relationships you can start from a very small commonality. If you want to excel at building connections, you have to appreciate the less exclusive experiences we all share.

You may not think the way your dog spins around before finding a spot to sit is as interesting as the eco-hang-gliding-over-Easter-Island excursion you went on last year, but when it comes to building connections, similarity is more important than trying to impress.

Most people spend 80% of their time trying to get people to notice them by showing off how different they are and 20% trying to find something in common once they have some attention.

What you should really be doing, though, is spending 80% of your time finding common ground with people you want to get to know, and 20% of your time falling back on those unique things that set you apart.

Connection First: Why Everyone Loves Warren Buffet

None of this is to say you should give up on adventure if you want to build relationships. Quite the opposite! Those unique experiences are what set you apart from everyone else and make you a valuable connection. Just flip the way you share that part of your life.

This is why everyone loves people like Warren Buffet.

He’s one of the richest people in the world, but he dresses casually, lives in a modest hometw in Omaha, and drives older cars he buys on sale. It doesn’t matter how many billions of dollars he has—that’s a guy you could sit down to dinner with and actually enjoy a conversation. You can see straight away that you have something in common.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to be best friends with just anyone like that. People find Buffet uniquely valuable because of what he’s accomplished. But they like him and want to be around him because they can see parts of themselves in him. That probably wouldn’t be the case if he opened every conversation with “Hi, I’m the richest man in the world.”

Compare that to another business titan I’m casually familiar with in my own town. He’s shockingly wealthy, too. But he talks down to everyone, doesn’t remember you even if he’s met you a dozen times, and divorced his wife to marry one of his 25-year-old employees.

He’s not exactly a joy to be around.

Focus on Making People Care

Go on and live your adventurous life. Build your projects. Do epic things. It’ll leave you with a lifetime of happy memories and a sense of accomplishment.

But don’t forget the connections you make along the way will be just as important—even critical in helping you achieve all the big things you have planned. If you want to build those connections and make them strong, the first thing you have to do is show people why they should care about you and want to help.

That means finding something in common, like how Scrabble is your favorite board game, and you should totally get together and play some time.

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The gist: The quality of your relationships is highly connected to your attachment style. You built yours long ago without knowing it, but it’s never too late to improve it.

When it comes to making friends and connections, I can be a tough nut to crack. As an introvert, I keep others at arm’s length. For a long time, I forced myself into a paradox where I’m both loyal to those I’m close with but extraordinarily hard to get close to.

I’d assume anyone who wanted to get to know me must just want something, that they were in it for themselves and I had to protect myself. Unless I already knew who you were, I wasn’t going to let you into my circle.

“It’s not my fault,” I’d say. “It’s just how I am. Everyone should just deal with it. They would if they really cared.” For years, I missed out on making a lot of connections and, honestly, I felt lonely.

Eventually, I got tired of that. Not tired, so much, of my attitude, but tired of the results of it. I started to learn more and more about introversion. What it means. How it works. Why I am the way I am.

What did I learn? That my approach to building connections had nothing to do with my introversion. Instead, it had to do with a flaw in the way I thought about relationships and the people around me.

Once I fixed it (and no, it wasn’t easy or done in 3 simple steps), my life started to fill up with new, meaningful connections. I met new business partners, made new friends, met my wife, etc. etc.

Here’s what it was, and what you can do if you’ve been in the same place.

Make friends now.

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Attachment Style: All Your Relationships Depend on It

Scientists have studied how people relate to each other for as long as there have been scientists and people to study. What we’ve learned is that how you think about yourself and the people around you is a story you spend your entire life creating.

You meet new people, you create a new story. You think about yourself, you create a new story. You interact with others… you get the picture. Who you are in your relationship is the sum of all these stories.

This starts from the moment you’re born and happens over and over until the stories begin to sum together and you develop what’s called your attachment style.

Attachment style: The way you relate to others based on how you perceive yourself and the people around you.

If you get the right support and feedback from your family, friends, relatives, and schoolmates—and mix that with a bit of luck—you’ll get to adulthood with a perfectly healthy view of yourself and others, ready to conquer the world and make a lot of friends doing it.

But how often do things go perfectly? For most of us, growing up means, at some point, being betrayed, failing, feeling left out, being unhappy, processing loneliness and a multitude of other unsavory experiences that crop up along the freeway to adulthood.

If each of those things aren’t dealt with just right when they come up, you can end up like I did—with a less than ideal personality for building deep connections. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just how things turn out.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Attachment Theory: Are You Wired to Make Healthy Connections?

Decades of research into interpersonal relationships have allowed psychologists to categorize your attachment style into one of two categories: secure or insecure.1

With a secure attachment style, you’re just as comfortable relying on others as you are having others rely on you. You don’t really worry about being lonely or if people accept you, and being connected to others is as important as maintaining your independence. If that’s you, congrats you win at life! You can stop reading now.

But if it isn’t, you’ll want to know about the three other sub-styles that fall under the insecure spectrum.

Before you go any further, though, remember this: there’s no judgment here. We’re all doing the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. What we have in common is we recognize our weaknesses and we’re willing to work on them to make ourselves better and stronger.
Anxious-Preoccupied

This could be you if you often feel like you give more to relationships than you get back. You might be uncomfortable without very close relationships or worry others don’t value you as much as you value them.

Being very emotionally expressive is also a characteristic of the anxious-preoccupied type. That means you like to show people, though actions and attitude, the value you place on them, but you might overdo it.

This attachment style prevents deep connections because it puts you on a lower playing field than the people you connect with. Like the title, it makes you anxious, and that’s not attractive to secure people because they don’t actually see you as less valuable and wonder why you behave that way.

When you have this attachment style, you may be more likely to build relationships with other anxious-preoccupied people because you both work hard to make sure each other know how much you value them. It can work, but it’s not the best.

And it can be frustrating and scary to build connections with others who have an avoidant attachment style because the more your stress shows through, the more you will be rejected by them.

Dismissive-Avoidant

If you place extreme value on your independence and tend to think less of others than you do yourself, you might be the dismissive-avoidant type. These types also tend to carefully guard their emotions and distance themselves from rejection.

The way you express yourself is completely different from the anxious-preoccupied type. And the reaction you get from your connections will look different. But the result is the same.

People with a secure attachment style will be confused about why you treat them as if they are on a different playing field because, from their viewpoint, you’re equals.

What that means is that you’re more likely to connect with people who express the anxious-preoccupied type because they’re more likely to accept the power imbalance.

This dynamic does not lead to the healthiest or strong relationships. It makes you seem aloof and uninterested in connecting with people who could be very valuable to you.

Fearful-Avoidant

Just like the dismissive-avoidant, you’re an independent person, but for another reason. Instead of being a little too into yourself, you struggle to trust others and fear that people you let close to you will hurt you.

This attachment style keeps you from connecting with strong, secure people because you seem detached and distrustful, even though it only comes from a place of fear.

