One of the most powerful strategies to free ourselves from the overall stress of life is to stay detached from outcome.  This does not mean failing to plan, set intentions or otherwise phoning it in.  It means that we set targets, train, aim and when we act we let it rip, come what may.  Much easier said than done, but a practice worthy of consideration.

An example of just how challenging this can be came when I was in a major law firm in North Carolina a few years ago.  I traveled there with a colleague, at the law firm’s request, to provide a major presentation for their members at that location, and to video conference in a few other locations as well.

We arrived early in the conference room, after standing in the rain to pick up breakfast trays for roughly 20 attendees, which was the number we were provided.  There was no one there yet, and we set up the room and the equipment for the presentation which was to begin at 9am sharp.

Around 8:45am a firm technical assistant joined us to make sure our equipment was up and running, and the connections to other offices were intact.  It was.  And they were.  I asked where the local folks were and what time they would join us.  He replied that he was only aware of one or two in person attendees for that morning.

The firm tech was correct.  Only two firm members joined us at a huge table that was empty.  I soon realized I’d be staring into a camera and interacting with a dozen or so other such conference rooms that the firm scheduled around the country.

What does this have to do with non-attachment?  Well, a lot actually.  Have you ever given a presentation with little to no feedback from the audience whatsoever?  Or talked with someone who provided no reaction, no feedback, no affirmation that they understood what you were saying, or show of interest or lack thereof, in what you were sharing?

I have!  Nothing like gearing up for a big talk, and then talking to basically myself.  I could see conference rooms full of people on the large videoconference screen, much like the way we are all now pretty used to Zoom meetings.  At the time though, I felt like I was staring at a wall.

I was rolling out a new agreement between the law firm, and my company.  It was something to be excited about, get people interested in, and motivate them to engage with our new platform.  Instead, I felt like a team coach giving a pep talk to athletes that were on speaker phone, and muted.  No feedback, no facial expressions, just me, talking.  NOT EASY.

Fortunately, I understood this concept of non-attachment.  I was knowledgeable, prepared, comfortable with the content and enthusiastic about the new partnership.  While it may have been the worst presentation experience I can remember, I had to deliver without attachment to response.  Staring into the abyss of a few hundred people, who could see me, but whom I could not see, left me with no choice but to depend on my focus, expertise, and passion to deliver effectively.

I would later understand from my colleague that this was my worst public engagement ever!  I was prepared for audience presence, energy, interest and engagement.  When I didn’t have that, I don’t think I was ever able to generate the kind of energy with a video conference screen, that I am with actual people.

The partnership went through, despite my own self-critique, and I’d done what I set out to do that rainy Tuesday.  But there was a lesson here for me also.  I realized I had some growing room when it comes to non-attachment.  I was literally dependent on audience interaction to deliver, and in that way was giving some of my power away.  I would learn to show up for all future presentations, independent of the need for that energy exchange.

Since then, most such presentations included active participants.  But my skills increased as I knew I didn’t “need” that.  I continued to be well-prepared, but after North Carolina, my focus was on letting it rip, independent of whether there were 100 people in front of me, or just a blank screen with a bunch of far away strangers grouped around tables.

Going from theory to practice, is never easy.  But as Brian Johnson says, we don’t want to be librarians of the mind, collecting data that sits on the shelf.  We want to be warriors of the mind, able to access our learning and operationalize it in a way that actually impacts our lives.  

Next time you gear up for an important conversation, presentation or meeting, try to stand in the confidence of your preparedness and expertise, unattached to the outcome.  Set your intention in advance that will free you from the need to depend on what happens around you, and just execute to the best of your “non-attached” ability.  It may not turn out the way we think, or want, but we can control how we show up.  

The rest, we cannot.

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