How Fear of Public Speaking Limits My Earning Potential


Fear of Public Speaking


“Now, you can improve your value by 50 percent just by learning communication skills–public speaking. If that’s the case, see me after class and I’ll pay you $150,000.”


-Warren Buffett


Lessons From My Father


Fear of Public Speaking-Peerless Money Mentor


I was a quiet, shy, and socially awkward child growing up.  The first lesson my father tried to teach me to combat my shyness was to always look a person in their eyes while speaking to them.  When I spoke to a person, my head would sometimes drift downward to avoid eye contact.

My dad was patient in teaching me this lesson.  Old Habits are tough to break.  When I would revert back to my old ways, he would gently remind me to look a person in their eyes.  After I learned that lesson, my next lesson was to speak louder.

My father would make me introduce myself to people.  When they kept saying, “huh?” he would encourage me to speak up. Speaking loud is not something that came natural to me.  I was always a soft-spoken kid.  The only time I would raise my voice higher than a few decibels is when I was angry.

Although my dad taught me these things early, I would still be shy later in life.  I would hear him say that it was just a phase I was going through.  He had gone through the same phase as an adolescent. I was eventually able to become socially functional speaking one-on-one but I dreaded speaking in front of the class.  While I cannot recall my speeches from grade school, I vividly remember the night I recited poetry at LSU (2005).

Another Childhood Tale: The Power of Books and How to Read for Free

Open Mic Poetry Night at LSU

As I walked into the LSU student union with some friends, my eyes grew wide as I spotted an open mic poetry flyer on the wall.  I had always loved writing poetry.  My friends noticed me looking at the flyer and encouraged me to sign up for the contest.

I probably came up with several excuses but eventually they would convince me to sign up.  While I had written several pieces of poetry, I had never practiced reciting any of my pieces.  I was ill-prepared for the task at hand.  My notebook of poetry was in my car ten minutes across campus.


Dee-1 Performs


I signed up for the competition and then ran across campus to grab my notebook.  When I came back, I found out one of my friends was selected to be one of the judges.  Dee-1 (Sallie Mae Back) recited a poem before me and he killed his performance.

Impressive breath control? Check!

Superb stage presence? Check!

Perfect 10 score from the judges? Check!


A Not so Peerless Performance


After Dee-1 performed, I walked to the stage dripping with fright.  I decided to recite my poem titled How Can I Complain?  It was a thought-provoking poem asking myself how I could open up my mouth to complain when there are so many people in the world worse off than myself.

My stomach was in knots.  I felt the debilitating power of fear rushing through my veins.  My voice sounded terrible.  It was incredibly high pitched.  The audience looked in horror as I delivered each syllable.

When it was over, I looked at the judges, knowing I would be rated terribly.  Since my friend was a judge, he gave me an 8.  I recall the rest of the scores being 4’s and 5’s.

Impressive breath control? Nope.

Superb stage presence? Stage fright ^10th Power

Perfect 10? Yea, right. 5.5 maybe..

Every time I think about this horrific experience, I remind myself of how terrible I am at public speaking.  But one can always, improve, right? The Oracle of Omaha believes when someone improves their communication skills, they increase their career’s value by 50%


Warren Buffett on Communication Skills


Warren Buffett on communication skills

Warren Buffett discusses with Columbia University business students the value of superior communication skills

“The biggest financial asset you have today going for you is the value of your own earning power over the years so that’s really what you should focus on.  If you’re focusing on your financial future, that means you should focus on you.”

-Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett offered to pay a group of business students at Columbia $100,000 for 10% of their future earnings.  Why would the Oracle of Omaha do this?  Your earning power is your single greatest wealth building asset!  Let’s say you earn $50,000 each year for 20 years.  How much will you earn over the course of your working life?


First Example

In the example given above (double check my calculations), we see that Warren Buffet earns a net profit of $25,000 on his investment.  However, unlike the salary provided in the example. your salary should not remain the same.  Ideally a driven person would strive to get raises and promotions.  One way the Oracle suggest we go about doing that is to improve our communication skills.  He believes improving our communication skills could potentially increase our career value by 50%.  While there is no guarantee an employer would pay you what you are worth, let’s say they did and you increased your lifetime earnings by 50%.  If you vow to improve your communication skills, he ups his offer to $150,000 in exchange for 10% of your earnings!  Let’s see how the numbers change.




Second Example


In our second example above, our lifetime earning potential increases by $625,000 to 1.875 million.  Warren Buffet increases his profit from 25k to 37.5k.  You would have to be a fool to take Buffet’s deal and he knows it!  He was just trying to drive home the point that your earning potential is your greatest asset.

Food for Thought

*If you increase the number of years worked to 35, how does that change the numbers?*

Although there are alternative ways to increase my career value, it seems like I am losing out on some money by not improving my public speaking skills.  Therefore, I have come up with a tentative plan!


Plan to Improve My Communication Skills


Hypothesis:  If I improve my communication skills, then I will increase my career value.

The only way to test this hypothesis is to actually follow through on my plan of action.  Now that I have put this out there in the blogosphere, hopefully I can take the necessary steps to conquer this fear of mine.  Here are the three steps I have come up with:


Three Baby Steps to Take


  • Join a local toastmasters group in my area
  • Speak on at least one podcast this year
  • Take a free improv class in my downtown area



Since I started driving for Uber last year, I have noticed an improvement in my communication skills.  Some passengers surprisingly give me a badge saying I am a good conversationalist.  This is definitely progress but I doubt (limiting belief)  I could speak well in front of an audience of more than two people.

