Speech: Need an Adjustment? By Jeff Harman

Here I am in a speech contest. When I first heard about it, I thought to myself, “No way. Are you kidding me? I’m not good enough to enter a contest. Get up on stage and make a fool of myself? I don’t think so.” 

Yes, I had a bad attitude, and I needed a serious adjustment.

You know what happened? Then I thought, why the heck not? Sounds like fun. Never been in a contest before. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, a lot of things, but I don’t think it could kill me. I’ll give it a try.

And I realized that I had a choice.  That it wasn’t that hard to change my mind.

And I remembered when I first learned that…

Back in 1966, when I was in the 6th grade, I watched Willie Davis of the Los Angeles Dodgers play in the World Series. And in one of those games, Willie Davis made three errors….in one inning.

So naturally, after the game, Willie was surrounded by reporters shoving their mikes in his face. “Willie, how do you feel?” “You set a record for errors.” “Can you ever get past this?”

Now, Willie could have been ashamed, he could have been upset, he could have said, “GET OUT OF MY FACE!” But he made a different choice.

Willie just smiled and said, “It ain’t my life, it ain’t my wife, so…. why….. worry?

Now, we have all heard this advice before: “The greatest barrier a person has to his own success is his attitude.”

We know all that. (wink) Attitude influences everything we do: How we think, how we treat people, how we look at life.  Having an idea like, “I’ll never have enough money. Money is so hard to get.” “I won’t be able to buy a house.” With that attitude, sure enough, you’ll never have enough money. Or a more ordinary situation like, “I lost my car keys. I’ll never be able to find them. I’ll be late for work! I don’t know where they are!” Sure enough, with that attitude, you won’t know where they are.

Look, we all know the importance of attitude. You don’t have to study a hundred books to know that.

But I realized that the most important tool I had when it came to my attitude was this: My power of choice.

You know, how easy to change your mind? We do it all the time…

Every day, I choose what kind of clothes I’m going to wear. I choose what I’m going to do for lunch. I choose whether to have Original Recipe or Extra Crispy.

And you know what? I realized that every day, I choose to wear whatever attitude I want.

I used to be a CHP officer. That’s right, I used to cruise the highways looking for traffic violators. One day, I noticed a motorcyclist run a red light, so I decided to pull him over. And by this gentleman’s appearance and clothing, I deduced that he was a member of a well-known and notorious motorcycle gang.

I informed this rather large individual why I stopped him, then walked back to my patrol car to write the ticket.

This guy got off his bike and swaggered back towards me. He leaned back against my car, with that wallet chain scratching my fender, folded his arms, and began to glare at me. Now, I don’t know about you, but I just don’t like people leaning against my patrol car. (It shows a certain amount of disrespect.) So, I said, “Step away from the car.”

His non-compliance and facial expression was a clear sign that he wanted to brawl with me. Even though I was the guy with the baton and the gun!

Now it is in my job description to “use whatever force necessary to effect an arrest, I had a choice here. We either get to brawlin’ and both wind up in the hospital and he goes to jail, or I could just get the job done so we could both get on with our lives. I looked him right in the eye and said the magic word: “Please.”

You should have seen the look on his face. It was precious. He simply did not know what to do….except step away from the car.

When it comes right down to it, my attitude comes from me and me alone because it is my choice. We should get used to the idea of how much power we have. And it starts with our power of choice.

You know, I used to have the attitude that I couldn’t talk to people, especially girls. The choice I made to deal with that attitude was to take drugs, namely amphetamines, uppers. Those pills sure made me chatter a lot, but I don’t think I ever said anything worthwhile. And I still didn’t get the girl!

Fortunately, I made better choices to fix that attitude. And one of them was joining Toastmasters. And that guy with the bad attitude who didn’t want to enter a speech contest?  Well, he is no more.

And I got the girl.

Do you need an attitude adjustment? If you do, remember this: Just change your mind. It’s easier than you think.

About Jeff Harman

Jeff is a Distinguished Toastmaster and the current Sergeant-at-Arms of Renaissance Speakers.