When you can’t allow yourself to be vulnerable with people who’ve been vulnerable with you, it strains the relationship, which makes it hard to have valuable, long-term connections with secure types.

What Does a Secure Attachment Style Look Like?

If you identified with any of the descriptions above, congratulations. You’re now a little more self-aware. You know what might be hold you back from connecting with people as well as you’d like to.

You want to be more secure, but what does a secure attachment style look like?

Someone with a secure attachment style will display these three traits.

They’re comfortable being vulnerable.

They don’t have fear about relying on other people. They don’t worry about being taken advantage of.

They also don’t shy away from others who are equally vulnerable with them, and they calmly accept the responsibility of being relied on (in exchange for being to rely on others).

They have a strong sense of self.

They know who they are and they are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t concern themselves with whether or not they’ll be accepted because, if they aren’t, they know that they will be acceptable elsewhere and pursue those people instead.

For the same reasons, they don’t fear loneliness or fight to avoid it. Instead, they focus their energy to find the people who are the best fit for them without changing themselves knowing that, by developing those relationships, they won’t be lonely.

They balance reliance and independence.

Like mentioned earlier, secure-types are not afraid to rely on others, but they also balance that with a strong sense of independence.

They are well-adapted to take care of themselves when necessary and also to offload some of their burdens when others make themselves available for it.

Attachment Style Transformation: Do This Now

Whichever one of these buckets you fall into is unimportant. What matters is that you recognize your own tendencies and commit to changing that ingrained pattern when you recognize yourself behaving in a way that doesn’t match the secure style.

Just as carefully as science has divided us into different categories, it’s also carefully observed that they are not pre-determined. That means you were not born with the attachment style you have today—you developed it over time.

That’s important because it means it can be changed.2 It won’t be easy and it won’t be fast, but it is possible. How? With persistent work.  Here’s what works for me:

Each time I catch my brain chattering either about myself or someone I know, I force myself to slow down and answer two questions:

  1. Am I thinking the way a secure person with strong relationships would? If not, then…
  2. How would that person think about this?

With my answers, there’s only one thing left to do: be that person.

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The gist: Be more persuasive and inspirational by telling better stories. Five simple steps will help you form perfect arguments.

When I was a kid, my mom had stories for everything: why you should brush your teeth, eat vegetables, and not talk to strangers or do drugs. One I remember vividly, though, is about lying.

When I was six, I was on my first baseball team. I loved playing in games but didn’t care much for practice. To get out of it, I’d pretend I was sick. When she caught on to what I was up to, Mom threatened, “You were too sick for practice yesterday, so you must be too sick to play in your game today.”

The details are fuzzy, but I probably cried a lot and ran around throwing a fit. When I was done, she told me the story of the little boy who cried wolf. No one believes a liar, even when they’re telling the truth.

After that, I only needed to hear the story to know it was time to shape up each time I stretched the truth. The story changed me. Against my instincts and desires, it forced me to be a better person. I still remember it today when the temptation to lie strikes.

One little fib might not be the end of the world but, over time, you erode your credibility until it’s completely gone.

Story is a powerful motivator for change in anyone. If you have a message for the world—if you’re trying to get people to change the way they think and behave—a story could be the most powerful weapon in your toolbox.

Why Story Is a Powerful Motivator

Think of a recent argument you’ve had. Specifically, a time someone tried to get you to change something about yourself. They might have explained how they don’t like how you act and that you should change it for various reasons.

You, however, happen to like yourself just how you are!1 The more they confronted you, the more you tuned out, thought of something else, and resolved to be more the same than ever before!

Changing the way someone thinks or acts does require confrontation. You have to point out their inadequacy and try to say or do something that will make them change. Turns out, people don’t like that. Especially when what you’re trying to change is a long-held habit.

Rather than listen, you tune out and look for proof you’re perfect just the way you are. It’s called confirmation bias.2

But when you tell a story—something people connect with—it can change the reaction you get.

If someone says you’re overweight and need to lose 50 pounds, you’re probably not going to like that. But if they casually tell you—without any tone of judgment—a story about their friend who lost weight, you’ll probably listen with interest. You might even tell yourself, “I can do that! I should do that!” And if you hear that story a few times in a few different ways, you actually might.

Why? Because a story does two powerful things to persuade:

  1. It removes direct confrontation. When you tell a story, you’re no longer telling someone what they should or shouldn’t do. Instead, you’re laying out a scenario they can follow that will lead them to the result you want. But will they listen? Yes, because…
  2. It forces the listener to take part in the story. If I tell you about my friend who built a successful business in a year by waking up an hour early every day, you can’t help but place yourself in the story. You see yourself waking up early. You see yourself typing and scribbling notes. You see yourself checking your growing bank account.

This the weird thing your brain does to process a story. It forces you to take a first-person perspective, and that vision of yourself—once it’s in your head—is an incredibly powerful motivator to make a change.

For evidence of this, just look at the way people behave after watching TV. TV is a fantastic medium for storytelling, and it’s why actors determine fashion trends, weight loss and diet fads, and various other aspects of everyday life.

How to Tell a Convincing Story

It’s not enough to just understand how stories win hearts and minds. You have to be able to craft your own.

If you have a message for the world and you want to change the way people think or behave in some aspect of their life, then your success will depend on your ability to tell great stories.

The formula is pretty simple. You can create your own persuasive story in just a few minutes.

Let’s go through it and build an example together.

1. Identify the desired behavior change.

The first step is to simply get clear on what you want to see change. The more specific you can be here, the better you’ll do at finding a story that will disarm someone’s defensiveness and help them see the benefit of the change you want them to make.

Here’s an example: I think that the traditional business office is kind of a waste. Most modern businesses should be able to be run remotely without forcing employees to waste valuable time driving across town to sit at computers they already have at home.

If I were an employee at one of these businesses and I wanted to work from home, I’d want my boss to stop enforcing a strict attendance policy.

2. Find the benefits of the change.

People are motivated to take action by two different drivers:

  1. Anticipation of a gain.
  2. Fear of a loss.

To be able to tell a great story and persuade people to take action on your important idea, you’ll need to cater to both of those drivers, but focus first on what someone will get by seeing things your way. What do they stand to gain?

In my example, I can think of numerous benefits to allowing employees to work from home:

  • Happier employees who stay longer and are more dedicated.
  • Healthier employees who aren’t stressed about their commute and don’t get sick as often from their coworkers.
  • Access to a larger talent pool.
  • Cost savings from having a smaller central office.
  • A business that’s future-focused.

When I weave together my persuasive story later on, I know that I’ll want hit these points to make my case.

3. Stoke fear to instigate the change.

If you’ve ever had a great opportunity in front of you but still rejected it, you already know that a list of benefits is often not enough to drive real behavior change.

That’s why you must also focus on fear. Big, scary fears!