[Peerless 2019 Update:  I decided to pivot away from Uber as a side hustle to focus more on high-value side hustles like freelance writing and social media management.


Community Feedback


Do you share my fear of public speaking?

If so, what steps are you taking to overcome this fear?

Do you believe improving your public speaking skills will increase your earning potential?

Would you accept Warren Buffet’s offer of $100,000-150,000 for 10% of your future earnings?


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Author: Jerry

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18 thoughts on “How Fear of Public Speaking Limits My Earning Potential

  1. Great Post! I’ll comment on these:

    Do you believe improving your public speaking skills will increase your earning potential? Absolutely, one of the best classes I had the opportunity to take in college was a public speaking class. Because I had chosen (well, fell into) a career in software sales, the skills I learned were instrumental in increasing my earning potential over the years.

    Would you accept Warren Buffet’s offer of $100,000-150,000 for 10% of your future earnings? Nope… that’s why he used it to make the point! 😉

  2. Almost right out of college I took a 12 week Dale Carnegie course on effective communication. My brother sold the courses so I was able to take it for free. For 12 weeks I had to get up in front of a small class and give a speech. It wasn’t fun but I definitely got way better and was less scared as a result. The only way to get decent at public speaking is to get reps.

    What’s the worst that can happen, right? 😉

  3. I’m a member of Toastmasters! I’m a huge weenie around people to begin with and I’ve found that it definitely makes me way braver in all aspects of life, but especially communications. It’s helped me muster the courage to go to networking events where I found new clients that have helped me earn tens of thousands of dollars, and at the rate it’s going, it’ll help me earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. I can’t recommend it highly enough – and I used to be so afraid of public speaking that I almost passed out in high school once!

  4. The two things that limits my earning potential is my fear of public speaking and my english speaking skills.
    My fear is way less than what it was 10 years ago, thanks to IT consulting job. Not having the choice to go see a new client every day make you feels more confortable with new people. But speaking in a big meeting is something else … I still need to work on that.

    My english speaking skills still limit my earning since in Quebec we speak french but if you want to get in a big position you always need to speak in english and I’ve not take it seriously enought in school to pratice to speak well.

    Will I accept Mr. Buffet offer ? Nope, 10% on a lifetime salary is a big lost for your pocket.

    1. Thanks for stopping by to share your story, The Financial Tech!
      Wow, I never considered the disadvantage of not being multilingual.

      Do you eventually plan on taking more English lessons to get that promotion?

      Smart! Only a fool would accept his offer lol

  5. Hey Jerry!

    I’m a firm believer in Toastmasters as well; I joined this past year and wrote a couple of blog posts about it such as, The Cheapest Way To Further Your Education and Build Your People Skills

    The Pathways program is rolling out this year (it may already be in your area). I can’t wait for this program as I felt the old ways was not really in line with where I currently am in my public speaking skills. I’m not afraid to speak…I just get really nervous when put on the spot unexpectedly! Or – stay too quiet when there are dominating people in the group talking. I have important things to say. I need to work on selling myself. Which, is hard for me, and a lot of people to do!

    I want to hear how it goes for you! Keep me posted!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. Defined Sight!

      I’ll definitely check out your blog posts about your experience with the program. When I looked it up, I think it was like $50 a month to become a member, right?

      Thanks for telling me about the Pathways program. I will look it up and see if it’s in my area! I’ll definitely keep you posted!

  6. Nice article. I’ve definitely had some fears around public speaking before. And, I’m sure if I did it more, it’d improve my marketability. I am willing to join a toastmasters group however, but gotta work it around the kid’s school schedule first. They always seem to be early morning right when they’re going to school.

    Awesome job at catching your own limiting beliefs!

  7. I love public speaking, but I also get that fear every time I step up to the podium. I don’t think I will ever lose this. Practice helps. So does self forgiveness. You can’t be on all the time. If you speak enough in public, some will be great, others horrendous. Courage is the most important ingredient.

  8. I do not know how will I explain this but, I have an exceptional love for public speaking BUT I always get nervous whenever I’m about to step on stage. It always feels like I’m having cold feet. But thankfully, I get to overcome that–by endless practice and experience That’s what I always tell people whenever they ask me how am I able to stand in front of so many people. Anyways, great article!

  9. That’s the thing I always do–I speak in front of the mirror to practice. I also sometimes imagine myself talking in front of a big auditorium. One thing I’d like to add is that, whenever I speak in front of a lot of people, I always try to make my words as simpler as possible, as if i’m talking to just one and not in front of a lot of people. That’s make it easier for me 🙂 Hope it helps!

  10. I definitely agree with your conclusion. Every level up in my career I have gone has required more public speaking. I’m passable at it for one reason only. I never speak publically about a topic I don’t know inside and out. No toastmasters though, have to check it out.

  11. Good read! I believe it doesn’t take overnight to overcome one’s fear of speaking in front of a crowd, but at least this enlighting article gave us warmth and information. Thank you for sharing this, Jerry!

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