Last month, I was asked to be the Chief Guest and give the Valedictory Address to the students of a school in Mumbai who were passing out, and I decided to speak from my book DARE, which was recently launched.
“Dare to make an ass of yourself!” I told the students, which is the title of one of the chapters in DARE. The students were a bit startled, and I realized that for years they had been told to do just the opposite.
“Have any of you taken part in public speaking?” I asked.
A girl in the last row put up her hand to tell me how she wanted to take part in a TED talk show, and how scared she’d felt.
“You decided that even if you made an ass of yourself, you’d go ahead?” I asked, but she said that she had been too scared.
I told them how at another talk a young lady in the front row who appeared quite shy and diffident put her hand up and told me that it was okay for people like me to speak in public but shy people like her couldn’t.
“Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was shy like you,” I told her.
“You?” she asked astonished.
“And then,” I said, “I decided to learn to speak in public.”
“What did you do?” she whispered.
“I visualized myself on a stage like this. I perceived myself speaking to an audience like you all and I set about developing a persistent belief that I could do it.”
There was silence in that hall. “Then,” I said, “I decided to make an ass of myself! I wrote to different organizations telling them that I would like to address them on some particular subject. Can you guess what the subject was?”
“Writing?” she asked.”
“Public speaking,” I smiled. “The first to reply was a neighbourhood club. They asked me to speak to them on the elements of public speaking. I nearly fainted with nervousness when I accepted the invitation.”
“And did you speak?” she asked.
“Yes!” I said with a grin. “I was scared but I spoke, and today I am not afraid to speak in public anymore!”
“What is it you want to do next?” she asked, as the others in the room laughed.
“To sing a solo in public,” I said.
“Are you afraid?” she asked.
“Very,” I said, “but the day I can visualize myself doing it and develop a persistent desire to excel in it, I know I will succeed.
“Dare to make an ass of yourself,” I told the students, “and that is what separates a Bill Gates and many others from the rest of the world!” I left the school hoping I had made new asses of the students, and do the same with each of you my readers — “Dare to make an ass of yourself!”