Study after study has confirmed that people are more likely to take action when they fear a loss than when they anticipate a gain.

To tell a persuasive story, you’ll need to paint a scene showing how avoiding the change you want them to make will cause them to lose something valuable.

The easiest way to do this is to simply flip the benefits you just came up with in the last step.

Carrying on with my remote work example, here’s what losses I would focus on as I built my case for my boss:

  • Miserable employees who leave often for better opportunities.
  • Sick employees who miss work because their coworkers spread a virus.
  • Losing ground to competitors who can hire better talent.
  • Ballooning costs from trying to make the office everyone’s “second home.”
  • A slow decline in productivity and profit by avoiding change.

Already, you can start to see how convincing it could be to use the fears and the gains together. You make them aware of the loss, and then immediately turn it into a gain with your solution.

4. Identify major objections.

You have a solid foundation now, but you’re not quite done with the research stage. To really make your story shine, you need to know what your audience’s objections are going to be.

When you’re trying to persuade someone to make a big change, they are going to have some real hesitations that may be extremely hard to get over.

To have any chance at success, you need to start by knowing what they are. What are all the “whataboutisms”—when someone says, “Yeah, but what about…”—that could come up as you’re weaving your story?

In my case, here are some of the objections my boss might have.

  • A change like this could throw the whole company into chaos.
  • We already have this big office to house everyone. It would be wasted.
  • How will I know my employees are actually getting anything done if they aren’t here?
  • What if we lose the company culture we’ve worked so hard to build?
  • What if I get lonely?

These are the big showstoppers that I’m up against. It’s good that I can anticipate them, but what I really need is to have a compelling and motivating answer to each one of them.

And that’s what comes next.

5. Find stories and examples to weave together.

This is your shining moment. All the pre-work is done, and this is where the story starts to come together.

Your job now is to polish your argument by finding real examples, case studies, and stories that illustrate the value of your argument. That is what will make you truly persuasive.

To be as effective as possible, you’ll want to focus your stories on the objections. Those objections you identified in the last step are the biggest obstacles to your success, so you must work hard to dismantle them.

In my case, I would want to find stories that illustrate other companies that transitioned to allow employees to work remotely, and how they overcame all the same objections. I’d look for stories that showed:

  • How one company transitioned slowly to prevent chaos and preserve their valuable culture.
  • How another company found a new use for their empty office or got a big benefit from downsizing their space.
  • The strategies successful remote businesses use to track employee productivity.
  • The ways that everyone stays connected to each other so they don’t get lonely.

If I can find real-world examples that fit these stories and weave them together, then I know I will have an extremely compelling and persuasive story that can really help me achieve my goal.

Persuasion Doesn’t Require Perfection

One more important piece to this puzzle is that you should take care not to polish your story too much. A perfect argument with no downsides whatsoever probably seems great to you, but it may actually make it less persuasive.

Earlier, we briefly discussed the concept of confirmation bias—people tend to look for and value data that confirms their existing beliefs and discounts data that would counter those beliefs.

To become more persuasive, you have to find a way to get people to listen to and value a story that doesn’t fit with what they already believe. A perfect story won’t do that. It’s too unbelievable, even if it’s true.

The easiest way to counter this problem is to occasionally highlight imperfections. Let people see that your argument isn’t perfect and that there are some hurdles to get over.

At first, this feels counterproductive, but it really works because it allows your story to have a few elements to it that a skeptical audience already believes. It gives them a little hit of that “I was right” feeling—but just enough to get them to pay attention, which is where you’ll slowly start to overwhelm them with persuasiveness of the rest of your story.

And that is where you’ll start actually change minds and, likewise, start changing behavior.3

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The gist: It’s easy for an introvert to become overwhelmed by a busy social life. Here are 6 ideas to thrive socially without burning out.

As an introvert, it’s shockingly easy to become overwhelmed by a busy social life. From going to work to hanging out with friends to attending networking events, it can be hard to come by much-needed alone time.

Personally, I’ve been trying to solve this problem by ridding my calendar of (useless) meetings. These days, it’s not unusual to find myself racing around town for three or four different ones on any given day and jumping on a Skype call between them for good measure.

I’m an introvert so I despise days filled rushing from group to group—it’s totally exhausting.

At the same time, I’ve created this life. I’m free to choose which meetings I do or do not attend, yet I choose to attend many. It’s a funny predicament I’ve put myself in. I hate meetings, but I consciously end up in many of them. Why? Because I actually like meeting with people and building relationships.

I think that says something about introversion many who don’t possess it struggle to understand. We’re not shy. We’re not hermits. We love building connections, we just find it tiring to do so.

While I’ve worked to cut the number of meetings I attend, I’ve also attempted to understand my introversion better. I wanted to find the happy balance and never again sit through an important meeting feeling brain-dead.

Thanks to new research about introversion and a healthy dose of self-experimentation, I’ve pinpointed a few important rules to follow when it comes to setting myself up for success at important meetings.

Understanding Your Introversion: Where Your Energy Comes From

For the longest time, I thought there was something wrong with me.

I felt like a bad friend / partner / employee when everyone wanted to grab drinks, go out with friends, or form an after-work group and all I wanted to do was go home and not see anyone for the rest of the day.

What I didn’t understand about myself then, and what much of the world still struggles to understand about us introverts, is that going out and being social does not energize us. Instead, it does the opposite. This is hard to fathom for the world at large because so much of the social world is built by extroverts—those who crave social interaction because it’s required to feel normal.

More interesting is the reasoning behind this.

What a number of studies tell us now is introversion / extroversion are more than just social preferences. They’re actually a personality trait dictated by how the neurons bounce around in our brains.

Extroverts of the world go through each day feeling under-stimulated. Their brains (specifically, the neocortex) need extra stimulation to reach what’s known as optimal arousal—the state at which you feel normal and at ease. Social engagement provides that boost of critical stimulation, so they seek it out.

We introverts, however, go through each day generally overstimulated. We need some sort of aid to bring us down to our optimal arousal level. Since social interaction is both stimulating and ever-present, we prefer to seek quiet solitude to keep ourselves operating just right and avoiding burnout.

But how does that explain the situation we often find ourselves in—introverted, but craving social interaction? What about the extrovert who sometimes disappears off the face of the earth?

Ambiversion: You Are More Than Your Fixed Traits

Maybe the most important thing to understand about personality traits like introversion and extraversion—especially when it comes to managing a busy social calendar—is that they aren’t binary and they don’t dictate your behavior.

1. You are more than an introvert.

We love dichotomies (you’re either this or that), but when it comes to personality traits, it’s not so simple. Most of us, actually, exist somewhere on a spectrum—between two poles—rather than falling all the way to one end or the other.

The new, popular term for this is ambivert.

Most of us who identify as introverts are probably better described as ambiverts because, while we prefer quiet, alone time, we also occasionally enjoy large doses of social interaction. This explains perfectly how someone like me—who often loves to sit at home in total quiet—also happily schedules four meetings in one day all across town followed by a happy hour with friends.

