The Carpenter

You may have read this story before, but I adapted it into a speech at Toastmasters.

Once upon a time there was an elderly carpenter who was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.

Ah yes, a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his labours.  The carpenter knew that he would miss the paycheck, but he felt that he needed to retire and he had determined that they could get by.  The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. Reluctantly, the carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was really not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work the builder came to inspect the house.  After walking through the house the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you for your years of service.”

What a shock! What a shame!

If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.  Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.  What a tragic way to end his working life.

Perhaps you have heard this story before.  Perhaps it is new to you.  I don’t know where it came from originally, I was unable to find the author, but I spent some time thinking about how this story relates to me and my life in general, and in particular to Toastmasters.

I realized that I have been guilty of giving less than my best at times.

Have you ever shortchanged yourself and your audience when you give a speech?  Have you ever given less than your best when speaking?

I realized that when I don’t spend time thinking about my speeches, writing them down and rehearsing them, but just do them at the last minute, I am cheating myself and the people who are listening to me.  If I think of this in building terms, I am perhaps using a shim, instead of measuring to make sure that the board fits securely or I am filling in with caulking, instead of making sure the window was the right size.

I also realized that by not writing down my speech, and checking to make sure that my timing is accurate, perhaps I am robbing someone else of the time they need for their project.

By not writing down my speech, I can’t see if it fits properly into an opening, body and conclusion, or that I have crafted a speech that has a message that can be heard and understood by all who listen to it.

In other words, by not writing down my speech, I can’t tell if I am “painting” the room properly, or if the colour is right for the room, or if I need more “base coat”.  Maybe I have placed the doors too close together and they will hit each other when opened.

It’s only when things are written down that my plan truly comes together.

Builders may have pictures in their head of what a house will look like, and they may have sketched things out on a napkin or scrap of paper, but unless they create a blueprint, they are liable to have electrical plugs in the ceiling instead of in the baseboards, or wires that are not where they need them to be.  They might have to break down some of the walls they built to put things back in place.

The same can happen to my speeches if I haven’t planned them out.  I may find that I missed an important point and have to scramble to fit it in.  If I don’t practice the timing, I may run over or under time.

Our Toastmasters’ manual outlines what is to go into each project – this is the blueprint.  The materials used to build the project come from our life experience, the books we read, the shows we watch, and the conversations we have with others.  For each project we are given objectives and time frames.

I realized that I need to look at my plan, prepare my blueprint, and then work on building my project to the best of my ability, so that I can then retire to my seat, knowing that I put forth my best effort.

When I initially rehearsed this speech, it was much too short.  I had to think about what more needed to go into it.  I thought about how the opening of the speech was like the front door of a house – opening to welcome the guests inside.  The body, like the living room where the guests are invited to sit down and get comfortable for a while.  The conclusion like walking the guests to the door and thanking them for the visit while briefly revisiting some of the topics of their discussion.

So as I draw my speech to a conclusion and walk you to the door, I would like to briefly review the topics I discussed this evening as I compared writing a speech to building a house.

One.  It is important to have a plan (i.e. the manual) and to study it to make sure that we have all the components we need to build our project properly.

Two.  We need to make sure the walls are sturdy and not shored up with shoddy materials, i.e. that we have good solid information.

Three.  We need to have doors that open and close and a comfy place for friends and neighbours to visit – our opening, body and conclusion.

Four.  We need to make sure that we complete our project on time.

You are in charge of building your speeches and your life.  I encourage you to use the best materials you can find so that you will not be ashamed or sorry for the life you have built when you are handed the keys.

BANABU – Building A New And Better Universe

Fran Watson

About Fran Watson

Work from home Career Counsellor helping people with resumes, cover letters and interview tips. Recently published an e-book on Resumes and Cover Letters That Work (www.franwatson.ca). Member of Toastmasters and life-long learner.
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