On Friday, the 13-year-old Goldfayn twins delivered 5-minute speeches in the finals of their school’s annual speaking competition.
It’s an upper-school-wide contest where about 200 fifth-through-eighth graders write, edit, and deliver a speech on the topic of their choosing in their English class. Teachers select kids to advance to the semi-finals, where the speeches were given again, and the final 12 were selected for the final round, with the top three determined by an outside panel of judges.
Friday was the culmination of the two-month process, where the finalists delivered their speeches on stage to a full house in the large auditorium.
We were incredibly proud of both of them, for their development and delivery of two challenging and uplifting topics; their writing, editing, rehearsing, improving, and persevering. Lisa and I had tears in our eyes watching our little kiddos on the big stage: poised, confident, eloquent, mature, reflective, caring, and helpful.
Noah’s speech was on negative body image, where it comes from, and what to do about it. It’s a surprising topic for a boy, especially a young teenager, but it’s an issue he has had to deal with. The most impressive thing here to me was his vulnerability. We were all thrilled that his talk won first place in the competition! You can see his talk here.
(The YouTube links are unlisted for privacy, so they won’t come up in a search.)
But it’s Bella’s talk (the “losing” talk), and her experience, that I want to dig into. She spoke about abused women, their children, and the little-known help and resources available to them. She volunteers at a home for abused women and their kids and was surprised that neither she nor her friends knew about such places. Her talk was moving and powerful and had more than a few grown-ups in the audience in tears. Here is Bella’s speech.
The contest announces first, second and third place, and Bella’s talk was not selected. So at the same moment, we had one very happy child, who won, and one very sad child, who did not place. She had great hopes of hearing her name called, and when it wasn’t, she reacted accordingly.
As she cried, I shared with her some of my experiences:
I’ve given some excellent speeches in my life, but even in those rooms, there were audience members who did not like them, or feel a connection.
Also, countless times in my sales life, I did exactly the right things, and have not won the business.
In fact, like all salespeople who ask for business a lot, I fail far more than I succeed, even when I do everything right.
You can’t control how other people react.
And then I told her this:
If you keep doing this exceptionally high level of work, you will get your wins.
Keep swinging like this and you will get your hits.
Additionally, we talked about all the great things that happened as she worked on her talk:
- She raised awareness for resources for abused women and children to several hundred people in the audience.
- After I shared the speeches on my personal Facebook page, I got multiple messages from people in my life thanking her for bringing them hope. One friend who experienced abuse from her husband wrote: “Please thank Bella for reminding me of my why.”
- Her volunteer work with the non-profit for abused women and children brought great value to the organization and its residents.
In fact, in conjunction with her speech, Bella organized and ran a donation drive at school to create “care packages” for the moms as they moved out of the support home into their own homes. Look at everything she collected for them:
I’ve never been prouder of her.
Just keep doing good work that helps people, I told them both.
The wins will come.