2. You control your own behavior.

Just because you have a strong preference for being alone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ignore it to achieve your goals.

Remember sitting at the dinner table as a kid not wanting to eat your broccoli? You had a very strong preference about your food, and it was that broccoli was horrible. Perhaps you even expressed it loudly, wondering why your parents would cook such a thing.

But your parents—masters of persuasion—knew you liked video games (or whatever you were into as a kid) more than you disliked broccoli. And, oh guess what? If you eat that awful pile of green, you can play your new video game for an extra half hour tonight. You think for a minute, and then what do you do? You eat the broccoli.

If you’re an introvert like me, you can identify perfectly with this analogy. I may have a strong preference for sitting home all day in solitude, but I prefer even more to do certain things that cannot be done sitting around twiddling my thumbs!

So, instead, I choose to ditch my preference for quiet and chase those goals with every ounce of extroversion I can muster. That’s how, as an introvert, you end up with a jam-packed social schedule when you’d rather be doing anything else. Oy vey.

6 Rules for the Optimal Introverted Social Calendar

People like us—who ignore our introverted tendencies to accomplish things—are at the greatest risk of social burnout.

If you’re not careful, everything you’re working for can go up in smoke when it all becomes too much, your face seizes in place as if you’d eaten a lemon, and you have to hide under a blanket with a cat for a week before you can remove your thumb from your mouth and re-join the world.

That’s why it’s so important to follow a few introvert-specific rules when it comes to managing your social calendar.

I’ve experienced both the uninspired state that comes from living in a vacuum as well as the deafening overwhelm that takes over when I step too far outside of it. These are the rules I follow to keep myself social, happy, and steadily progressing towards my personal goals. They also keep me moderately sane.

1. I do not drink coffee.

Caffeine is a helluva drug. I’ve learned, over and over, coffee is a horrible choice for me.

It can give me a quick jumpstart on days when just getting out of bed is a struggle, but it’s the worst possible stimulant for social interaction. It speeds up my heart, raises my cortisol, gets me stuttering and talking too fast, and generally makes me look like an incoherent fool.

If you’re an introvert like me who’s often overstimulated, caffeine will put you even further away from your optimal arousal level.1

2. I schedule all social engagements back-to-back after lunch.

I do this because as soon as I finish a meeting, I often don’t want to do anything else for the rest of the day.

Morning meetings and events lead to very unproductive days for me. Since meetings, coffee dates, and parties help build relationships but do not actually get real work done, it’s important for me to fiercely protect my mornings as sacred getting-stuff-done time.

This is the same reason I schedule meetings back-to-back if I have to do more than one in a day. I can go right into the next one before the dreaded, “Why am I doing this? I just want to pet a cat.” feeling sets in.

3. I clear my calendar after a big event.

I want to make the best impression I can every time I meet with someone.

As an introvert, I know I cannot do that the day after I’ve emptied my tanks on another event. I’d rather disappoint someone by making myself unavailable after a big to-do than disappoint them by not putting my best self forward.

The more ambitious among us might say I’m missing opportunities, but I don’t see it that way. I want to be happy and social for a lifetime. I see it like running a marathon. If I sprint now, I will not make it to the finish line.

In the end, I will get more opportunities by organizing my time like this than I would otherwise.

4. I don’t schedule important work on days I have big social engagements.

If there’s a really important event I’m attending (I’ll be speaking at it, for instance), I do not even attempt to do other important work the same day.

I know that I won’t be able to focus until it’s over, so I reserve these days for doing smaller errands rather than fumbling through important work. This is a rule I have learned the hard way. Like I mentioned before, it allows me to gather more and bigger opportunities over time by finding social and professional stability than the alternative.

5. I set deadlines for social engagements.

Before I walk into a big event, a small meeting, or even a one-on-one coffee chat, I know exactly when I’m going to leave.

Having a deadline and an excuse (even if it’s fake) to end my social interaction on my terms helps me be fully present while I’m in it. Since I know I have an out if I need it, I can listen and fully participate instead of worrying if I’ll burn out.

If things are going great, my made-up excuse can wait. It’s easier and more fun to offer to chat longer than to cut someone off because you need to go.

6. I arrive early and spend time alone.

This helps me center myself and prepare.

Since I spend most of my time overstimulated, sitting outside an event listening to NPR or some soft music in my car for 10 minutes before going in helps me relax and prepare to engage with people without turning into a basket case. For this same reason, I also try to arrive early for any meeting. It’s never good for an introvert to have to rush to a social gathering (high cortisol) where you’ll need to muster as much calm energy as possible.

Arriving early is also a great strategy for big events. It can be really uncomfortable to walk into a big group of strangers who all look like they already know each other. By showing up early, you’ll have a moment to connect with the host and you can greet and get to know people as they arrive.

It’s a much more comfortable way to operate as an introvert.

Go Forth and Connect, Ye Introvert

Being an introvert need not relegate you to a life of solitude. A vibrant social life that fits your personality and honors your brain chemistry is well within reach.

These are the rules I follow, and they keep this sensitive introvert healthy, happy, and well-connected with my friends and community.

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The gist: Low self-esteem can grip all of us. And feeling self-doubt is part of being human. Understanding your psychology can help you overcome it.

In 1911, a young man by the name of Harry was struggling with low self-esteem. He’d met a woman, Bessie, and they became friends. Before he knew it, he’d fallen in love. There was a problem, though. Harry didn’t know if Bessie felt the same way, and his self-doubt was tearing him apart.

While away from home, he wrote her a seven page letter filled with passage like this:

Speaking of diamonds, would you wear a solitaire on your left hand should I get it? Now that is a rather personal or pointed question provided you take it for all it means. You know, were I an Italian or a poet I would commence and use all the luscious language of two continents. I am not either but only a kind of good-for-nothing American farmer. I always had a sneaking notion that some day maybe I’d amount to something. I doubt it now though like everything.

But I never had the nerve to think you’d even look at me. I don’t think so now but I can’t keep from telling you what I think of you.

Say, Bessie, you’ll at least let me keep on being good friends won’t you? I know I am not good enough to be anything more but you don’t know how I’d like to be.

Still if you turn me down, I’ll not be thoroughly disappointed for it’s no more than I expect.1

Harry, it seems, was no master of seduction.

In time, though, he must have built an effective tool for dealing with his crushing self-doubt because he did eventually marry Bessie, and today he’s more widely known as President Truman, the man ultimately responsible for ending World War II.

How did he overcome his crippling self-doubt? A key quote from his time in office and notes from cognitive psychologists give us a hint.

Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of The United States The Foundation of Doubt: How It Can Build You Up or Tear You Down

To understand how and why uncertainty holds you back in life, it’s best to understand the foundation of doubt first. In the world of science, psychologists like to classify doubt in two separate categories: general doubt and self-doubt.

