There are three speeches I have given so far in my life that really meant something.
The first was during the eulogy to your mom’s grandmother. I wasn’t asked to speak in advance. I had nothing prepared and it was a room full of people I had never met. It was before your mom and I got married. I drove four hours to Michigan, attended the funeral service for an hour and drove back four hours to Toronto. Your mom was living in Japan at the time.
The second was when I married your mom. I am not going to say much about that speech. It is on tape. I didn’t have anything prepared. I made promises to my friend and (new) family: to be better.
The third speech was also impromptu. I had to talk to a group of people who work at our warehouse. All men. All young. High testosterone levels. I had to catch their attention so I began with small talk about the UFC.
I am a big UFC fan. I go to every event here in Toronto. I watch all pay per views live with friends and I met Anderson Silva a couple of times before he became really famous.
Anderson has one nemesis in the UFC: a wrestler called Chael Sonnen. I really hated Chael. He was disrespectful, rude and talked a lot of trash. However, that was his TV persona. I followed a reality TV show on TV where the audience was given access to him coaching other fighters.
Going back to my warehouse story. I received the call last minute to lead the meeting because someone else was running late. I had the informational portion of the meeting covered, a report summarizing the daily workload, general announcements… but when I started making small talk about the UFC I noticed people really started paying attention. I gave the following speech, giving full credit to Chael Sonnel.
“Often times on TV we see baseball players, and basketball players saying, “Failure is not an option!” How many people heard that before? (everyone raised their hands). That’s great isn’t it? I mean, if failure is not an option all you can possibly get is success. Who agrees with that? (almost everyone raised their hands).
That is really not true. In everything we do, failure is always an option. As a matter of fact, people choose to tail most of the time. A lot of people have this “minimum wage, minimum effort” mentality or they say to themselves, “I am here for my eight hours. I don’t care about work. I care about my family.”
Well, here is a newsflash for you. If you don’t do your best AT WORK, then you don’t really care about your family. I am not asking you to stay here late and miss dinner with your family. I am telling you to do your best when you are here. You need to make the connection between doing your best at work and the realization that it means doing the very best for your family.
“When you go downstairs to work, I want you to think about what really matters to you. Tell someone else WHY you are here. Let it show in your actions. Have a good day and be safe.”
After the meeting someone came to shake my hand. He said he was all pumped out to go do some work. He asked for the most difficult task. It was surprising to me because that guy was in my opinion, above and beyond, the top performer in that room.
As a leader, you are going to feel really good when you can inspire your best employees to do better. I like to think that my talk that day bothered some people. In every walk of life we see people doing the absolute minimum… they are failing and it was a choice they made.
I have more to say about Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen but I am going to save it for some other time.