A 20-year-old Warren Buffett was well on his way to accomplish his goal. Becoming millionaire by age 35. By the age 16 he already made $53,000. He had a flair for making money in the stock market. Combine this with education in elite schools and you end up with a story that looks nothing like a failure story, right?
Our biggest fear
Wrong. We’ve all got our own failure. My failures can be different than yours. And your can be different than her or his. But Warren’s failures and fears were very similar to what most of us experience. Young Warren was terrified of public speaking. Yes, you read that right. Aren’t you afraid? Most of us are. It’s the number one fear we have. Death comes second. Which means that most people are more afraid of speaking in public than death. So was Warren but it didn’t stop him from becoming a great speaker.
Did he have something you don’t have? No. He was aware of his biggest fear and he knew it won’t disappear by itself. He decided to face his biggest fear. Although he didn’t need to be a great speaker then he was thinking about his future. He knew he won’t be able to run from it all his life and he ended up signing for Dale Carnegie speaking course but dropped out before it even started. “I lost my nerve”.
He was so nervous, that he would arrange and choose his college classes to avoid having to get up in front of people. "I was so terrified that I just couldn't" – he says. "I would throw up…In fact, I arranged my life so that I never had to get up in front of anybody."
In one of the interviews he said "I knew I was going to have to speak in public sometimes. The agony was such that just to get rid of the pain I signed up for the course again." Warren enrolled the course with 30 other students who, just like him, were frightened. "We were all just terrified," Buffett said. "We couldn't say our own names. We all stood there and wouldn't talk to each other."
Why shouldn’t you?
They got a book of speeches that was full of examples of talks you might give to keynote an event or if you were trying to win an election. Every week they had to give one of those speeches. "The way it works is that you learn to get out of yourself," Buffett said. "I mean, why should you be able to talk alone with somebody five minutes before and then froze in front of a group?"
The students supported one another, and slowly, slowly, slowly, Buffett got comfortable in front of a crowd. This low-stake situation was perfect environment to work on this craft. "Some of it is just practice — just doing it and practicing," Buffett said. "And it worked. That's the most important degree I have." After taking the course, Buffett was confident enough to speak in public and, perhaps more importantly, propose to his future wife Susan.
At a very young age Buffett became passionate about investing, money and achieving success. That ongoing enthusiasm comes through in his speeches and interviews. As Carnegie put it, "Even people with only mediocre speaking ability may make superb talks if they will speak about something that has deeply stirred them." People will see your passion, smile and positive energy and that will make a huge difference.
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