Building Up Courage
Hello folks! Welcome back to The Green Swan. There are some things in life that I think will always be uncomfortable for me and require a significant amount of courage. For example, public speaking, asking for a pay raise, and politely dealing with customer service when I feel wronged. It has never been easy or comfortable to do any of the above, and yet I recently and routinely find myself (or put myself) in these positions. How do I handle them? I over prepare, I build courage and I know that if I don’t ask I won’t receive.
“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts”
– John Wooden
This has never been in my forte and I don’t think it ever will be. I’ve heard conflicting personal development advice in the past…One saying that I need to identify my weaknesses and improve them and, conversely, that the priority is actually identifying my strengths and continuing to focus on building them. Just life everything in life though, I believe in moderation. It doesn’t hurt to try to build on my weaknesses while also realizing that my strengths are my “money makers” and I ultimately need to focus on keeping these sharp.
Well, public speaking and presenting is easy for me to identify as a weakness. I’m not against trying to get better. I certainly pay intention to tips and advice on how to improve, I’ve taken presentation classes throughout my undergrad and grad degree programs and I’ve even taken a few in person coaching classes that were available for free through my employer. The one thing I haven’t done is become a member of Toastmasters. There is a Toastmasters group nearby. However, for various reasons I’ve never enrolled and at this point in my career, I don’t necessarily have any plans to do so.
But nonetheless, public speaking is still a very nerve wracking experience. At work, this comes up frequently when I seek approval to lend for various deals and transactions in front of the loan committee.
However, my most recent public speaking engagement came two months ago at my brother’s wedding where I served as Best Man. Of course I had to give the obligatory toast. And this would be in front of hundreds of people…a few more than the half dozen or so during loan committee meetings. Stressful to say the least!
I’m generally a pretty laid-back and fun-loving guy, so it is part of my personality to want to get a laugh or two, but more importantly I wanted my message to be meaningful and in honor of my brother who has meant a lot to me as a role model and mentor.
My approach…build up my courage and significant preparation. I watched YouTube videos with tips for best man speeches and videos of various best man speeches. Once I formulated a few ideas of what I wanted to stay, I began practicing with my voice recorder. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I spent countless nights up late due to stress and worry. That time lying awake in bed, I rehearsed over and over to myself different iterations of the speech…then in the morning trying to remember the best features from my rehearsals and the key points to mention.
For the whole week leading up to the wedding I had to make sure to buy a pack of Depends, because I was shitting my pants. I was so afraid to fail and embarrass myself. Ultimately, I harnessed the significant amount of worry and stress of failure to fuel my drive to prepare more and more which lead to an utter success. I’m actually surprised how many people came up to me that night and even days later saying how well I did. I nailed it.
The funny thing, I’m not even sure why I was able to nail it! Was it because I was so well rehearsed that I didn’t need any notes (people were pretty impressed I didn’t need notes which I didn’t expect…)? Was it because my message actually came across really well? Was it the liquid courage I consumed prior to the toast that helped shed away all visible signs of anxiety? Or was it because they had such low expectations that made it very easy to over-achieve? J Deep down, I think it may have to do a little with all of the above.
Nonetheless, it is over and I feel successful and more importantly I could tell my brother appreciated it! Moral of the story, quite simply, is to prepare, prepare and prepare some more. This helped me build up the courage to give the toast with confidence. That’s what I attribute my success to at least. And if all else fails, perhaps try a little more liquid courage! j/k
Asking for a Pay Raise
How to go about asking for a pay raise is deserving of its own post for sure and it may be worth a follow-up eventually. While this can be an uncomfortable experience for many (including myself), there are a few tips I would provide to help in preparation.
- Know what your job is worth. There are various online resources to help guide you to average wages for you job, but these may not be enough to convince your employer you deserve more (they likely already know these numbers!). The most persuasive can be actually going out and proving you are worth more by getting an offer from a competitor for a similar role. Whether or not you act on the offer will depend on a lot of considerations, but having it to show your boss may be enough to persuade your employer for a raise. Still no raise…then maybe it is worth consideration to accept that offer.
- Do things to deserve a raise. Go above and beyond in your tasks. Don’t do the minimum required to complete the task, do the max. Take on extra responsibilities. Generally what you should try to do is to help make your boss look good to his/her boss. That’s a surefire way to get you noticed at work and make you more valuable.
- Make a move. If you feel stuck in your job with little prospects for growth, a promotion, or a raise, than it may be time to make a move. Don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone by entering a new career, moving geographically for the right job, or taking a job offer that you expect to provide new avenues for growth and personal development.
These three tips can help prepare you and justify your request next time you go to speak with your manager about a pay raise. It takes a lot of courage, but to do it right it also takes a lot of preparation.
Dealing with Customer Service
Although uncomfortable, when I feel unsatisfied with a product or service I bought I am not afraid to let them know it. I may be more willing to do so in part due to the fact that I likely won’t ever encounter the individual again. But it can still be awkward when I outwardly asking for them to make it right by providing a full refund or a discount on future services. It never feels good when the answer is “no”.
Sometimes it works and the company makes it right and that feels great, but often times that may not be the case and I have to just deal with the issue (and probably never pay them for anything again in the future). Even though it is uncomfortable, it is important to build the courage to ask the customer service to make it right.
I had this experience recently and I was very upset with this particular retailer. One of my other brothers was married earlier in the summer over Memorial Day weekend (yes, two of my brothers were married this summer!). While I won’t reveal who the retailer was, I will say they are a men’s clothing store that rents tuxedos.
Without going into all the gory details, there was confusion throughout the process from the time I sized my tux in February to when I paid for it in May. Ultimately what happened was that I was charged for my tux, along with another groomsman’s tux. I failed to realize this until mid-summer (when I was looking back on my records to see what I paid compared to the tux rental for my other brother’s wedding over Labor Day).
Good thing I looked back, and admittedly I should have realized it earlier. Due to a couple more mistakes dealing with customer service, my refund was delayed a few more weeks and I had to keep calling in check on the progress. Annoying as all get-out.
Finally I told them the refund wasn’t enough anymore and I deserved more for this hassle. It was uncomfortable asking for more, but at that point I felt I deserved it. What do you know, all it took was me simply asking and they gave me $100 in reward value to be used in their stores! And I was only hoping for maybe $50 in rewards…not too shabby. Five months later I finally received a check in the mail for the amount I was double-billed along with my reward certificates.
A lot of things in life take a little extra courage. Don’t shy away from these moments as they can be very rewarding. My toast at my brother’s wedding was a very rewarding experience, asking and receiving a well-deserved pay raise is obviously rewarding, and even talking with customer service to make it right can be rewarding.
“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”
– John Wayne
So what are some of the things for you that require extra courage? Any tips that have helped you muster the extra courage? Share in the comments below.
Thanks for taking a look!
The Green Swan
Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach
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