Daily Inspiration: Courage – “The best way to challenge your fears is through involvement!”

Category under: Blog, Daily Inspiration

“The best way to challenge your fears is through involvement!” – Futurist Jim Carroll

Skill? It’s that thing you develop by trying to do that thing you’ve never done before. Knowledge? It’s that thing you enhance by studying up on the new world around you to learn things that you previously knew nothing about. Competence? It comes from your efforts to master that complex thing that you’ve never really been good at. Persistence? It’s that quality that keeps you going, pushing you to practice and learn, even when the challenge seems overwhelming.

Have you ever thought that your biggest challenge with your skills for tomorrow might simply be the issue of involvement?

Involvement. It’s a word that is often not much used in the context of skills and knowledge, and yet, it’s one of the most important words that you can adapt as part of your mindset for moving forward. That’s because often, the only way to move forward is through your involvement in new capabilities today.

I was thinking about this through the weekend, as I noticed that there was an increasing number of page views on a blog post I wrote a few years ago – “Our Challenge: Involvement!” – The Makings of a Unique Career! For some reason, it was suddenly shared around by a group of people. The sudden interest in this post got me thinking about the phrase within the title – with my Daily Inspiration always on my mind, I began to think that  mixing the word ‘involvement‘ with the word ‘challenge‘ could offer up something inspirational or motivational when it comes to our ability to master the skills of tomorrow

Consider the idea of public speaking – I thought I’d share a bit of that post to put a spin around the idea of ‘challenging yourself through involvement.‘  Getting on stage? Speaking to a group small or large? For some, the idea is terrifying – public speaking ranks as one of their greatest fears. Known as glossophobia, it’s said that approximately 75% of people experience some level of fear or anxiety when it comes to the idea of getting in front of a crowd, And yet, it is an increasingly important skill – one study suggested that 28% of people experience a negative impact on their job or career due to this fears.

I certainly have not suffered from this issue, and I can attribute that to the story of “Our Challenge: Involvement” as found in the post above.

The backstory? My unique career today has had me providing advice and guidance on the future to organizations all over the world – in the past, organizations such as NASA, Disney, Nikon, Johnson & Johnson, Volvo, and Mercedes Benz. I’ve often sometimes found myself on stage in Las Vegas in front of 7,000 people, or Dubai in front of global executives and government leaders. The next few weeks continue the role – you will find me in Orlando, Dublin, Hawaii, and Brandon (Manitoba). My time on stage is something I love – there is a true adrenaline rush that comes from the ability to craft a presentation for an audience and hold their attention with powerful, well-researched material. And yet, I also know I’m one of the lucky ones – perhaps because I guess I developed the skill at a very early age, never having the chance to let my fear get in the way of my courage to move forward.

That story story goes back decades – in fact, to 1970 or so. I can repeat verbatim the opening lines of a talk I did somewhere around that time with my speech titled  “Our challenge: involvement!” 

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered in New York City as a crowd of bystanders stood by, watching, unwilling to do anything to save her. What does it say for our world when too many people are too unwilling to get involved….” 

So began my speech, in Grade 7 or Grade 8, in the Ontario championships for the Optimist Club of Canada. I was all of 11 or 12 years old.  The title of my speech came from the story of Kitty Genovese – an avid follower of the news at that time, I think I saw the story in a Reader’s Digest or Time magazine article. The story involves a young lady who was brutally murdered in broad daylight in New York City – and the fact that none of the onlookers and witnesses chose to get involved.

On March 27, 1964, The New York Times ran an article titled “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call The Police,” alleging that multiple neighbors heard or witnessed Genovese’s murder but did nothing to help her.

That story became the basis, over a matter of months, for my efforts in public speaking at the young age of 11. For some reason, my parents saw fit to get me involved in a public speaking group – the Junior Optimists – which was part of Optimist International. They’re still around as a public service club, with the fascinating purpose of “working each day to make the future brighter.” London, Ontario, the city where I spent my earliest years, had such a club in a community known as Byron – and had a group an actual public speaking ‘club.’ I came up with the title, “Our Challenge: Involvement” as a riff on the idea that the problem with the world in 1970 was too few people were willing to get involved in the issues that mattered.

Most kids played sports – I talked about deep societal issues! Once a week, for weeks on end, I would go to a church basement or the local school, and work to structure my presentation, learn to articulate, and study how to shape a story. While other kids were playing hockey and things – I guess I was learning how to enunciate! (Looking back, in retrospect, I’ve come to realize I was somewhat odd…. in grade 3, I got in trouble for manufacturing stink bombs, using something I had read. They involved a pen, a match, and some other ‘stuff’ – and whoo-boy!)

As things progressed, my speaking skills improved, to such an extent that I was entered into the Ontario public speaking championships – a pretty big deal! I remember practicing for more than a week – I was given off time from class to nail my presentation. Going in, I was certain that I was due to win – I had the talk, the performance, and the enthusiasm. And yet I didn’t win – and was emotionally crushed! I was certain I had nailed it! Not only that, but I couldn’t believe that the kid who beat me had a squeaky little, high-pitched voice, and didn’t seem to deliver with the passion that I did! How did I not take the big prize?

Even so, I had little idea at the time what this early involvement in public speaking might lead to! Later on, early in my working career at the age of 20, a mentor of the time suggested that I should get involved with the Dale Carnegie program to do more of the same.  And now, 30-40 years later? I’m on stage around the world, and have spoken to well over 2 million people on 5 continents – I’ve made a wonderful career out of it! Maybe all because of my early attempt to go big with my speech, “Our Challenge: Involvement.” I still drive my wife and kids crazy today when I easily rattle off the opening lines from my talk from many years ago. And so while I didn’t win in the short term, I think it worked out in the long term…..

Our challenge, involvement? Looking back, my advice to anyone today when considering trying to develop new skills: take some time to develop your courage to master those skills through involvement. Your biggest challenge isn’t your lack of skill – it’s your lack of involvement. Developing a new skill comes by confronting it, taking it on, and challenging yourself through involvement – you can develop and amplify your courage for this new skill simply through the act of doing it.

The best way to challenge your fears is through involvement suggests that simply actively engaging with or confronting the things you’re afraid of is an effective way to overcome those fears.

And it’s never too late to begin the process of challenging yourself through involvement.



THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.