Full text of How to Become More Confident: Lay Down on the Street for 30sec by Till H. Groß at TEDxDonauinsel conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: MP3 – How to become more confident — lay down on the street for 30sec by Till H. Groß @ TEDxDonauinsel
In order to start, I have three questions for you. And the first question is, who of you know this feeling? Your heart starts to race, your knees are getting weak, you get this whiff in your stomach, your hands start to sweat, who of you know this? Raise your hand and say yep really loud.
Okay, perfect. Second question: Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to do something? I don’t know, like walk up to a beautiful girl, in a huge class raise your hand and ask a question, contradict to the authority, whatsoever. But then, you got this feeling of nervous, anxiety and because of this feeling, you didn’t do what you actually wanted to do. Have experienced this? Raise your hand and say, yep really loud.
All right, perfect. So last question: Have you ever experienced this in a situation, wanted to do something, then you’re anxious, scared, whatsoever but you still did it and experienced one of two things: either it was not scary as you thought, or you did it over and over again and at one point you’re not nervous at all anymore. Have experienced this? Raise your hand and say yep really loud.
All right, perfect, because this is exactly the process I will be talking about. Most specifically, my whole talk will revolve around the question on how to become more confident. And most specifically, how to overcome social anxieties, how to stop caring what other people might think about you, and basically, how you can do in your own life what you want to do and not be hold back by few. And even though it’s the beginning of my talk, I already have an answer for you. And the answer to all those questions is: to lay down on the street for 30 seconds. Yes, so obviously there’s a lot more to it. And over the next few minutes, I will tell you the story how I actually arrived at the conclusion. And [to some biggest then], it’s my own story. So it involves my own insecurities, it involves therapy and coaching, happiness and content at the end and, of course, laying down on the street for 30 seconds.
So this story basically begins as far back as I can remember. And I was always kind of like confident, outgoing. I was playing basketball professionally back in high school. So [inaudible] 16, so every weekend go into clubs and parties and so on. All my friends are also professional basketball players, so in high school I was hanging out with the cool kids. And others would definitely also describe me as confident, outgoing.
But how I felt in the inside was often pretty different. So there were like a handful of situations where I would get really nervous or even insecure and especially on people who were cooler than me, smarter than me, more successful and so on. I would get shy and even insecure. And this was because there was a huge fear of rejection, huge fear of not being cool, of being exposed as weak.
And this kind of fear led to two types of behavior. On the one hand, avoidance — often avoid a situation where I might appear uncool. For example, I would be invited to a big party and I didn’t know anybody, I wouldn’t go in it, because they might pop up the situation, withstand over myself for like a minute or two, talk to nobody and people would look at me and think, hey, this guy is uncool. Nobody talks to him. Or what I would do is drag my friends along, so I always had somebody to talk to the whole event.
The second kind of behavior was — I was looking for approval. So if there was a cooler guy around, I often tried to behave in a way that he appreciated, so he will approve of me and say, okay, he is cool as well. What this meant was that I often would engage in behaviors I myself didn’t think were good or right. But, you know, I was in high school, I was a teenager. So confronting the thing would also involve admitting it, so I didn’t do any kind of like drag along this whole thing.
After high school, I quit playing basketball because I broke my arm, I couldn’t play anymore. And then I started to get into psychotherapy and coaching because I was kind of interested in it. And when I was playing basketball I learned, if you want to become really good in something, what should you do? You should try to learn from the best. So I applied this lesson that I learned in basketball to psychotherapy and coaching. So I went through whole Europe and tried to learn from the best psychotherapists and coaches.
So I was going to events. I was going to conferences, walking up to like the most important guy, shake his hands and say, “Hi, my name is Till. I would like to learn from you”.
Well, this man was – I was literally confronting my fear of rejection all the time. And back then, I was thinking, hey, if there would be a good point of time to get all the fear of rejection, it will be right now. Ironically or fortunately, basically, exactly this time, I heard about comfort zone challenges for the first time. Back then, I read in Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek and he described it as a technique to overcome certain limitations and to progress faster in business. And to me it sounded kind of interesting, and for those of you who don’t know what comfort zone challenges are – comfort zone challenges where you constantly put yourself in a situation that makes you nervous or insecure. For example, if you are afraid of rejection, one of the challenges you can do is you go out and try to get rejected 10 times as fast as possible. If you’re afraid of embarrassment, you go out and, for example, stretch your arms as high as you can and walk through across the street, so embarrassment has been public. The idea behind it is you do it over and over again, at one point you stop caring what other people might think.
