Seven Principles of Learning Another Way To Be – applied to speaking anxiety

Have you ever agreed to do a presentation and as the time got closer wonder what ever possessed you to say yes? Then you’ll benefit from the experience of Michael Hansen of Whidbey Island, Washington. Michael is the author of the award-winning parable Another Way to Be – The Path Within. While he had several successful book signings under his belt, the prospect of speaking to his own community created high apprehension. Here he applies the seven principles of learning from his book to delivering a masterful talk – and experiencing a great connection with his audience. As Another Way to Bereminds us, “The universe is not out to get us. It is trying to get us out – out of our limited thinking, our limited feeling, our limited believing. It is attempting to guide us back to the path of awareness, understanding, and knowledge.”

Enjoy – and I encourage you to order this beautiful and inspiring book for yourself and for gifts for your friends and clients. Learn more at


Either I run my fears or my fears run me
Humor and humility are stepping stones along the way
Mistakes are an integral part of the learning process
Fear is the problem, trust is the solution, courage is the way
When the student is ready, the teaching appears
I cannot stay where I am and move forward at the same time
Transition points are where flexibility is tested and revealed

from Another Way to Be – The Path Within by Michael Hansen

Principles in Action

In my book, Another Way to Be – The Path Within, I introduce seven principles of learning. These principles are the glue that holds the book together. They are also the primary tools I used during the process of writing the book itself. I continue to learn how these seven principles apply to the unfolding journey I call my daily life and recently had the opportunity to see how the principles relate to the art of public speaking.

I enjoy reading out loud and sharing stories from my book for groups of strangers with relative ease. However, planning my first public reading in my own community caused me some unexpected concern. I decided to attend Gail Larsen’s Real Speaking to prepare for my upcoming presentation. Although I did not know what to expect, I left the program with a bag of valuable and practical tools. I especially enjoyed the concept of learning to access what Gail calls the home zone™.

Real Speaking bolstered my skills and my confidence, but as the time approached for me to share with friends and family, I noticed a familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. As soon as I set the date, reserved the hall for my presentation, and sent out announcements, the pressure began to build. I felt like I had jumped into the river and the current was pulling me forward. I watched myself struggling to get back to shore. The struggle was in vain. I had set a process in motion and I was moving forward, one way or another. I no longer had a choice about the direction in which I was being pulled. I did, however, have a choice about my response to that direction. Either I run my fears or my fears run me. This is the first principle of learning.
I have an acronym for the word fear – Fantasized Experience Appearing Real. The image of falling on my face in front of those who know me best was a fantasy that ran my life for the next several weeks. It became the lens through which I viewed the world around me. At times my fantasized experience was so real that I wandered around looking like a deer in the headlights.

Humor and humility are stepping stones along the way. This is the second principle of learning. Humor and humility work best when they travel hand in hand. I had the humility part of the equation – my ego had shrunk to the size of a pea. What was lacking was my sense of humor. Humor is the spice that makes eating humble pie a much more palatable affair. It was only after the fact that I was able to see that the ability to laugh at myself had been temporarily missing in action.

Mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. This is the third principle of learning. I like to think of this as the art of learning to fail forward. Children do this all the time. It is how they learn and grow. Somehow as adults we have taken on the misplaced notion that we are supposed to do everything perfectly. I wanted my presentation to be flawless. In my desire to create a mistake-free presentation, I manifested a list of mistakes too long to mention. The irony here is so thick, I could cut it with a knife.

The first three principles are about awareness. They are the signposts along the way. The next three principles are more about what to do with this awareness. It was clear to me that fear was distorting my vision. The question was what to do about it? Fear is the problem, trust is the solution, courage is the way. This is the fourth principle of learning. This principle provides an action step – trust is the solution, courage is the way. My dance with courage and trust was an intermittent affair in the days before my presentation. It ebbed and flowed like the tide. It gave me something to hold on to when it was present. It gave me something to strive for when it was not.

Because courage and trust had been moving in and out of my orbit in the days before my talk, I was able to access them the moment I walked on stage. When I stepped into the abyss of my fear, a bridge was there to support me. That bridge was built with courage and trust, and it connected me directly to my home zone™.
When the student is ready, the teaching appears. This is the fifth principle of learning. A few days before my community presentation I had another reading at a college bookstore. The space did not support the ambiance that I wanted to create. I was stuck in the corner of the room, there were no chairs for people to sit in, and my time allotment had been cut in half. I adjusted the best I could.

However, the thing that caught me most by surprise was the placement of the microphone stand. It was fine as I introduced myself and set up the scene I was about to read, but the instant I picked up my book I realized that the microphone stand cut off my line of sight to the page. I spent the next fifteen minutes bobbing my head like a prizefighter in an attempt to read from paragraph to paragraph. The image is humorous in hindsight but it was frustrating and distracting at the time.
When I prepared the room for my next presentation I consciously created the space exactly the way I wanted it to be. I made lighting adjustments in the room and set chairs in a gentle arc in front of the stage where I had placed an Asian rug, a beautifully carved podium, and a fresh glass of water. Most importantly, I used a wireless lapel microphone that allowed me to move around the stage with my hands and my vision unobstructed. All of these details fully supported my presentation. The microphone stand that had been so irritating a few days earlier had provided a valuable learning experience.

I cannot stay where I am and move forward at the same time. This is the sixth principle of learning. It is the willingness to make mistakes that allows me to move outside the protective bubble of my comfort zone. I wanted my friends and family to see me in a new light and yet my greatest fear was that they might not embrace the new me. I could not have it both ways. In the end I had to let go of where I was in order to get to where I wanted to be.

Transition points are where flexibility is tested and revealed. The seventh principle of learning is the umbrella that overarches the other six. Life is about change, and how I deal with change is how I deal with life. There is information in everything I do. When I learn to meet and greet the countless micro-transitions in my day-to-day life with humor and humility, with grace and ease, and with a willingness to learn, it prepares me for the arrival of those larger transitions that inevitably show up during the course of human existence.

My talk turned out to be one of those larger transition points for me. I consciously stepped into my full adult self in a manner that had eluded me until I found the courage and trust to stand up and speak from my heart. It was the willingness to be seen by my own tribe that facilitated this transformation. My greatest fear going in was that my friends and family would see my vulnerability. The reason the evening was so successful is because that is exactly what they saw.

The combination of applying the principles of learning with the awareness and practice I gained from Real Speaking guided me to this realization. I slipped quite naturally into my home zone™ and allowed the words to flow through me. The journey that followed carried me to some unexpected places, and because we were connected, I was able to bring the audience along with me. It was a good reminder that every time one of us is willing to explore new territory, it moves all of us forward.
The principles of learning are tools I use each and every day to continue my own exploration. They are the signposts that guide me forward, that keep me on the path, that help me learn and grow. My relationship with these principles is a dynamic affair. It’s an on-going journey. It’s a practice that does not end.. –Michael Hansen

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