Then There Was The Time I Accidentally Won The Biggest Trophy I Ever Earned…

This is one of my favorite speech stories.

If you don’t know, I grew up competing in the academic sport of Speech and Debate. It is much more exciting than it sounds. Get a glimpse here

📺 Why, yes that is me narrating the trailer. Well, me and Chris Pine. I guess I will give him credit. 

Speech and debate tournaments work like mini-March Madness brackets. You have preliminary rounds and based on your scores, a certain number of people advance to the final round. 

Late in my college career (go Sun Devils!), I tried my hand at Extemporaneous Speaking, mainly for practice and experience. Extemporaneous Speaking is this: you get a VERY NUANCED question about politics, and you have half an hour to prepare a 7-minute speech that includes sources. 

Our team traveled to California to compete in one of the final tournaments of the year, but this was different from your normal tournament. This tournament played by their own rules and had a “wildcard” finalist. 

It’s exactly what you think. They would take someone who did not earn a spot in the final round and put them in anyways. 

Now that I think about it, it was kind of cruel. 

I obviously wouldn’t be telling you this story if I wasn’t the wildcard finalist in Extemporaneous Speaking. 

I was more nervous than I had been for any other speech. I didn’t want to embarrass myself and be VERY CLEARLY the guy who “didn’t belong.”

There were seven competitors in the round. Five of us were from Arizona State. The four others from ASU were legit Extempers, so I knew I couldn’t beat them. The other two shmucks I needed to take down. Not just to prove I was more than a wildcard but because I would never hear the end of it in our 8-hour drive home if I didn’t. 

I put into practice the three strategies I shared in Mic Check. 

And I CRUSHED it. 

Because they were playing by their own rules, the awards presented were as follows:

7th place – nothing – “…because you probably shouldn’t be here.”

6th place – high-five – “…because what else were you expecting.”

4th place – flowers – “…because your performance is nice, but like flowers, it is quickly dead and forgotten.”

3rd place – slinky – “…because you are fun, but kind of annoying.”

2nd place – $20 – “…because all college kids need that.”

1st place – a VERY small trophy – “…because what else do you want?

Oh yea, 5th place? 

🏆A 3.5-foot trophy. Literally, the biggest trophy I ever earned…”because you were a champion for being here.”

I treasured that trophy not because it was hysterical but because it reminded me of how I can use my nerves to my advantage. 

It served as a powerful reminder that I am always more capable of doing more than I think I can. 

Keep speaking up your story,



Some argue that confidence is a choice – something that you can access in the moment. Is this true? Short answer: No. Long answer – click on the link to read below.


😱 Yesh! Last week, you told us that joy was killing our confidence. This week, you are telling us that we will never overcome our public speaking fears! I told you I was an anti-motivational speaker.