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You know what I always say: Life is show prep.

When I was a talk show host, that meant the fodder for tonight’s program often came from what went on in my life today. Who said what? What did I see or hear? What wonderful—or hideous—situation did I encounter just living my life?

Talk show hosts have been known to create controversy, sometimes out of whole cloth. That can certainly become content for a show. I found the most meaningful conversations derived from ordinary lives, mine and my listeners’.

I’ve been thinking about life and show prep since I read about actor Selma Blair’s new documentary. It’s focused on her challenging experience with multiple sclerosis and a still-experimental treatment.

The New York Times story about the film quoted Blair’s friend and fellow-performer, Parker Posey.

“This is the only thing we have,” Posey proclaimed. “Your life as an actor—it’s all material, it’s all story.”

And what about you?

Chances are good you’re not a talk show host, nor an actor. You do talk though; you might even think of it as performing. At a conference, in a meeting with colleagues or clients, maybe at a networking event—you’re there. Or are you?

As my clients work to become more masterful speakers, they hear from me over and over: What your audience wants from you is you. More than your brilliant insights, your deep data, or your striking slides. They want you. The real you.

People tell me it’s the hardest thing. To show up fully and completely, minus the mask that most of us wear in our professional lives. To let go of the protective coloration we’ve adopted as we try to fit in and move up.

What if you cast that aside?

What if you let your life be the material, the story? What if you let us hear from you? I mean, the real you?

When my husband Frank was a talented young trombonist, he landed a great gig touring with the legendary Woody Herman’s Swingin’ Herd.

The Grammy-winning bandleader tapped Frank to play a solo. What an opportunity!

Then in rehearsal, as Frank prepared to put the horn to his lips, Woody got right in front of him, poked him in the chest with an index finger, and said, “Listen kid. Play your own way. Don’t try to sound like anyone else. You play your own way.”

That Woody. He was a smart cookie.

The challenge so many of us have is how to play our own way.

When it comes to speaking, I see how people hold back from being fully themselves in front of an audience, in spite of my suggestion that it’s what the audience most wants.

I’m excited about a new tool that will help.

Maybe you’re familiar with the marketing genius Sally Hogshead and her How to Fascinate® system? The idea is that every one of us is interesting, compelling, even fascinating in our own way. That part about “in our own way” is the key.

We might try to be the best at what we do, whether it’s copywriting, or consulting, or supply chain management. We’re not likely to succeed. Thousands of people do similar work; there will always be someone better at it than me. Or you.

So, we can let go of that striving to be the best, as far as Sally’s concerned. It’s a fool’s errand. What we can be … what we must be … is different. Here’s how Sally sums that up…

“Different is better than better.”

How you do copywriting, or consulting, or supply chain management is different than the way all those others do it. When you make the most of that difference, you stand out. And that’s how you succeed.

You can see why I think this will provide enormous value to my clients who want to be better at communicating.

When they identify their Fascination Advantage, they can stop worrying about speaking better than somebody else. Or giving the best presentation at a meeting. Or saying something superior at that networking event. They can go right ahead and be different. 

They can make their life the story.

They can play their own way.

Of course, one problem people run into is figuring out exactly how they’re different and what to do with it. I’m becoming a Fascinate Certified Advisor so I can help them identify the qualities that set them apart from everyone else. That make them fascinating.

I’ll tell you more about that soon. Meantime, think about this idea that “different is better than better.” And tell me what makes you different?