I haven’t always been the ‘out front’ type. I used to spend my time in the back of the room, positioned perfectly to avoid being called on, or called out, able to slink away without being noticed. From my back row vantage point I would watch others achieve, quietly wishing I could be as smart or as talented as they were.
My life changed when I received a piece of advice from my grandmother, a strong-willed woman who raised two kids on her own through some pretty hard times. She taught me that if something needed doing I should step up and do it, and to never say, “I shoulda.., woulda…, or coulda…”
I used to be afraid to step forward because I didn’t have confidence in my abilities. I learned something suprising when I pushed myself away from the back of the room and joined those I used to watch. There's nothing special up here.
Confidence isn’t having all the answers; it’s having the questions and the courage to ask them. Confidence isn’t achieving the first time you try something; it’s having the courage to fail and learn from it. Confidence isn’t writing an article or standing up in front of a room full of people; it’s raising your voice and letting people hear what you have to say. Confidence isn’t knowing people will agree with you; it’s believing in yourself enough that you don’t need everyone to agree. It’s engaging in a discussion about something that is important to you and standing up for your beliefs. More importantly, it’s about adjusting those beliefs when you learn new things because you are open-minded enough to hear other people when they stand up and share their views.
I have fielded comments about how much I must think of myself because I write articles and give presentations. I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m no better than anyone else out there doing the job. The only difference is that I’m speaking up. I’m talking to people like me who want to learn more about how to do the best job in the world, about how to teach others and motivate them to be their best. I’m no longer afraid to be wrong or ridiculed because now I have the courage to ask the questions. I know I can be confident because I took the time to have the discussions. I’m no better – I’m just a little louder.
The more I step forward, the more connections I make with like-minded people who are passionate about what they do, which exposes me to new perspectives and ways of doing things. You can only learn from the things that you choose to expose yourself to. Read articles and learn new techniques for improving yourself or your skills. It’s not about agreeing with everything you read or hear.
It’s about listening to what others have to say and having the courage to ask questions and facilitate a discussion.
If you find yourself in the back of the room, have some faith in yourself. It just takes a few small steps forward and before long you’ll find yourself out front too. You could have the answer to someone else’s problem. You could be the motivation for someone else to step forward – you just have to challenge yourself to take a risk. Support the people who have stepped up and shared their passion. Instead of finding fault in what they are doing or saying and tearing them down for it, find the new piece of information they have passed on to you. Tap into their courage and confidence and let it fuel your own. As you’re stepping away from your observation post in the back of the room, remember to reach back and bring someone else with you.
Photo credit: Cassey Hoeschen
More from Becki White
Go Ahead, Size Me Up: http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/2014/01/go-ahead-size-me-up...