Going B*lls Deep

going balls deep

What I want to talk about is the difference between confidence and fear. Because, as you know, I’ve set up this new group called The Quantum Confidence Café, which is all about helping people build or rebuild or boost their self-confidence.

I want to talk about this feeling of not having the confidence to do something and how you get over that. I wanted to tell you a story about how I overcame that.

In 2003 I was a health and safety manager at the Channel Tunnel, well, health and safety advisor to be honest. My boss said, “Paul, I need you to do a presentation.

Here’s this big pile of stuff by a guy called Professor Reason who’s got this thing called behavioural safety. Go and prepare a presentation and then you’re going to give it to your peers and immediate directors.” I went, “Yeah, this is a great opportunity for me to put myself out there and get noticed and get seen.”

The problem was I’d never done a presentation before.

I didn’t have a Scooby-Doo, and I made the biggest mistake ever. I didn’t ask for help or advice. I thought, “I’m a genius. I can do this. I have got this.” I didn’t ask a single person.

I didn’t ask anybody how to do a presentation. I just thought I’ve seen some presentations before, I’ll just do it. I’ll go and do it. There was so much information I had to digest. I created a training that I’d like to call death by PowerPoint. It was pure evil.

It was everything that you shouldn’t do when doing a presentation.

I had about dozens of slides, each slide covered in a million words, give or take a few hundred thousand, small and densely packed on each slide.

I didn’t really have a clue what I was talking about, because this pile of information had to be digested, and I had three weeks before the presentation and my ordinary job as well. I didn’t have much time.

The big day comes.

I’m wearing, what am I wearing, a short-sleeved shirt, you know like printer repair guys.

 It was pale green.

We’re 25 crammed into a room built for 16. It’s the middle of summer, hot. No air conditioning.  I’m starting to sweat before I even start the presentation.

My boss comes in, makes the introduction, and goes, “Over to you Paul.” Oh dear. Within about five minutes, literally five minutes, my green shirt is black. It is dripping wet, soaking. I mean literally, there’s not a piece of this green shirt that is green anymore. It is soaking with sweat. There is sweat dripping down my face. My hair is all soaked. I’m mumbling my words. I don’t really know what I’m doing. It’s a nightmare, a catastrophe.

The worst thing about it was that all my peers and the directors in the room were pretending not to see the mayhem that was going on. Eventually my boss took pity and said, “Paul, go and take a break. I’ll take over from here.”  I didn’t cry, but I felt like crying because it was absolutely awful.

All these people that I admired, some of them I looked up to, some of the people I worked with, and nobody said a dickybird.

It would have been great if somebody had gone, “Paul, that was shit. Let me show you how to do a better one,” but nobody said a word.

For a long time, well, for four or five years I didn’t dare go near a presentation again. Didn’t dare put my head above the parapet.

I just stayed very quiet and didn’t want to even think about doing a presentation again, ever.

In 2008, we had a big fire, and I was the Emergency Preparedness Panager at the time.

I was heavily involved in the activity surrounding the fire. During the fire itself, I was in a control room helping people, on the site for around 36 hours without going home. I was intimately involved in this thing.

I was instructed to prepare a debrief report. One of many.

My boss at the time was happy with the report and that was pretty much the end of it. About, I don’t know, a month or so later one of the senior firefighters back at Kent Fire and Rescue invited me to give a presentation on the fire at the Kent Resilience Forum.

The Kent Resilience Forum is an annual event, run by Kent County Council. The emergency services and the local authority that deal with major situations in Kent get together and use the forum to discuss events that have happened during the year and their responses to them, the good, bad, and the ugly.

I was invited to give a presentation about the fire from the Eurotunnel perspective. Half of me was going, “Don’t do it. Don’t go near it.”

The other half of me was saying, “No. No. Look, we have to get over this demon. We have to just go for it.” This time was I did the work, put the presentation together after researching online how to prepare a good presentation. I asked for advice.

I knew my subject.  I put together a small number of slides, let’s say 15. Most of them were images with a few words, or a few short sentences.

I rehearsed the presentation. I knew it inside out and back to front. I went up to the police headquarters at Maidstone I think it was, and about 300/400 people. I gave my presentation  and absolutely loved it.

I received plenty of positive feedback. I did a debrief myself and realised what I’d done.

I’d gone balls deep into overcoming my fear and bad memories from the last time I’d given a presentation. I’d decided that this thing was scary, and I needed to get over it because one way of pushing myself forward was to get out there and do more.

I did all the research, knew my subject.

I put myself in a perilous situation, not a life-threatening situation, that’s different. I’m talking about perilous from a self-respect, self-esteem kind of thing. Because if this had have gone wrong again, that would have been like two strikes and you’re out, because I would never, ever, ever have gone near another presentation again.

This time it worked, and the reason it worked was that I did the preparation. I went all in.

When you think of it, what is the opposite of low self-confidence? It’s not high self-confidence. If you’re a confident person, what’s the opposite of being confident?

