Knowledge Murders Nervousness

95% of American teenagers get a reality check with their first work experience. Before you start working you envision a lifestyle of glitz, glamor, world wide respect, and humongous paychecks. For me that dream was unceremoniously crushed by the harsh reality that only a sink full of dishes, a 25% full jar of Palmolive, and an industrial strength dishwasher can provide.

Pizza Hut presented me with my first opportunity to be nervous on the job. I was hired as a dishwasher. At the time I didn’t think very much of it. Dish washing was never my favorite activity at home, but it was no doubt the easiest of my chores.

Before selecting a position I took an inventory of all the jobs at Pizza Hut. From where I stood the positions were:

1. Cutting Pizzas – Standing in front a 2 level oven with a fire strong enough to melt the skin on your back. Did I mention that all the customers in the restaurant want you to reach into the oven and take their pizza out for dicing?
2. Waiting tables – serving pizza to a notoriously empty dining room.
3. Making Pizza – Preparing each order of wings, order of bread sticks,order of cinnamon sticks, and every single pizza that leaves the building.
4. Washing Dishes – Spraying some pots and pans with a water hose.

Washing dishes seemed like the best way to simultaneously collect my $5.15/hr and maintain my sanity. I thought washing dishes at Pizza Hut would be much like washing dishes at home. I have never been so wrong.

On my first day I strolled into the dish washing pit with the wind at my back and a smile on my face. As I was turning the water on a waitress dropped off 10 plates. I shrugged it off and turned back to my water. It was only 10 insignificant plates. I looked back 15 seconds later and that stack had multiplied to 20. Before I could turn back to look at my water a manager dropped off a bus pan with 20 plates, 5 cups, and 10 sets of silverware. My blood boiled as I gazed at the mound of work that lay before me. On top of that the sink was full of piping hot water.

My heart beat began to race. I was 10 minutes into my job and things were going downhill quick. Without thinking I began to furiously pour dishes into the 100 degree water. Quickly, I grabbed a rack and prepped it to go through the machine. I plunged my hand into the water and my nerve endings cried out in pain. For some reason (it surely defies all logic) I repeatedly stuck my arm into scalding hot water until all the dishes were retrieved and ready to be washed. After jamming the dishes into the machine I sprinted into the break room.

I stood in the room sweating and feeling like an idiot. The room shrank with each passing second. When I got back to the pit I was so nervous that I could hardly pay attention. I dropped dishes, slammed my hand in the machine, slipped on the floor, and spilled water on my apron. That was far and away the worst day of my 2 year dish washing career.

After many trials and tribulations with washing dishes I learned the ins and outs. I soon realized that the industrial machine to my right was equipped with enough water pressure and heat to start a category 3 hurricane. Once I made this realization things became a lot easier for me. I was in dish washing heaven (whatever that is).

So how does this relate to public speaking you ask? The tie in is simple. My nervousness and anxiety as a dishwasher was due to a lack of knowledge. All feelings of nervousness subsided as I gathered more experience. Before long I was so good that I had to beg for days off.

The main cause of nervousness in presenters is a lack of knowledge (perceived or real). Real world experience combined with diligent research will calm your nerves. Follow this simple steps and you can keep your hands out of scalding water.

About the Author

Marcus Smith is a creative force in the public speaking world who strives to meet the needs of each and every client. His experience as the Toastmasters President at a fortune 15 company will prove invaluable to you.

Visit his site at for more information

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