To me it sounded pretty cool. Why? Because this would mean I could get off my fear of rejection quite easily, right? So I looked deep into psychology and psychotherapy what they have to say on this topic. Most specifically, evidence-based psychotherapies, so cognitive behavioral therapy. And they had a solution for this since the 1950s. And this solution was called exposure therapy. Why exposure therapy? Because similar to comfort zone challenges, you go out, you expose yourself to the thing that scares you. And there also is an explanation why this whole thing works. Okay, so like in really over-simplified way, you have autonomic nervous system that fires a fear response. So your autonomic nervous system, at this part of your nervous system that you can control consciously and they are responsible like for sweating, heart rate and so on and the fear response. And at one point or the other in your life, you encounter a situation and your autonomic nervous system for whatever reason learned to respond to the situation with fear. And from that on, every time you encounter the situation again, your autonomic nervous system will send the fear response, even though you consciously understand the situation is not dangerous or scary.
So not to fear over it what you need to do is the following. You put yourself in a situation, you get anxious, scared, whatsoever and you stay in there, so your anxiety step-by-step decreases and your autonomic nervous system learns, hey, the situation is actually not scary. So that is the process how you become more confident. And for me, I want – hey, this sounds pretty good. So I decided to start doing comfort zone challenges. And I have very very vivid memories on my first comfort zone challenge, and it was a Thursday when I committed myself to start – to do comfort zone challenges. And with most things, you know, when you commit to do something what do you say, I will start tomorrow. So one Thursday, I said, okay I will start tomorrow. The same day, Thursday afternoon I was going home from university, waiting for my train around five o’clock, rush hour, people everywhere. So I was standing there, waiting for the train. I was thinking, well, I’m going to lay down on the floor for 30 seconds tomorrow, that’s a pretty scary thing.
And when my train arrived, I was thinking, hey, why shouldn’t I do today? And the moment I just started pondering with the idea, boom, two things happened. On the one hand, oops, my heart started to race, my hands were getting sweaty, it was kind of hard to swallow, this is on the one hand. On the other hand, boom, boom, boom, all those really really good excuses popped up, like your friend is waiting at home, the floor is dirty, what might other people think and so on and so on. So standing there, you know, kind of like torn in between. On the one hand, I wanted to do it. On the other hand, excuses and the fear. So what did I say? I said, you know, my train was going to say, fuck it, you do tomorrow. So I walked with the train, and then I can remember it, with the first step, I had this epiphany, this aha moment. So I understood something — I heard this concept before but now I really understood it. Because this fear will always be there and those really good excuses will always be there. So if you’ve allowed this set of rationalizations and this fear to hold me back now, I will never do it. So I put on my bag, turned around, lay down, almost – honestly guys, I was terrified, so I lay down, and my heart was racing.
And then I noticed three things. The first thing was, of course, I got a lot of weird looks. People walking past me gave me weird looks. There was even one mom with a kid, the kid wanted to walk to me because it was interesting, the mom pulled away, don’t go next to this stranger dude. But I also noticed that all those weird looks were not scary of a thought.
The second thing I noticed was that a lot of people were really confused, because I knew what I was doing but they didn’t have a clue of what I was doing down the floor, right?
And the third thing that I noticed was the majority of the people didn’t even care. They didn’t even look at me. They all walked so close to me, they didn’t even look at me.
And with every second, I got more and more relaxed and I have like one or two minutes, completely anxiety vanished. I got pick up, picked up my bag, I still noticed all the people were looking to me, got on the train, went home, looked out the window with a big smile on the face.
So that was my first comfort zone challenge ever. And from that I made a list of all my fears and step by step took out all my fears. And some went away quite fast, other took longer to overcome and so on. Then I saw how it helped me, so I told my friends about it. So they started to do comfort zone challenges and had all my friends from whole Europe doing comfort zone challenges, sending each other pictures and videos how they did comfort zone challenges, and then they decided, hey, it helped me, it helped my friends, let’s have more people. So we created this online community, The Comfort Zone Crushers. And they would give people challenges and give them piece of advice how to step off the comfort zone and step-by-step it grew bigger and bigger and bigger, and exactly in this month we have hundreds of people from more than 20 different nations to step out of their comfort zone, take off their fear and become more confident.
