October 27, 2009

Act your age



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On a recent episode of "Little People, Big World," high school senior Zachary is struggling in his speech class. One problem right off the bat is his mumbling and lack of enunciation. There are some episodes of the show where they put subtitles to Zach's words because he's so hard to understand. Here's what I think he said:

"I don't particularly care for public speaking, because [it's a lot of nuisance?] and you have to be like all formal and specific. Speech class is one of the classes I do to get it over with."

This is a typical attitude about public speaking, unfortunately, and I wonder how much effort the teacher makes to thwart this idea. The episode shows Zach getting one of the lowest grades in class for his impromptu speech. He's actually upset and complains to his family about it. Twin brother Jeremy (who's also in the class) says, "How about this? Better yet, you just actually be prepared?" Zach says, "I was prepared."

We then move on to Zach's next speech, where he has to demonstrate how to make a cake. His mom goes over it with him, making a practice cake and even asks at one point if anything needs to be written down. Zach says no. Then Zach goes and hangs out with his friends and leaves the cake in the oven, forgetting to take it out, and mom comes to the rescue.

When he demonstrates the cake in class, he clearly appears not to know what he's doing, and is completely disorganized. He gets a C and later rants, "Just because I don't have a little intro on a piece of paper, she gave me a C." Apparently the teacher had been expecting a "five-point introduction," which Zach has failed to mention or prepare for.

At the end of the segment he point out that it's just a C in speech class and "Who cares?"

Now, I get that Zach is a teenager, and that he doesn't quite understand the importance of a lot of what he's learning in school. We were all there at some point, weren't we? It doesn't help if our teachers don't demonstrate the value and benefits of learning what we're learning, teaching by the "Because I said so" method.

But here's what I don't get: Why do so many adults who are in the real world, trying to succeed in their jobs and in business do the same thing?

We can make a lot of excuses for Zach, although I hope he, at some point, takes seriously the need to express himself better.

But what excuses are you making?

You know that taking more time to prepare your presentation will make it better.

You know that practicing will make your presentation better.

You know that being an expert on your topic will improve your chances for promotions and advancement.

You know that being an authority on your topic will bring you more respect and more business.

You know all these things, yet you approach your presentations the way a high school senior who doesn't care about school approaches his homework. Like it's a drag. Like it's pointless. Like "Who cares?"

You don't have parents breathing down your neck about getting into college. All you have is yourself, your dreams, your desires, your motivation, your consequences.

Keep making excuses, or take responsibility for your own success. You're a grownup now.

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