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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