It’s almost fall, and fall is a great time to learn something new, or change up your routine, or establish a new (good) habit. So here’s a bit of pre-fall inspiration.
Indeed, a wise relative of mine once told me that success in life was largely a matter of habits. When I asked him what he meant, he explained that doing something useful each day eventually added up to a lot of goodness. In other words, you couldn’t reliably become massively successful by putting in one great effort; the better way to think about it was to chip away at success every day. That was possible and predictable; a sudden attack of genius was not. And besides, he said, quoting someone famous, chance favors the prepared mind, so if you engage in good daily habits, it’s far more likely that you’ll be ready if greatness does call.
For some reason, this advice stuck with me when so much else from wise relatives didn’t, as they’re fond of telling me.
In that spirit, then, here are seven fairly simple daily habits that will incrementally take you to success as a speaker. How many of these do you do every day?
1.Scan the environment every day for ideas in your field. Whatever your field of expertise, you should always be looking for new ideas, research, or opportunities to test your thinking. It’s about keeping it fresh, keeping up with the new developments, and keeping yourself a top-notch expert. Ultimately, it’s the ideas that should motivate you, not the applause.
2.Work your voice every day. Your voice is your most precious asset – if it goes, you’re no longer a speaker, you’re a mime. So develop a retinue of exercises and practices to keep your voice strong and ready. Never, ever take it for granted.
3.Practice daily. This is especially important for speakers who speak less than, say, 12 times per year. Get into the habit of performing a short section of your speech while in the car, or shower, or, if you’re really bold, while waiting in line at the DMV. OK, that last idea might get your license revoked, but there are always moments of down time in everyone’s day when you can run a two-minute segment of your speech to keep it fresh.
4.Surround yourself with (positive) speaker friends. The world of public speaking has unique stresses and strains and you need to hob-knob with other people who get it so that you can share what’s on your mind with minds that understand.
5.Review your goals every day. Always know where you’re headed and how you’re doing on the way there. Set some goals and review them regularly. I mean specific goals, like X number of speeches, or “doing a TEDx talk,” or whatever the goal might be. If you don’t have a target, you won’t know where to aim, and you won’t know whether you’re making progress or not.
6.Exercise, eat right, and sleep enough. This advice should go without saying, but I put it here because when you’re on the road it’s so hard to stick to that it needs reinforcing.
7.Streamline something. After reading that marvelous little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I attempted to put it into practice, and made a little headway. But I was stumped by the enormity of the task of some rooms, like the garage, which was filled with things that didn’t bring me joy but that it didn’t make sense to get rid of, like garden hoses. (Read the book, you’ll see what I mean.) So I redefined the task as getting rid of one item, any item, per day. That was easier – much easier – and over time it added up to a great result. If you approach the complexity of your work life in the same spirt, and find one task, or bit of clutter, that you don’t need to do, pretty soon you’ll have a short list of essentials and a lot more time in your day.
Practice these seven daily habits and you’ll soon be that kick-ass speaker you’ve always dreamed of being.