(photo: Colton Witt Photography)

Become a 2-Minute Ninja by designing your own FAQs to defeat the attitude assassins – Fear, Self Doubt, and Anxiety.

Not enjoying any of these feelings before speaking to a large audience, I came up with the following acronym to remind me of what I can do to prepare for an event that requires my appearance as a speaker or entertainer:

2 = 2 Minute Ninja

F = Friends

A = Approval

Q = Questions

S = Security

2 FAQS – 2 Minute Ninja

This reminds me of two minutes I can use prior to a seminar to warm up and get myself into the right state of mind. I call it the 2-minute Ninja, and you can read more about it in the CMT section of the book. The main idea is that I find a private place (other people can cause you to feel rushed and unprepared) to rehearse in my mind how I want the evening to go. I will also get my body warmed up and ready to act. If I have any triggers like clapping my hands or making a fist, this is the time I perform them. Laughing, breathing, and stretching are also great warm-up exercises.

2 F AQS – Friends

You cannot control what people think of you, any more than you can control their actions. But you can do your best to influence how people think of you.

The letter “F” reminds me of the word “Friends.” We very rarely have a hard time talking to our friends. Strangers cause us to wonder if we will be judged. By taking the time to get to know my audience, thus changing them from threatening strangers to friends, it helps to bridge that gap and decrease the feelings of anxiety caused by the unknown. I do this in the following ways:

First, before the engagement, I try to get as much clarity as possible about my audience. Are they young students or nearing retirement age? Are they primarily male or female? Are they college graduates or blue collar skilled workers? Are they likely to embrace my presentation, or will they be highly skeptical?

If I can, I will call a few attendees or offer a pre-seminar meeting to get to know some of the people planning to attend. This is not always realistic with tight schedules, but even a 15 minute meet-and-greet is helpful prior to an event. I used to want to only meet my audience at the moment my program started. But with the knowledge that it is much easier to speak to people you know, I will do my best to get to know my audience prior to the event. Regardless of what strategy you have time for, the idea is to find any way possible to do this.

When meeting and getting to know your audience, it is important to remember to be yourself. When I first began speaking publicly, I modeled what I thought was the only proper and correct way to present myself. I wore a business suit and tie that limited my physical movements, made me uncomfortable (I’m not a suit and tie kind of guy), and I gave the information to my audience as if I were lecturing them (the traditional teacher-student approach). This not only made me very uneasy , but it didn’t help me make friends with my listeners. I suspect they wondered who I thought I was, and were confused about my message.

As I gave increasingly more and more talks, I began to realize that I felt much more comfortable sharing my experiences in a conversational style than I did lecturing like a professor. I also noticed that the audience appreciated what I had to say once they began getting to know me. When I was relaxed and comfortable, so were they! So I started experimenting with clothing that was more comfortable and better suited to my message and style; I began to introduce more martial arts moves and I told more stories and quoted fewer facts and statistics. I expressed my passion as opposed to trying to convince them to change.

These simple changes have made going into an event far less stressful for me, and far more productive (less is more) for my audiences. I can still speak in a suit when the occasion calls for one, but I prefer to wear an outfit that is more congruent with my personality. Since I might share a lot of martial art skills, I dress accordingly, and that might include wearing a martial arts uniform or athletic clothing, depending on the event.

When being yourself, you open yourself up and share a bit of yourself, treating others like friends. They will nearly always respond in-kind. I remember in high school biology my new teacher was friendly and took time out to get to know his students. Not only that, but he even had an after school class on making lures for fly fishing, which is an art in itself and was a popular sport in my hometown. I got a perfect A in biology which I was previously flunking, not because my I.Q. went up, but because he became my friend and I was open to whatever he had to say. Although I was always in control of my efforts (or lack thereof), the pages of Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People could be summarized to form the following:

Win Friends And You Will Influence People.

My biology teacher knew that, and caught the rapt attention of many of his students with his lures.

2 F A QSApproval

The A in FAQS stands for “Approval.” If you win the Approval of your audience (or even a few key members) prior to your appearance, you will have a lot of solid support to back you up. By meeting and getting to know you, your audience has already given you the thumbs-up. This in turn gives you self-confidence; your performance will reflect that ten-fold.

For famous or popular speakers, this is an already given part of the deal. You and I have to earn the audience’s approval. Tom Cruise should have very little to fear from his audience as most of them already come in to the situation with massive Approval. They know what he has done and what he is capable of. He is as familiar to them as a friend or relative. Many TV and movie stars say that frequently they are approached by fans who treat them as long lost friends. My audience, on the other hand, may know very little about me, so the feeling of being disapproved of is more likely. This apprehension can be dispelled by a simple ‘meet and greet’ session, or a little research.

