What Holds Us Back from Writing and Speaking? Three Daunting Questions That Stop Us in Our Tracks
In September of 2012, I began writing two articles a week about leadership. But I had actually made the decision to write a whole year before that. It took me an entire year to muster up the courage to write. Why?
I allowed self-doubt to hold me back. Specifically, there were three questions in my mind that kept me from sharing way before I finally started.
Three Daunting Questions
The three questions that held me back were:
- Do I really have something worthwhile to share?
- Who I am that others would listen to me?
- Do I have the skills required to be an effective writer or speaker?
These three recurring questions preoccupied my thoughts before I began writing and speaking. And I’ve found that they are the same doubts that so many wrestle with who desire to write or speak. I’d like to share with you my progression in answering and finally defeating these doubts in my life.
Thanks to the encouragement of those closest to me, those who truly believed in me and wanted to lift me up, I finally started writing and speaking on leadership. And I hope that in this article I will encourage you to do the same.
Three weeks ago I met with a friend, a bright young man in his late 20’s with an amazing ministry. He is passionate and effective, and he has so much to share. I, for one, would love to learn from him. When I asked him if he had thought about writing, he was hesitant. He replied, “I have thought about it, but I am just not a good writer.”
So, if you also have considered writing or speaking, as I think every leader should do to some degree, I encourage you to read this article.
Do I have really something worthwhile to share?
Has something moved you to lead a richer life, a happier existence? Have you learned a skill or wisdom that has made you a deeper, stronger, or wiser human being? If so, then you have something of value to share.
Not only that, but I think you must. You owe it to those around you. So what if they don’t take you seriously? What if they don’t think it is valuable? That’s the risk you must take to share it. Without thought of what anyone else may think, can you honestly answer this: Can you think of anything worthwhile that has impacted your life?
When I started writing about leadership and personal growth, I was sure—and I mean 100% sure—that my life and the lives of those around me had been immensely impacted by solid leadership principles. Still there were doubters. Even I doubted myself and the value of my message.
When I first launched my leadership blog, I received a nasty comment. It was something like, “I can’t believe you want to teach us leadership. You don’t know how to lead your own company, and you are taking it down. And you want to teach the rest of us about leadership?” It was an anonymous comment. But I am fairly certain it was from a former employee whom we had unfortunately had to let go.
A few voices around me (then and now), tell me that I am wasting my time, that I really don’t have much to say. But a larger number of people tell me otherwise. They say they have been inspired, encouraged, or equipped. But here is the way I think through this: Regardless of what others say, I will share what I discover and practice what positively impacts my life.
I have obligation to share it because I want to live a life that positively and powerfully transforms others. And I hope you do as well.
Who am I that others would listen to me?
Here is another question dripping with self-doubt. I’m sure I would have a much bigger impact if I were the CEO of an international organization, or perhaps a former state governor. A larger audience possibly. A greater reach. Maybe. But maybe not.
I have listened to hundreds of CEO’s and speakers, and I have read hundreds (if not thousands) of books on leadership. While those who have led in a big way have taught me great principles—like former US presidents, large city mayors, and CEOs of well-known companies for example—most of these people can’t seem to articulate how it is that they led. They may lead well, but they have not given much energy to putting it into words. Most of what I have learned about leadership has come from thought leaders on the topic. Those who have led some and have thought a lot.
To survive this onslaught of self-doubt, you must have thick skin. You must weather critique. And the loudest critic is usually you. Even if you are at an entry-level position, if you want to talk about leadership, or parenting, or healthy living, then do it. You may have more profound things to say than your CEO.
Do I have the skills required to be an effective writer or speaker?
We are constantly measuring ourselves against others, or against our own ideals. Remember this my friend: Don’t write because you are a good writer. Don’t speak because you a good speaker. Write and speak because you have something impactful to share. If you have an important, life-changing message but have broken grammar, please write it or speak it anyway. Is communication about grammar, or is it about the message? Share your message. There are people who can help you with the mechanics of writing and speaking.
Even if some castigate you as “unrefined,” so be it. Many will connect and learn from you because they believe in you and the profound message you have to offer. Of course, you will reach more people if you are good at your craft. So always seek to improve. But take it from me, do not wait until you become ‘good enough’ to write or speak to start.
There were other doubts I had to sort through like, “I don’t know how to start.” My answer became: “Figure it out.” Or another problem I encountered was, “I don’t have time.” To which I answered myself: “Make time. This is critical; you are helping people.”
But the bottom line is this: I started. I defeated the doubts in my mind by doing it anyway.
I thank you for reading and allowing me into your life and leadership journey. Please consider joining me for our Leadership Retreat in September. I would love to have you with us. Click the link for further details and registration.
Actionable Step: Write and speak because you think (not because of what others think) that you have something important to say.
What I Am Reading Now: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown.
For Further Reading: