by Darren LaCroix, WCPS, AS, CSP
Before you jump to conclusions, hear me out. It’s not what you may be thinking. Sometimes little moments from our youth, seemingly random, strike us; they stick. This was one of those moments.
One of my mom’s closest friends, Sharon, lived across the street. She was like another mother to me, and her son Derek was one of my closest friends growing up. She and her family often took me on trips with them. She was kind, smart, and an executive at a bank.
One day my mom took me to visit Sharon at her work in downtown Worcester, MA. I lived in the suburbs and barely ever went to Boston, so Worcester was the city for me. It was my first time in a big office building. The marble walls and décor were impressive to my young self. I’m cloudy on some of the details, but I think we had just come from the seeing the dentist.
My mom was trying to convince me of the importance of flossing and knew that Sharon would back her up. So mom asked her about her habits, and Sharon cheerfully replied, “I don’t floss.” You should have seen my mom’s face. I beamed thinking that I had just gotten some backup. I watched my mom try to hold back her shock and anger.
Then Sharon explained further. “Though I don’t floss, I brush my teeth carefully and thoroughly. I do each tooth one at a time. I spend at least 15 minutes a day cleaning them. I brush my teeth better than anyone else.” Oh? My beaming smile faded quickly. Crap. I still have to floss or create an amazing tooth brushing habit.
Why did that strike and stick with me? Because she had said something that no one else had said, and she changed my perspective. She taught me that you don’t have to do everything, but you should create a habit that goes deeper than the way anyone else does it. I had no idea then that that moment would help set the stage for my growth later on.
When I look back now, I can see the power of what she was saying. If Sharon had stopped at “I don’t floss,” I might have been happier in the moment, but that moment would probably have been long forgotten.
I have applied this to stage time. When my mentors told me that I needed to get up more in order to fail and grow more, I could honestly say I did not know of anyone who did more than I. Most other comedians did not know about Toastmasters. Most Toastmasters were not in four clubs and volunteering at every possible chance, as well as going to comedy clubs.
There are so many social media platforms out there, and I realize you can’t use them all really well. I’m on several, but I chose YouTube as the place to do it better than anyone else. It is why the habit of one video a day has yielded me over 3,000,000 organic views.
When I prepared for the International Speech Contest, I remember World Champion David Brooks telling me, “Let no one out-prepare you.” I took it literally. I worked morning, noon, and night on my speech. I almost got fired from my job because I was working on my speech while making calls as a telemarketer. Some days I went to two or three clubs in a day.
OK, so my day job was like flossing. It was a good company, and they paid my benefits, but my heart wasn’t in it. I did not do a good job, just well enough so they did not fire me. Not cool, but it’s the truth.
Where do you need to focus and do things better than anyone else?
What’s the lesson for me?
Pick one thing to focus on, and do it better than anyone else. Not easy, but you will accelerate your momentum and learning when you focus. When you focus on one thing and add creativity to that, boom! That is what makes you stand out.
If you are in business, you can’t market on every platform, but you can own one platform.
What do you take from this?
Are you making any of these Top 10 Speaking Mistakes?