By Tim Hayes []

Without discomfort, stretching, even pain, there can be no growth.

As a trainer of business people in making public presentations, I see evidence of this constantly.  We’ve all heard the old saying, “People fear public speaking more than death.”  I’ve never let myself believe that’s completely true.  It’s just too illogical and ridiculous a concept to hold water.  But there clearly is a level of trepidation, self-doubt, and fear when it’s time to step to the microphone.

I’ve made presentations to business groups and professional societies over the years, and the butterflies no doubt are there.  But the trick, I’ve found, is to turn what begins as nervous energy into a sense of purpose.  A challenge that only I can hear in my conscience.  A voice that propels me to get up there and show them my best self.

Yet there are times when pushing oneself to the next level of performance – even in a field where expertise and confidence are strong – can wrestle you back to that place of discomfort, stretching, even pain. 

Such was my experience this weekend, as I attended a three-day seminar on maximizing performance in the professional national and international speaking business – an area in which I am expanding my practice, based on lessons I want to share with business audiences gained through 30 years of providing counsel and direct support in leadership communication.

Over the intense and highly informative seminar, I learned about how tough the obstacles can be in excelling as a marketable speaker.  I learned about the work and mental energy required to produce and promote a distinctive message in this competitive field.  And I learned how valuable it is to have a group of peers with whom you can bounce ideas and get honest feedback.

It was all good stuff, but it knocked some of the stuffing out of me for a little while.  Then, after I got back home, I went for a long walk and listened to the movie, “Rocky Balboa” on my iTouch.  And, as he has done since I was a teenager, Rocky gave me the answer.

In the film, an aging Rocky gets his boxing license back because he needs the physical competition to help rid himself of some unfinished emotional business, caused by losing his wife, Adrian, to cancer and by the growing disconnect with his grown son, Robert.  After Rocky agrees to a charity exhibition match with the reigning heavyweight champion, who is sorting through his own self-respect issues, Robert confronts Rocky and asks his father to pull out of the fight. 

What follows is Rocky’s advice to his son, which can serve as a guide to anyone working to make himself or herself better.  He says, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.  It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.  You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  But it ain’t about how hard you hit.  It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward – how much you can take, and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done!”

So, while some of the hard truths I learned this weekend about my growing my professional speaking venture were perhaps harder than I anticipated, I also know that this effort will keep moving forward.  It’s something I plan to keep in mind as I work with my clients in our speaker training forum, as well. 

It can hurt to grow, but it can hurt more to not grow at all.  Yo, Rock!  Thanks again.

Copyright 2010 Transverse Park Productions LLC