2022 has been like no other year for me. I know ... the calendar says we're only at the end of February, but in every other measure for me, it feels otherwise. Like you, I had hopes and expectations as we crossed over on January 1st. I can assure you that none of these hopes and expectations involved my dear hero of a father passing away suddenly, one week later, on January 8th.
You are reading this post because I help people communicate more clearly. I do this work, in large part, because of the way my father, Michael Fraser, lived his life.
Before I share with you one story about him that makes my path here to you clear, I have a question.
Why do you do what you do for a living?
Take a moment to deeply consider the answer. If by the end of this post you are moved to share your answer, please do so, you have my email address.
My father was not a trained public speaker.
He did not do it for a living.( this is what he did )
Although he often spoke publicly,
about matters that mattered.
To people he wanted to inspire to act.
At mountaintop moments,
and quiet family gatherings alike.
He understood the power to move people,
was powerful indeed.
And the irrational fear of public speaking,
kept way too many bright lights from shining.
And what the world needs more of,
is people better equipped,
to connect with an audience,
and lead the way.
In memory of him, starting this year,
In the name of MY FATHER,
I will honour his legacy each year.
By coaching and developing a special someone,
to become the communicator they dream of being.
At no charge.
Telling me why,
you or someone you know,
is the one, who should be awarded,
the next Michael Fraser Speaker Gift.
Here's the story I referred to at the top of this post. I delivered it as a speech back in 2010 at Toastmasters in Barcelona. Enjoy!
Once upon a time, back in the 90's, there was a very busy executive who accepted the task of delivering the keynote address to the graduating class of a rural high school in Jamaica. He knew it would be hard to find the time because it would take hours out of his schedule, but he agreed anyway. On the appointed day, he was running just a little behind schedule. He jumped into his SUV, braved the torrential rains, terrible driving conditions and arrived after a few hours in the heart of the country.
He parked his car in a muddy parking lot, and before leaving his vehicle he straightened his tie and grabbed hold of his notes for the speech. Through his rain-splattered windscreen, he could see a large crowd watching him under the eaves of the school house. They had been waiting for him. He felt an unfamiliar stirring in the pit of his stomach. He quickly began to make his way across the ¨parking lot¨, when suddenly he lost his footing. He tried his best to balance, arms flailing....but his fall was inevitable...and the mud was deep. Down he went, face first, right in front of his audience. There were gasps, then silence. This wasn´t what they had expected. This was their big day after all! This big man from the big city had fast become a big disappointment. Covered in mud, yet somehow undeterred, the man rose from the mud and crossed the parking lot. He flashed them his trademark smile and reassured them with Jamaica´s most ubiquitous of phrases. ¨No problem, man. I only need a tissue to wipe my glasses.¨ Someone from the crowd obliged and then the unimpressed mass moved slowly towards the auditorium with the man trailing muddily behind. During his introduction, he scanned the crowd and saw skepticism written across many faces. In that moment, he changed his plan. He strode up to the podium, in his ruined suit, tore his prepared speech in half and tossed it to the floor in dramatic fashion, then freed the microphone from its’ cradle. He told them that his speech was suddenly irrelevant....and that he was glad that he had fallen down in the mud. Since it demonstrated better than any words could, what life was all about. He told them that sometimes, life would be messy, and knock them around. He told them that they needed to get up and fight back in order to thrive in our challenging and ever-changing world.
The crowd cheered him on, showed their appreciation and when he finally concluded his speech, their standing ovation became something more. They went to the podium, hoisted him up in the air and carried him all the way triumphantly to his car. There were tears and smiles, and on that day, a story was created that unified every one of them in that rural school auditorium. As the man drove off, he glanced in his rear view mirror and saw a throng of people dancing in their best shoes, in the mud, and he smiled.
That man is my father, Michael Fraser.
If you're interested in knowing more about him, watch our family, including me, pay tribute to him here.