  1. General doubt: uncertainty over externalities—things outside of you. You might have doubt about a politician’s promise or that the pizza will show up on time. There’s an uncertainty about what’s happening around you.
  2. Self-doubt: uncertainty within yourself. This is when you question your own abilities and struggle with your decisions, like what toppings you should choose for that pizza.

In many ways, general doubt can be good because it forces you to re-examine your beliefs and think critically. If you’re really hungry and doubt the pizza place will get your order to you on time, you might find a more reliable shop.

But self-doubt almost always gets in the way of what you want. If you’re really hungry but can’t decide which toppings will make you happiest, you’ll struggle with the decision until you and all your friends are hangry2 and no one is happy.

So, general doubt = good, but self-doubt = bad. That’s nice to know, but where does self-doubt come from? And how do you attack it when it’s crippled you your whole life?

How You Create Your Own Self-Doubt Feedback Loop

Turns out, self-doubt can come from a lot of places—childhood emotional trauma is a popular explanation. And they say childhood scars are the most difficult to fix. That may be true, but what’s interesting is the common characteristics of all of us who suffer from self-doubt:

  1. We look for evidence that our abilities aren’t good enough. Rather than look for evidence that you have what you need to succeed at something, you look for the opposite—what’s missing. You quickly find it and spend more time doubting your plans.
  2. We hold ourselves to impossible standards. By becoming a perfectionist in everything you do, it makes it easy to point to your own failings when what you attempt doesn’t measure up to your standards.
  3. We overanalyze simple decisions. Rather than making small decisions and moving on, you wring your hands endlessly, confused by information overload.
  4. We make friends with people who reinforce our self-doubt. It’s natural to take on the characteristics of people we spend time with, and we spend time with people who make the beliefs we have about ourselves even stronger (see #1 above).

All these things lead to an interesting psychological effect called confirmation bias—we look for and give value to the evidence that reinforces our belief that we aren’t good enough and ignore evidence that would prove the opposite. Slowly but surely, you create a negative feedback loop that gets stronger and stronger.

Basically, your self-doubt becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Trick Your Brain Into Overcoming Your Self-Doubt

President Truman struggled with self-doubt his whole life—not just in his childhood. Even through his presidency he questioned whether he was making the right calls, but this quote explains how he was able to make those calls despite the internal despair:

All my life, whenever it comes time to make a decision, I make it and forget about it. – Harry S. Truman

One of Truman’s tactics for overcoming his self-doubt was not letting the torment of many decisions pile on top of each other. If an important decision had to be made, he focused on that decision alone and didn’t let decisions from days gone by weigh him down.

That’s a fine strategy to adopt—you’ll want to make use of it, too—but psychologists and behavioral scientists have also identified a few other things you can do that will actually trick your brain into tearing down the roadblock of self-doubt.3

  • The first strategy, interestingly enough, is to doubt your doubt. Take the same energy you spend doubting your decisions and direct them at the doubt itself. What’s been learned is that doubt can actually destroy itself—at least for a little while. Rather than ask yourself “What if I’m not good enough?” ask “What if I am?” Instead of “What if I make the wrong decision?” try “What if I don’t make one at all?” Force yourself to think of the consequences of inaction.
  • Next, shake your head—as if to say no—when you’re having self-doubting thoughts. This sounds absurd, but the effect of body language on your decisions is actually well-studied and profound. Just the act of shaking your head while thinking a negative thought is enough for them to cancel each other out. Think of it like subtracting a negative in a math problem.
  • Finally, try giving yourself a time limit to make decisions. Thanks to Parkinson’s Law, we tend to waste as much time as we give ourselves on any given task. But a time limit with a real consequence can be incredibly effective at getting yourself to focus on the important and making decisions that matter.
You’ll Always Have Self-Doubt, but It Gets Easier to Overcome

President Truman (and likely every other president / head of state / important person) dealt with self-doubt his entire life, but what set him apart from the typical self-doubter and allowed him to rise to the most powerful role in the world, is that he only struggled with his decisions while he was making them.

Once it was made, he moved on to the next. This kept him from drowning in a sea of doubt—each decision piling on the one before it.

And if you follow the advice above, you can do the same for yourself:

  1. Compartmentalize your decisions and don’t look back.
  2. Doubt your doubt.
  3. Shake your head when confronting doubt.
  4. Enforce time limits on your decisions.

When you struggle with self-doubt, the road ahead looks bleak. We’ve all experienced it. But if there’s hope for a young man who can’t even talk to his future wife without putting himself down to rise to the highest office in all the land, there’s hope for you and me, too.

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The gist: Humor is a great psychological tool to get and keeping people on your side. Use it wisely, and use it often—especially when you screw up.

Everyone makes mistakes. But what makes one mistake forgivable and another not?

You’ve probably seen plenty of instances where big mistakes were ignored. Or the opposite—seemingly insignificant mistakes are blown out of proportion.

“How does that happen? Where’s the justice?” you might ask yourself.

You may not realize, though, that when you make a mistake, the way it’s received by everyone around you almost completely depends on how you react to it.

During the 2014 mid-term elections, Tom Brokaw, a world-famous news reporter, made what would have been a career-limiting mistake on-air.

The next day, every media outlet in America was talking about it. But instead of criticizing or making fun of him, they were laughing it off with the air of forgiveness.

How did Brokaw turn his massive flub—what would could have been a career-ending move for any rookie reporter—into an endearing news story? And how can you use the same psychological principle to magically recover the next time you find yourself in the same situation?

Use humor.

How Humor Can Save Your Career

Americans love their TV, but there’s one day they love it more than any other: election day! Once every two years, even the most die-hard TV haters—myself included—tune in for one big night of news on who’ll be elected to what offices and which big ballot measures will be passed or defeated.

It’s a serious day, and all the news networks bring out their most popular reporters to cover the night’s events. This year, MSNBC brought out the biggest name they have: Tom Brokaw.

Brokaw is discussing the latest poll results with a panel of anchors when a loud, obnoxious alarm starts to sound. For the first few seconds, they all ignore it. Then, they start looking confusedly at each other. Finally, Brokaw asks, “Could that be me?” before sheepishly realizing the phone in his pocket is the culprit.

A less experienced news anchor might quickly turn the phone off and pretend like nothing happened (even though everyone knows). They might be deeply embarrassed and apologize profusely before rambling through the rest of the show, thrown off by the flub.

Everyone will forgive them temporarily in order to get on with the show, but you can be sure they’ll get a dressing down once the cameras are off.

Brokaw knew better. His years of experience told him to do something different. Watch how he handles the situation:

Tom Brokaw Answers Cell Phone On Live TV | msnbc - YouTube

Let’s recap what we just saw:

  1. First, Brokaw is clearly shocked when he realizes the sound is coming from his phone.
  2. Next, he pulls the phone out to silence it and acknowledges he made a mistake.
  3. Rather than end on a sour note, though, he takes the next step and turns it into a joke by pretending it’s his wife calling to remind him to pick up the milk and feed the dog.