And here are just some examples of those people from all over the world doing the laying down challenge. So this is a guy from Singapore, this is a guy from London, this is Berlin, oh, this is Vienna. This is – I don’t know — this is somewhere in Europe – this is Vienna as well, and this is also Vienna.
So this whole thing from me, you know, confronted with my own fears of rejection and so on, step-by-step grew bigger and bigger into this international movement. And from all the things, from all those helping others to crush their comfort zone and crush my own comfort zone, I learned three things. And the first thing that I learned was — if you consciously do comfort zone challenge over and over again, you get in the habit of doing the uncomfortable thing. And you know, with most things in life is like this, there’s something you want to achieve and between you and the thing, there’s a certain discomfort. You know, you want to have a great body, you need to work out. You want to be smart, need to study. And to comfort zone challenge doing over again, I learned on the hand, to ignore the excuses, because most of the time you have got excuses not to do the thing. And the second thing is I learned to go through the discomfort. So doing comfort zone challenge is kind of like bleeds into other areas.
The second thing I learned was – my relationship to fear completely changed. So lot of you walked up to me said, hey, Mr. Comfort Zone Crusher, do you still have fear, do you still have comfort zone? Of course, I am a human being. Of course, I have fears and so on. And obviously comfort zone challenge is not a magic pill. So you will not always immediately get over everything. And some things will take a long time to get over.
But what changed was that nowadays even if I want to do something and between me and the thing is certain fear, I will still do it. So I’m so familiar with fear and nervousness right now. It doesn’t hold me back anymore.
And the third thing that I learned was comfort zone challenges gave me lot of happiness. And you may think why — stretching your arms in the air running through like a hallway or laying down the floor, why does it give you happiness? And I think for two reasons. On the one hand, because lot of unhappiness comes from comparing yourself to other people. And if you start to do comfort zone challenge, you stop caring what other people might think about you and you also stop comparing yourself. And the other thing is a lot of unhappiness comes from comparing yourself to like a perfect self, you know, and comfort zone challenge – also because it bleeds into other areas. You start to develop and progress on a daily basis, and step by step get closer to the perfect version. So pretty often at the end of the day, you can sit down on a couch, lay back and say, “Hey, I’m not perfect yet but today I made a step closer to this perfect version of myself”. And this gives me kind of like happiness and fulfillment.
So those are three things I learned and obviously the whole talk is a bit advocacy for going out and doing comfort zone challenges. But at the same time, there’s also like a bigger vision behind it. Because what I’ve noticed or what I have seen was that comfort zone challenge, the term popped up like some time in the 21st century. Though they did behind it this exposure therapy as research since the 1950s. So basically there is a huge knowledge of therapeutic technology and psychology knowledge. But most of our society doesn’t have access to it either, because therapy and coaching is so expensive, or the social stigma prevents the people from actually engaging it. So you won’t go there because your friends might think you are crazy, whatsoever.
What our vision or mission is that we take this knowledge to there and from which a lot of people actually would benefit, and we take this knowledge, kind of dress it up new, and make it accessible to the people, and also like through the Internet and to spreading it virally, we can do it for really very little money and so we can enable a lot of people to actually engage in it and benefit from it in their own life.
But this is only like — to give you like a glimpse of the whole bigger thing behind it. And of course, I want to encourage you to step more of out of your comfort zone.
And at the beginning of the talk, I asked, okay, who of you know this feeling, nervous anxiety, you all raised your hands, you all said yep. So this feeling anxiety is something that connects us all and kind of makes us human. And for me this is a very comforting thought and very comforting idea.
So I want to challenge you to at this year’s event talk to a few more people, you know, walk up to a famous speaker, ask him questions. And those people home who is watching it, close your laptop – no, watch two more TED talks and then close your laptop – then go out and I don’t know, lay down on a street, stretch your arms, do some things at outset of your day in autopilot, because comfort zone challenges not only help you to become more confident but it also gives like adventure to life, and kind of like spice up your life. So now I want to finish my talk with a quote that I always try to live by. And this is a quote famously said by Eleanor Roosevelt, and she once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you”.