A to Z: Control

As a speech coach and a mother of a speechie, I celebrated last night when many of my students broke finals at the subsection meet. They came up against strong competitors in all thirteen categories and collected two dozen awards. Four of them came home as First Place Champions, including my Dear Daughter and her duo partner. I am Crazy proud!

Speech is full of C’s, but the most important one is Control. It’s not the camaraderie or the competition that matters. It’s not even winning. It’s learning how to control yourself, your performance and your reactions.

My head coach and I demand that our team is a class act. They have learned to clean up after themselves and to congratulate their competitors. They are a community that prides itself on being respectful and respectable. They support each other unconditionally. Via hard work and dedication, they’re building a set of positive character traits that will carry them through every aspect of their adult lives. In short, they have learned to control their natural teenage impulses and become shining examples of the teen potential.

They are also learning that the only person they can control is themselves. They cannot dictate that others change or even which changes someone should make–personally or competitively. They cannot control a judge’s preference for humor over drama. The only thing they can control is their own performance. They either bring it or they don’t. They have no one to blame for their failures and no one to thank for their success. They alone are in charge of what they do and how they do it. In speech, we measure success based on The Best: as in, I did my best today.

However, regardless of how our speechies perform, they still have no control over the outcome. And this, my friends, is the hardest lesson to learn.

When you feel as if you’ve been gyped out of a great score or that you’re better than the competition, raw feelings stew together: anger, frustration, hopelessness, sadness. It’s human nature to feel these when things don’t go our way. And quite honestly, we cannot control how we feel. We can only control how we act despite our feelings.

Yep, you heard me. Teenage kids being judged–fairly or unfairly–and found short of their own personal expectations can still control their own actions. I see it every weekend from January through April. I see amazingly gracious losers.  I also see gracious winners.

I have never, in my twenty-five years of working with kids, seen an activity that teaches life lessons of control quite so well as speech does.

I don’t need to explicitly translate these lessons to the writing world, as they’re pretty obvious. Yet these lessons, shown by a bunch of middle school and high school kids, can make or break our reputations in the publishing arena. So take heed and control yourself.

How do you control yourself as a writer? A parent? A professional? A competitor? What tips do you have for mastering control of your emotions in tough situations?

Curious minds want to know!

P.S. Congrats to all the Subsection competitors in SW MN and good luck next week at Sections. You rock my world!



2 responses to “A to Z: Control

  1. I think the biggest reflection of this in writing comes in learning to take criticism. So many times you’ll end up giving a critique or a response, and the writer will take it personally and freak out. Even if we’ve moved past the phase where we hiss and spit over the mean person who insulted our babies, it’s still easy to get defensive and try to make excuses.

    The writers I respect the most, regardless of their mastery of the language, regardless of my opinion of their story, are the ones who calmly take what you have to say and then thank you for your input. It doesn’t matter if they choose not to use a word I said– the fact that they can accept criticism with grace really elevates them in my eyes.

    • “…the fact that they can accept criticism with grace really elevates them in my eyes.”

      Mine too! This is such a great reminder for everyone–no matter what they do in life.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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