About 5 years ago, I set a goal to become a World Champion of Public Speaking.
It is an audacious ambition, and honestly I had no idea at the time the amount of work required to stand shoulder to shoulder with the worlds best speakers.
During the years that have passed, I have strived towards my goal, learned and grown a lot.
In 2014 and 2015 I was fortunate to reach the semi-final round and place both years in the Top 30 speakers worldwide. Last year in 2016, I took a break and focussed on my TEDx talk and my keynote speeches. I was also fortunate to watch some friends place in the top positions in the contest.
In 2017, I re-entered the contest and am fortunate once again to have made it back to the semi-final round. This in itself is no small feat, and one that I am incredibly proud of. This year, more than the previous years, I have experienced a lot of internal growth as a person, alongside my skills as a speaker.
Upon reflection, I can encapsulate my lessons and mindset this year in three words: humble, prepared and grateful.
Entering any form of contest will teach you one important thing: you aren’t as good as you think. Your ego and those closest to you will coddle you into believing that you have what it takes to careen straight to your goal.
The fact is that there are thousands of other people who think and feel the same way about themselves. They work just as hard and many have been at it longer than you. Often this means that you lose, or have a near miss to your goal.
In 2014 and 2015 I was certainly humbled by the fact I placed third in my semi-finals. As a competitive person, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
Yet, it somehow made me better. It brought a reality to goal. Like bright sunlight bursting into a darkened room, it hurt to look at, but let me see what was really going on.
I could see now how the contest process worked, and that you can’t expect to win every time. The reality is that competing will bring you frustration, pain, and if you are willing to keep trying, humility.
I truly believe I will someday earn the title of World Champion of Public Speaking. It is a life goal that I know will become reality. It is already a part of my identity, and I am waiting for the reality to catch up. When the time is right, my work will pay off, and I will achieve my goal.
But until then, I remain humble and acutely aware that I have to keep getting back up and trying again. Humility is a form of silent strength. It is only visible to those who have it, and I believe it can be a secret weapon if you trust in it.
To win the International Speech Contest requires six consecutive first place wins, competing with some incredible speakers. I do not for a second take for granted the enormity of the challenge, or skill of the speakers I am competing with.
To even think I have a shot at the title of World Champion of Public Speaking requires an incredible amount of focus, discipline and sacrifice.
This year, I have worked harder than ever to make myself feel prepared. I have written and rewritten my speeches, I have worked with a World Champion coach and I have done countless hours of practice and speech drilling. I have obsessed over the details and visualized the success. I have poured my soul into it.
For some reason this year, I have had a mentality similar to a professional fighter. Every practice, every time in front of a crowd, every coaching session has made stronger. The components have now come together and I feel like the work has been done.
Just like a fighter, the true work of a speaker is done well before you ever step onto the stage.
My contest preparation this year has been grueling. Through this 7 month journey, I have cursed myself at times for doing as much work as I have. There is a borderline insanity that comes along with total focus. Yet, through my preparation, I feel an inner calm and confidence that I’ve not experienced before.
Before this years contest, I was completely focused on doing this myself.
I saw myself as a singular person climbing a ladder and making it on my own. While it’s true that it might be me up on the stage delivering the speeches, the truth is there is a crowd of people behind me, supporting my growth and success.
My family. My friends. My coach. My home club. My district. Everyone is channeling their focus and belief into me achieving my goal this year.
I am slightly ashamed to say I never really noticed their support before this year. I think the nature of any ambitious person is that ‘if it is to be it’s up to me’.
But the truth is, you can’t make it on your own.
Before you can rise to a new level of success, the world and the people around you must change too. They must see you as worthy of the success and believe you can do it.
When other people started to tell me I would win, that I was a great speaker, and that I was making an impact, I knew that something had shifted.
Suddenly, there was an overwhelming sense of gratitude inside me.
For the first time I was truly grateful for their support. The gift of their belief in me lifted me to a higher level.
I truly believe that those who are the most grateful attract the highest levels of success. It is like a magnet and makes other people want you to succeed. When others want you to succeed just as much as you desire it, then something shifts.
Gratitude is the very core of my focus this year. I am humbled by the reality in front of me, I am confident in my preparation, but most of all I am incredibly grateful for the support and belief other people have given me.
These three lessons are the most valuable part of my journey this year. I have evolved both as a speaker and as a person. As my hero and mentor Dananjaya Hettiarachchi once told me “to become a better speaker, you must first become a better person”.
I believe that this year, while pursuing my goal, that this has been the reward.
I am humbled.
I am prepared.
I am grateful.