It’s not low self-esteem. It’s not a lack of confidence. It’s fear. If you’re confident, you go do that thing. The opposite of that is being scared to do it.

The opposite of confidence is fear.

The only way to get over your fear is to get balls deep in it and go do it.

Doesn’t matter what it is. If you’re frightened of, let me think of something. Let’s say that you want to start a business. You want to have a little side-line to build up some money to add to your savings or to pay for a holiday, whatever it is.

You can sit there and think about it and dream about it and write about it, make notes and things. Watch videos on YouTube, but then not do anything. Because you’re lacking confidence, you’re scared, you’re frightened, or whatever you want to call it.

That doesn’t get you anywhere.

The only way to get yourself to start this business and to get it up and running to make a bit of money on the side is to go balls deep, do the research, start coming up with ideas. Talk to about people that have done what you want to do.

Grab that thing by the throat and to shake it until something falls out. Do something. Take action.

Give it 100%. Give everything you’ve got, absolutely everything.

Put everything behind it. Because if it works, fabulous, you’ve got something up and running, but if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost. What you’ve done is you’ve built your confidence up to say, “I can do this. I can actually build a business or create a product, or lose the weight, or stop smoking, or quit drinking, or start running, go to the gym. Whatever it is, I can do it.”

If it doesn’t work first time round, you’ve picked up some experience. You’ve learned from it. You can go back to the drawing board.

I’m not doing politics, so let’s not have that discussion. If you take Donald Trump or Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of those two characters have failed numerous times in life. Guess what? They learned from their failures and they got up and they started again.

Arnold was the Governor of California, a German immigrant coming over to the United States with zero money ends up as a governor of one of the biggest states in the United States. Then you’ve got Donald Trump who’s gone bankrupt, I don’t know, two, three, four times depending on who you want to listen to. He’s now the President of the United States.

My point being is both these characters have failed miserably at different times of their life, but they’ve got up and they’ve done it again.

Sylvester Stallone, a poor out of work actor. He sold his dog because he had no money. Got $100 for his dog. He came up with an idea, and he went with that idea.

The movie franchise we know as Rocky was born, because he got up with an idea and he ran with it. Don’t forget, that wasn’t his first time. He’d been in a couple of really shitty movies beforehand, but he only had $100 left. He believed in himself and he pushed forward.

Jim Carrey was a stand-up comic, came to LA, wrote a check for himself for $10 million for services to the movie industry. He’d bummed out. He’d done nothing, but he believed in himself and he pushed, and he pushed, and he pushed. Eventually he made it.

The only way you will know if you’ve got what it takes is to actually go do it. I know it sounds a bit simple, but it’s true.

The only way you’ll know if you’ve got what it takes is by going and doing it. It’s as simple as that. Don’t let fear stop you. If you let fear stop you, then you’re buggered. You’ll be stood in that quick sand for the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty years, and twenty years from now you’ll look back and say,

“Shit. This is where I was 20 years ago. I have wasted 20 years.” I don’t want that to happen. Yeah, it is, Tricia, it is, it’s so true. Don’t waste it.

Our lives are not a buy one get one free. They’re not a trial run. They’re not a 30-day to try before you buy or buy it for $7 and check it out in a week. It’s not any of those things.

It’s a one-shot deal.  You fuck this up, and that’s it. When you die, you die, and we all die at one day or another. If you’re sitting there feeling sorry for yourself, ask yourself why. Yes, you might have had a tough break. We’ve all had tough breaks.

You know my life story pretty much. We’ve all had shit go on in our lives, but what defines you, what makes you better is by being better.

What? Seriously. The only way you can improve is by doing something different and pushing yourself and being more.

Because if you live to be 90, or 80, or 75, on your deathbed –

this is a fact, they’ve talked to people on their deathbeds about this, and the one regret they have is I didn’t ask that girl out on a date, I didn’t start that business. I never told my son I loved him. I didn’t do this, so I didn’t do that.

It’s not, “I wished I’d renewed my Netflix subscription. I wish I’d spent more time in the office. You know what, I wish I’d spent more time eating chips sitting on the sofa.” Nobody ever says that on their deathbed.

What they say on their deathbed is, “I wish I’d had the gumption to do X, Y, or Z.”

Don’t be that person. Go do it. Whatever the fuck it is, go do it. Be scared if you want to be scared, fine. Did you know that the emotions and the feelings you have of being scared are exactly the same emotions and feelings that you have when you’re excited. They are exactly the same. They’re identical.

You know this, because you’ve been excited before and you’ve been scared before. If you cast your mind back to when you were last excited and get all the emotions going from that feeling, and then cast your mind back to when you were really scared about something and gather all the feelings and emotions that you felt at that particular time, they will be identical. The only thing that’s different is the label we give those two feelings.

Take life by the throat, squeeze the fuck out of it, and go do whatever you want to do. Because the last thing you want to be saying to anybody on your deathbed is, “I wish, I wish I had made more of myself.”

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