Day 23: Speak To A Class

For day 23 I spoke to 30-40 software developer students at Career Devs Computer Science University.

A few months back, the cofounder of Career Devs, Arnell Milhouse, connected with me on Twitter. After I tweeted about my streaks, he invited me to speak to his class of dev students. A fellow streak fanatic, Arnell started #365DaysOfCode.

The idea intimidated me. Who am I to speak to a class of developer students? I’m a newbie myself! But I know that even newbies can help newbies. And selfishly, it’s a great nerve-wracking opportunity for growth.

After my terrifying Paper Scissors Rock challenge, I knew to anticipate the possibility of failure. I could embarrass myself in front of 40 strangers and Arnell, a successful tech entrepreneur whom I look up to.

If I have too high expectations, I won’t be prepared for moments of awkwardness or micro-failures. If I have too low expectations, I won’t go in with a good mindset.

So I went it with no expectations at all. Instead, I held possible outcomes in my mind and considered how I would handle each. Check out Tim Ferris’s article on fear setting for guidance on this strategy.

What Happened

Thanks to Arnell’s ability to conduct a great interview, this was a truly fun experience.

The first topic he drilled me on wasn’t coding, but my wedding. The location of which was held secret from my 90 guests until 2 hours prior: A grocery store! The grocery store didn’t know either.

Later Arnell explained this tactic:

“I had you open up by taking about your grocery store wedding because it made you more relatable and interesting as a person. It made people relate to you and not feel threatened. It also made them laugh WITH you.”

Arnell on DM Twitter

The next time I talk, opening with a colorful anecdote might be a good idea, even if the interviewer doesn’t prompt me for one.

Likewise, the students were equally welcoming. They were good listeners and asked me thoughtful questions. I was flattered that people wanted to know how I approach the world! One students, even asked me jokingly, “When is your book coming out and when can I buy it?” These challenges are supposed to test my ego, but this one inflated it.

Afterwards, the students showered me with appreciative Tweets. My ego thinks this means I’m the Queen of Sheba, but my brain thinks this speaks more to their sense of gratitude than anything about me.

The challenge went really well, a pleasant turn of events after the Paper Scissors Rock of Shame I experienced.

What I Learned

I felt validated by the talk, but it would be wise to curb my enthusiasm. Resting my value on the judgements of others, good or bad, is a recipe for insecurity. I don’t want to over-celebrate successes or over-grieve failure. I just need to enjoy the process.

Points of improvement for my next speaking event:

  1. Record your talks. The hard reality of a video would give me better awareness of my weak points.
  2. I was going on tangents. I might want to focus on succinct broad answers. Then I can go deeper if the audience pries.
  3. I was speaking fast.
  4. My ego got inflated. I want to stay humble. After the class, I found out some of the students are farther than me in #365DaysOfCode. I need to not compare myself as either higher status or lower status to the audience otherwise I’ll get in my head. Confidence is great, but not cockiness. Remember that your audience can learn something from you, but you can learn something from them too.
  5. I probably said “um” or “like” a lot, but I have no clue without a video.

Join The Challenge

For more information on the challenge, see the 30DaysOfDiscomfort challenge page.

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Share your experiences on twitter with the hashtag #30DaysOfDiscomfort

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