Crying on the Fourth of July

Crying on the Fourth of July

I remember when I was maybe four, my family was on my grandparent’s boat on the river for Pittsburgh’s Fourth of July celebration.  Once the fireworks began, I ran into the cabin crying because I think I thought they were going to hit us.  I know now that it was ridiculous but no amount of begging and pleading could persuade me to come out to watch the show.

I’ve been thinking about this event because I’m trying to write a humorous speech about the events that took place that night.  A few more events happened that night that made everyone forget about my emotional outburst. Later this week, I’ll write about events during my Speech of the Week.

When I think about crying in the cabin of that boat and ruining my Fourth of July, and probably my mother’s holiday too. I’m reminded about how this is similar to the way many us of act in our adult lives. Instead of having temper-tantrums in the cabin of our grandparent’s boat, we’re having those same arguments in our head.

How many things are we afraid to do because we build them up in our heads?

For me, I can think of two things.

  1. Writing this daily blog
  2. Speaking in public

I used to worry about what other might think.  This fear kept me from even trying to accomplish these goals.  Now, I write a blog post everyday and present a speech every week.

The area I’m focusing on now is the idea of not holding anything back. That place of freedom is where I’ll be able to produce my best work.  That’s were I want to go.

It’s not easy. It’s much easier to hold back.


There is less of a chance of looking like a fool.  If you hold back you might be boring but you probably won’t look stupid because most other people would have reacted exactly the same way.  If you do let go, then there is a chance you could embarrass yourself. There is also a chance you might surprise yourself.  Surprising yourself is probably the only way you’ll impress anyone else.

Which path would you rather choose: boring and safe, or exciting and risky?

What’s the worst that can happen?

That’s a good place to start. Answer that question then answer the next question.

Usually after you answer you’re own questions, you’ll realize that there answers don’t seem so scary.  They may seem downright sensible.

What’s your answer?

How to tell a good story

This week I’m working on my fourth project in the Toastmasters Humorously Speaking manual.  I’ve been stuck on the fourth project because it requires you to write at least two joke set consisting of two or three jokes.  Today, I went through the entire manual during my 750 words and took notes from each of the lessons.  There is some good advice that I’m going to write posts about in the coming weeks.

One of the pieces of advice was the five parts to every humorous story. Below I’ve listed the five parts of a story from the Toastmasters manual. Here is the example story from the Toastmasters manual:

A young illiterate man applied for a job as a janitor.  When the personnel manager discovered the young man couldn’t read or write, he didn’t hire him. Desperate for work, the young man borrowed some money from his uncle and started selling fruit on a busy street corner.  His business grew, and he soon owned a chain of markets and became very rich.  One day he went to the bank to deposit some money.  As he signed an “x” on the deposit slip, the bank manager said, “You have done so well with no education.  Just think what you could have done if you had gone to school!” “Oh,” replied the man, “I’d be a janitor.”

Most stories consist of these five parts:

1. Set-up

The information the listener needs to find the joke funny.  It leads the listeners down a path to an unexpected destination. The information about the young man’s job search is the set up.

2. Pause

Occurs just before you deliver the punch line to the joke.  By pausing, you create tension in the audience.  The pause also signals your audience that you are about to say something important.

3. Punch line

The phrase or sentence that creates the humor.  It’s unexpected destination at the end of the path.  The punch line is a surprise twist and the payoff to the entire story.  It’s what makes people laugh.  In the janitor story, the punch line is “Oh, ” replied the young man, “I’d be a janitor.”

4. Punch word

The one word in the punch line which creates the humor. “Janitor” is the punch word in the above story.

5. Pause

The end of the story gives the audience an opportunity to absorb the punch line, see the humor, and respond.

Nothing is worse than when the storyteller forgets the punch line.

I know a person who tells long stories but they never have a punch line.  They usually just end.  It drives us all crazy because everyone is waiting for the punch line.  When it doesn’t come, we all groan. This happens so often we’ve started referring to these types of stories that don’t have a punch line as a [insert person’s name] story.

Whenever your crafting a story for your speeches or when you’re telling one in any social setting, make sure the story has all five parts. You don’t want to be the person telling stories without a punch line.

Starting with a Story

 Yesterday, I went to church with my family and the priest began to give his sermon. I love a sermon. Actually, I like watching a good sermon to see how a presenter in this case the priest tries to capture an audiences’ attention. In most cases it almost always starts with a quote, question, or a story.

Yesterday’s sermon began with a story related to the bible. It started off their introduction and lead into telling us about the theme of his sermon.

Why should you start with a story?

In Toastmasters, starting with a quote, story, or question is the preferred way to start a speech. I’m working on my first advanced manual speech to earn my Advanced Communicator Bronze award. The speech is titled, Warm up Your Audience, and the purpose is to start off your speech with a story to capture the audiences attention.

This week, I’ll be writing this speech and I will to present it in September.