I remember when I was once hired by Hewlett Packard to give a speech. It was to be a half-hour presentation on the subject of breaking barriers. HP Europe was striving for a lofty sales goal beyond a billion dollar mark and they hoped my inspirational encouragement would aid their sales people in achieving that goal. I was only 22 at the time. You can imagine my thoughts:

What is a 22 year old Ninja going to teach HP about breaking a billion dollar mark in sales?”

Thank goodness I had a team of supportive students who not only were interested in my martial arts, but also the concepts of personal development. So I did some research behind HP and the company’s goals and showed up in a suit and tie. The audience was not as responsive to my act as I had hoped. I say, “act” because I seemed to have been merely entertainment for a very stiff crowd, many of whom were probably thinking:

What is this kid doing here? What can he teach me?”

They were not prepared to approve of me. I left the seminar feeling happy that it was over, and elated that there were a few who took the time to thank me, although the overall audience felt stiff and unreceptive. Looking back with perfect hindsight, I could have improved my performance by getting Approval prior to asking them to believe what I was saying. I was an expert in my field. I had achieved results in my area of survival, and these principles were as valid to them as they were for me, whether I was 22 or 42. But without prior approval, it was a tough audience to impress. It wasn’t as bad as I’m probably making it sound, but it was a bigger lesson for me than it was for the people taking the time to hear what I had to say. I’m sure I learned more that day than they did.

Now I know that I can get advance approval in many ways. I might have an introductory pamphlet printed that talks about who I am and why I am there. I might show an action video showcasing my martial arts skills and talents as a way of introduction. I might have props, posters, or books that clearly show that I have earned my place to speak with them. Anything I can do to get a “we’re with you” thumbs-up from my audience is going to help my performance be a success.

2 FA Q SQuestions

This next one is important for all areas of your ability. The word is “Questions,” and the Questions you ask will determine your outcome. I use Questions to gain clarity. The more clarity I have, the more confident and capable I am going to feel. The Questions I ask are both external and internal.

Externally, I want to know as much as possible about the goals of my client. What do they want to achieve by hiring me as a speaker? What do they want the audience to take away from the event? Many speakers will have a very detailed questionnaire that the client can fill out prior to their appearance. These Questions, however, do not need to stop there. You also need to ask Questions to your participants and to the audience before, during, and after your appearance. Doing so will make sure you are on track, serving their needs, and able to improve your next engagement from the feedback from this one. It is vital to constantly strive for a higher level of achievement.

Internally, I am asking Questions that provide self-assurance as opposed to Questions of self-doubt. Instead of asking:

Will they like me?” (Assumes negativity.)

I will ask Questions that support my purpose for being there. Questions like:

Why am I qualified to speak?”

What have I done to give me the experience I need to share?”

When, in the past, have I been extremely capable?

Naturally, these are going to be semi-loaded questions designed to support your feelings of confidence. You want to fill your brain with all the Fear Killers you can come up with. You will use the ones that are most powerful for you and those that bring the strongest feelings you need to succeed. If you must work through the feelings of failure, then you can ask yourself what you will do if you fail. I suggest you focus on the success of a situation, but this is often easier said than done; just ask anyone going through a serious break up.

Start by bringing some awareness to the situation and ask, “What would I do if I failed?”

Your loaded response might be:

I will recover.”

I will forgive myself and others.”

I will bounce back stronger than ever.”

I will get through this and my past proves this.”

I will search for the positive learning experience.”

I will not take myself too seriously.”

I will surround myself with laughter until I break.”

I will reward myself with lots of ice cream.”

I hope it goes without saying that the reverse of these principles is detrimental to your success. If you ask questions that lead to self-doubt, you will create a negative and very acidic environment. You may need to take some time to learn how to positively communicate with yourself, and when you catch yourself performing negative self-talk, stop it dead in its tracks.

You are human and you will make mistakes, but that does not mean you are a mistake.

Every time you spill a glass of water and say something like, “idiot” which is a negative mark on your self-image, you reduce your ability to perform well in the future. Realize the mistake might certainly have been idiotic, but it does not mean you are idiotic. So call the mistake an idiotic-action, but leave any attacks on the self-image out of your response. We all make mistakes. Try to at least find some sarcastic responses if you can’t seem to control your tongue. As I clean up the mess I just made I often use words like: “Amazing” or “Awesome!”

Words such as those have an opposite meaning for me that keep me from associating negative mistakes with a negative self. Just as your father might have blamed his evening flatulence on the frog under his chair, you, too, could blame the mistake on something in the wind.

2 FAQ’SSecurity

The final word I use in my acronym is “Security.” This may not be one you consider very important, but I use it to bring myself back to reality when the False Evidence Appears Real.

Security is something you can rely on that gives you an unshakeable feeling being positive about your life or what the future provides; sort of a mental security blanket like Linus’s from Charlie Brown comics. You might think about the next few hours ahead and realize that they are only a few hours in your day and they will soon pass. Then think of the Security in your life; things that makes you feel great. Here are a few examples:

  • Your significant other
  • Your family
  • Your current creative projects
  • Your reward
  • Your house
  • Your career
  • Your lifestyle

Simply ask yourself:

If I fail or make a mistake what will I have to look forward to?”

