Attaboy!!! The Un-Comfort Zone

THE UN-COMFORT ZONE with Robert Wilson

Seventeen years ago, I became the president of my community association. It was a lively organization with scores of activist members who were busy gentrifying an inner city neighborhood. One of my responsibilities was to deliver a monthly speech and conduct a formal meeting with a loud and raucous crowd.

Over the course of my two year stint, I always spoke from behind the lectern with my hands firmly attached to the sides in a white knuckle grip as I read from my notes. When my term ended, I felt that I might have been a more effective leader if I had some real speaking skills, and if I wasn’t so afraid of being in front of an audience.

So, I joined a Toastmaster’s club and began my training as a public speaker. A year later, I had completed ten speeches and the basic program, but I was still firmly attached to both the lectern and my notes. My mentors encouraged me to work without notes and to move away from the lectern. “At least stand to one side of it!” they cajoled. But I was not about to leave my comfort zone. I was plenty uncomfortable just giving a speech. Besides no one could see my legs shaking behind the lectern.

Then the club held a speech contest. A humorous speaking contest. Now, I can tell jokes, so I was game! Four of us entered the competition, and I managed to win the third place ribbon without venturing an inch beyond the safety of the lectern. I can’t recall who placed second, but I’ll never forget the winner. Les Satterfield talked about an airplane flight and he soared about the room with his arms spread wide and the audience roared in laughter at his comic yarn. Later on, as I watched him receive his shiny gold statuette for First Place, I knew I had to have one. I was motivated… but not quite enough.

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Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert’s programs please visit

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