Do you remember the last time it dawned on you that you had to make a touch choice? Do you remember the slow-motion, gradual appearance and processing of the information as you realized how it would effect you? Do you too wish you had a Steve Jobs “reality distortion field” gun dangling in your back pocket for just such an occasion?
Today I competed in the Toastmasters District 38 Division B International Speech competition giving my speech Lessons in Life from a Journey through the Ring. My goal has been to grow my communication skills through practicing for this competition and deliver a performance that’s reflects well on my coach and Toastmasters club. I believe that mission was accomplished. My speech started a year ago as a pure reading of text from a podium. There were no gestures, little vocal variety, and no movement. I gave the speech again at our Club Contest earlier this year and then again at the Area Competition. You can review what I wrote about the speech after the Area Competition and watch the video of the speech here.
The District competition featured my best performance yet. Alex Lawes and I continued to tweak the speech and it’s become a lot tighter in the last few weeks. I did not necessarily expect to win today, since I was told I’d be competing against Toastmasters who’d been giving speeches for many years. I believe one of my competitors had close to fifteen years experience and ran for governor at one point. Despite that, I prepared myself mentally to win by doing visualization exercises just like I’d do for a kickboxing fight. I practiced often this week in addition to the last three weeks of adjusting the speech with Alex.
To my surprise, I won!
That’s great, but it also has it drawbacks. Here’s some background information. The International Speech Competition starts at the Club level, progresses to the Area level and then the Division level. The next level for me would be the District level. The winner of that moves on to the International Speech Competition Semifinals. If you win the Semifinals, you compete in the World Speaking Championship. That means I’m two wins away from the World Speaking Championship. Admittedly, I don’t think I have much of a shot of winning the next two rounds, but anything is possible. I’ve put a lot of time, energy, and emotion into developing and delivering this speech and it saddens me that I likely won’t get to deliver it again.
When they told me when the District Competition is, I processed the information in slow motion.
(This is my mind screaming non-verbally in front of the Toastmasters official who told me the date.) I’M ON VACATION IN SAN FRANCISCO MAY 18TH!
My vacation has been booked for months – flights, hotels, car. We’re going to San Francisco first and planning to hit some Anthony Bourdain stops from No Reservations, see the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, and a SF Giants game. After that we head to Yosemite for a couple days, which I’m really excited to see. I’m an excited kid from unique bits of nature and animals that I don’t get to see everyday. From there we’ll travel down the Pacific Coast Highway in our rented Jeep to Carmel and check out Big Sur. We end the trip in San Diego with my sister Tara, her husband Andrew, and our newest addition to the family, their son, my nephew Ryan. It’s going to be an action-packed, fun ten days and my wife and I are very much looking forward to it.
(Is there any way to postpone the trip and not pay a big penalty?) Again, that’s my mind talking silently. I don’t think there is and as much as I want to compete, as much as I want to continue to grow through this speech, and give it one more go, I choose fun and family first on this one.
This is my reality. My wife and I typically work, coach, or go to school from 7 am – 10 pm during the week and keep busy on the weekends with school, coaching, some occasional work, and the many little things that need to be done in life. I know there are folks out there that work harder or have a tougher life, so I’m not complaining. I choose the life I want to live, but I do believe in taking breaks and recharging and I think we’ve earned that.
I am sad to see this speech fall by the wayside. I am forlorn that I will not take it as far as it can go. I feel like it’s the plastic bag in American Beauty dancing among the leaves against a brick backdrop. Today it rose one last time and now it has fallen to its final resting place on the side of the road.