Make sure you pre-load the answer to this question with a positive response from your list of securities. Think of something you know will be there no matter what happens, or provides you with a feeling of safety.

You might have a bad day, but realizing that you will still have a roof over your head, food to eat, and a shower to wash away your troubles might help relieve your anxiety. In other words, not being a hit in front of an audience will not kill you, it will not take away your home, and it won’t even leave you hungry. Really, anything that gives you the positive feelings of Security will work. You could think of a dinner you are going to treat yourself to after you speak. Or a vacation you are going to go on. Perhaps you bought a new toy or are working on a new project, and you can look forward to spending time on it. If you have a supportive partner or significant other, you can think about them and how much he/she loves you no matter what. Security is the feeling of confidence that regardless of what happens and even if you were to fail miserably, you will survive, stand your ground, and return later even more prepared and ready for action. At the very least, you will have learned something very valuable from the experience. You will grow.

In the movie Elizabethtown, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) finds himself outside his hotel saying goodbye to Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst). Drew, the young shoe designer, breaks down and admits his failure and tells Claire that he is a less-than-zero hero responsible for a $972 million dollar loss (which he refers to as a billion) to the company.

Clair responds, “I thought you might be a little sad to see me go, but this is all about a shoe?”

Drew reminds Claire of how BIG of a disaster it is by focusing attention on his BILLION dollar mistake, as if to state that they themselves are small in comparison to this huge financial disaster.

But Claire isn’t moved by his speech and continues with her own. “All right, you really failed. You failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed, you failed – you think I care about that? Have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make them wonder why you’re still smiling. That is true greatness to me.”

I don’t think it could have been said any better.

The idea behind all of these concepts is that you get to be creative and find a way for them to work for you. You might say, “I am going through a divorce so this certainly won’t work for me.” You have to use what does work and discard what doesn’t. I don’t want to lecture here, but I understand the challenges that each of us must face. They are all unique, and there isn’t any real cookie cutter strategy that will work for everyone all the time. If there was, I would have to put my vote on self-image and anything that can be used to build this confidence. This would include all our views and self-powered beliefs. To me, having confidence in yourself, in your own innate goodness, intelligence, and worth, is a tool you can use in every part of your life.

Setting yourself up for Success

By building my self-image and focusing on positive Fear Killers, I was able to face a variety of very challenging situations–situations that would have previously paralyzed me. And if we focus on the opposites of self-doubt, such as reasons we should be self-confident, we will have some courage to face our fears with an ability to achieve. Most of these can be done with the help of your Mind-Body-Spirit strategy and the Personal Achievement Map taught in Books 3 and 5 of Winjitsu.

On the bright side, feelings such as you should be perfect prior to a demonstration, could very well serve your needs. But more often than not they will cause stress and limit your enjoyment of the process. Feelings that are positive help me achieve a greater level of skill. But at the same time, just prior to getting on stage, I would often fall prey to many of the feelings from the Fear Breeder list. Much of it didn’t make sense to me as I had moved to Europe on my own (The Netherlands) when I was 21 with no safety net or security plan set in place. I believed in myself, but when I stepped in front of an audience I was unsure if they believed in me too. This creates that downward spiral of self-doubt and I ended up feeling as if I needed to justify my existence. But I didn’t; none of us do. We only need to focus on creating a self-image that is bigger than these issues and can swamp them with positive thoughts.

Stop! Don’t fall into the trap!

Fear is a trap, a ball and chain that holds us back from reaching our full potential. There are many strategies for getting over fear, and you will find that even the simplest solution can work miracles. But most solutions are only temporary tricks to help us with that in-the-moment fear. If we want to truly combat fear, we will need to focus our attention (out of the moment) on ingraining the Fear Killer List into our psyches.

Winjitsu Work Out

Design your own 2-Minute Ninja warm-up program and FAQ’s.

Think about the times in the past (and coming up in the future) when you have and will need to face an audience. Doesn’t matter if it’s the 5 people on your sales team, or 500 people at a seminar.

What can you do to warm yourself up, get energized, and get yourself into a positive frame of mind? Write it down and then practice the approach before a mirror, video camera, or trusted friend. Now, design your own set of FAQ’s – refer back to the chapter headings if necessary. By doing this now, when you are not under stress to perform, you will be setting the stage for your own success!

F = Friends

About the Author RICK TEW

I will do the splits for you too. I provide edutainment events that help you to be a Ninja in what you do. I offer Martial Arts Therapy Retreats on Samui Island in Thailand. My unique Winjitsu Mind-Body system of coaching inspires you to BE more fulfilled and to DO more to KickStart your ideas.

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