Tell us a bit about your work 🙂
I advise individuals, campaigns and organisations on mastering their messaging, managing their reputation and raising their public profiles.My experience is predominantly in the world of British politics, as an adviser in public affairs, political and press strategy. This involved working for a major political party in Westminster, including their 2017 general election campaign. More recently I’ve worked in the PR, reputation management and corporate communications space.
As a public speaking coach I train people to communicate more effectively by speaking with confidence, composure and clarity. In my spare time I enjoy facilitating impromptu speaking workshops at weekends in the heart of London for members of the general public of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
I have also coached Parliamentary general election candidates in media interview techniques, advised Government ministers before broadcast media appearances and prepared witnesses prior to their appearances at Parliamentary Select Committee inquiries.
I have also volunteered on social action projects in Africa, training secondary school teachers in Rwanda, and students in Tanzania.
Tell me a bit about your shyness…
Over the past five years or so I have worked to overcome a severe social anxiety and to build long-lasting confidence in myself that was previously lacking.
My experience of severe depression and low self-worth taught me the importance of mental resilience, taking on challenges to grow and being kinder to myself. After exploring and confronting it for many years I have started to see and accept my mental health issues as a blessing.
In the past I’ve had counselling to help me address my bouts of depression and ongoing low self-esteem.
In most of the workplaces I’ve worked in, I’ve struggled to speak my mind and set appropriate boundaries with people. When this doesn’t happen, perceived or actual disrespect usually follows.
Shyness leads to missed opportunities and resentment and potential depression from a diminished self-esteem.
It has meant I have never been promoted or successfully applied for a more senior role.
In my early career it led to a lot of frustration and disappointment – which I’ve converted into learning lessons.
The main symptoms of shyness, at heart a fear of criticism, include:
– the failure to embrace opportunity
– being evasive and afraid of expressing opinions
– mental laziness
– an inferiority complex
– the habit of side-stepping issues rather than facing them squarely
– spending extravagantly on possessions to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.
How have you embraced your shyness and become shy and mighty?
I used to be very viscerally affected by public speaking and social situations. After resolving to confront this anxiety and through consistent practice I now, as a ‘cause’, seek out opportunities both to participate in and to coach others in this.
As a young man I didn’t travel as much or as far as I would have liked, preferring instead to revisit familiar locations in Ireland, England and the continent. I have since made it an ongoing ‘project’ of mine to travel as far afield as I can, volunteering to train people in Rwanda and Tanzania and applying to speak at conferences in Canada.
The opportunities that are coming my way from this mindset shift are so diverse and varied that I have also been offered the chance to work in a few obscure countries in Eastern Europe and South America.
I have been embracing my shyness for many months now. And doing all of this has led me to many places:
To leading public speaking and personal growth workshops for people from every walk of life in London, to the world’s most successful political party, to fielding questions from and working directly with the Prime Minister on his constituency visits, to raising the most money for charity out of over 70 amateur boxers in a white-collar fight night, to leading on Brexit, technology and public affairs for one of the UK’s most prestigious and valuable industries, to being asked to train educators in Rwanda on growth-mindsets and facilitation skills (potentially impacting over 15,000 teachers and 635,000 students), to going on a wonderful safari in the same country, and on to Tanzania later this summer to mentor young people to overcome challenges and unleash their hidden potential, and if I’m lucky, to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Before I started doing this, I came from very different places.
From being so anxious, depressed and self-absorbed I could barely answer my ringing mobile phone, or have the confidence to even leave my room in university halls or go and speak to people who I liked or respected. From having such a low opinion of myself I chose a third-tier university to study at, when on intelligence scores and grades I was consistently among the very highest and with a high enough IQ to join MENSA. From failing miserably to coach the university Gaelic Football team and quitting at the earliest opportunity. From not having the balls to pursue what I knew I was good at. From not having the courage to apply for a John F Kennedy Harvard scholarship I’m now too old to be eligible for (that’s regret). From getting so frustrated, isolated and in such a wretched state I would drink lots of wine and Jack Daniels and then punch brick walls and take a Stanley blade to my back and shoulders. From walking into a park in my final year at university, and stopping to pick up some large pieces of glass on the floor to take with me, as I walked further into the park filled with very negative but unactioned thoughts about how, and on what parts of my body, I would use them.
I know which one of these mindsets I like better, and which one I think others want to have also!