When the incident begins, you can see the other hosts laughing nervously. By the end, though, they—and the whole set crew—are honestly cracking up. Finally, he gives a quick apology and gets right back to business.

Fast talking comedians excel at this. They mess up their lines all the time, but the crowd still loves them because they can laugh their way through it. For an example, watch any episode of The Colbert Report or Robin Williams doing stand up.

For any host without a sense of humor, the headlines the next day would have read something like, “News host makes a fool of himself in front of the nation.” But Brokaw received none of that. Instead of laughing at or pitying him, everyone who picked up the story focused on how funny the way he handled it was. His humor became more important than the mistake.

Brokaw is respected enough these days he can probably do anything he wants on TV and get away with it, but had he handled that situation the same way when he was younger, he’d likely be able to say, “Humor saved my career.”

4 Steps to Recover From a Flub With Humor

The next time you find yourself staring out at a crowd of people who just saw you make a huge mistake—and they know it was a mistake—don’t ignore it. Don’t try to cover it up. Don’t nervously apologize over and over, dwelling on it and making yourself look like a schmuck.

Instead, remember everyone watching wants you to succeed. They’re confused right now, but you can win them back—and even endear them to you—if you act quickly. Just follow the Tom Brokaw Method:

  1. Acknowledge the mistake. There’s no hiding it now. Everyone saw!
  2. Correct the mistake. If it’s necessary, make whatever correction you need to get things back on track.
  3. Make a joke. Make fun of yourself. Get everyone laughing and they won’t care anymore.
  4. Move on! And don’t bring up your flub again until you’re totally in the clear.

Here’s an example:

I’m a highly distracted walker. When I’m walking around, I love looking at everything except what’s right in front of me. The world is just so interesting. As a result, I’m prone to falling down and running into things.

When this happens, I like to face everyone who saw and give a deep bow as if to thank them for watching my performance. This way, they spend less time worrying if I’m hurt or thinking I’m a dummy and more time laughing at the funny guy.

Humor is one of the best psychological tools you have for getting and keeping people on your side. Use it wisely, and use it often—especially when you screw up.

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The gist: We all eventually suffer from “lazy expert syndrome.” The best way to snap out of it and grow is to mentor someone new to your field.

It was the “roaring twenties” in America, and business was good. Even for criminals.

Al Capone had slowly built himself an empire making upwards of $100M each year. The only problem? He was in the business of narcotics, prostitution, gambling, and murder.

Capone literally got away with murder for years because he’d painstakingly built a network of minions to do his bidding. He was a careful man. All the major crime-fighting bureaus in The U.S. were trying to take him down, but he was untouchable.

That is, until he made an extraordinarily dumb mistake telling a prosecutor he was sick and couldn’t come to court to testify in a case. The police investigated, found him perfectly healthy, and arrested him on contempt of court. That started the ball rolling on a series of charges that eventually brought down the whole operation and sent Capone to the infamous Alcatraz prison.

One of the biggest businesses in America, brought down by a tiny flub. How could it happen?

He got lazy. Capone let his ego get the best of him; he thought he was so untouchable he didn’t need to exercise caution anymore.

The world is better off without Capone’s expertise, but it’s not better off without yours.  If you’ve ever made a rookie mistake—one you should have known better about—you might have experienced what Capone did: Lazy Expert Syndrome (LES).

Read on to learn how to keep LES from ever taking you down or setting you back.

Image courtesy of Susana Fernandez Why You Suffer From Lazy Expert Syndrome

To understand how even the smartest people in the world can destroy their lives and careers with a tiny mistake, you have to understand how the human mind works.

You’ve been blessed with the ability to think, reason, and do math. Put these skills together, and what you have is an incredible ability to assess the risks that surround you every day.

When you first learn about these risks, you’re scared of them. That’s how the brain works—it fears what it doesn’t understand.

When you cook your first meal with your parents, they teach you the stove is hot and to be careful. As a result, you’re overly cautious. You watch your hand as it hovers over the hot surface. You don’t pick up more than one pot at a time. You wear a mitt every time you reach in the over, just in case.

But, as time goes on, you become an expert cook. You can juggle pots, make adjustments without a mitt, and move quickly with confidence. As that confidence builds, your fear subsides.

This is a good thing. You make better food faster. If you’re not careful, though, you can become overconfident. You start to think you’re such an enigma in the kitchen that all the rules you learned before are just for rookies. You’re so good you can’t get burned.

And that’s when you end up in the hospital.

How to Avoid Rookie Mistakes

In a previous life, I was a construction manager for a multinational firm. We were obsessed with safety.

Insurance for construction companies is extremely expensive; one way to stay competitive is to make sure employees don’t get hurt. There was just one problem; lots of our employees were getting hurt.

So, we did the logical thing. We improved our training programs. Any time we hired a new employee, they had to undergo rigorous safety training. We programmed them to be walking, talking safety machines. But the injuries continued.

When the bigwigs analyzed the data to see why the new safety program wasn’t working, the problem was glaringly clear. New workers were safer than ever. They weren’t getting hurt. The older ones were.

The older workers knew all the rules and best practices. They’d had the “culture of safety” drilled into them for years and they were experts at their trade. But, because they’d spent so long on the job without a single scrape, they became overconfident, and decided some of those rules could go.

They suffered from LES. Then, they got hurt.

Knowing this, we changed our approach. Rather than letting the older workers rest on their laurels, we put them in charge of training the younger ones. That’s when things changed. All of a sudden, employees who hadn’t thought about safety in years were forced not just to remember it, but to teach it as well. They became the “safety police” for the younger generation.

No cop wants to be caught breaking the law and, suddenly, our older workers were the new model of safety. And they lived happily ever after with all their limbs and lower insurance premiums.

Put This to Work by Mentoring

If you’ve become comfortable in your work after a long time in the field, it might be time to take the same approach we did.

What you’ll want to do is find a way to bring all the important things you learned long ago—the principles that made you great—to the front of your mind. And you need to do it regularly.

The best way I know to do that is to become a mentor.

Find someone new to your field. Look for someone full of ambition but without a lot of experience. It’s the perfect opportunity to not only develop yourself as a leader, but to keep yourself sharp.

Newbies have a way of asking questions and seeking information that force you to remember all the key principles behind the way you do things.

Sometimes, they even help you realize you’ve been doing something wrong all along—or at least that you could do it better.

The end result is that you get a new a follower to your way of thinking, and you improve your own processes at the same time by reminding yourself of what got you to where you are now and implementing new ideas you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

And you don’t need to be the star of your field to take on a mentorship role. If you’ve been doing what you do for awhile, there will always be someone new who could benefit from your wisdom.

If you work for a larger company, ask your HR department if there’s a formal mentorship program. Oftentimes there is. But if not, that shouldn’t stop you.

