Finish The Race
My story begins some time ago, though I am unsure of the date, it was about 1999. I want to tell this story because it demonstrates that we can overcome anything, and secondly, I'd like to record this story before I forget it. It has been 20 years!
I Want To Be A Public Speaker
Twenty years ago, I believed I could do better. Even my old school reports had written all over them, "Paul could do better."
I met a gentleman by the name of Peter Barclay, from Wolverhampton in the UK. I went to visit him in his office, and I drove from Torquay to Wolverhampton. A distance of about 190 miles.
On arriving at Peter's office, I introduced myself. Well, Paul, what can I do for you, Peter asked. I asked Peter if he could help me.
I want to be a public speaker. I would love to be able to be on a stage and give a speech to an audience, I replied rather sheepishly, having no real confidence that it was at all possible.
Wonderful, said Peter. Stand over there and tell me about yourself. What should I talk about, I asked.
What has brought you here? What is your story, Peter suggested.
I stood there, feeling very vulnerable. Sweat was starting to dampen my collar. Realising that the seconds were ticking, I began to tell my life story, starting from the 1960s, and my two brilliant years at school in Singapore.
After an eternity, about five minutes, Peter said, that's great. I think we can work with that.
A few more meetings followed, where I had a professional business photo was taken, which I still have today. My speaking practice progressed, and my confidence grew.
A couple of months later, I received a call from Peter, and straight to the point, which he often did, he stated that he was hosting a seminar at his offices in Wolverhampton next weekend, and can you do a ten-minute speech? Of course, I said, I would love to. What should I talk about, I asked. Anything you like, he answered!
Oh, crikey! I thought. Well, I didn't, but I can't write my exact thoughts!
The Long Drive North
So there I was the following Friday evening after work, driving the 2 hours to Wolverhampton.
For the first 30 minutes or so, all I could think about was, what on earth was I going to talk about to an audience of men and women in suits?
Mile after mile rolled by, and my mind started to wonder. My mind has a habit of wandering off, all by itself. Sometimes, I meet someone I know in the street, and they'll say, Hello Paul. At this moment, my mind has gone walkabout, and I'd quickly reply, Hello Mate, How are you doing, accompanied by a radiance of looking pleased to see them.
Five minutes down the road, "John!" would jump into my consciousness. Those around me would look at me, and I'd quickly realised I'd shouted his name out loud! My mind frequently wanders off, but it always returns. It just misses the moment, is all!
Anyway, back to the story, I arrived at my hotel, and I scribbled my story that formulated in my head during my drive, onto the back of an envelope, as that was all I had. I needn't have worried, that story had been on my mind for the best part of 90 minutes and I was not about to forget it. Twenty years later, it is still there!
Next morning, my ten-minute slot arrived, and Peter invited me to take to the stage.
I introduced myself and spoke of my journey and how I came to tell my story. I read from my scribbled notes, but I needn't have worried. I knew it off pat! For the next 10 minutes, I told my story to an audience of about 50 guests.
I want to tell you a story about a little boy I will call Johnny. Now Johnny was a good boy, always tried his best but was a bit clumsy, and he was ever eager to please his father.
One day, Johnny came home from school and announced to his father that he was going to run in a school cross-country race. Like all father's, Johnny's dad doted on his son. Don't worry about the race, take it steady and complete the race son. You don't need to come in first. His father advised him.
On the day of the race, all the children lined up. The starters gun went off, and away, they all ran. Johhny was desperately trying to keep up with the pack, but very quickly he started to drop further behind. He stumbled and fell to his knees. Johnny picked himself up and ran on. I know I can do this, he thought.
Several times, Johhny fell, and each time he picked himself up and continued desperately trying to catch the leaders. Johnny could hear the cheering in the distance as the racing pack were crossing the finishing line. Poor Johhny's heart started to sink. He began to think of his father.
Johnny wanted to show his father that he was good at running. Just then, he tripped again. Johnny sobbed. He slowly got to his feet. There was blood on his knees and tears in his eyes. Johnny took a deep breath and made for the line.
Across The Line
The crowd cheered. Johnny looked up and saw his father behind the line, cheering the loudest. Johnny crossed the line and fell into his father's outstretched arms.
I'm so proud of you, Johnny's father whispered. Johnny looked up at his father, and with tears in his eyes, he sobbed, but I came in last. That doesn't matter son. You finished the race!