It’s science fair time again…
My kids’ school has an annual science fair, in the middle of winter.
It’s required for 5th graders. Optional for everyone else.
We’ve encouraged the kids to participate every year. And every year it’s gone really well.
We typically try to avoid the really cliche science fair projects. But we also try to let the kids pick what they want to do — with the idea that if they pick it, it will be more motivating for them.
Last year one of our sons figured out how to use electromagnetic energy to levitate a ball made from Christmas tree tinsel. The other created an electrical circuit, then tested what materials conducted electricity.
But this year there’s been a little hesitation. And since it’s still optional, the option of not doing it is on the table.
And after a conversation, it turns out there’s a part of science fair that makes at least one of my sons uncomfortable.
You have to actually talk to strangers…
During science fair, each kid that’s participating gets a table. They set up their presentation board and any material from their experiment or demonstration.
Then, they have to explain their project to anybody that walks up.
And while this is in a controlled environment where all the strangers are other students, teachers, and family members…
They’re still strangers.
Which can make a kid uncomfortable.
In fact, it still makes me uncomfortable.
It’s a completely normal reaction. And probably adaptive, as it’s not always a good idea to talk to any and every stranger you run into.
But in this setting, there’s a downside.
While doing science fair isn’t required this year, it’s a good experience for the kids. Because it replicates an experience they will likely have to go through — in many forms — through the rest of their life.
We often have to talk to strangers. Even, to put on a presentation of sorts, to demonstrate our knowledge.
Not just at science fairs and academic conferences. But the same skills apply to job interviews, new social encounters, networking events, doing sales, and thousands of other encounters they’re likely to have through life.
If you hide from all those situations, you’ll end up living a really limited life.
You have to be willing to face this discomfort — and act anyway…
And it only gets better with practice.
I told my son who is hesitating that it’s perfectly normal to have these feelings. And when I’m meeting new people, I often feel the same way.
And the feelings can be even stronger if you suddenly have an opportunity to not just speak one-to-one, as most of the science fair conversations are… But to get up in front of a room or a whole auditorium full of people, and be the center of their attention.
It can be nerve-wracking.
But it’s exactly in those moments where you need to make a choice.
You make the choice that you DO IT anyway.
Step through the fear and discomfort.
Step through the anxiety.
The worst thing that happens is that you are proven right. That you embarrass yourself. And then you have a decent story.
When I was in first grade, I was in the talent show. Acting out some tiny play. We literally were reading lines out of a book. But when my lines came, I froze. I couldn’t talk. And after an embarrassing pause, the show went on without me.
But more likely than not, you’ll feel that anxiety for a moment, then move through it and do what you need to do.
Repeated experiences of this build confidence…
Now I do improv acting. Now I do training, and webinars, and videos. Now I’ve hosted workshops, and gotten on stage in front of hundreds.
I speak to strangers, including clients, investment experts, my marketing heroes, and others.
And every time I do this, I feel fear. I feel anxiety. I feel that discomfort my son is feeling.
Then, I go toward it, and take the action I need to take.
And each is a data point that I can feel that fear, and still accomplish what I set out to accomplish.
And in previous years, both of my sons have felt that same discomfort, before science fair. Then they actually start talking to people about their project, and it goes well. Their teachers are impressed. The judges are impressed. Others who talk to them are impressed.
And they’ve overcome the same discomfort playing their musical instruments, talking in front of their classes, competing in swim meets, and in so many other situations.
My daughter too, although still being in preschool she hasn’t had nearly as many chances at similar experiences.
It’s part of maturing.
Life gives you more and more opportunities to do things that make you uncomfortable.
And many times, life also gives you the opportunity to NOT do those things as well.
You have to choose.
Choosing to move toward your discomfort will almost always lead to a better place…
What are you putting off today because doing it will make you uncomfortable?
What are you putting off today because it’s anxiety- or fear-provoking?
What are you putting off that you know you should do, but haven’t brought yourself to — yet?
It might be small. It might be big.
It might be something that you will do and fail at. It might be something you will do and succeed.
It might be career-related. It might be related to something else in life entirely.
You know what it is — I don’t.
Go toward it. Do it.
Feel the discomfort. Feel the anxiety. Feel the fear.
Do it anyway.
And even in doing that — regardless of result — know you’re a success because you’re actually doing thing.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,