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Here’s one reality of preparing a speech: there is no necessary relationship between how much effort you put into preparing for a speech and how well it turns out.

It is true that most people (in my opinion) underestimate the effort required to do a good speech, in terms of research, organization, rehearsal, and delivery. Nevertheless, it is also true that you can spend months preparing for a speech and spend joules of energy, and still have a bad speech.

Very often, we find the biggest obstacles looking back at us in the mirror.

Over the last few months, I have slowly been using up a bottle of baby shampoo that my disabled daughter shouldn’t use. Although her nurses used it a few times, we realized t has ingredients that could be a problem if it got close to her trach, but is just fine for someone without those challenges. I don’t particularly like using baby shampoo, but on the other hand I hate to throw something perfectly good away, so I’ve been using it up.

The first few months, though, I thought, “Wow, those nurses have to have strong hands to use this bottle! Or maybe my arthritis is worse than I thought. I can hardly squeeze any shampoo out of this thing!” Most days I used my regular shampoo, mainly out of preference, but partly because I didn’t want to wrestle with the baby shampoo.

“Its made for young parents, who are stronger,” I thought.

Eventually, I unscrewed the cap to try to get more shampoo out than I could squeezing it out the little pop cap that most shampoo bottles have.

I found the seal still in place. I had just assumed the nurses had removed it since they had used the bottle a couple of times. All of the shampoo that had been squeezed out of that thing for six months (about a third of the bottle) had been squeezed through a small rupture in the seal. Once I removed that, the shampoo came out of the little pop cap almost too fast, just by turning the bottle upside down.

Sure, I had been working hard. Really, I had been wasting effort.

There has been a lot said about working smart, not hard, but this is different. Speaking does take more effort than you realize. But when you feel like you’re spending a lot of time and energy without much return, take a look at yourself first. It may be that you have been your own biggest obstacle, usually by not checking out assumptions.

Photo Credit: roonb cc

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