You know how there are just certain “rules” in life? Like you can’t have 20”1 biceps unless you workout or you can’t control the weather? There’s no denying that you can’t be cool unless you are a dork first. I know the ladies might disagree but George Clooney was a dork at some point in his life. Nobody is exempt from this rule.
I love looking up definitions of words that we use in our everyday conversations, dork being one of them. With the advent of Wikipedia no word is safe. The definition of dork is as follows:
Dork – Slang for quirky, silly or stupid. Socially inept, out of touch with contemporary trends. Often mistaken for the same as geek or nerd but does not imply the same level of intelligence.
Who wants to be a dork? Can I see a show of hands?
What about cool? I went to the Urban Dictionary to check out cool and was relieved to learn that in fact cool is still cool.
Cool – An adjective referring to something that is very good stylish or otherwise positive. Laid back relaxed, not freaked out, knows what’s going on.
Who doesn’t want to be cool? I don’t care who you are, what you do, where you come from everyone wants to be cool. When you are cool you make it look easy. When you are cool you are confident. No matter how much we want to be cool the fact still remains you can’t go from zero to cool. There are no direct flights to cool.
When I think about my own journey there have been times in my life I didn’t take on a challenge because I didn’t want to be a dork. For whatever reason I wasn’t willing to go through that awkward stage to get from zero to cool. Call it self- doubt, call it procrastination at the end of the day it was a bad case of “ Acute Dorkitis” more commonly known as fear.
While I have examples in my life of times I walked away from a challenge I do have several examples when I allowed myself to fight through the dorky stage to get to that feeling of calm confidence or cool.
When I first started my career in marketing I was a pathetic public speaker. I promise you pathetic is an accurate depiction. You know how they say people fear speaking in front of a group second only to death by fire – that was me. I was the classic nervous, sweaty pitted speaker who fumbled, mumbled and bumbled his way through a presentation.
Because I knew I’d have to become at least proficient at public speaking to advance in my career I decided to face my fears and allow myself to be the dorkiest of dorks. I enrolled in Dale Carnegie, and joined Toastmasters. I started volunteering to make presentations at work. I made bad presentation after bad presentation.
My favorite was toastmasters where they actually counted your Ums. (I think I’ve been enshrined in the Toastmasters Hall of Fame for having the most ums in a 5 minute speech) I can remember when we had to do impromptu speeches – no warning, just get up and start talking. I would have preferred hot pokers in the eyes. For the longest time I felt like I wasn’t improving, often times feeling like I was digressing.
Eventually I would have stints during a talk where I felt like what I said actually made some sense. There were even times when I could make an audience laugh… on purpose! As these fleeting moments occurred I could feel my confidence begin to build.
While I was starting to feel cool I still wasn’t there. I’d have a talk that didn’t go well and I’d feel like everything I had accomplished had gone to hell in a hand basket. Eventually the dorky moments began to fade away. My speeches were mostly cool. I actually began to feel a certain calmness before speaking in front of an audience and then a confidence that the words would be there even if I wasn’t fully prepared.
There were even times when I felt like I was in the zone or as I later learned I was experiencing flow. This is where you are fully connected with your audience, you are not even thinking about the words you are saying and it’s all making sense. This was proof for me that the dork was finally history and I was becoming cool or at least I felt that way. Interestingly enough there was no breakthrough moment. It didn’t feel like divine intervention – no angels, no harps, no voice from above or anything like that. It just happened.
While it may sound cocky to say I’m cool when it comes to public speaking I’m finally okay with that. In fact I’m okay with letting the world know public speaking is my calling – it’s what I’m here to do. Hmmm what a far cry from sleepless nights and sweaty pits.
It’s important for all of us to understand this process. It applies no matter what it is we want in life. It is so easy to give up when you are in the dork stage! Often times we feel like we’ll never get to cool. The process is gradual, uncomfortable and painful at times. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the journey. Have faith that each dorky step you take is one step closer to cool. And oh by the way – cool is still cool!