Thursday, July 25, 2013

Self-Awareness: Don't Take Your Talents for Granted

When I was a young manager at Total System Services, Inc. (now TSYS), my boss, a vice president, said that he wanted me to give a presentation with him to our division employees. We had so many employees that he said we would have to give at least 5 presentations over the course of four hours so we could reach everyone. I did not think anything of it. I was used to speaking in front of groups. It was no big deal. But this was the first time I would be speaking in front of a group of people in at least a year.

I will never forget that morning when I walked into the big conference room with my boss. We sat down. We talked, and waited for the first wave of employees to arrive. He was used to speaking in public, as he had the gift-for- the-gab.  For some reason, and I couldn’t explain it at the time, I started getting nervous. My heart was beating so fast that I literally thought I could hear it. My chest was pounding. A half-hour later the first round of employees began strolling into the conference room. My boss spoke first and did an outstanding job.  Then it was my turn. I stood up. My legs were shaking, and my voice had that squeaky, quivering feeling (and sound) that most people have when they nervously speak in public.

After the first group left conference room, I had to sit down and have a talk with myself.

“You’re Kelvin Redd. You’re used to speaking in front of people. Come on, Kelvin. Get a grip,” I said as I tried to talk myself out of the nervousness. But it didn’t work.

That feeling stayed with me the entire four hours. One would have thought that I had learned a lesson by going so long without speaking but I hadn't.

Several years later, I became disillusioned with speaking about topics on motivation and leadership. I wondered if my message was actually getting across to my audience. So, I stopped speaking.

I guess mothers have a way of seeing things in their children that their children can’t see for themselves. If it had not been for my mother, I probably would have stopped speaking altogether. However, she wouldn’t allow me to stop. She would constantly say to me, “Kelvin, if you don’t use it, you will lose it.” And one day it clicked and I haven’t looked back since.

From that moment on, I have never once presented without the keen purpose of making a difference in someone’s life by using the one gift that I know God gave me. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Hide not your talents, they for use were made, what’s a sundial in the shade?”

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