Your Speech Coach Says, “We. Don’t. Quit.”

Ever notice you barrel through, or stumble through, the meat of an assignment, but then, when it comes to putting on the finishing touches – BAM! Life gets in the way. To achieve most things in life, even small ones, but especially big ones, you have to have commitment and discipline. Commitment is the will to see your objective realistically and dedicate your time and energy to it. Discipline is the act of carrying this out over time. It means finishing what you started. And you cannot quit.

My mother drove home this lesson to me in high school. It was the Illinois High School State Speech Tournament. It was my senior year and my school, Richwoods Community High School of Peoria, was in the finals at the University of Illinois campus. I was in the middle of my Comedy Reading event in a very hot, packed classroom, when I went blank. The silence scared me and I felt faint. I stumbled towards the door of the classroom, opened it, and felt a whoosh of cool air. My mother was right behind me.

She said, “Miriam (my ‘serious’ name), get back in there and finish!”

“No, Mom. I can’t,” I whined, “I’m too embarrassed.”

Mom said, “We. Don’t. Quit. Get back in there right now and finish.” I flashed her a look; she was being rough on me, but the roughness was necessary. And she recited the last line of the routine I had uttered. I went back in, fought through the waves of pity I felt from the audience, and made them laugh once more. The judges didn’t know what to do with me. I had placed First in Regionals. But there is a category called “Poise,” and they had to mark me down for that. They gave me fifth place which counted for one point for my team. That year, my school won its first State Championship by – wait for it — one point. Really. If I had quit, I would not have been awarded that one point, and we would not have won. That’s how important it was for me not to quit.

In my book, I tell this story in the context of sports. Professional football players come with commitment and discipline and no quitting already installed in their systems. They would have never been able to get into the NFL without these characteristics. No one makes it into professional sports without them.

And in the world of business, the ones who succeed usually have the same kind of commitment and discipline as their athletic counterparts. In fact, you will often find that these business leaders are also big sports fans, as well as being very competitive athletes in their own right. These principles are that universal. Success in the boardroom often walks hand-in-hand with success on the field.

So when “life” gets in the way, thank life for sharing and trying to distract you, and channel my mother, whom I honor this Mother’s Day as I do every day. Use your serious name, and say to yourself, “We. Don’t. Quit.”

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