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Still Under Construction


There is a joke we tell about ourselves in this part of the world. Winter can be harsh and outdoor labor is often curtailed for the coldest months. When asked about weather, some locals like to say, “We have two seasons here…winter and road work.”


My life has been “under construction” as long as I can remember, regardless of the season. Though I realize I am a work in progress and will never be fully completed in a lifetime, I relate to the poet who set these words to paper:


“Your task is to build a better world,” said God, and I questioned, “How?

This world is such a vast place and, oh, so complicated now. 

And I am so small and useless, there is nothing I can do.”

But God in all great wisdom said, “You just build a better you.”


That was the strategy of the Greek orator Demosthenes some two thousand years ago. Speaker and author, Nido Qubein, in the book Communicate Like a Pro, tells that Demosthenes lived in the “golden age of orators,” when public disputes were settled by oration. As a young man, he was given the chance to speak to the assembly on some vital issue. But his weak voice trembled, his thoughts were muddled and he grew less confident as the speech progressed. He was finally forced to step down to the sound of boos and hisses. Humiliated, he withdrew from public life.


But the young man was not easily defeated. More than anything, Demosthenes wanted to be a great orator. So he launched his own self-improvement program. To improve his diction, he practiced for hours at a time with stones in his mouth. To strengthen his weak voice, he shouted over the heavy winds blowing in from the Aegean Sea. To clarify his presentation, he studied the techniques of the masters. And to overcome his fears, he practiced with a sharp sword hanging over his head.


An opportunity came again several years later, and this time he was ready. He stepped in front of the assembly to warn the national leaders of the great threat posed by Philip II of Macedonia. He offered concise ideas as to how they should fight this dangerous intruder. So powerful was his speech and so clear were his thoughts that, when he had finished, the entire audience rose as one person shouted, “Let us go and fight Philip!”


You may have no desire to become a great public speaker. But, if you’re like me, there will always be plenty of room for improvement in areas to which you may be more well-suited than you realize. And if you patiently develop and refine your skills, if you hang out the “Life Under Construction” sign and persistently build a better you, you will be ready when the right time comes. And you will be unstoppable.
– Steve Goodier