Last year Farha called me up one day and said, “Hey, so we’re hoping to start a gavel club in our uni and the University of Kelaniya is helping us out. We’re having our first meeting tomorrow. Would you like to come?” I had not heard of a gavel club before so I asked her what it was about, to which she replied, “Well it’s a club that helps develop public speaking and leadership skills’. I told her I have a fear of public speaking and she said, “That’s exactly why you should come.” I have great admiration for people who are able to stand in front of a crowd, be very much at ease and communicate their ideas effectively. Going for that meeting would’ve given me a platform to develop my skills but I didn’t go. I wasn’t asked to deliver a speech, I was simply asked to attend a meeting and yet I turned down that opportunity the first time it came my way. However, Farha and a few other friends eventually convinced me to go for the gavel club meetings and here I am today, a happy gavelier! It didn’t take me too long to realize that public speaking in itself was not what I feared. I was uncomfortable with the thought of being judged by people for the mistakes I would make when delivering a speech. But the more I thought along those lines, the more I felt that it was merely an excuse. I figured that the real problem was my unwillingness to step out of my comfort zone. Most of us are more comfortable being part of an audience than being IN FRONT OF one. What you may not realize is that you are never going to grow if you continue staying in the same place. All it takes is a little courage (and sometimes an extra nudge from a friend) to step out of your comfort zone. This is not to say that I have completely overcome my fear of public speaking. It’s not something that happens overnight. It takes time, all you need is the will to change. Nelson Mandela once said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” So I encourage you all to think about it what it is that you’re afraid of. We all have fears, and let me tell you this, you’re not going to overcome them in an instant. But, it won’t take forever either. It’s time to make a change. Embrace the challenges that come your way. Let your mistakes be lessons for life. And don’t think twice about stepping out of your comfort zone.