HACK / MAKE

The Speech

I’ve published the speech I wrote and delivered as the best man at my brother’s wedding a couple weekends ago. I’m sharing it with you because I’m proud of it and so I could tell you a bit about the experience around it.

A great idea for a speech popped into my head months before the wedding. I was quick to get what was bouncing around up there into a text file and keep it for when I needed to go back to tie it all together. As it got closer to the wedding, I read through what I already had drafted. Most of it really sucked but the main idea was still good.

I knew I couldn’t disappoint the idea.

I started making the clackity noise—well, it’s more of a dull thud typing on the iPad—and the words that appeared on the screen ended up being pretty good. That scared me.

It scared me because most wedding speeches suck. It usually ends up being a time when Uncle Jim stands up, half in the bag, and rambles off for ten minutes about this one time he and the groom…—if you’ve ever been to a wedding, you know what I mean. The words that I had weren’t that. They were something different. OK—I didn’t know the words were good; I only had a feeling. Sometimes something is just different and I confuse that with good.

So I had something unusual on the page. And that’s what scared me.

This speech was a chance for me to create a moment and leave it with my brother and his new wife for the rest of their life. I didn’t want to be Uncle Jim. I wanted this moment to mean something. But part of me thought I was better off just scrapping what I had and doing something less unusual. My instinct—my lizard brain, if you’re not sick of that term—told me to go hide or at least just try harder to not stand out.

I managed to fight all of that off. I’m comfortable public speaking but I was nervous to deliver this to my brother and his wife with everyone else watching. I managed to get through the speech and keep emotions from overflowing. The moment I finished, I felt a small win. I had done this thing I was scared of doing and had stuck to my beliefs of doing good things, things that matter, and things that push people forward. I sat back down at the table to the nods of approval from my extended family at the table and privately enjoyed my little win.

After the dinner, as Best Man/Project Manager of the wedding day, I rushed off to go help with something. That win had its moment and passed into memory.

But something I hadn’t been expected started happening. I was waiting to use the restroom and someone I didn’t directly know from the bride’s side of the family came up to me and said something like, “Great speech. I think that was the best thing I’ve ever heard at a wedding.” I was kind of stunned and told him thanks—that I really appreciated that. It happened again later during the reception and dance. I was on my way to the dessert table, as you do, and a couple people pulled me over to their table to introduce themselves and tell me how much they enjoyed what I had delivered. Again, all gratitude from me.

You’re probably not that interested in my story or care that I felt warm and fuzzy for, like three hours. But here’s the important part—why I’m telling you this:

Sometimes being scared is an arrow pointing you and telling you of a direction you need to go. That fear is the realization that you’re about to do something that will change things for you or others and you simply cannot back out of it. Learning to recognize that sign won’t make life any easier. The truth is it’ll probably make things harder but great work isn’t easy and the more you feel this fear, the more you need to keep moving in that direction.

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