Permission to Stuff Up, Sir?

Clive Dunn as Lance Corporal Jones. (BBC Pictures)

One of my favourite tv comedy shows, back in the day, was the BBC’s “Dad’s Army”, and my favourite character was Lance Corporal Jones, played by Clive Dunn. He had two fabulous catch phrases: “DON’T PANIC!!!” which he would shout while running around panicking, and “Permission to speak, sir?” which was always granted by Captain Mannering.

This afternoon, standing at the bus stop with my groceries, thinking about all the great advice I’ve been getting from various websites who want to help me set up my online course (at a price, of course), two thoughts suddenly collided inside my brain. Thought (1): most people’s greatest fear when it comes to speaking in public is that their nerves will get the better of them; Thought (2): what if they had permission to stuff up?

Dare to Thrive in the Present Moment

That’s a quote, and – shame on me – I don’t remember who said it. But yes, let’s not wait for permission to stuff up. That permission is not in anybody else’s gift but our own, and we all have the right and the power to give ourselves that permission. When we do, we ARE daring to thrive in the present moment.

But don’t take my word for it. That would just be leaving the authority with me. Try it out for yourself. Your way. I can give you exercises, even a whole programme to help you to TRAIN YOURSELF, so that you take charge of your own process, and the daring is all yours. So is the stuffing up, but that is where the actual learning happens. It happens when you stuff up, when it isn’t perfect, when you shoot high and miss the target.

Think about it logically. If you tried something new, and got it perfectly right first time, what would you learn?

That you can do it once. Great!

Except that it never happens. Never. Because there it no such thing as perfectly right. So no matter how well you did, no matter how many people tell you how wonderful you were, you will know what was missing. You will know where you fell short. And if you actually believe that you did it perfectly, you are kidding yourself.

All those people who tell you how perfectly right you were ARE NOT lying! Because in their eyes you were. Perception. They got it, they enjoyed it, they learned something from it. So why don’t you?

When you accept your own fallibility, your own imperfection in the face of perfection, you dare to thrive in the present moment. You give yourself permission to stuff up, not because you want to, but because, in some tiny way, you probably will. And that is GREAT!!!

That is when you have taken the giant risk of sharing your humanity with your audience, of acknowledging in front of them – without making a big deal of it, just by doing it – that you are your authentic self with them. No masks, no pretence, just you, sharing your story, your ideas, your philosophy, your understanding.

Did I say this was easy? No. Because it isn’t. It’s terrifying to most of us, which is why audiences respond to it. They relate to the courage they perceive in front of them, they are drawn to you, they want to hear what you have to say. That’s their job, it’s why they are sitting out there in front of you.

It’s not your job to make them listen to you and then believe you. It’s your job to share your story, your ideas, your SELF as openly and as generously as you can. Trust your audience to use their own intelligence and imagination however they wish or need to. They will admire you for trusting them.

And now, I should probably check in with those online gurus who claim they can help me to write the perfect blog post. Apparently there is a Secret Formula!

First though, here’s a tip to help you deal with those nerves.

Breathe out.

Breathe out again.

Breathing out is good for you.