Week 3: Sleep & work schedules, embracing public speaking, insecurity & rejection

Funny how it would happen in the winters, but after a year of fitful starts I have found a good sleep and work rhythm. Without fail and an alarm, I am up everyday by 6:30–7:00 am, even though the sun is just about rising and temperatures are at their coldest. I can get to my work desk well before 8:00 am, and there is no better feeling than being done with the day’s work by late afternoon or early evening and then turning in early. This daily work schedule would be perfect, but because I work remotely with two teams with members across the globe, I have three meetings a fortnight that happen late in the day. So there is no way to have an early start to work and also an early finish everyday. On those three days, my waking hours gets sandwiched by work and I end up feeling that I do nothing else but that. I have been trying to find a workaround — a way to get work completely out my head for a few hours in the middle and do other things – read, cook dinner, do some embroidery, whatever – and then get back to work again. Unfortunately, I am not quite there yet.

My Dad is an amazing public speaker. He has natural charisma, a brain bubbling with knowledge and ideas, and an infinite capacity to make interesting and meaningful connections. Give him an audience — slides and microphone are optional — and he can just hold their attention. I am not like him. This is not to say I am terrible at speaking to crowds, but I have not inherited his effortlessness.

Last Saturday, I spoke about type walks at Codesign’s Show & Tell. The setting for the event was pretty perfect – about two dozen people, lots of curiousity and bonhomie, and interesting conversations. Just the kind of design event I like to attend. I had known for two weeks that I was expected to speak for about 30-45 minutes. But apart from some soul searching I did at Ahmedabad airport a week before the talk, I couldn’t get myself to prepare. I blame the end of the year for my listlessness. I had been really looking forward to a few quiet days, but they had quickly become filled with social gatherings that are so characteristic of winters in Delhi. By Thursday, I was beating myself up for agreeing to participate in the event in the first place, especially since it was on a weekend and in Gurgaon, almost 50 km away. I delayed preparing as much I possibly could have. The wheels in my brain finally started turning on Friday evening, and after hitting the sack early, I got up bright and fresh on Saturday morning to write myself pretty detailed notes and make a deck of slides. Ultimately, the talk went well, even if I say so myself. My jokes landed, and at one point the whole room burst out in laughter in unison (mission accomplished!). A bunch of people came up to me afterwards and were generous enough to compliment me. But most important of all – I got asked some pertinent questions.

Public speaking has been on my mind a lot in the last year, and I was grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with others. After dilly-dallying about it a bit, I decided to talk rather candidly about the process of preparing for a type walk. For so long, I have seen myself in the shadow of my Dad when it comes to public speaking. In the mean time, I have completely ignored the fact that with some preparation, I can run type walks and speak at conferences, small or large, without any paralysing nervousness and with some success. It is about time I embraced that.

I received a rejection email today. And to my surprise, I immediately took it in my stride. That’s the second time this has happened this year. I seem to be getting better at embracing rejection instead of feeling miserable and inadequate. I remember having a full-blown meltdown in 2016 when a project I had started didn’t pan out. I was terribly insecure, and it was a straight line from one failure to thinking that I cannot do a single thing right. I have been trying to think about how I got here, and I am beginning to wonder if it has something to do with the freelance life. There is an uncertainty that comes with freelancing that can really undermine one’s mental peace and confidence. Perhaps I am oversimplifying, but I have been in a much better place since I started working with organizations long-term.