Kerry McCoy Personal

10,000 Hours of Public Speaking

Have you heard of the 10,000-hour rule? It was made popular by author Malcom Gladwell, who wrote the bestselling book, Outliers: The Story of Success.  Mr. Gladwell said you need 10,000 hours practice at something to be a phenom. To be freakishly awesome, and to be such a standout among your peers that your first name is enough to tell people who you are: Think Peyton, Tiger, Venus, Kobe, Oprah.

Let’s back that up for us normal people: it means, if you do anything long enough, you will eventually get pretty good at it. That is the story of my life: Perseverance.

It’s Speech Season

I like graduation speeches. They are usually encouraging and often funny, with a touch of wisdom. One of my favorites is John Grisham’s 2010 graduation speech at Chapel Hill, “Finding your Voice.”

This is also reunion season, and last week was my 50th. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, our class president has passed on, so the reunion committee asked me to kick the night off with a few opening words. 20 years ago, I could not have done it. Even 10 years ago I would have fretted or declined. But today, I am practiced. Though I don’t have 10,000 hours (I am no expert), I have managed to defeat my public speaking fears and, over time, improve.

Fear of Public Speaking

When I was in high school, graduation was contingent on the completion of a Speech class. I seriously considered dropping out! Fear of speech making, or glossophobia, effects 75% of the US population. That equates to roughly 246 million people.

According to one of my idols, Warren Buffett, you can raise your worth by 50% just by learning one skill: public speaking. Think about that. What an incredible return on your investment. And the good news is, it’s a skill you can learn! Lessons are readily available on YouTube, Ted Talk or a Dale Carnegie Course, which is how Warren Buffet learned.

As a young man, Buffett’s glossophobia condition was so bad that he would throw-up before a speech. His first attempt at the Dale Carnegie Course was so frightening that he dropped out and had to take the course again. In his 2009 Columbia University speech you can still see his awkwardness in front of a crowd, which makes his accomplishment even more endearing.

Welcome to the 50th Reunion of NE High School‘s Class of 1972

From watching other speakers, I knew for my 50th reunion speech, I too wanted to be encouraging, funny and wise. I got some good laughs. If you graduated in the early 70’s you will enjoy some of these 50 years ago comparisons.

Afterwards, my classmates told me I nailed it.

I am not exceptional at anything, other than just not being afraid to keep trying.

Go Chargers!

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