Responding To My Public Speaking Failures

“If you keep playing, eventually there will be music.”

– Author Unknown

When I was 42 years old, I made it to the District 53 round of competition in the Toastmasters ( International Speech Contest.  Our district included slightly more than 100 clubs in eastern New York, Western Massachusetts, and Connecticut.  I had won three prior rounds of local competition.  However, for the district contest, I had to travel to Springfield, Massachusetts.  I had been warned that the competition would be much tougher there.  Now keep in mind that I had been in Toastmasters for less than a year – and really had no idea what I had gotten myself into at this point.  I was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable about the whole thing.

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Responding To Failure

In order to respond to failure, sometimes you have to be willing to feel failure.  Several years ago, when I was hitting practice shots on the golf range, my instructor said to me, “Neal, I want you to hit a poor shot.  I want you to top the ball so that it skims along on the ground.”  I looked at him incredulously and asked him why in the world he wanted me to hit a bad shot.  He replied, “Because you need to know what it feels like.”  He suggested that it is good to know what a bad shot feels like – so when it actually happens on the course you understand the cause and know how to correct the problem.  In other words, you are prepared to respond to the failure.  What does it feel like to slice a ball to the right?  What does it feel like to pull a duck hook to the left?  And more importantly, what caused the shot to move in that manner – and how are you going to respond to it?

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