I enjoy speaking and continue to work at improving my craft. Someone once called me a Wednesday speaker. When I asked him to explain, he said, "I still remember on Wednesday what you said on Sunday." I considered that a high compliment. Last year, I ran into two women who recognized me. They both told me that they had just been thinking about a message they heard me deliver. To the best of my calculations, they had heard those messages eight years earlier!
Most people don't know, however, that I learned to speak by not speaking. If you don't think that's possible, it is true. To understand how I did it, you will have to read on.
I was an associate pastor in Alabama for eleven years from 1978-1989. While I had many chances to lead a small home group, I only got two chances in those eleven years to speak before the entire church. The second time I spoke was the last Sunday I was there before I left for Orlando. So it's an accurate statement that I averaged one talk every eleven years. That's a lot of preparation time between messages, don't you think?
So what did I do for those 600 Sundays, plus conferences and special meetings, when I watched and listened to so many speakers? I got ready to speak, that's what I did!
I knew that one day I would address large audiences, even though I was far from doing that during those eleven years. So first, I would dream of and visualize myself speaking before people. I often tell audiences that I saw them before I ever came to be with them. Second, I studied the speakers I witnessed. I watched what worked and what didn't. I decided what kind of speaker I would be before I ever got a chance to speak, just by watching and learning. I think the most difficult thing was to watch ineffective speakers when I knew in my heart that I could do a better job.
Third, I prepared things to say, even though I had no invitations or speaking engagements. I wrote my Life is a Gold Mine seminar in 1985, well before I ever had an invitation to deliver it. I prepared the slides, outlines and material. I had a few chances outside of my local church to speak, and I made the most of those opportunities, although at times I wasn't very effective.
Finally, I never gave up my dream, even though I had few opportunities to speak. I watched comediennes. listened and read great speeches of history and went to school to earn my doctorate. I did all that I knew to do. There were times that I was so discouraged when nothing happened to advance my vision that I, well, I just cried. But I never gave up.
Then I moved to Orlando in 1989 where I was pastor of a church until 1993. It was then that I also began to speak in prisons. I would speak once a week at the church, but often spoke six or seven times a week in a jail or prison. I went from no speaking to nonstop speaking. Today, I have no lack of engagements and I continue to hone my skills. My main preparation, however, was during those eleven years of non-activity.
What is the dynamic here that is important for you to grasp? I think it's found in Proverbs 22:29:
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.
I don't care what your dream is. If you spend time pursuing excellence and becoming good at what you do, you won't have to go looking for "kings." The kings will come looking for you. So don't waste any more time waiting for your breakthrough. Rather invest your time in preparing for the day when your breakthrough comes. And that preparation can begin the minute you finish reading this Monday Memo. Have a great week!
This is my last week in Zimbabwe. I have been away from home since April 21 and it's time to go!