There is an old story often told about a Farmer and a preacher standing side by side, admiring the bounty the farmer’s farm had produced. Then, suddenly, the preacher turned and said to the farmer – what a beautiful farm you and the Lord have here. With a smile, the farmer replied, my skills only helped, but you should have seen it when the Lord had it all to himself.
There are many lessons I immediately gleaned from that story when I first heard it. And I am sure you, too, may have some also. However, my primary takeaway from that moment was that the farmer, in his wisdom, was referring to those of us who only see the finished product, not the humble beginnings and the hard work it takes to produce that bounty. Perhaps the farmer was also suggesting that his skills are his blessings, but it takes hard work for anyone to be successful at whatever they choose to do in life.
Many years ago, my first speaking coach, Darren, Stage Time – Stage Time, asked me if I had the choice to be mentored by a Harvard MBA or a farmer, who would I choose?
Remembering that old story about success, and the many challenges I would face, I chose the MBA, while Darren chose the farmer. Initially, I was surprised. But with time and Darren’s coaching, I realized why he chose the farmer. Although I felt that some farmers and preachers have one thing in common – fertilizer – if I am to be kind, it didn’t take long to realize why Darren selected the farmer. Quickly I realized that farming and speaking have much more in common than I had ever imagined.
Let’s take a moment to examine the work ethics public speakers and farmers must possess. Immediately, I am sure you will recognize their similarities that far exceed their differences. The farmer and the public speaker know the importance of being prepared. They both are mindful of the importance of employing best practices. They know that the bounty they produce is not for themselves but for their audiences and customers.
Farmers and speakers know that they supply the market with what it needs for them to be successful. Both know they must bring their best products to the market. They also know the importance of rotation. While the farmer rotates their crops to produce bigger and better products, speakers must also rotate the types of speeches they deliver based on the time of the year and other factors, just like the farmer does. Before the farmer plants their first seed, they must know if the time is right, if the soil is ready, and if they are well prepared for the season.
One of the mistakes some speakers make is believing they must always bring a new speech whenever they face an audience. I think that’s like telling the farmer they must have a new product each time they go to market. We all know that is just not practical. So why should that be a reasonable expectation for a speaker? Both the speaker and the farmer require different skills. However, their objectives are the same. Excellence! Excellence demands that you don’t always have to be the best. However, you must always do your best.
Excellence is being better today than you were yesterday! And the day before that yesterday.
Time has shown me that we can improve and keep improving when we approach our past performances with new vigor and drive. The repeated performance of a task helps us to keep improving. Therefore, I highly recommend my Good-Better-Best approach for my preparation and practice of public speaking. Good, Better, Best, only let your good speeches rest once your good becomes your better and your better becomes your best. So, whenever you deliver one of your older speeches, deliver it not from memory but from where you are sitting or standing. And deliver it as if you are giving it for the very first time.
The gift of speech is one of our most remarkable skills. It is a gift we must never take for granted. Unfortunately, many are not that lucky. Our bounty as speakers is the spoken word. It is a bounty we must never misuse or abuse. Language, in all its beauty, is our gift to all humankind. Whenever you dedicate your life to serving others, just as the farmer does daily, you will one day say to the preachers admiring your bounty that it took some blessings and skill. However, you should have heard me when I did my first icebreaker.
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