A few years ago, I participated as a speaker in an event organized by CEO Clubs and called CEO’s Back to school.
The format is relatively simple: 3-5 CEOs tell the story of their life as a manger, about how they got there and, through the duration of the event, they answer the questions of about 100 high school students.
I remember as if it was yesterday. Although I had spoken in public many times before, I was nervous. I was thinking about the responsibility of inspiring those children and I felt overwhelmed. I asked myself: ‘what if I can’t properly convey my message and instead of inspiring them, I would just confuse them…?’ and plenty of such fears.
The room got quiet and we started introducing ourselves. Ladies first! So, I was the first to speak.
I told them I never intended to become a CEO and that’s why it’s hard for me to give them a recipe or a “how to”. But it happened! So, I would list a few things that led me down this path.
1. I was a responsible person and I looked for ways to be better at what I do.
2. I’ve always competed against myself and not compared myself to others.
3. I admired successful people, whom I learned from.
4. I set ambitious goals.
5. I was always open and curious to learn new things and assume new responsibilities.
6. I had faith in myself, that I could do what I set out to do…
And I think I listed a few other things, that I do not remember now.
During the Q&A session, a girl from the second row got up shily and said that she had a question for me. I use the word ‘girl’ because, even though she was 18, she was a tiny creature. Small, fragile, with glasses and eyes on the ground. My emotions had faded, and I was glad she chose me.
Her voice was almost a whisper: ‘And if you lack confidence, what then?’
For a few seconds, I froze. Because I had never considered that. Although I had moments when I doubted myself, when I heard the question it was like my mind went blank.
It took me several tens of seconds to gather myself and dig for the answer, hidden deep in my subconscious self. And not the answer for her. But for me.
When I doubted myself, I tried to surround myself with people that would help and inspire me. People that would encourage me and that would help me find my strength and move forward. A friend, a colleague, an acquaintance… someone I can trust, but people that are open and positive.
Now I constantly work with a coach. To have a partner of discussion who is curious and not biased helps me organize my thoughts. When I can’t wait to get to the end result, the coach helps me see my progress and stay motivated. Even when I say I can’t do it any more, he’s there to help me discover that I still can, at list for a little while longer.
And, since then, every time I am in doubt, I remember that event. But mostly the startling brown eyes of the girl, who at the end of the event came to me and asked for my permission to hug me.