We’re all sick of Hollywood acceptance speeches.
Like me, you probably weren’t on a film set this year with Brad Pitt. But you’ve seen plenty of acceptance speeches at work.
“Oh, it was a team effort. Thank you for the trophy and chocolates.” (And the enormous annual bonus, where not a dollar goes to ‘the team.’
Then there are those terrible wedding speeches, where two people pretend they’re Romeo and Juliet. The typical speech is self-indulgent nonsense. I’m always let down by them. They make me want to cry into my hoodie.
Actor Michaela Coel did something extraordinary at an awards ceremony that will interrupt your thoughts patterns and present a powerful opportunity.
The bright yellow hero of a generation
Michaela Coel’s sexual assault story inspired people all over the world. At an award ceremony this year, she shattered all paradigms of how an acceptance speech should be given.
“The award for…goes to … Michaela Coel.”
The room erupts. The audience jumps out of their seats like jack-in-the-boxes. The applause is deafening. A subtle roar begins to echo through the hall. The camera swings across the room to Michaela. She’s hiding behind another actor. The camera swivels, only to find her with her head down in a bright yellow dress.
She’s completely quiet … and emotional. She sits in silence.
Award ceremonies aren’t used to so much silence and inaction by a winner. After what feels like an eternity, she finally gets up and walks at a snail’s pace towards the lectern, for what’s expected to be a typical winner’s speech.
Nothing goes to plan.
“I just wrote a little something, for writers, really.”
Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn’t comfortable. I dare you … Visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear — from it, from us — for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.
The entire speech goes for 58 seconds. It’s short and sweet.
The paradigm shift
When we win it’s easy to get lost in ourselves and our own awesomeness. Rather than become obsessed with all the people who helped her or all the behind the scenes moments, she focused on writers.
The audience for the speech was outside the room. They were silly people like me hiding in the back of their 5-year-old Honda Civics, watching her speech, dreaming of the day we get to share our story of triumph.
The greatest opportunity when you win an award or achieve a huge goal isn’t to slap an audience of onlookers over the head with your awesomeness.
Michaela shows us that the greatest opportunity is to inspire others. When you do, your achievement, your speech, your years of hard work, they leave the room and escape into the crevices of humanity to be soaked up by would-bes who are yet to achieve their dreams.
What comes to you in the silence is mind-bending
Two writers I admire have both told me for the last three years to read a story titled “The Million Dollar Question.”
I ignored them both. Until yesterday. I read the story of a man named Sebastian. He took a train through Japan and got off at the wrong station. He accidentally got stuck in “suburbia” and cried for the first time in three years.
For a few hours he just sits there and watches the life of everyday Japanese people. What makes him cry is when he realizes he will never be those people. He’s chosen to take an unconventional path and work for lots of different people as an entrepreneur.
The more he succeeds, the less people understand him.
That explains, he says, why people don’t make their goals a reality. You become a stranger to those who know you. That leads to loneliness. Loneliness secretly makes you sabotage your own dreams.
What an extraordinary lesson, hey? Michaela Coel encourages us to “disappear — from it, from us — for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.” She’s spot on.
The insights that change your life don’t come from the noise of success. They come from the silence you intentionally seek out.
Michaela Coel is a shining example of how quiet people who embrace moments of silence change the world. Silence helps them undercover their own hidden insights. A lack of ego helps them find a deserving audience. A quiet speech helps them express their insights and inspire a new generation.
Next time you achieve a big milestone make your reaction subtle, your speech quiet, and your audience go beyond the onlookers.
The audience doesn’t want to stroke your ego. They want to know what’s in it for them. Quietly show them.
When you do, you unlock the gift of inspiration. Inspiration is the energy that helps humanity’s cogs keep spinning through the sludge of current world events. That subtly changes the world in ways you’ll never fully appreciate.