Mary Kay Ash once said, “Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know it, so it goes on flying anyway.”
Rules in life and business are necessary and important. They maintain order and protect and support us in many ways. But sometimes as a coach, I’m struck by how often we assume that the way it’s always been done, or the way others do it is somehow “the rule.”
For example, many business and practice owners whom I have coached have inherited a format for writing their company vision that they stick with even though it never really felt authentic or had any significant impact on their team or their business. They never really just talk with their team about their dreams, desires, and aspirations on a regular and ongoing basis.
Similarly, I’ve coached lots of managers and business leaders who have adopted a way of delivering employee reviews or running meetings that leaves them and their team members frustrated and stagnated. They are stuck in a rut of “how it’s supposed to be done” and never take a hard look at what their people really need or want to know.
Likewise, I’ve supported a number of aspiring speakers who for some reason feel that they cannot give a good speech without a huge PowerPoint slide deck or a traditional presentation structure. They’ve read or heard along the way some well-intentioned advice such as don’t ever speak when entering the stage or when you’re moving. Use a laser pointer to draw the audience’s attention and keep them focused. Wear a suit and tie or high heeled shoes. Start with a story. Start with building credibility. Start with a well-told joke. And then they blindly do it… even when these things feel completely awkward, unnatural, and inauthentic.
I got this lesson loud and clear a few years back. I was one of several speakers at a very prestigious event. I had worked on my presentation for months, practiced a lot, and even gotten some coaching. But minutes before, to my dismay, the stage I inherited from another speaker was cramped and cluttered with his equipment, my PowerPoint failed to load, and my time had been cut in half by a string of prior unforeseen events. I had no time to rework my speech or think too hard about how to flex it. I was faced with a sudden choice: Hold on to the old or embrace something new, creative, and completely my own.
I took a deep breath and stepped onto the stage and delivered a hyper-targeted message from my authentic voice. I was 100 percent present in that moment and 100 percent myself. I leaned on all that I had learned from many great speaking coaches over the years but in that moment, all their advice was pushed through the filter of what I wanted to say and what I wanted my audience to know and feel and believe.
I surprised even myself with my courage that day. I used the entire, albeit limited, stage space by creatively incorporating the stairs, the center aisle, and an empty chair to drive home my points. I put my whole body and my whole being into my message. I pointedly challenged the audience to think differently about how they communicated with each other as team and to my surprise they leaned into my message in a way they had never done before. And the more they did, the more embolden I became.
I found humor and wit I didn’t even know I had. I let the emotion in my stories flow freely. Surprisingly perfect analogies and metaphors came to me on the spot. My presentation, by necessity, broke all the rules you’ve ever read about in terms of what’s required and expected in the giving of a professional speech. I’ll never forget that day because it brought down the house… and taught me a valuable lesson in the process.
Similarly, the best vision I’ve ever delivered to my team was when I broke free from the confines of what all the books say it has to look like. We sat on the grass at my Ranch and I spoke from my heart about what I wanted to try to create at LionSpeak and why I thought it really mattered to our industry and to the world.
My team members have thrived recently as I have let go of what I thought a “boss” was supposed to be, do, or say and we’ve engaged in real conversations about their hopes and dreams, strengths and talents, and found the best ways to connect those to the vision of my company.
I share this with you not because I think you should stop learning from others or that everything others do is somehow wrong. I share this because I teach communication, adult learning, speaking, and coaching frameworks as a coach but all of those are meant to free up creative thinking, intuitive wisdom, and my clients’ personal best… not to constrain them and turn them into a duplicate of someone else.
I believe we should concern ourselves much less with what everyone else is doing. We can and should be inquisitive and learn from those who have succeeded however I’m suggesting that we use those methods to glean ideas that resonate with us, spark our own creativity, and release our own voice into the world.
Anything you want is possible. Whatever you love passionately is worth doing. You have everything you need to thrive. Invite that idea into your life and business today. Learn from others, certainly. But don’t do anything just to conform. Don’t be lazy and simply copy what others have done. Own your truth and make your message 100% authentic and real.
Share your vision. Give your speech. Deliver your ideas. Build your business. Create your life.
You can fly, bumblebee. I promise.