Today I gave my first speech at Toastmasters. You can watch it here:
Here’s the script I wrote for it:
The glove, the glasses, and the hammer
“As you can see, clearly this glove does not fit.” Such were the words of O.J. Simpson in a MADtv parody of his trial. I found it hilarious because he was holding his hand in such an unnatural position that any glove wouldn’t fit. But I also found his message to have some metaphorical significance to my life.
Mr. Toastmaster, most welcome guests, today I’ll tell you about the three phases of my life: the glove, the glasses, and the hammer.
If any of you are thinking that I am here to tell you about a felony today, too bad. The glove is a symbol for fitting in. I had a tough time with it when I was younger. I worked at Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch’s hip cousin from California. Perhaps it was a bit of a status symbol to work there, but other employees would ask me all kinds of inappropriate personal questions. It’s fair to say I was frequently uncomfortable.
This is just one of many paradoxes I faced. I liked playing sports, but I resented being competitive. I liked writing, but English was my weakest subject.
Until one day. Getting a “100” on an essay I wrote about the book Siddhartha inspired me to read anything I could get my hands on. I read 62 books that summer. This was 2005.
Two years later and two years into college, I met the crazy uncle – and he could write. This was at a small pro bono law firm in D.C. They said, “Our company is like the crazy uncle at the family pool party. He’s had a few drinks, wears a shirt in the swimming pool, and right now he is bouncing on the diving board, ready to splash others with his cannonball jump.” You may think this is funny. Personally, I found it to be very effective.
This group was creative, out of the box, and successful. They won several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, despite having been around for only a few decades. They were all awesome writers. The glove started to fit. I played on the softball team, started running 10Ks, hung out with my colleagues, my college friends, and a lot of new people I had met through all of them. I was a busy bee and happy as ever.
Enter college graduation. It’s 2009. I can’t find a job, but then again, who wants to hire a guy who identifies with a lunatic at a pool party? One Wall Street trader was interested in hiring me. He had a great family, closed a lot of deals, and never lost his cool. He seemed to be a Renaissance Man.
Or so I thought. Leaving work one Thursday night, I said to him in the elevator that my sister should visit the office. He nodded, and said, “I would love to meet her.” The next morning I step into his office, and he asks me if I have a minute. “Yes,” I say. “Brad, I don’t want you to work here anymore. Your computer is unplugged, sign this form, and do you have any questions?”
Ouch. I left the office immediately. I made a lot of phone calls, and started to plan my life so that this would never happen again.
I needed to do two things: be better at reading people and build a bigger network. I started to wear glasses, because my vision was questionable: I could read the blackboard in front of the classroom, but not from the last row. But I’m not talking about the classroom. I’m talking about the boardroom, where I needed to read every detail and every facial expression of those around me. I started to wear these glasses, and for the past three years I have not once forgotten to bring them to work (knock on wood).
When you’re 23, unemployed, and living at home with your parents, swinging a hammer on your spare time feels good. Sure, I was talking to recruiters every day, but I wanted to do more than get a job. I wanted to leave an impact.
I found a job quickly, and worked very hard for the next year. By the end of that year, I had saved up enough money to purchase an apartment in NYC. I had done a ROI analysis and found that, if all goes well, I could get a 20% annual return on my investment.
There was a beat up studio in Midtown in the market, and I closed the deal on it two weeks after it was listed. I laid down tile, painted the walls, and installed cabinets and new appliances.
I showed my broker pictures. She loved it and suggested this apartment be featured it a news story. Three months later, the New York Times reached out to me, and it was.
Today, I told you about the glove, the glasses and the hammer. These devices have helped me discover who I am: I learned how to get the glove to fit, how to see things clearly, and how to get things done. What has helped you discover who you are?