I first met the hippopotamus when I was in college.
The task was simple: talk in front of the class.
No big deal, right?
It wasn’t a speech or a presentation; I just had to explain the project I was working on and answer questions.
The moment arrived. I stood up. I walked to the front of the room. And suddenly I felt it…
An invisible hippopotamus was sitting on my chest.
Let’s call him…
The Invisible Hippopotamus of Fear
It was hard to breath. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. And my brain wasn’t working as well as it was a minute ago.
I tried giving myself some logic: “Relax, these are your friends,” I told myself. “You see them every day. Relax.”
Nope. Didn’t work.
The hippopotamus ate a cheeseburger and got a little fatter.
Two Snakes and an Eagle
If you’re new to these emails, here’s the story so far:
I’m in Virginia, back in my childhood home; an old farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.
I stopped here after a year in Baltimore, where I was taking a break from teaching and working in a company to learn some business skills.
Now I’m back to teaching and back to what I really love.
Every day I create lessons for students inside The Society. I write these emails. I learn Italian. And I watch the news in the evening and wonder when the world will return to normal. I’d like to go to Rome and practise my Italian. But who knows when that will be possible…
In the mean time, I couldn’t have picked a better place to be stuck: Virginia is lovely in the spring. Everything is green again. And the animals are back. Last week I saw two black snakes, one on the deck and one in the woods. And there’s an eagle who has started fishing in the lake. I guess no one told them about the C’Virus…
Goodbye Mr. Hippo
A few years after I met the hippopotamus, I moved to Prague to become a teacher.
Sometimes it was just me and a student in a cafe. Other times I had to stand in the front of a classroom.
I didn’t want the hippo to become my new colleague, so I decided to do something about him.
Here’s what I did…
I became very interested in fear.
I joined a Toastmasters club in Prague and felt fear every week. (If you’ve never heard of Toastmasters, it’s a club for people who want to practise public speaking.)
I read books and took courses on confidence.
I started conversations with total strangers.
And after a few years of this, I felt pretty good. Maybe the hippo was still in the room, but if he was, he was sitting on someone else.
Here I am speaking to a room of about 30 people.
Here I am teaching a course in a recording studio full of technical people hoping to get home before dinner.