I’m currently taking the Ultraspeaking Fundamentals Course. The class is highly interactive and you get a lot of practice time in front of a coach and a couple of classmates.

I decided to take this course because I know I’m not great at speaking. I hate hearing my own voice, and I generally avoid speaking during recorded sessions out of the fear I’ll hear my voice permanently stored in the cloud one day. I have the tendency to speak really quietly, which may be related to why I sometimes mumble my words. Sometimes when I explain things, I look to see the confused looks of other people on the call, so I’m not great at clearly articulating my ideas. And my energy levels when I speak are a pretty consistent, flat, low energy. It’s interesting because back when I was in microbiology, I felt pretty confident when I spoke. I don’t know that I ever regained that confidence since switching over to writing code.

Anyhow, I was pretty excited for the first week of Ultraspeaking. I knew I wanted to get better at speaking, and I had some pretty great experiences with other cohort-based courses last year. After the first lecture, we went to our first break out room–a coach and three students. We were about to play our first game–Rapid Fire Analogies–in which we have to come up with an analogy comparing two random words in only a couple seconds while maintaining an air of confidence. The first two people went, and it was cool to see the connections they were able to draw as the random words were flying past.

And then it was my turn. I wasn’t able to read the words fast enough, let alone come up with an analogy for them. I had to skip a couple of them to regain my composure before I could continue on. I’d say the first thing that came to my mind, but then my mind would circle back and be like “What. That doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t work. You failed.” All of a sudden, it wasn’t exciting or fun anymore. I was embarrassed. I wasn’t the same level as the other people there.

And it got worse and worse as the week went on. The time between slides got smaller, and the number of slides increased. As the break out rooms got shuffled, I saw more and more people being able to do amazing jobs with their analogies. It wasn’t just a fluke, I was truly worse than everyone else. And it didn’t seem like I was able to execute the coaches’ suggestions either. I remember at one point, a coach asked me to play the game with super high energy. Afterwards, she asked me and the other students how we saw the energy level on a scale from 1 to 10. I thought it was about an 8. The others described it as maybe a 4 or a 5. I wasn’t only doing poorly–I was struggling to improve as well.

At the end of the day, I got an email from a coach to me and one of the co-founders recommending me for an assessment. sigh. It looked like I was so bad that I was going to be evaluated to see if I was a good fit for this course. So I signed up for a calendar spot a few days later. I was hoping that they’d let me keep access to the games so I could practice on my own time, and that I would hopefully improve enough for whenever my participation was deferred to (I was hoping I’d be able to make enough improvements on my own before the next cohort).

So a few days later, I hop onto the assessment call. Both co-founders are on it. I feel my nerves stirring again.

After brief introductions, we jump into various games. Something’s weird. They seem pretty positive. I mean, yes, they point out some of the things I expect to hear–lacking self-confidence, can add more variety, etc. But they also point out a bunch of unexpected stuff–I’ve got a lot of ideas to draw from, I’m good at finding meaning in things, etc. It’s not all bad. And there was no mention of me needing to defer my enrolment to a future cohort.

At the end of the assessment, they sent me a “report card” of sorts. It pointed out areas for growth, but also areas that are already strengths. This made me feel better–I no longer felt like a total lost cause.

Afterwards, I looked through my email and found one that I had deferred reading. It was an explanation of the assessment and how all the students would go through it and what the report card would look like. 🤣 It wasn’t anything like what I told myself it was going to be about.

When the classes for week 2 rolled around, we moved onto a new game–Conductor— in which we have to match the energy level of the slide showed on the screen. More surprises. I felt like I was keeping up with everyone else. I found out that high energies were actually more of a strength for me than low energies. Week 2 was a totally different experience.

Both externally and internally, it’s incredibly hard to see what’s really there. You only ever find those things that you’re looking for.

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