Back in March I participated in two contests. First was a storytelling contest, part of the L.A. Scripted Comedy Festival. My story about the time I inadvertently hired a hooker to show me around Prague was well-received; however, I didn’t win. First and second-place winners were chosen by audience applause. I knew when they introduced one woman that she would win. Clearly she packed that room. Her story was good and she did a god job conveying it, but it was not the best performance of the evening. As happy as I was with the job I did, I wouldn’t have given myself first place either. A woman named Stephanie, who I had never seen nor met before, killed it. Her story had humor, surprises, and sadness told through a comic prism. She should have won first place. I should have won second. 🙂
The next day I was in a Toastmasters International Speech contest. What’s an international speech? Damned if I know. The speeches were a mixed bag. Most tried to inspire. Some succeeded to varying extents; some were corny and clichéd. My speech was original, inspiring and filled with humor. Every joke hit, some harder than anticipated. When I rehearsed the speech at home, it clocked in at just over five minutes. Per contest rules, a contestant’s speech cannot go over seven minutes thirty seconds. Mine came in at seven minutes thirty-one seconds. Though anybody in attendance, including the other contestants, would tell you I did the best job, I was disqualified due that one second.
Did that make me a loser? I went over my time limit because I got plenty of laughs. I inspired people. I know I worked the stage beautifully and delivered a strong speech. I didn’t win the contest? So what. Toastmasters may think that the most important aspect of a speech is its duration and that one second over means you don’t qualify. I think what’s most important is speaking with passion, getting your audience to laugh and think, using vocal variety and body language, and giving a performance that is at once a show and yet grounded and relatable. Screw that one-second over rule. I won that contest.
Not getting first place at either contest didn’t negatively impact me. I wanted to put “First Place Winner” on my resume as a marketing tool for myself, but not having that doesn’t change anything. I’m still good at what I do.
In 1993, when Beck’s friend asked the singer to come by and record something with another friend who made hip-hop beats, Beck agreed and came up with a rap. When his friend played back the tape, Beck thought “Man, I’m the worst rapper in the world – I’m just a loser.” From there he composed a chorus for his song. “I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me.”
That song, “Loser,” became a smash for Beck, who has since recorded many acclaimed albums, culminating in a win for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards earlier in 2015.
I may have lost those contests, but my winning moment is coming. I’m a driver. I’m a winner. Things are gonna change. I can feel it.
Today Beck turns 45. Here are twenty career highlights.
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