What are you competitive at? What are you really trying to do? Is your focus on “the winning” or on being your personal best?
I just read a blog by someone who thought the World Championships of Public Speaking was a waste of everyone’s time. For me personally, the experience brought out my character. The pressure of the competition is what convinced me I needed coaching. I had no idea how badly I needed it. Many times we’re not nearly as good as we think we are. I was no exception. I thought I only needed a couple of “tweaks” — but I actually needed a complete overhaul of my speech, and my skills. I didn’t have a clue how much I didn’t know.
It doesn’t matter what you compete in, the prize doesn’t always go to the best. Sometimes it goes to the best “that day” — which is part of the point: how well “the pressure” is handled. When a competition is in a field where the judging can be subjective (rather than, say, a timed event), we sometimes leave, scratching our heads about the winner.
I love studying the best in any field. I watch Biography on a regular basis. People who are the best in their field think differently. I continue to learn… do you? I am also a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. Like or dislike, his film career has been impressive, both in front of and behind the camera.
In his world of film making, there is always the challenge of making the best film. Who determines what is best? The studios? The fans who watch it and make it popular? The Academy? What about the movies that are considered a box office bust? Are they really bad movies? Did they really fail? Have you ever loved a movie that the critics crucified? That’s a lot like a speaking competition.
How do the most successful film makers approach a new film? Are they trying to “impress” the judges? The studio? The general public? While watching Clint Eastwood’s A&E’s Biography, I heard him say…
“The worst thing you can do is to try and make a hit movie, because no one really knows what’s in that movie. So, the best thing you can do is to try and make the very best movie you can… and the rest is in the hands of fate. An awful lot of good movies have gone unrecognized, and an awful lot of bad movies have had tremendous recognition. As long as you keep that in mind, you are never really disappointed.”
Please read that again.
When I was giving on my “Ouch!” speech before the competition at an MIT Club, a student who could barely speak English came up to me and said, “Though my family has encouraged me to give up on school and go back home to my country, your speech inspired me to stay. Thank you.”
Wow. I knew I was on the right track.
I was telling my story, and it was helping the individuals in the audience. That day in 2001, I was competing against some amazing speakers… or was I? I have no control over them. The results could have been different. That would not have changed the “value” of my speech. If you are in a competition, and don’t win a trophy, please remember that.
Clint said, “The worst thing you can do is to try and make a hit movie.”
The worst thing you can do is to try and write a winning speech. My nephews still quote my speech. I wrote it for them. I just let other people eavesdrop.
“An awful lot of good movies have
gone unrecognized, and an awful lot of
bad movies have had tremendous recognition.
As long as you keep that in mind,
you are never really disappointed.”
~ Clint Eastwood
Will you remember that next time you watch a competition or compete yourself?
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking
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Excellent advice especially now that Toastmasters worldwide are gearing up for the upcoming competitions of humorous and International speeeches.
As always, thank you for your wonderful, free advice, guidance and inspiration.
Patricia Cotton, DTM
Brilliant advice. How did you know Clint was one of my true heroes? That’s because he has the philosophy that his best work is still ahead of him. And he is over 80 years old.
He gave an acceptance speech at the Oscars when he won Best Director for Million Dollar Baby. That same night Sidney Lumet, who is older, got a lifetime award. Clint referred to that, saying that he, Clint, was still just a kid compared to Lumet. That inspired me, and can inspire anyone, ‘of a certain age’ to keep working on what gives you joy.
Wow! You’ve done it again Darren! This reference has just struck a chord with me, not only in reference as a TM but with my outlook on life. It reminds me of a philosophy I had forgotten.
Don’t be discouraged when sage advice is offered to help others and they chose to ignore it. It is their loss, not ours! It was still good advice.
Right on brother!!! Just give what you have to give and give it the best you can. My third place District “Leap Of Life” speech has given me more satisfaction from people taking that leap of life message, applying in their life and then telling me it was my speech that inspired them to take the leap. Wow! It does not get any better than that.
Darren you are right! I used to be a professional theatre director. In every show there’s always a point where everyone questions your abilities, and wonders if the show is ever going to succeed. All you can do is that point is have faith in yourself and your vision, and do everything to make the show the best you can. Most of the time, things turn out all right if you do that. Even if they don’t, you can hold your head up. To paraphrase Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said that success is the feeling of peace that comes with knowing you did your best.
From Darren: “I continue to learn… do you?”
Dear Darren, I am a big fan of yours. You teach me a lot and have given me great value. I am very grateful.
Oh no, what did he really want to say?
But Darren, humbly if I may. You always in your posts make a comment and then say, “do you”, or something to that effect. Now I know you do it to get us thinking. So here’s my but: After awhile, I’m starting to feel it’s a bit patronizing.
Please don’t hate me Darren. I still want to be your friend.
Hi Darren: when I started my e-mail, it suddenly disappeared. Now I sent it again.
Your message is an excellent and new encouragement. Any speech can expand, while through practice, improvement increases.
When there is a wiligness, stepping out and overcoming fear, than the results will be rewarding. When my friends laughed at me, predcidting, I will never be able to succeed. I rejected their negative talk.
At Toastmasters, I ws welcomed and found all support I ever needed. There is nothing impossible to reach ones goals.
Within three years of Toastmasters attendance, I recently received my silver award. I’ll tell you what next. My goal is to receive my gold award. To be honest,, it’s still hard, costing me sweatr and tears. One only lears the most once it’s getting harder.
With kindly regards, from the cold in Toronto, Canada. Herbert Riemer,
I gave a speech entitled “You ARE the Gift” right before the holidays. A lady came up to me afterward and said, “I now know what to give my mom for Christmas . . . I’m flying up and staying with her for a few days!” Seeing my words implemented was my gift!
Excellent points, as always, Darren. Got me wondering where that blog post is, though. Mind sharing the URL?