In 1995 I began the road to competing for the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking, aka The International Speech Contest. I had to write and perform 2 speeches to get to, and 1 to compete in the Championship. It was my second speech that would accomplish that final step, and has now become my signature keynote message: “How to be UGLY.”
This ‘story of my life’ speech reminds audiences to be Unique-Gifted-Lovable-You in route to becoming better communicators.
One of the learning points during the monologue is the ability to change lives through the use of a positive vocabulary, and that ability to turn negatives into positives has become one of the reasons I’m booked to empower audiences of all ages, ethnicities and genders.
Thus I’ve created a program called ‘How to get an F in Leadership.’ As you will see, my F’s are all positive: FOCUS, FAITH, FUN, FRIENDS, FREE.
As is possible with my creative outlook on life’s connections, I changed the title while sharing with our Service Members and their families during my weekend sessions through the Department of Defense’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.
The session is called “How to Get an F in Deployment.”
It’s a combination of several things:
1) the power of words in claiming their self-esteem and worth through
2) turning negative situations into positive outcomes (aka: testimonies) with
3) a conscious look at the high calling on their lives (families included) to commit to the “A” they deserve: Attitude, Adjustments and Allowing themselves to grow.
I started out with looking at any type of deployment as similar to a newlywed couple: A young couple, just married, was in their honeymoon suite on their wedding night. As they undressed, the husband, who was a big burly man, tossed his pants to his bride and said, "Here put these on."
She put them on and the waist was twice the size of her body. "I can’;t wear your pants" she said. "That’;s right!!" said the husband, "I’;m the MAN who wears the pants in this family!"
With that she flipped him her panties and said, "Try these on."
He couldn’;t get them past his kneecaps. He said "I can’;t get into your panties."
She said, "That’;s right and that’;s the way it’;s going to be until your attitude changes!!" – internet jokester unknown (but with a new attitude)
Thus establishing that our weekend together is about Attitude & Adjustment… we move on to acknowledge that we are each dealing with a life-long self-esteem issue. And, yes, you have a self-esteem issue… though you may not have a self-esteem problem.
Michael Jordan had a self-esteem issue when his father died. Michael was used to coming onto the court, checking with dad, playing ball.
With dad gone, he came onto the court, broke his habit of checking, played ball.
Lesson: people don’t care what you’ve lost in life; they still expect you to deliver. The positive: they expect you to deliver because your track record shows that you always have… because you Allow yourself to grow….
FOCUS (Finding Ourselves Creates Unlimited Success) I remind each attendee that individual focus on themselves is the key to strengthening their families.
You cannot help anyone until you help yourself: take care of your physical and mental health; maintain your spiritual growth; understand how/why you tick as you do; recognize you as an important piece in every puzzle.
Sometimes you are the small, medium or large piece… yet no puzzle is complete without you. Focusing on ourselves does not exclude others; it embraces others as kindred spirits appreciate their connection. There are many signs that tell us to put ourselves in the #1 slot.
When traveling on commercial airlines, before takeoff the announcement comes: “If we should lose cabin pressure oxygen masks will drop down. If you are traveling with small children, put yours on first….” [I love to add,] “… 2 kids – figure out which one you like best.” Laughter is an important focus.
Are you laughing enough?
It’s easy to calm into the fact that sometimes the YOU equals the Family You-Knit…. Focus on you… and let others come into focus!
FAITH (Feeling As If There’s Hope) When our faith is strong the focus lasts long(er).
Establish a belief that the only thing you cannot do… is give up!
Believe in yourself and count the many hurdles you’ve eclipsed.
AND GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT FOR THOSE LEAPS!
You’ve overcome a lot of “Day #1’s” in your lives. For our military members and families it was Day 1 of enlisting…
Day 1 of boot camp… separating… getting mail… adjusting eating habits… becoming dual head of household… being told they were coming home.
Joyfully we shared aloud the cliché that, “… when one door closes another will open.” “Sporty-ish” we proclaimed that when one door closes… go for the windows!
There are usually more windows than doors. We are all good decision makers. We have all made at least 1 more good decision than bad. If we had not, we might not be here. And you don’t know at what age you made that great decision; it could have been when you were 3 and decided not to play in the toilet, fall in and bump your head….
Put yourself in position to make a choice. Alternatively, when I challenged the audience to finish the cliché (“… when one door closes…”) one service member shouted out, “It Locks!” We laughed it right into the fact that life is NOT a dress rehearsal. There is the likelihood that you may not get another chance at certain things. Thus your hesitation may lock you out.
The proper focus on your vision of success will have you ready for that “window of opportunity” and could make all the difference. Still, hold no spot for regret over the things that have passed. You were not who you are today, and you could not allow yourself to leap.
Every service member will not return with the same experience.
Combat trauma is individual.
Every family will not experience the same cohesion in reconnecting and reestablishing a new routine. The growth in responsibility may have adverse effects. The commitment to believing in one another, and looking inside to ask, “Whose turn is it to be compassionate” is a challenge each family must deal with. Thus it becomes important that neither party becomes engrossed with keeping score… all have served. Each deserves ups and downs. Find ways to be up, more than down; positive, more than negative; going forward, more than backward. Yet there is nothing wrong with stepping back every now and then to see how good God is, through your handiwork.
As a part of faith, I remind parents that children mature and become more resilient through a deployment. I remind service members that when you left she was Little Suzie… when you come back she may be Susan.
Appreciate how your family gets stronger because you do. And I have found that military children are the most mature kids I’ve ever met.
I share the story of the teacher who was talking to her class about mammals and stated that though the whale was the largest mammal; its throat was too small to swallow a human being.
Little Suzie/Susan (the military brat) raised her hand and stated that a whale swallowed Jonah. Exasperated that, once again, this military kid dared to challenge her, the teacher reclaimed her authority, “No. Though the whale is the largest mammal, it is physically impossible for it to swallow ANY human being.”
Little Suzie/Susan triumphantly claimed, “Well, I’ll just have to ask Jonah when he gets to Heaven.” Glaring, the teacher retorted, “And what if Jonah went to Hell?” Little Suzie/Susan returned the glare and stated, “Well, then you ask him!”
Hey, it’s not just military children. Our kids are as tough as we make them. Grow and give them room to grow. Believe in yourself as you model for them to follow suit. Children mock and mirror adults.
Being the adult they mock and mirror should relieve some of your stress… if you like seeing yourself (I mean) like what you see. Put yourself in position to make good choices!
Over the next couple of posts I’ll tell you about the other F’s. For now, I have to let you know that one of the choices I had to make was to accept that my life’s message was strong enough to have people Follow me.
I have Allowed myself the confident Attitude Adjustment to believe that when I Focus on telling the truth, I become the absolute best person to Follow. So do you. Be honest with yourself about who you are. You don’t have to know everyone you help. You have to know that you help everyone.