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When it comes to reading out loud, I am atrocious. Really, truly terrible.

For whatever reason, I can’t seem to get it down.

If you give me a piece of paper to read from, or any kind of notes, I freeze up. I can’t do it. It becomes impossible for me to perform. A while back I had to read a commercial on a radio show before being the guest, and they gave me a piece of paper with everything I had to say. I completely botched it. I kept messing up. Finally, one of the guys on the radio show suggested I lose the paper and just talk.

That did the trick.

In fact, one of the big shifts I’ve made in 2015 is to schedule a lot of 5 and 7 minute meetings with my staff, because I don’t read fast enough for the value of my time. It is better for me to hear it in person, aloud.

Even reading my daughter a bedtime story feels a bit intimidating. I’m still a bit hesitant. If I had to just come up with the greatest story off the top of my head, I would be cozy and calm. But hand me a copy of Goodnight Moon, and I’m a mess.

The best part of all of this?

I am professional public speaker.

I get paid to give keynotes, to be on a stage, to talk for an hour, but I’m terrified of reading in public.

How do I balance those two things?

Well, I’m an improv guy. That’s what I’m good at. There was never a point in my life where I thought “Well, I want to give talks, but I can’t read from anything on the spot.” No. That thought didn’t cross my mind.

Instead, I thought: “I want to give talks. How do I make it work for myself and my strengths?”

More than anything in this world, you need to know yourself. I am self aware enough to know I can’t speak under circumstances in which I have a prompter. I can’t bring notes onstage. So I hacked away until I tapped into the skillset that allowed me to book these talks.

Know yourself. Try every different option or idea until you have exhausted them and found the one that works for you. It could take one month. Four months. A year. Maybe even longer. But that one year could change the rest of your life, and what’s one year when you put it like that?

What about you? Tell me about a fear you conquered by tackling it at a new angle. Would love to hear your thoughts on all this. 🙂