How Fear of Public Speaking Limits My Earning Potential
“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.”
Lessons From My Father
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.
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 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 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?
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.
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.
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?
Jerry is a Business Insider Contributing Writer who is obsessed with personal finance. He believes you can improve your financial situation by applying principles taught by the financial independence community to your financial life.
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