There are likely many times every day you have an opportunity to share what you know with someone else. Start making a habit of helping newer coworkers learn.

If you want to stay on top of your own game, mentorship is an effective way to do it.

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The gist: Not all introverts suffer from public speaking anxiety. But if you do, here are some ideas to eliminate it and become a strong communicator.

I stood on stage, looking out over everyone focused on me—waiting for me to speak, to say anything— and the voice in the back of head made its way forward to remind me, “You’re not good at public speaking.”

I was the opening talk for the TEDx event, and it was up to me to set the tone.

This is an extraordinary responsibility on top of giving the most important talk of your life and, had it been any other circumstance, I might have given into that voice. “Yeah, you’re right. I shouldn’t be here. I’m an introvert. I’m an internal editor. I can’t even finish a sentence with my wife without wanting a do-over.”

Thankfully, I’d done my homework. Not just on the talk, but on how to overcome my public speaking anxiety. I knew what I needed to say, I believed in the message, and I had a plan even if the perfect circumstances I spent so much time practicing in didn’t reflect reality on game day.

Today, I can get on stage in front of a few thousand people and speak with confidence and authority. If I’m lucky, some finesse and a few jokes that aren’t total duds. But it certainly wasn’t always like that.

When it comes to public speaking, any confidence I have is the result of a tremendous amount of work, frustration, cold sweats, and embarrassment. But I’m glad I had those experiences because they got me here—a place I can share some lessons about how to go from a terrified, bumbling idiot to a calm, confident communicator.

That, perhaps, will be the most useful part of this article for you—simply knowing that public speaking skills can be learned. You don’t have to be born with them.

From sharing an idea with a small team of friends to standing in front of thousands of strangers, these are the public speaking skills—many from speakers far better than me—that have transformed me from a timid, stuttering speaker to a confident, respected one. I hope they help you spread your own big ideas.

Slideshow by Canva Presentations.

1. Don’t give speeches about subjects you don’t know (duh).

This sounds like lazy, throwaway advice. It isn’t. If you follow it perfectly, the rest of the public speaking skills in this piece will be easy to follow.

Once you’ve given a few talks and put yourself out there as a public speaker, you’ll occasionally be offered opportunities to talk to a large audience somewhere far away and sexy sounding.

The only catch is the content. Maybe you’ve shown yourself as an expert on canary mating habits and you get an email asking you to attend a conference / office / meeting and talk about worldwide paperclip marketing and sales trends.

You should thank them for the offer and politely decline.

The reason is simple: you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Even if you study up in time, you won’t give a great presentation because you won’t care about the topic. You don’t actually want to give the talk, and they don’t want what you could actually present well on. They just like the idea of having you because they saw a video of you and think you’re great.

That’s what makes this advice so hard to follow. You’re new, you want exposure, and it looks like there’s a big opportunity for you.

If you’ve ever bought something because you hoped it would do something you knew deep down it really wouldn’t (cue every late night infomercial you’ve ever seen), you’ll understand the disappointment you’re setting both parties up for from the beginning.

And don’t forget: You always get more of what you say yes to. If you want to be a world-renowned expert on paperclip trends, step up to the plate. But if you have a specific message you want to spread, stick to it. You can adapt your message to fit a new audience, but never abandon it!

2. Script your transitions and not much else.

If you’re like me, you have a strong internal editor who sits on your shoulder with a red marker and a pair of eye glasses, ready to scribble “F! See me after class!” on every sentence you utter. No matter what you say, you feel like you could have said it better.

When you’re preparing a presentation, the natural inclination for people like us is to write a script. When you write a script, you get all the chances you need to get your wording just right.

As ancient Chinese warrior, Sun Tzu, said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” And this is the problem with a detailed script.

In this scenario, there is no enemy, but there’s a world of uncertainty that comes from stepping on stage where everything is live and there are no do-overs. The more detailed your script is, the more opportunities there are to screw it up, and the more likelihood you will.

When you’re new to the public speaking world, messing up your lines and trying to remember what comes next is the last thing you need.

So what do you do instead? Just wing it? Not exactly.

While a detailed script will probably cause you more trouble than it’s worth, you need some sort of plan. What works better is to base your speech on stories (you know, those things you can’t forget even when you try) and script your transitions. Your talk should look something like this:

Stories are great because:

  1. Audiences love them and need them to have a good experience.
  2. You don’t have to script them because you’re programmed to remember them.

We’ve been telling each other stories for as long as we’ve been human. You’re genetically programmed to remember them (making them easy to present on) and, more importantly, your audience is genetically programmed to listen for them (making them happy when they hear one).

Since stories can be more free flowing, you don’t need to script every last word. The main points will do, and your human tendencies will take care of the rest. A scripted transition will help you wrap up one story and usher you, and the audience, into the next.

3. Practice public speaking (a lot) more than you think you need to.

Chris Guillebeau is the founder and annual emcee of The World Domination Summit. Over the course of a weekend each year, he delivers what amounts to probably 10 keynote talks. Sometimes, he has a story to tell. Other times, he just needs to remind the audience of 15 things before they break for lunch.

As a co-conspirator at WDS and a budding speaker, I once asked him, “How do you remember the sheer volume of things you need to say each time you take the stage?” I was hoping for a secret public speaking tip, but his answer—the truth—was unremarkable: “I practice a lot.”

So, that’s what I do, too. And it works.

Whenever I think I have my presentation down, I practice it at least 2-3 more times. It’s time consuming and often boring—you’ve been doing this for days or weeks and you don’t want to practice your speech again. But it isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. If you want the experience to be remarkable for them, you have to put in the unsexy work of boring, repetitive practice.

4. Build your talk in chunks.

Have you ever noticed most stories can be broken up in to distinct sections? You can do the same with your presentations. I do this every time I speak, and it shortens preparation time.

By working in chunks, you can develop and nail down different pieces of a presentation simultaneously. If one piece in the middle (or worse—in the beginning) is tripping you up, you don’t have to wait until it’s perfect to work on the rest, and you can practice the other parts while you work it out.

The faster you get your talk done, the more time you have to practice it until it’s second nature. Nothing breeds confidence like success, and nothing breeds success like practice.

Few people practice public speaking as much as they should. I guess “practice a lot” is pretty remarkable after all.

5. Slow down. Way down.

A common problem for introverts like me is that once we are talking, our mouths sometimes go into overdrive to keep up with the thoughts we’re trying to get out. My head is an idea generation and connection machine constantly charging forward. My mouth, on the other hand, is slow to speak, lest it make a mistake; there’s that internal editor again.

Once you break the seal and start letting an idea out, trying to keep it coming at the pace your brain is going is like an ant trying to steer a mastodon down a ski slope.

But trying to talk faster to catch up to your head produces exactly the effect you’re trying to avoid—stammering, getting lost, and re-explaining things you’d already explained. All the while, you start to stress yourself out which takes things even further off the rails.

