Or How Feedback Can Set You Free

When is a winner NOT a winner?

When they get the prize but lose the lesson’s rewards.

We’ll get back to that in a moment.

I’m a Type A personality, would be even without my Sabretooth-Tiger-Mum’s impact on my upbringing. Even when battered by Life’s ocean tides, I still strive. When my Black Dog’s bigger than I am, I strive to survive. It takes all the energy I’ve got and I learn to settle for what I can get.

And then there’s now.

Now, it’s my turn.

A few months ago, mid-fog of depression, I put myself forward for the PSA Speaker Factor Midlands regional heat. It was instinctive. I’ve learnt that the best decisions of my life stem from instinct. Turns out this was another one.

I agonised over my choice of 5 minute speech. I rejected a number of options, wrote and rejected some more, and then… a lucky bit of research gave me my next instinctive decision and the speech got crafted. The speech got delivered. I won the heat. We’ll gloss over my look of total shock when they announced the result.

I asked for, and received, feedback. As is often the case, lots of it clashed with other bits. Too loud? Too flamboyant? Too emotional? Just right? Poorly crafted? Poor delivery? Poor choice of words? Excellent performance?


More agonising. I compromised by blunting the delivery and sticking with the script. I rehearsed, oh so many times. I delivered the quieter version. I got through the semi-finals. I was a finalist. The stress was now upgraded from unadulterated panic to all-enveloping blanket.

More feedback. Generic for all finalists. Harsh but fair. I saw the eventual winner in mid-conflab with one of the judges. Well, if she can do that…

I got my specific feedback. Time to decide. Stressed, I went to dinner, sat watching the Comedy Night contestants, let my brain wander. Halfway through the first half, the writing urge took over. Instinct had decided again.

This wasn’t about winning a competition anymore. This was about being the best I could be with the five minutes stage time I’d got. And with that decision, the stress disappeared.

I rewrote the first 80 seconds. That’s all. The rest was identical but the shift was such, I was told by some that it was a completely different speech.

I took the stage presence advice very seriously. When I walked towards that stage in the sort of dress you’d normally see at a formal do, every single stride oozed everything I was proud of doing, being and achieving. Again, I was told I looked as though I’d taken time out for a makeover. I didn’t change a thing about my hair, nails or makeup.

The difference, pure and simple, was that I stopped hiding. No more light under a bushel. No more mouse. No more fear. Just me.

And Holy God, it felt good.

I didn’t win. It didn’t matter. So, I don’t get the guaranteed talk at the next MEGA conference, I don’t get the place on the Marketing bootcamp, I don’t get the extra publicity.

I genuinely don’t care.

Because what I won was golden. I won the knowledge that I can be me – dry sense of humour, spontaneous use of the audience feedback, evidence-based informative me – and that I belong on that stage. I won the appreciation of some very hard-to-please speakers. I won my future.

And the impact on my life would not have been the same if I hadn’t learnt to give myself permission to excel.


Oct 12, 2016 | Own the Zone | 2 comments