After a recent speaking engagement, I struck up a conversation with a guy in the audience who was thinking about becoming a public speaker too.
In only a few minutes of chatting with him, I could instantly tell that he would be a fabulous speaker if he decided to go for it. He was charismatic, extremely likable, and most importantly, he had a meaningful message to share with the world.
So, of course I asked him what was holding him back. Unfortunately, he gave me an answer that I’ve heard hundreds of times, in different varieties, over the past few years:
“It is so much safer sitting in the audience than it is to be on stage.”
As a guy who has spent plenty of time both on stage and sitting in the audience, I feel qualified to let you in on a little secret. I also shared this secret with that young man after my speech:
It’s not safer in the audience.
It’s Safer on Stage
Safety is such an appealing concept. In fact, there was a time when I craved safety like I craved my next breath. Thankfully, I know better now.
When I asked the young man why he believed that it was safer to sit in the audience than to be on stage, he replied as if I just asked him if water was wet:
Him: “Are you kidding??? I could put my ideas out there and look like a complete idiot in front of everyone.”
Me: “Okay, so let’s say that you gave a speech and for some reason, the audience hated your ideas and you looked like ‘a complete idiot in front of everyone.’ What would that mean for you?”
Him: “I’d feel like a failure and I would beat myself up for it for weeks. It’s safer not to deal with that, and just sit in the audience.”
Me: “Fair enough. But what if you unnecessarily spent years and years allowing your fears to stop you from sharing your amazing message with the world? Wouldn’t that also make you feel like a failure and wouldn’t you beat yourself up for that too?”
Him (looking down at the ground):“Damn. Good point…”
Here’s the thing that I wanted him (and you) to know: sitting on the sidelines of life will not make you safer. Whether we choose to jump in the game or watch from the audience, we will never be completely safe from risk, fear and pain.
Is it possible that I could experience embarrassment and shame every time I step on stage, publish a blog post, or a share a new idea? Of course.
Here’s the difference (and it’s a big one)–the embarrassment and/or shame that I might experience if I screw up while going after my dreams, is temporary. The shame that I would feel by allowing fears to keep me from sharing my dreams, ideas, and my message is permanent.
That’s why it’s safer to be on the stage.
There is No Safety
This is much deeper than public speaking or being on stage. Maybe you don’t have a desire to do either of those things, which is cool with me.
But, be honest–you probably have some area of your life where you’re playing it safer than you need to be.
- Is it really safer to do nothing while your boss/significant other/family member treats you as if you’re sub-human on a daily basis?
- Is it really safer to keep your writing, songs, art, poetry or ideas in your desk drawer instead of sharing them with people who could benefit from them?
- Is it really safer to sit in the audience when you are capable of being on stage right now?
The quality of our lives will always be determined by the choices that we make.
If we consistently choose to cling to the illusion of safety, all of the feelings that we’re hoping to protect ourselves from (e.g., shame, embarrassment, regret, letting yourself down again, etc.), will still be ours in the end by not choosing to fully go after our dreams.
Safety is an illusion.
Instead of clinging to an illusion, why not choose what’s real instead?
No, we don’t need to be safe from the inevitability of risk, fear and pain.
We just need to believe in ourselves enough to know that we can handle those things when they happen.
It’s safe for me to say that I believe that we can.
Is there an area of your life where you’re playing it safe? Do you normally avoid risk, or are you willing to ensure risk in order to live your best life? Either way, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!