My Sweeping Statement
For years now I’ve been doing an Ironman Triathlon focused podcast called IMTalk with local coaching legend John Newsom. What started out as a ‘let’s see how it goes’ project has now grown into one of the world’s most successful triathlon podcasts with thousands of listeners tuning in each week from over 100 countries.
As a natural talker, when we first started the show I was comfortable about doing an audio podcast, John and I would sit down each week and have a conversation about all things Ironman Triathlon. As much as I was comfortable about my ability to create an entertaining show there was one role within the show that I was extremely concerned about - reading content out loud. Reading out loud is something I have always struggled with. From a very early age I learnt very quickly the embarrassment of being a bad reader and one of my biggest fears was being asked to stand up in front of my classmates and read. I remember the feeling vividly, the minutes passed by in slow motion as I made mistake after mistake and felt the pressure of all of those eyes looking at me with amusement because I was so bad at this basic life skill. I desperately wanted the teacher to get me out of this situation and put me out of my misery.
Thinking back on this experience, it was so embarrassing and had such a big impact on me it’s understandable that I labelled myself as a bad reader, I couldn’t read out loud and I was sure that I would be this way forever. The sweeping statement ‘I can’t read out loud’ had a big influence on my life and once I moved away from the school environment I made sure I would never have to read out loud in front of others ever again. Up until the moment where we started the podcast I never did.
When the podcast began I realised that I had to face my insecurities and that I’d have to start reading out loud, it was an important part of being a podcaster. If you go back and listen to the podcast from the early days my reading is atrocious, I fumbled my way through our listener’s emails to the point where they often didn’t make any sense. While I knew I was terrible I also knew that it was something that I just had to get better at. At this time I decided the only way to improve was to get rid of my sweeping statement of ‘I can’t read out loud’ and instead I thought about this question; ’why do I make mistakes when I read out loud and how can I improve?’.
The question around why I made mistakes shifted my closed thinking to one where I was trying to figure out what the real problem was and what I needed to do to improve it. This path lead me to discover that the main reason I was so terrible at reading out loud was because I didn’t look ahead when I read, I would be trying to read each word individually in it’s singularity rather than in context of the broader content. I was reading each word as I saw them in contrast to good readers who will be looking ahead at the words while they are speaking. Once I figured this out it was about me practicing and staying focused on this new skill when insecure thoughts of me being a bad reader popped into my head.
Many of us have sweeping statements that close doors to certain parts of our lives. Think for a moment, do you have any? Maybe you have determined that you will never be good at exercise, aren’t intelligent or creative, that you aren’t good with money. When you think about your own sweeping statements, how have they limited you in your life? If you hadn’t had those sweeping statements and you were able to see that you could develop yourself in those areas how would things be different?
If you know that you have used sweeping statements maybe it’s time you think about these areas in different ways, in ways that allow you to see where your current problem is in this area and then try to progress yourself forward from this place.
I’ve just come home from an MC job where 80% of my role involved reading content out loud to an audience of over 400 people. Did I practice like crazy beforehand? Yes. Did I have to concentrate 100% on my skill of reading ahead? Yes. Was I the most dynamic reader ever? Far from it. Was I able to do my job in a way which kept the flow in a competent way? Yes. I know that I have a lot more progress to make in this area of my life but I’m proud of the growth that I have made so far, growth that never would have happened if I still saw myself as someone who can’t read.
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