As Christmas approaches I look forward to receiving my annual phone call from my friend Georgina and, sure enough, she called yesterday to bring me up-to-date on how much fun 2012 has been for her.
Georgina is one of those rare souls who live life to the fullest, constantly seeking new and exciting challenges in her never-ending quest for personal growth.
She is seemingly fearless in everything she undertakes and is always willing to “pay the price” in order to get what she wants.
But that has not always been the case.
I first met Georgina six years ago when she attended a workshop I was doing for her company.
As I had not met any of the participants prior to the workshop I asked them to take a moment and introduce themselves, tell me a little bit about themselves and to discuss what they hope to accomplish over the course of the two day program.
The participants were sitting around a horseshoe-shaped table and Georgina, who had been the last to arrive, was sitting at the very front to my right.
We began with the person at the front to my left and as successive people introduced themselves and then sat down I noticed Georgina shuffling, in what seemed to be discomfort, in her seat.
By the time it was her turn to introduce herself she had slumped down so far in her seat that she was barely visible and introduced herself in a tone that was so low as to be inaudible.
Throughout the first day Georgina sat attentively listening to everything being said but at no point did she participate in any of the conversation.
At some point in the afternoon the topic turned to introversion/extroversion. Some of the folks became quite animated in sharing their views on the subject but Georgina was not one of them.
At the end of the second day as I was packing up my stuff Georgina came over and told me that she had really enjoyed the program and that she loved going to seminars and attended as many as she could.
I was puzzled by this and so I asked her what it was that attracted her to workshops. Her answer surprised me.
She told me that her dream job was to become a corporate trainer and that she loved attending seminars and seeing trainers/speakers in action. More than anything else in the world she wanted to do that kind of work but the mere thought for speaking in front of a group was enough to bring her to the point of collapse.
She told me that the previous morning as her colleagues were introducing themselves and as it was becoming closer and closer to her time to do the same, all she could think of was how she could get out of there. I asked her how important it was for her to become a trainer and she told me it was more important than anything else in the world. She said she would do anything to overcome her paralyzing fear but she didn’t know where to start or whether it was even possible.
We sat in that room and talked for several hours and we came up with a plan.
Now many of us have come up with plans for how we are going to make massive changes in our lives but Georgina did something that we don’t all do; she executed that plan with ruthless efficiency.
And doing so was not easy.
Step one of the plan was for Georgina to join a Toastmasters club. She did this the very next day.
And then she called me and told me that she had attended her first meeting and had committed to delivering a speech one month later.
And she spent every free moment over the next month writing and rewriting and rewriting and then editing and rewriting that speech. She stood in front of the bathroom mirror and practiced that speech hundreds of times and delivered that speech over the phone to me at least 10 times.
I doubt if in all of history anyone has ever been as prepared to deliver a five minute speech as Georgina was the day she walked into her second Toastmasters meeting and wowed them.
She called me shortly after the meeting and with breathless excitement replayed every moment of those five minutes and the enthusiastic response she had received from her audience.
She also told me that despite all the practice it had taken every ounce of resolve she could muster to force herself to keep walking toward that meeting room and not turn around and run away.
I think she was more proud of just being at the meeting than of what she accomplished during the meeting.
And she was now going to start working on her next speech, a really big one. Seven minutes.
Georgina’s life over the next few months was a whirlwind of activity as she immersed herself in becoming more confident presenting to groups and studying everything she could get her hands on that would help her become a better and more accomplished presenter. She sought every opportunity to speak in front of groups and spend hours in front of the bathroom mirror practicing.
About six months later Georgina started applying for jobs as a corporate trainer. Her lack of experience in that field led to a fairly steady stream of rejection letters and Georgina kept practicing and seeking opportunities to speak.
She became a volunteer Sunday school teacher because she felt that kids would give her far more honest feedback then adults.
She entered, and won, a speech contest at Toastmasters.
And she kept receiving rejection letters.
And she kept practicing.
And finally one day, after more than 60 rejections, she was invited to interview for a job as a corporate trainer at a local company.
Guess what she did?
She invited a few close friends over and asked them to interview her and give her honest feedback.
And she listened, and then she practiced.
And then she went for the real interview.
And then she got the job. Her dream job. Corporate Trainer.
That was a little over five years ago. Today Georgina is a senior corporate trainer for a multinational company. She also has a small but growing practice as a professional speaker and for the past year she has been taking singing lessons.
It is really difficult to reconcile the excited, vibrant and inspirational Georgina who called me yesterday from that terrified, timid Georgina of just a few years ago.
Georgina is living proof that determination beats fear every time and that the seemingly impossible almost always becomes possible if we just change our perspective.
Kind of like The Little Engine That Could. You know. “I think I can, I think I can.”
Thanks for calling Georgina. You inspire me and your story will inspire many others.
Till we read again.
P.S. I think I may have touched a nerve last week when I wrote about people who park in handicapped stalls. I received more letters of support for this blog than I have ever received before.
Not only was this a record-breaking week for me in terms of the number of supportive comments I received, another record also tumbled this week. More people unsubscribed from my blog than have ever unsubscribed in one week before.
I guess not everyone agreed with me.