Cathy, purchasing manager for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 4B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"I was a junior in high school and setting up my courses for the upcoming year. After entering the usual required subjects, I had one elective course to take. I thought, 'I will take something easy to boost up my grade point average'. 'Drama' popped off the page. I really liked the teacher. I thought, 'Compared to chemistry or physics, this should be a piece of cake”.' I was never involved in the after-school activities that involved drama, year book club, photography club, etc. I was involved in basketball, volleyball, and just about every other sport, so this 'drama' thing was new to me.
My first day of school, I entered the drama class and looked around. There were very few people I knew. They all seemed excited about this drama thing. I was becoming more fearful of what it was all about. The teacher walked in and the first thing he said was, 'This class is not as easy as you think. To pass, you must successfully participate in the District Drama Festival.' He said, 'Each student will have a role. There will be actors, stage hands, a lighting director, a sound director, a producer, etc. Your final grade will be determined by your interaction with the team and your performance at the drama festival.'
I thought, 'Please let me be a stage hand.' I could do that very well, but I certainly didn't want to be an actor. I was scared to death to speak in front of a crowd.
We spent a couple of weeks going through one-act plays to determine which play would work for our group. We finally chose a play about a group of children on a playground. Each character had something different about them that they despised. Our teacher scanned the room and started assigning roles. He told us there would be no tryouts; he would be assigning the roles. He looked at me and said, 'Cathy, you will be Dixie Wicks. She's the kid with braces.' I was petrified, but I had no choice. I needed to pass the course.
We practiced the play throughout the year. I was actually enjoying the course. The big day came and we traveled to Timmins for the festival. It was held at the Therrialt High School auditorium. We were mesmerized by the size and beauty of the school. The new auditorium had theater-style seats and the stage was huge. We watched a couple of plays before it was our turn. They were both lavish productions with huge casts; very impressive indeed. I was terrified. There were no empty seats in the auditorium. Our small troupe stepped out on stage and went through the motions. It was my turn to present Dixie Wicks' character and describe how she felt about being teased, being called 'metal mouth'. I muddled through my part, terrified the whole time. Our team managed to pull it all together, and the adjudicator actually made a comment about how our team performed well as a group.
Awards were given out at the end of the day. Our play didn't win for best production, but I did win one of three awards of merit given for my acting skills. I was in complete shock. I had received awards for athletics and academics, but this is the one I treasure most. It taught me that there are rewards for overcoming my fears. I went on to join the drama club, enjoyed many more productions, and made lots of new friends.
The lesson I learned from this experience is that by focusing and overcoming my fears, my life has new dimensions. I wouldn't have known the joy of acting and belonging to a group had I not faced up to the fear of speaking in front of a crowd.
The action I call you to take is face up to your fears so you can enjoy life to the fullest. The benefit you will gain is you will experience things that you have never experienced before. Your life will be a continuous growth process."