“If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would tell them three things; It’s okay to be different, use fear as a compass that will tell you where you need to go in life, and once you find that thing that scares you, do it.” Joze Piranian’s story is one that is unique yet so inspirational. Joze was born in Lebanon with a severe stutter. He avoided speaking to people entirely out of the fear of being judged for being different. We all know how we felt when we were a teenager, wanting to fit in with everyone else. In Joze’s case, him trying to fit in at all costs, even though he was audibly different, led him to a major insecurity and a fear that held him back. However, he was able to break through this fear through exercises and self-work which led him to some impressive moments in his life. “I went from a space of avoidance controlled by fear to delivering a Ted Talk and winning inspirational speaker of the year.”
Joze’s journey to confidence was one that didn’t fit the norm. “There’s this common or conventional wisdom that states that for a journey of transformation, it all boils down to one tipping point where everything changes” he says, “I have not found that to be the case.”
For him, it was this grueling journey of repeatedly exposing himself to the most uncomfortable situations until he gradually was able to rewire himself to how he reacted to fear. One of the things he did was go to the mall once a week (pre-pandemic) and talk to 100 complete strangers, either asking them for directions or telling them he has a stutter and wanted to speak to as many people as possible. “The exercise was draining, uncomfortable, and it exposed my vulnerability” Joze explains, “it was through this systematic and consistent exposure that my fears started to change.” Although he explains the situation was being uncomfortable and feared of being judged, Joze managed to break through this uncomfortable feeling, which led him to become a stand-up comedian and a professional speaker. Even though Joze still experiences fear before every speaking engagement, the perception has changed, “the relationship with that fear has morphed into a collaborative relationship with the fear rather than a confrontational one.”
Speaker Slam was one of Joze’s first milestones on his journey. He got there after his talk had gone viral on Goalcast with over 3 million views across Instagram and Facebook. He had gone to Toastmasters for many years, as a way to face the fear of public speaking. Prior to this, he would try to exempt himself from all public speaking presentations during his time at McGill University. “I literally scheduled appointments or meetings during office hours with all my professors to get them to exempt me to present, and ask for additional homework instead,” Joze says. He explains his experience on Toastmasters as a “punch in the face in terms of having to face something pretty monumental at the time” but noticed he was progressing in conquering that fear each time he went.
One of his first major breakthroughs was when he performed stand-up comedy. It was at this point where Joze started to become comfortable with himself; “it allowed me to openly joke about having a stutter which was extremely liberating and allowed me to own myself instead of hiding and avoiding people.” A few months after this, when Joze competed at Speaker Slam, he won because of the speaking aspect which got picked up by broadcasters and viewed by three million people. Joze explains his experience at Speaker Slam as absolutely terrifying, but that didn’t stop him from performing. Although winning took the cake for Joze, the cherry on top for him was being validated by the industry and the judges. From then on, Joze went on to do a speech at TedX and explained these moments as “one fear defying action at a time.”
If there is one takeaway from Joze’s story is to not let fear get in the way, and instead tackle it in a way where the relationship becomes symbiotic. When asked what advice he would give to someone with a paralyzing fear, Joze answers the quote that he uses often, and is one that has become a relevant philosophy for himself being “the only way out is through.”
“Quite often we try to avoid that pinpoint that we know can easily ambush us if we are put in that uncomfortable spot in life” he says. “I found that ironically and counterintuitively the only way out of the fear that holds us back is to jump on that trampoline and jump towards it.” For Joze, there comes a point where the more you manage the fear and take action, the more you start to understand that fear and action can coexist. “When fear controls you, life becomes bitter. When you control fear, life becomes sweeter,” and for Joze that couldn’t be more true.
Written by Sandhya Patel
Turn Your Adversity Into Your Drive
This inspiring speech will change the way you face your struggles. Joze Piranian faces his own fear to teach us a valuable lesson.