“Courage is risking the known for the unknown,
the familiar for the unfamiliar,

the comfortable for the
uncomfortable arduous pilgrimage
to some unknown destination.

One never knows whether
one will be able to make it or not.

It is a gambling,
but only gamblers know what life is.”

— Osho


Oct 15, 6am, San Francisco: I’m already up, no need for my alarm clock to ring. It’s the third day at Dreamforce 2014, the world’s largest technology and sales conference. I already experienced two days with highly interesting sessions, meetings and conversations. Learning, rethinking and challenging new ideas and concepts and making my conclusions – typical conference days.

I checked my emails, just to find a surprise email from my boss. The headline “I’m ok, but in the hospital – call me when you read this” said it all. He was supposed to lead a crowd sourcing session on sales operations today, building on his previous presentation yesterday. At 9am. Three hours from now. As analysts, we have our areas of expertise. Although we discuss and challenge all the topics we cover, we are both focused on our specific fields of expertise. I knew the topic and the data points he was supposed to talk about this morning on a high level, but I haven’t seen his slide deck and his storyline before. Furthermore, I wasn’t involved in the discussion he had with a partner who brought us into this session. Do we cancel the session or do I stand in for him? We quickly discussed the structure of the session, the introduction and the three sections with questions to be discussed at the tables. Structure on the one hand and lots of improvisation on the other hand.

Within a few moments, I heard me saying “I do it. I will run your session.” Was that a conscious decision, considering potential risks? No. Not at all. I didn’t even think about potential risks. An inner voice just told me “go for it.” Jumping into the deep end, with great opportunities to succeed but also with high risks to fail.

Inhale. Exhale. Keep moving.

Quick shower, a few minutes of meditation for myself. Then, another call to discuss the main messages in each section to provide as much consistency as possible to the previous session. I enjoyed one of my favorite active greens food bar and lots of water to get my energy up and to flow. Then, I walked to the Hilton, the hotel for today’s session. I had to get familiar with the structure of the room, the technology, the way how the tables were set up, how I could connect with the attendees. All these little things were important to me to feel comfortable. Integrating my energy into this situation was another success factor for me. A short but very positive conversation with our partners made me even more confident in mastering this very special situation.

The Challenge

9 am; almost two hundred people came to this session, with lots of expectations. I was announced, and the show began. I started with a brief recap of this morning “This is what happens if you check your emails at 6am in the morning. You find yourself on stage three hours later with a presentation you have never seen before.” The ice was broken; people laughed, I could make a connection. Good energy level. I just continued to be myself and to lead this session. And it went pretty well. People listened attentively; they loved the content, and they loved the sections with data points and to discuss the questions on current and future state. They loved sharing their experiences and thoughts with the group. The only thing which was hard for me was to bring people back from a discussion mode to a sharing mode. It wasn’t hard because they didn’t want to share. No, it was hard because they had apparently so much more to discuss and not enough time to do so. Vibrant discussions, great sharing. What a session!

Eighty minutes later. Happy attendees, lots of great feedback, and a happy me, myself and I. One person said to me “for me, this one has been the best session at Dreamforce”. Wow, I didn’t know what to say, but “thank you so much”. She made my day!

Inhale. Exhale Keep moving.

On the way back to my hotel, I stopped at my favorite Italian coffee shop, ordered my cappuccino with almond milk and a green smoothie. Enjoying my late breakfast, I had some time to reflect what has happened today. Suddenly, the stress that didn’t have a chance to dominate me earlier today was now very present. But in a positive way, I just said, “hello” to my stress and “thank you that you didn’t confuse me earlier today” to get this emotion out of my body.

Then, I said thank you to myself. Click here to learn more on “Say thank you to yourself.” For the next moment, I was overwhelmed by emotions of gratitude to trust my inner voice and to take on a risky challenge, and to follow my inner self rather than to be perfectly prepared. A perfect lesson in self-confidence and trusting my capabilities.

It was not the first time that I had to stand in for somebody else, and that I jumped into the deep end – in my professional and my private life. But in this situation, there was not even time to evaluate options. You just go. And that’s different from decisions regarding your role, your business or your relationships. Those decisions take time, and different options are evaluated.

My lessons learned:

  • Fear doesn’t exist in the present moment. The present moment is about decisions, actions and leadership.
  • Listen to your inner voice
  • Trust in your creative confidence – yes, that’s what you need to master those challenges
  • Just be your beautiful self

And … don’t forget:
Inhale. Exhale. Keep moving.

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