My letters are typically published via email to your inbox, and I select a few every now and again to feature on the blog. Letter X was originally published by email on 30th June 2019, and was re-published on the blog on 26th November 2019. Subscribe at chrismarr.co.uk
For more than 10 years I’ve searched for the answer to something that’s been missing from my life.
How did I know something was missing?
- I didn’t know what to do in everyday situations.
- I didn’t know how to say the right thing.
- I was easily led and mimicked other people’s behaviour.
- To feel confident in a room I needed to feel like the smartest/most important.
- I spent a lot of my time judging people and complaining.
- I buried my feelings, didn’t talk about them and pretended like I had it all under control.
When you peer just below the surface, ultimately what you see is a young man that doesn’t really know who he is.
I became aware of all of this in a single work-related moment a few years ago.
I saw clearly why I would never become the teacher and coach I so badly wanted to be. If I wasn’t prepared to be honest with myself, to open up to myself, to understand myself and to ultimately be confident in my own skin, I would never be able to get to the level where I can help people to the best of my ability.
I had the skills, the techniques, the people to work with, the mentorship. I’ve read all the books, I’ve watched the videos and I’ve got all the right people around me.
I didn’t need more external input. I didn’t need to put more in. I needed to go inward.
The answer to my next stage of growth was inside of me.
Back in 2017, I was an understudy for my good friend Marcus Sheridan at our World Class Communication (WCC) workshop. We’ve worked together for 5 years now, and he’s had the single biggest impact on my sales, marketing and communication skills. What I’ve learned from Marcus directly and from observing him has dramatically impacted my whole life.
I knew going into this understudy role that I was missing something. A year before at the same event, I chatted to Marcus on a car journey around Scotland about where he picked up his coaching and communication skills from. I’m hesitant to say he has a ‘gift’, because that assumes he hasn’t had to work for it, but he’s worked very hard, for many years. That being said, I knew that from observing him at work that his skills were not learned in a classroom.
So at that point, I’m thinking – if Marcus hasn’t learned these skills in a classroom, then I’m probably not going to either. I’m going to have to figure a lot of this out for myself. I was totally cool with that, but I was stumped on what to do about it.
For a whole year it bothered me. I had no direction and I fumbled around until we had the chance to work together again in 2017.
My role as an understudy was to pretend to do Marcus’s job while he was doing his thing, and then we’d compare notes and observations over the course of the few days.
As he coached people on and off the stage I was scribbling down notes and observations. I was nervous. I didn’t feel ready for this. He even asked me to coach people on their performance, and I felt like I screwed it up every time. I was well and truly out of my comfort zone. Completely unsure of myself and making a mess of it.
I remember vividly the moment of clarity. I was sitting in the middle of the theatre, in the shadows, trying my hardest to observe the student on the stage. Listening deeply. Watching with intent. Taking my notes.
When it came to the moment where Marcus gave her feedback, it was clear to me that Marcus could see something that I couldn’t see. There was some kind of block. Something blinding me from seeing what I truly needed to see.
I felt like I was paying attention. I felt like I was listening. I felt like I was doing all the right things. This block…what was it, exactly?
Why couldn’t I see what Marcus could see?
The reason I was so nervous and felt so out of my comfort zone, and ultimately made a mess of it all was because I was afraid.
- Afraid to look stupid.
- Afraid to say the wrong thing.
- Afraid to give the wrong advice.
- Afraid to upset someone.
- Afraid to let Marcus down.
However, Marcus isn’t afraid. It’s not that he’s simply confident. He’s just not worried at all about how he might be affected.
What I came to understand, at that moment, was that Marcus has a strong sense of self. He doesn’t need external validation, he doesn’t worry about being right or wrong, he doesn’t need to feel important or accepted.
In other words, he could see what I couldn’t see because he didn’t have any need to worry about himself. He can forget about himself and give 100% of his energy to the person he’s coaching.
I thought that’s what I was doing. But I wasn’t even close.
I was holding myself back because I wasn’t sure of myself. I didn’t have a strong sense of self, and my actions and behaviour, and the way I was thinking was negatively impacted because I was trying to protect myself from my own fear.
I left that event knowing exactly what I needed to do, and I’ve been on that journey ever since.
It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do for a living. If you want to be better, another course, book or conference isn’t going to make a significant difference in terms of your own personal or professional growth. Sure, there’s learning to do, but is it deep enough? Does it go far enough? Is it fundamentally going to make you better, stronger, more confident?
At some stage in your career, you will want to go beyond the technical aspect of your work. For me, the technical is content marketing. It’s a fast-changing industry, but I know that the difference between me and someone like me isn’t found in what we know. The difference is found in our ability to communicate – for me that’s teaching and coaching.
If I want to get further and be better, I need to be a world-class communicator.
Developing your own self-awareness is perhaps the most crucial element for personal growth. It’s certainly been the most powerful and dramatic shift I’ve had in my life so far. In the past few years, I can count on one hand the number of industry-based books I’ve read, and I haven’t attended a single industry conference. That’s not to say there’s no value there, but at this stage of my learning, it’s clear that my growth is going to come from a different source.
Learning topics include:
Working with Marcus and observing him at work led me to this point. He helped me to see what I was missing and gave me the confidence to not only dive into myself without being afraid but to do it with excitement and a sense of discovery.
It was an incredible feeling when I finally understood what was missing. I can still feel it now when I talk about it. It’s euphoric. A true sense of purpose. Total clarity on what I need to do and how I need to do it.
Think about your self-awareness like a dial on an old FM radio, just like your parents used to own. Over the past few years, I’ve been learning to dial my self-awareness into the right frequency. There’s a still a lot of noise, but there are more moments when I’m tuned into the right frequency and I feel a lot closer to it now that I ever have.
A higher level of self-awareness has helped me to develop a stronger sense of self. I still feel fear, but I understand it better and more clearly.
As a result:
- I much better at saying the right thing in the moment.
- I know what to do in most situations.
- I’m more vulnerable with myself and those I love.
- I talk and write about my feelings.
- I know myself a lot better than I ever have.
In my work, I worry far less about how I might look and, like Marcus, I’m giving more of myself to those I’m helping.
It’s been an incredible journey, a steep learning curve, and what I’m really excited about is knowing that I’ve still got a lot to learn.
Over to you:
- What situations or conversations do you find yourself in that you’d like to respond to better and more confidently?
- When do your communication skills let you down?
- What fears are holding you back from doing your best work and turning up as your best self in your whole life?
- What do you need to do more to develop your self-awareness and tune into your frequency?
As always, I’d love to hear back from you.