Like millions of people around the globe, my TV consumption in the last two weeks has consisted of watching world class athletes compete at the Olympic Games in Rio. Normally I would not be caught dead watching hammer throw, team pursuit or race walking, but every four years national pride and curiosity take over and I find myself riveted by the dedication and devotion of these finely tuned athletes competing on the planet’s largest stage.
I wish I were athletically skilled. But I am not. I can barely hold my own in a game of flag football or baseball. I can fake it…but I’ll never make it.
However, I have skills in other areas such as communication. And it makes me wonder what my potential is and how far I can go by dedicating myself to growth and development daily? Who might I inspire to become better than they thought they could be? Who might I challenge to live for Someone and something greater than themselves?
It can be easy for those of us watching in a comfy chair at home with a bag of chips and can of soda at our side to dream of having a gold medal placed around our neck and the national anthem played in front of adoring fans.
But there’s so much we don’t see.
We don’t see the daily grind of getting up at 5:00am for a high intensity interval run followed by a two-hour gruelling workout with weights and plyometrics. And that’s just a warm up. They haven’t even started working on the technique for their chosen sport. We don’t see the commitment of eating clean and going to bed early when friends stay out late partying. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success says that in order to become a phenom at something there is 10,000 hours of practice needed. That’s roughly three hours EVERY day for 10 years.
In short, when we watch the Olympics we see the glory, and not the grind.
But ask any medalist, whether gold, silver or bronze, and they will insist the glory is worth the grind. Every time.
Are you willing to go through the grind to be all you can be and to shape others to be all they can be?
Here are three things I do regularly to ensure that I am developing as a communicator. 30 minutes of speaking is preceded by hours of the following:
1. Study. I read every day. I read the Bible, and I read books about theology and Christian living. I also read novels, history, and various magazine articles. I even read the back of cereal boxes. When something pops out at me I write it down and store it for later. I underline and make notes and my Kindle keeps all my highlights and notes on my own web page for later access.
2. Watch. I like to watch other communicators. I watch and listen to people like Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel and Judah Smith to understand how they formulate their messages and how they use their own unique voice and style to communicate effectively. Most importantly, each time I speak I go back and listen to my message. It is often painful, but I have grown because of it. I have wiped out some annoying ticks in my speaking. Most importantly, I have found my own voice. I love Stanley and the countless other exceptional preachers out there but I know I will be most effective when I am the best Michael Voll I can be.
3. Ask. I regularly get unfiltered feedback from other communicators that I trust and who have qualities I want to emulate and learn from in my own speaking. This can be hard to digest at times, but it has made me far more aware and successful, and has weeded out poor habits and blind spots that I would never have been able to see on my own.
I am not sure how many hours I have invested into becoming a better communicator, but this one thing I know-I have not arrived at my destination. There is always more to learn, and there is always something that can be sharpened.
My goal is to “Communicate for Change,” and if more people can experience a change for the better because of the work I put in when no one else is looking, it is worth it. That is my gold medal.
So what do you need to spend time on today? Don’t put it off any longer! The world needs you at your best!