If your idea is important, then it deserves all the time it needs to come out. You can’t just “talk slower” though. A more useful approach is to think more carefully.

The fast-talking babble problem is created by carelessness in how you string together your thoughts. You build loose connections in your mind that need more time to develop but, instead of developing them, you jump to the next one. A few skips down the road and you hardly know where you are anymore.

The fix for this is simple: when you notice your brain skipping too far ahead, you just tell it to go back and repeat itself. Wherever your mouth is, that’s where it needs to jump back to, and start over again.

Reminding myself to think slower works because I struggle to slow down my speech unless I also slow down my thoughts.

6. Don’t wander!

As I was prepping for my TEDx talk, I put my friend, Mike Pacchione—a professional speaking coach—in charge of “buzzing me” when he noticed me doing something bad. What he caught me doing often was wandering.

It happens when an idea appears out of nowhere as you’re talking and you decide to follow it. The problem is that wandering rarely stops at one idea. Once you feed the wandering beast, it takes over, and you go down the rabbit hole.

The problem isn’t that you can’t present well while you’re wandering, but that once you’ve wandered, you become lost. How does a hiker get lost in the woods? He takes one step off the trail to look at a plant. And then, oh, there’s a mushroom a few steps away. Hey, that tree up ahead looks cool. And then he turns around and has no idea where he is or how to get back.

The temptation to wander will be high and doing it is easy but, once you have, it’s hard to get back on track.

There are two practical fixes for this problem.

The first is to follow rule #3 above and practice a lot. The more you practice your presentation, the more you know your stories and where they should go. The more you know that, the less tempting it is to stray.

The other fix—the one you can use in the moment on stage when you’re about to wander—is to file your wandering thought away.

Your brain doesn’t want to let go of a wandering thought—it wants to explore it. The best way to stay on track is to remind yourself that you can explore it… just not right now. File it away. Maybe you can use it when you give this talk again in the future. But, for the love of God, don’t try to use it now.

7. Build a pre-talk calming routine.

My heart was pounding through my chest. I could feel my muscles tighten and vision start to tunnel. Breath rate was rising. “What’s happening?” I asked myself. I was on the verge of a panic attack.

I was about to step on stage to deliver the biggest talk of my life and the only thing I could think about was how I was going to screw it up. That triggered the stress response, and it was all downhill from there.

Luckily, I’d been coached on what to do when this happens. Vanessa Van Edwards, one of the greatest speakers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, was tasked with helping me prepare. She confided in me that she, too, gets nervous before big presentations. Had she not told me that, I’d have never guessed it.

The trick she uses? A pre-talk calming technique. Every great speaker has one, and every great speaker knows sticking to it is mandatory for delivering your best performance.

What Vanessa does is find a quiet space a few minutes before she’s scheduled to take the stage—sometimes in a bathroom—and does a two to three minute routine of power posing (think wonder woman pose), deep breathing, and envisioning success.

These things sound and feel a little silly, but they actually work.

Before a big event, it’s normal for your cortisol (the stress hormone) levels to rise. We’ve evolved to become extremely sensitive to stressful events. Just a few thousand years ago, feeling stress and not responding to it could have cost you your life.

That’s rarely the case today—I couldn’t find any reports of “death by embarrassment”—but our biology hasn’t exactly caught up.

The sick irony of it all is the more you give into your public speaking anxiety, the more likely you are to give a poor performance.

So, before you take the stage, make sure you check your stress levels. Excited is good. Nervous is bad. Always hold a few minutes before going on for your own calming session. The pros do it. It works. Ignore at your own risk.

Read next: Ace Your Next Interview With These Science-Based Social Hacks

8. When you screw up, keep going.

Before the show ended, I was a huge fan of The Colbert Report. I rarely missed an episode. And I wasn’t the only one—it was one of the most popular TV “news” shows on the air. If you watched the show, you probably didn’t notice that Stephen flubs his lines almost every episode. He’ll change a phrase to something that doesn’t make sense, miss a word, or mispronounce one.

You might not have noticed because, seemingly, neither did Colbert. When he messed up a line, he never stumbled or corrected. He just kept going because he knew something that us detail-oriented introverts must all learn to be effective public speakers:

Context matters more than the details.

He could flub a line and get away with it because he didn’t call attention to it. And no one noticed because no one is listening to every word you say. They’re listening for context. You can leave a surprising amount of content out of a message and still get the point across.

More damaging than a small mistake is calling attention to it. And if you flub something you can’t gloss over, let your sense of humor handle the situation. Make a joke about it and move on.

Read next: Make Them Laugh: Tom Brokaw Shows How To Recover From A Career-Ending Mistake

9. Remember the audience wants you to succeed.

If you follow the public speaking tips above, you’ll make huge strides in your ability to present ideas to a live audience.

But, perhaps the best advice I’ve gotten in this field that’s helped me actually put those eight rules above into action is this:

Always remember the audience wants you to succeed.

When you’re stressing out over how to do presentation, this simple truth can be easy to forget. Your audience didn’t show up to boo you off the stage. They want to learn what you have to teach them. They want to hear what you have to say. They’ve traded their time and, perhaps, money to listen to you. People don’t give up their time and money to have a bad experience. Just the opposite.

When you have a fear of public speaking, it’s easy to think, “What if someone doesn’t like what I say?” That thought starts to permeate and, suddenly, you’re asking yourself, “What if everyone hates me.”

This is the line of thinking that leads to bad presentations. Don’t let yourself go down that path because the reality is the audience is on your side. They want you to succeed. And if you follow these public speaking rules, the odds that you will are high.

The 30-Second Recap

I’m a highly introverted person who never thought I could be a strong public speaker. It’s taken a lot of work and help from people far better at it than me, but I’ve proven myself wrong.

If you’re an introvert like me, and you have important ideas to share, you can dramatically improve your public speaking skills with these nine fundamental rules:

  1. Stick to what you know. Presentations fail when you try to present yourself as an expert on something you aren’t.
  2. Tell stories, and don’t bother scripting them. Stories are easy to remember so you won’t mess them up. Script your transitions, and you’ll be set.
  3. Practice more than you think you need to. Long, boring practice is what sets professional speakers apart from amateurs.
  4. Chunk your speeches. Don’t get stuck thinking you have to work through it in a linear fashion.
  5. Slow your brain down. When your brain is moving too fast, you start to stumble on your words.
  6. Don’t wander. The temptation to step off the trail will be high. Once you do, it will be difficult to come back.
  7. Save a few moments for your pre-talk calming routine. Never go on stage without doing this first.
  8. Ignore your mistakes. Context is more important than perfect delivery. If you mess up, keep going.
  9. Remember the audience wants you to succeed. Everything is easier when you remember everyone is on your side.

I hope this advice from an introverted public speaker helps you make some strides getting your own important message to more people. It’s sure helped me.

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