All Hands and the Cook · comfort zone · cooperative · cooperative business · graduation speech · introvert · public speaking · work in progress

An introvert speaks!

Public speaking is outside the realm of my comfort zone.  Yes, I’m a teacher but I don’t view that as public speaking.  It’s just what I do.  However, speaking outside the classroom gives me anxiety and nervousness like you wouldn’t believe.  Fluttering butterflies are replaced by a terrifying shyness that I attribute to my introvertedness.  I have been painfully shy since childhood, though I’ve found ways to cope and have gotten a bit better.  

This is true even when I have time to prep.  It does nothing to alleviate my anxiety.  I was chosen to give a speech for the graduation of completing cooperative business training for All Hands and the Cook.  I wrote the speech and practiced it a lot, carrying the words with me on 3×5 index cards.  I kept reminding myself to make eye contact and not stare at the cards the entire time.  No matter how prepared I was, I couldn’t help feeling nervous—like I would do terrible or mess up beyond repair.

Those who heard me speak said I did great and were surprised to hear about my aversion to public speaking, especially since they consider my teaching under the umbrella of public speaking.  Everyone has their own way of presenting—from using cards/notes to being able to “wing it” (speak without such aides).  I wish I could be more like that, but I suppose I’ve found a way that works for me for the time being.  Perhaps it’s another thing that’s a work in progress.

Being in the classroom doesn’t feel like public speaking in the same way.  At least not to me.  That space is my domain and I’m usually confident in my ability to teach the material to my students.  I do get nervous when someone comes in to observe me, but I think that has more to do with the judgement piece than my anxiety over speaking publicly.

I guess I have to seek out opportunities and push myself or allow others to provide platforms with which to improve my feelings towards public speaking.  We are our worst critics and I think that’s probably the biggest thing holding me back.  The phrase “fake it until you make it” seems apt here.  Pretend to have confidence in order to boost that confidence.  

Below is my speech.  I haven’t given it a title yet.  I suppose it’s a work in progress, just like me.
Cooperative Graduation Speech (June 2016):  Untitled/Work in Progress

Good evening everyone.  My name is Naseem and I am a founding member of All Hands and the Cook.  I want to speak to you about my experience with forming a cooperative business.  Three words resonated strongly with me throughout this process.  I think they aptly describe the road that led my co-owners and I here today.  They are:  journey, work, and service.

Journey.  Each member of this cooperative has gone through her own journey.  We have had a set of experiences that have defined us and brought us to the decision to join the coop.  For me, it started with curiosity—the decision to explore something new.  I found out about the cooperative business last winter.  I wasn’t familiar with a coop but was struck me the most was the fact that it would be women-owned.  I was both intrigued and thrilled by the idea of a collective group of women working together in co-owning a business.  The opportunity was just too great to pass up.  I rearranged a lot of things and gave much of my time to be a part of it.

Work.  A decision was made, now what?  We had many workshops and meetings to help us understand how to own and run a business.  They ranged from soft skills, like customer service, to hard skills, like knife skills and pastry.  We learned that there’s a lot involved with being part of a coop.  Being a business owner is hard work!  I had some idea of that but I don’t think I fully understood it until I was immersed in the trainings.  But having someone to share the burden, like my co-owners, and a few helping hands, like many of you here, made it easier to bear.  The work and commitment each of us put in are paying off and we are ready to unleash an unstoppable force of strong, skilled, versatile, and diverse women into the culinary world.  We bring many values with us to our work.  Four of our core values are that we work hard, we are prepared, we communicate effectively, and we bring passion to our work.

Service.  Each of us has her own reason for being a founding member of All Hands and the Cook.  One of the biggest reasons we’ve here across the board is to give back.  We want to be role models for our children and future generations of young girls and women of all ages.  It is never too late to change your life for the better or to pursue your dreams.  We want to create opportunities for women in the food industry.  The world needs us and we have a lot to offer.  No one knew, ever ourselves, just how much we have to give.

I want to leave you with some lessons I’ve learned both personally and professionally.  Find and follow your passion.  Get better at trusting yourself.  Don’t let others define who you are.  Take initiative and be persistent.  Find or create opportunities to continue to grow; learning and growing never ends.  Embrace change, at least once in awhile even if it’s just a small hug.  Be generous, have empathy and compassion.  It may take a long and winding path, filled with roadblocks and stumbles, a lot of second-guessing and uncertainty, but never give up.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said “for the most important decisions in your life, trust your intuition, and then work with everything you have, to prove it right.”  All Hands and the Cook is here and we will give it our all to be successful for our future and the future of other women.

Journey.  Work.  Service.

Thank you.


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