The Fall District 21 Conference happens every year.
With it comes the annual Humorous Speech Competition.
How it works is you compete at different levels:
Requirements: You have to be funny. You have to organized. You have to be original. Most importantly, you have to be good.
This is how my day went down on the day of the District Competition.
5:00am, Saturday morning.
I wake up, ready. Today is the day.
Eyes slowly adjusting to the room, I glance over at my phone and it tells me it's 5:01am.
"Shit, 30 minutes early. I could have used the extra sleep."
I roll over on my back and gaze intently at the ceiling, hoping I'll be able to fall asleep, if even just for 28 more minutes. I feel like if I were Cyclops from the X-Men, the ceiling would be gone now. No, focus.
5:03am. Nope. Not going to happen.
I accept it and start running through the agenda for the day. Get to the Hilton, get sound-checked and debriefed, get back to UBC for the Acumen Case Competition educational session, grab lunch and hopefully digest all of it, get back to the Hilton, become District 21 Humorous Speech Contest Champion. "No," I correct myself out loud , "Winning isn't controllable. Success is doing my best. Success is doing my best. Success is doing my best. Focus on what you can do, and give it your damnest all."
I close my eyes slowly and try to clear my mind: I'm a winner. I always win. I deserve to win. I am the District 21 Champion. I can, I will, and I am going to shine.
5:10-5:30am. I wait, anxious.
5:30am. My alarm goes off. Drake's song "I'm ready" intrudes on the quietness of my bedroom with words that simply confirm my thoughts.
5:31-6:45am. I make my way to the Hilton.
6:45am. I enter the Crystal Ballroom and stop to take it in. It's clearly lit everywhere. Yellow club banners hang everywhere, announcing their presence. Chairs and round tables surround the simplistic grey carpet stage that is elevated above it.
It's empty except for one table. Around the table are the 9 others who have journeyed along similar paths to get here. Their attention is diverted to the contest chair, informing the contestants of the formal procedures of the day.
Everybody else is probably sleeping.
7:25. The contest chair holds out 10 cards. "Take one, each card will determine the order of contestants," instructs Margaret.
I'm the first one to reach forward, the eager keener that I am, and grab a card.
Shit. All at once, a million thoughts rush through my head that tell me I can't win.
You're going first. The first person always warms up the crowd. I'll score lower because of that. There'll be less laughter.
My thoughts start to battle themselves out.
At semifinals, John Hawkins won first place and he went first. You're thinking irrationally. You're prepared. You know your speech. It's better than ever before because you've spent two weeks revising it. Don't second-guess yourself, asshole. Everything happens for a reason. You're going first because you are number one and it was meant to be. You are a winner. You, no, I, am the District 21 Champion.
7:35am. Sound check.
Since I'm first, I get to mic-check first too. Dope. The sound technician, Joel, helps me fit my wireless mic. I think to myself, Man, this mic is sweet, I'm a baller lawl.
"You're free to go try out the stage! We'll test sound levels as you're up there" Joel's words bring me back to focusing on the speech.
I walk to the side of the stage and look at it, judging it. I rub my hands together, a smile dawns on my face, and I half jog/half club-dance up to it. YEAH! "Have you ever been told that you're not performing as well as you used to?" My first line.
Up on stage, I pause. I close my eyes and visualize. A packed room. An eager audience. The contest chair's introduction. Applause. I'm on stage, lights on me. I slowly open my eyes again and look around. Slowly exhaling, I nod to myself. This feels good.
I leave the Hilton, feeling on top of the world and unstoppable.
8:00am-12:00pm. I get to UBC and sit through the Acumen Case Competition workshop, it gets me excited about trying to win that too, together with Jerry and Cecilia.
12:30-4:00pm I crash. 7 hours of intense focus and no output has led me to feel drained. I practice anyways. Revise. Review. Rehearse. Put the finishing touches together. I work on the technicalities of pronunciation of accents. It's perfect. Here we go.
I spend the rest of my time relaxing and trying to conserve my energy.
4:30pm-4:37pm. The contest starts. I'm on stage. Delivery, timing, punch lines, everything. I am throwing it all out on the stage with 110% concentration while simultaneously letting the words flow out of my mouth. I've never done this speech better in my life.
However, I can tell throughout my speech that my jokes aren't hitting the audience like they should. The normal points of laughter don't all come through. Applause is scattered and in places that haven't come up before. I push through and finish having delivered the speech in perfectly planned chronology.
I sit down at my seat, knowing deep down that I didn't place. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
4:38-6:00pm. The 9 other contestants roll through their speeches, with mixed audience responses to each one. Some are amazing, some are dece. My respect goes to all of them.
6:15pm. They announce the winners. I'm not one of them.
So my belief comes true: I didn't place. I let it sink in with slow acceptance, nodding and smiling towards the winners, while wondering what happened. Was it not good enough? I did my best, I remind myself, and that's all that matters.
The shitty feeling of not winning/placing is still there, as much as I try to push it away. Jay, what can I control? I know what I can't control. I can not control the judges preference or the other contestants performance. I can only control my own performance.
On the way out, dozens of people slap me on the back, smile at me, shake my hand, and congratulate me. I smile back and thank them, thinking "For what? I didn't win.
Did I really do my best? I thought I did. I think I did. Did I?"
I know what they're thinking, "These competitors are the 10 funniest people in Toastmasters in British Columbia, they provided for a good afternoon of enjoyment."
I know what I'm thinking, "I'm a loser."
On my way home, I am typing this on my iPad. My attitude is down. I feel crushed. Oddly though, I don't have my speech on replay in my mind. And it's a crushed attitude with a neutral adherence to the whole event, as if it's now just a fact. The disappointment of losing ebbs, flows and disappears.
My background wallpaper has the following quote: "I have failed over and over and over again. And that is why I succeed." Michael Jordan
My thoughts are now focused on the next competition, my main target, the International Speech Contest. It's bigger. Worldwide. The average competitor is between 30-50 years old. 30,000 contestants. 1 winner.
I am turning 22 in two weeks.
It used to scare the crap out of me, the thought of trying for World Champion. This is probably because I knew I wanted to win, but wasn't sure I could.
Now? I'm smiling, because I know I can. Today taught me that passion is good, but directed, relevant passion is better. I need to target my audience more. That can be learnt.
Preparation starts now. I'm going to win the next one.
All or nothing. 2012. Game on. ;)
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.