Is teaching scarier than free solo climbing El Capitan?


It is said that the biggest fear of most people is public speaking. Here is an awesome article about the first free solo climb of El Capitan w/o ropes.

‘I’m afraid of death, I’m afraid of danger, I’m afraid of pain. I used to be very afraid of public speaking,’… said the climber.

There is no safer way to overcome this fear than to research a subject, talk to a few teachers and post a DMS class of your own. You will never find a friendlier audience than our own Makers.


I used to be terrible at public speaking - probably as afraid of it as I was dental surgery, car wrecks, whatnot. My senior year in JROTC I had to do a presentation for the quadrennial inspection that would dictate whether the unit retained blue star status or clawed its way up to gold star status. The pressure to perform was rather intense.

I forced myself to master the subject I was presenting. I memorized what I would say and rehearsed the presentation many times - often in front of an audience. I ensured I had grasp of off-script items just in case I had to answer questions.

Then I delivered and the results were amazing, The other presentations were competent but I was on message and unflappable - a contrast from my usual self staring down the prospect of public speaking.

Ever since then public speaking has not been a prospect I automatically dread. Whenever I know I have to do it I don’t even follow the method of strict memorization and staying on script; I formulate a plan and know the material, but otherwise let it flow naturally.


This is my method. I have to make presentations and find that the more I try to script out what it is that I need to say, the worse I end up. Knowing the material and having a broad strokes outline is about as far as I go anymore and rarely stick to my outline. You need to read the crowd and what they are reacting to.


This. I find myself more engaged this way as well, so the will to deliver is sustained.


The Toastmasters organization says that every speech is actually three speeches:

  • The speech you plan to give
  • The speech you give
  • The speech you wish you had given

That generally applies every time I open my mouth.


Every time I finish presenting I remember some detail or several I wish I’d remembered at the time or managed to cleverly segue in. But usually it wouldn’t have much mattered so I don’t sweat it.


I’ve heard of them, I could definitely use some work on my presentation skills.
It gets easier every time, but still!


Over the years I have been in several Toastmasters clubs and been president of two not by skill but longevity as the offices rotate around. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is a bunch of professional speakers. Clubs typically have some first class speakers and down to new members with a long way to improve. They are scattered all around cities and each one tends to have a different personality. I would encourage you visit two or three before you commit to joining. One club I visited was big on Roberts Rules of Order with all the challenges,… Not my style but I loved most clubs I joined or visited.

Wow! The first club I joined was Executives Toastmasters in the 70s. They are still around. The name might be intimidating. They were not a bunch a executives - just a bunch of people that wanted to be able to speak better.


Honnold has done some incredible free solos. El Sendero Luminoso comes to mind because of the video:

Most free solo climbers don’t get famous for the obvious reason.


It used to bother me, not so much anymore. I do still tend to get nervous at first but loosen up after my thoughts collect.

Career day at Elementary school was interesting, trying to keep 11 year olds & 7 years olds from getting bored. The 7 year olds were actually easier to keep from getting bored. 20-25 at a time with a round of 6 classes at about 5-7 minutes each. They actually had more questions & I kept running out of time with them. I did bring up ice cream though.


My teaching/speaking approaches with most subjects in front of classes/groups, regardless of subject:

I generally work out an outline of the talking points I want to cover so I don’t go in circles, over-explain (I have to watch that, especially on topics I know well) or segue to things I’ll actually cover later. And remind myself to stick to my well thought out preparations to keep the flow and balance right (so I don’t divert too far into yummy minutiae)

And comfortable enough with topic that I know broader info than what I’m talking about even if not including (meaning comfortable enough to speak to questions that come up or if things go more in depth on something)

Classes, I prep what I intend to cover. I’m WAY more relaxed if I feel well prepared. Mentally step through details. Then also ALWAYS have Plan A (the planned coverage) and Plan B (we go faster/slower) to adjust if pacing needs it or the mix of students calls for it.

The way I handle nerves, no matter the crowd or setting, is I get in the mindset I’m just sharing information with a group of good friends I know well (even if total strangers). I’m more relaxed and things flow better.

Sometimes things go according to plan. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, I sort of analyze things afterwards to see what I’d do the same or different next time.