1. I prepare for every situation.
My learning disability has caused me to fear the unknown. Feeling prepared soothes my nerves. Before I attend a meeting, I make sure to have an agenda. I like knowing what is expected of me. Because I don’t like being caught off guard, I am constantly studying up — on all sorts of topics. Much to my wife’s amusement, I even studied up on the first book we read for our neighborhood book club. When I’m traveling, I print out a map and study it. When I have to go somewhere I haven’t been before, I drive around the area to familiarize myself with it. Getting my bearings puts me at ease, so I can focus on more important things.
2. I give myself enough time.
I’ve learned that I don’t respond well to being rushed. I give myself the time to adjust to any situation without putting additional pressure on myself, even when it comes to performing simple tasks. I’m always early for an event or meeting, for example. If I feel rushed, I panic. When I plan on being early, I feel confident that I have enough time to fix something that goes wrong. That knowledge helps me relax. In the same vein, I prepare for presentations and speaking engagements well in advance. I never practice a speech the same day of an event, because that creates pressure. If I were to rehearse my speech and make a mistake, I would start over-thinking it.
3. I rely on backups.
I keep important information — my name, address, social security number, and birth date — readily accessible in my wallet. Again, this reduces my fear and ensures that I don’t panic. If I’m going to make an important telephone call, I have one of my employees listen in and take notes. It’s nearly impossible for me to write down telephone numbers that I hear.
4. I use technology.
Someone has always written my e-mails for me, which is both embarrassing and time-consuming. But recently, I’ve started using the built-in voice recognition software on my Mac, and Siri on my iPhone, to transform what I say into written words. For me, this type of technology is miraculous.
5. I stay organized.
Because it feels like there is so much confusion in my brain at times, it’s important for me to keep my physical world clean and well organized. In addition to keeping a well-maintained calendar on my computer, I jot down all my thoughts on loose-leaf paper and keep them in a three-ring binder. I don’t like anything to be out of place. When there’s so much going on in my head, the last thing I want to do is spend time searching for something I’ve misplaced. I need to be in control.
6. I smile.
My smile has masked my insecurities for as long as I can remember. Many people tell me I have a wonderful smile. You’d be amazed at what you can be forgiven for if you just smile. I’ve learned this is especially true with public speaking. When an audience feels the warmth of your smile, they are kinder and more accepting of mistakes.