Learning from Oscar

We speakers can learn a lot from the acceptance speeches at the 2014 Academy Awards. Some of you might have read my blog last year where I railed about “The Waste of Red Carpet.”

This year, I didn't watch the red carpet -- but was horrified by most of the acceptance speeches. Many winners rambled through incomprehensible lists of names, wasted time complaining about how little time they had, and then ended by “winging it” A.D.D. style until an increasingly loud orchestra played them off the stage.

The result? Lots of uninspiring, boring, and meaningless speeches, where people wasted what for many was a once in a lifetime moment -- in front of millions of viewers.

But, there were some standouts. The most memorable speeches had a story -- and a message. (And yes, you can do all of that in just 90 seconds.)

Oscar winning actors Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o both gave brilliant speeches. Leto quickly thanked people, told a “mess-to-success” story, and ended with a powerful message. For those of you speakers who think you need a lot of time to tell an emotional story - check out what he had to say:

In 1971, Bossier City, Louisiana, there was a teenage girl who was pregnant with her second child. She was a high school dropout and a single mom, but somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and her children. She encouraged her kids to be creative, to work hard and to do something special. That girl is my mother -- and she’s here tonight. And I just want to say, I love you, Mom. Thank you for teaching me to dream.”

He ended with a global message to the millions watching worldwide:

"This is for the 36 million people who have lost their battle to AIDS. And to those of you out there who have felt injustice for who you are, for who you love: tonight I stand in front of the world with you, and for you."

90 seconds of beautiful motivation.

My second favorite speech was Lupita Nyong'o, as she eloquently reminded us how success is often paired with adversity:

It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you're from, your dreams are valid.”

In trying to find the message of your life, some of you reading this might have gotten the “mess” part of your life story, but are still wondering when - or if -- the “success” part will ever come.

But, you don't have to win an Oscar to be successful. The greatest successes often exist in how you’ve transformed another person's life, in even a small way - and in having the wisdom to see what’s really important: the impact we have on the lives of those around us.

The first exercise I do in my book, “The Message of You,” is to have you write your own eulogy -- because that's where people will tell the story of how you’ve changed their lives for the better.

If you try that exercise, and find yourself coming up short - here’s something you can change right now:

Choose an organization that you feel makes a direct contribution to helping others. Then, set aside some time to volunteer. (Mailing a check does NOT count as volunteering; it’s more likely you’re just looking for a tax deduction than really making a personal change.)

Chances are you’ll find that you whatever you choose, you’ll not only be helping others, but healing yourself - because your choice will likely reflect where you may have needed help in the past, and found a way to solve some troubling problems of your own.

The understanding you gain in realizing the solutions you already hold --- and how to share those with others -- is often the key to transform your own mess into a success.

But don’t take too long to get started. You have more than the 90 seconds that an Oscar winner has to share their message... but you don’t have forever. If you don’t have it already, start with my book here.

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Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.