A week ago, the good people at Spark, which is a Meetup organized by The Freelancers Union, asked me to lead a workshop on public speaking.

I did everything I could not to do it.

First of all, it felt false: I know plenty of  ‘experts’ in that area whom I readily recommended.

Finally, when they were unavailable, the opportunity became unavoidable. I was deemed sufficiently qualified.

I didn’t agree, but shut up about it and decided to play along.  As soon as I did, I realized it was a perfect situation. The method traditionally used in surgical training is “See one, do one, teach one,” because nothing anchors knowledge more strongly than having to convey it. And fer goodness sake, this wasn’t surgery–no one’s life was at stake. (Though you’d think by the exhaustion I felt the next day someone had ended up on life support.)

Naturally, we all lived to tell about it. In fact, according to Spark, the feedback was quite positive.

So here’s what happened: once I said yes, the concept for the ‘talk about talking’ came to me instantly. I’d just do it and tell everyone what I just did. The talk would be me crafting the talk out loud. I realized that’s how I like to learn…I don’t read the manual–I do better watching an instructional Youtube video. I’m a visual/auditory learner.  Speaking is a visual/auditory experience, and as a playwright, I know that it is always better to show, not tell.

The moral of the story here is that you don’t get good at something until you start to do it. And what often makes that possible is our previous experience, that which headhunters call our ‘referable skills.’  What precedes access to this inner knowledge, however, are the words “Yes, I’ll do it,” even if you feel like a fraud.  “Jump and the net will appear” is more than a cliched metaphor, it’s a recipe for progress and ultimate success.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not a big proponent of “fake it ‘til you make it.” That’s not the same thing as taking a leap. In my experience, diplomatic transparency is the best policy. For one thing, it takes the pressure off. But that’s a topic for another blog post.