Wing it!

A good friend and a remarkable person, Ole Wiik, told me his motto earlier this year:

“Practice what you want to get good at.”

I used to be terrible at talking in front of another person, let alone a crowd of people. Through the communication training in Scientology, I managed to get to the point where I was a successful radio show host. But I didn’t want to stop there. Even though the radio show made history in Norway, I wanted to also get good as a public speaker. I went to several of Mark Shreffler’s seminars and saw what a really good public speaker could be like.

But it wasn’t until I actually started doing it, training on it every week that I started to get a hang of it. In the recruitment company I ran in the 90’s, we decided I would give a seminar on how to hire people once per week.

Early on I decided to not use any aids. No slides. No script. No notes. This was a very conscious decision. I wanted to be able to speak straight off the cuff. Totally improvised – in order to tailor the message to the needs of the audience. That way I never had to worry about a computer crash, loosing the script or notes, or that the audience wanting something other than what I had prepared.

Lack of preparation was the key. Winging it. First with a lot of personal uncertainty. Like Bambi on the ice. I screwed up, made a fool out of myself. Sometimes mumbling, more often cracking a bad joke. Loosing my train of thought trying to weave a thread with no yarn.

Slowly but surely it started to pay off. The jokes got better, my focus went from how I was doing to what value the audience got, and the audience started recommending the weekly seminars.

After a couple of years I felt I could do this in my sleep. Time for new challenges. I started saying “Yes!” to any invitation to talk in front of people. Seminars on other subjects like astrophysics, communication, leadership, sex, IT and whatever else people wanted me to speak about, talks at weddings, toastmaster, etc. Throwing myself in at the deep end. Much like when I was 10 and my younger friend got me travelling a lift for 13 hours to rid me of my fear of elevators.

It culminated a few years ago when I was invited to hold a talk to some 300 students at a university. I decided not to have clue about what I would say until I walked onto the stage. I ended up doing a workshop on how to pick up girls, or boys.

It doesn’t matter what you want to get good at. Training is the key.

When people ask me what to do to become a blogger or writer, I simply tell them to start. By just doing it, winging it, you will get better at it. How good you will become boils down to your desire to get good and your willingness to learn and change along the way.

While this blog post is meant for a friend staying at home with a quarrelsome stomach, I hope it can inspire others to get going in a direction they want to master.

27 thoughts on “Wing it!

  1. Great post on a subject near and dear to my heart. 🙂

    I agree with what you say about such things as blogging and writing – just get in there and do it, lots of it. I believe it’s true that one learns to write by writing. But I don’t think this is true of all subjects. For example, I’ve read that most of the best jazz artists – jazz being the epitome of improvisation – base their playing on the music theory they were grounded in. Even with writing, one already knows the basics – communication through language. And on public speaking, you yourself had your basics in from the training you got, before you ventured into off-the-cuff. It’s the kind of think LRH meant too when he said – audit the pc in front of you. And no one does that better than a Class VIII, the ones with the most thorough training.

    That said, I think there comes a point where a person has become so conceptual in his area that he is able to be spontaneous, to create in present time – and should be able to, if he is going to be a top professional at it.

    The other great secret to it – to any purpose line – has to be what you say here: “How good you will become boils down to your desire to get good and your willingness to learn and change along the way.” 🙂

    1. I am not saying that you ONLY wing it. But if you start with picking up the instrument – even without knowing a single note, then you generate an interest for learning. If you gonna wait with picking up the instrument until you THINK you can DO it, then you are wasting valuable fun. Even if the instrument is a piano. Right, K?

      1. Oh! I get it. Now, that is something intriguing to think about. Off the top of my head, it seems spot on. You’re going to free me of some of my conservatism yet. 🙂

        What did you mean by, “Right, K”?

  2. “training”? Sound to me like as you say just take the bull by the horns and start doing, as you did. Possibly with guidance, one can eventually get good at it as in experience. Reminds me of my husband training? me on the computer? no he showed me what to do and I did it with practicing on my own, but with guidance. So my viewpoint is practicing. There flattened that training button.

    That’s a great idea to winging it, and sound workable and easier to me. Think I’ve been winging it this year in my internet actions and communicating. I’ve always like when someone gives a talk from the heart and one usually can tell when sincere. So if one goofs on something, so what, at least your doing. Helpful article Geir, thanks so much. 🙂

    1. I was struggling a bit with the translation of Ole’s motto. “Train” in Norwegian has more of a connotation toward “practising”… sort of 🙂

      And so I updated the saying.

      But, yeah – you are welcome 🙂

      1. Oh, that’s the difference between countries and languages. It happened a lot with my Englishman mate, what a neat reminder. 🙂 Looked, yes it did make a difference to me, but hey, no need to do that, love the challenge.

      2. Forgot to tell you how interesting about train connotation – practice, I get it, thanks.

  3. It’s nice to be quoted by my motto “practice what you want to be good at” (is this better Geir?) Today I’ve started practice something new, and todays practice was really the first: well-cleaning(!) I feel that I fixed it pretty good, with the good help of my brother in law. 🙂

    1. 🙂

      OK- I’ll change it to “practice”.

      Excellent to see your comment here, Ole. Is the well well now?

  4. You are so right Geir, you´ve got to start somewhere, and it´s your choice where to start. As with the instruments, someone would maybe start by learning notes, signing in to a class, or do like I did, buy a piano…(got some funny looks from the man in the store when I told him ´d never played a piano before!) Must admit there has been times when I have been struggling alot ( and still are..), and thought I should have started somewhere else (learning notes maybe…), but I also had a lot of fun trying to learn by myself. My point is, it doesn´t matter where you start, if you want to do/learn something, you just have start, or like you´re saying, Wing it! Anything is possible 🙂

    1. K!

      Yes, anything is possible. And the stronger one holds that to one’s heart, the closer one get’s to becoming first across the finishing line.

    2. In frognerparken, Oslo, I spent a whole summer once learning to juggle 3 clubs while balancing a racing bicycle on my head. With the bicycle on fire, it was to become my signature stunt but learning it looked real silly to other people in the park. It sorta looked painful when the bike came crashing down. Other performers have asked me the secret to learning the stunt, I tell them the same as you K, “start doing it”


    1. And this is how we learned to speak our mother tongue. All of us. Fumbling and making a fool out of ourselves until we got it somewhat right.

      1. That’s a great example – learning to speak our mother tongue. And some people do the same with languages foreign to them.

  5. Simply put, slide-free presentations lets me be more me. Although scary at first, big thanks to Geir for believing, inspiring and messing around to try and find the line one shouldn´t cross 🙂


    1. Thanks. Nice to see you here, Håkon 🙂

      For the other readers; Håkon is an amazing person -one who just happens to get things pretty right all the time without making any effort of it or fuss about it.

    2. Hakon Knappskog. Hi! Thought to say hello and look forward to hearing your thoughts. I’m pretty busy with a project but do get to read the posts. They are very helpful, fun to read and a great bunch of thinkers.
      De 🙂

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