It’s like jumping out of an airplane or something. Everything in your body is telling you not to, and that you shouldn’t, and that it’s an insane thing to do. And that it would be much safer not to. But then the minute you jump, there’s no going back. And there’s something kind of, there’s an incredible freedom about feeling of sort of no going back and it’s just me now and I have to do this and there’s no choice and I can’t back out of it. And then I think something kind of sometimes quite magical happens, because you’re just like free-falling.

Call it ego if you must, but I like to feel important. I like to feel like my opinion is valued, and that people actually care about what I have to say. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I got into blogging in the first place. And so, when I was invited to be a featured speaker at Freelance Camp, I was honored and humbled. And terrified. Oh, so terrified. Like I was about to jump out of an airplane.

Someone once told me that you never get over that fear of public speaking. Everyone gets butterflies in their stomach. The trick is to teach those butterflies to fly in formation. I thought that was clever. I also thought it wasn’t especially helpful advice. How was I supposed to use that?

Leading up to that featured lunchtime talk, alongside Make Money Online co-author John Chow, I prepared a PowerPoint presentation. The organizers told me I’d have a certain amount of time to fill and that I’d have a projector at my disposal. Good, I thought. The slides would act as a script, a crutch on which I could lean. Except I never got the projector and ended up having to rely on some random notes I jotted on my smartphone. Not good.

I was nervous, most assuredly. And I really don’t think I did all that well, considering how little practice I’d had in public speaking at that point. But I managed to jump out of that airplane and step outside my comfort zone, because I knew it would be a good thing for me personally and professionally. So, I did it.

You may know Emily Mortimer best for playing MacKenzie McHale on the HBO series The Newsroom. She has also appeared in such films as Transsiberian and Shutter Island. Mortimer likens stepping onto set to jumping out of an airplane, especially when you’ve got an especially challenging scene with an especially intimidating co-star. Can you imagine getting to work with someone like Leonardo DiCaprio or Martin Scorsese? And on your first day on set to boot?

You can feel frozen in fear. I can’t do this. I can’t possibly do this. But you have to do this. There’s no choice, so you do it. And each time you do, it gets a little easier. The butterflies start to fly in formation, as you learn to harness that fear and redirect it toward the task at hand.

So later on, when I was called to be on a couple of expert panels at GottaCon, I was much more comfortable. Maybe because I could be more candid. Or maybe because I was on a panel, rather than presenting. Either way, when and if the opportunity comes again, I may be scared, but I must be brave.

Embedded below is a highlight from the Sam Jones (Off Camera) interview with the incomparable Emily Mortimer. She talks about how a very powerful someone once called her the “scaredest brave person” he’s ever met. It’s from this clip that I derived the quote at the top.