I was asked to give a short talk. It’s something I’ve done more times than I can remember. In fact you might say that among other things I’m a ‘professional speaker’. I motivate people and try to change them for the better through my words. I don’t really have any special technique for doing this. Generally how I approach the task is to prepare a few notes, go through a little sort of meditation that I’ve devised for myself, get in front of an audience and open my mouth, trusting that what comes out will resonate with my audience. It works.
This time was different. This time I was being ‘tested’, if you like, by a mentor figure, someone whose opinion I totally trust. He asked me to talk to a small group of other coaches for fifteen minutes on the subject dearest to my heart: the three principles underlying, and guiding, our human experience. And I was to do it like it was going to be the last talk I would ever give.
So far so good. The purpose of this was purely and simply to help me to focus on the message that I wish to deliver in the course of my work, to help me to ‘find my voice’ as my mentor put it. It wasn’t a test at all.
But boy did it feel like one!
This little exercise, which I had only one evening to prepare for, brought out a whole shed-load of insecurities that I didn’t even know I had. The one thing that you might say I pride myself on – though pride is possibly the wrong word – is that I show up authentically with my ciients. I serve them by being ‘in the moment’ and part of that is not thinking too hard about what I’m going to say. The Principles have taught me that I only need a quiet mind and the willingness to share what I know. The rest I leave to chance – or rather to Mind. Now here I was being asked to approach this perfectly normal everyday task from a different angle, and I won’t say it freaked me (I’m a professional after all) but it unsettled me. It threw me a little bit.
I didn’t want to add to the potential problem by over-thinking or dwelling on it, so I took my own advice and went through my usual ritual. I got a rough idea of what I wanted to say, calmed myself the best I could and turned up the next morning to deliver my speech to the small ‘audience’ of about eight people.
It went well. I felt very emotional throughout the fifteen minutes, and that very real emotion was infectious. By the end of my talk it seemed to me that one or two people looked genuinely moved. Afterwards, in a private moment, my mentor complemented me on the words I had spoken, saying that for the most part I had come across very focused, very ‘connected to Mind’. However …
… At times it had felt a bit ‘professional’.
I wonder if you can imagine how it felt to hear that word used about me – not as a compliment but as a put-down, a criticism, albeit a very mild one. It stung at first. But in fact I had been given a great lesson, one that I’m hugely grateful for.
There’s something very satisfying about a job well done. Isn’t that right? We want to give good value for the money we get paid. Our clients worked hard to get it by being equally diligent in their own jobs, and they deserve total commitment from those professionals, like myself, in whom they place their trust. The way that we deliver on our part of the bargain is by holding fast to what has worked in the past while always trying to deepen our understanding of the truth we are sharing.
But there’s something more. Transformational coaching of the kind I teach goes far beyond mere transfer of information. If the truth of the principles could be quickly and easily put across in words then Sydney Banks’ prophecy about an end to wars and conflict would have come true sometime back in the seventies. It doesn’t matter how well meaning I am, or how accurately I can convey the message. It doesn’t matter that I do a professional job, however I define the term. The only thing that matters is that I ‘walk the walk’, that I embody the transformation that I am asking people to make within themselves. So any ideas that I have about acting in a professional manner or ‘giving value for money’ are, thankfully, irrelevant.
So my ‘profession’ consists of nothing more than deepening my understanding of the Three Principles day by day – or even moment by moment – and then sharing what I’ve learned with my clients.
How cool is that?