The Best Speech You’ll Ever Regret

Several years ago I was the keynote speaker at a seminar for real estate agents in Denver. The subject was a home selling program I had created that was highly beneficial to sellers, but very disruptive to the way traditional real estate was done. There were several hundred agents in the room. 

About 20 minutes into my presentation, an agent sitting in the middle of the room stood up and began shouting, “You can’t do this! This is not the way homes are sold! You are ruining it for everyone in the industry!” 

An assistant who accompanied me on the trip started making his way down the aisle to quash the disruption and escort this guy out of the room, but I said, “No Dan, let this gentleman finish saying his piece.”

All eyes went back to the agent in the middle of the room, who then started stammering, grumbled a few obscenities, then stormed out.

I looked at the crowd, smiled, and said, “I guess he won’t be joining my program.” Everybody laughed, the tension disappeared, and I began speaking like nothing had happened.

That was also the first business trip on which my son, Brian, accompanied me. We skied in Aspen the weekend before the seminar, which began on Monday. Brian was sitting at the back of the room doing his homework when the outburst occurred.

Later that night while we were enjoying an Italian dinner at a little hole in the wall restaurant, Brian finally mentioned it, asking, “Dad, why didn’t you tell that guy off today? You totally could have won that argument. That guy was such an idiot!”

It was then that I told my son the story of the Buddha and the gift of anger…

Buddha was at a small town giving a speech. Everyone welcomed him warmly except for one young man. Shortly into the Buddha’s speech, this young man shot up and began shouting at him, claiming that he was a fake and he had no authority to teach others about the best ways to live life.

The Buddha ignored the man and continued his speech, which only infuriated him more. After another few minutes of his loud and abrasive behavior, the man gave up and stormed off into the distance.

After the Buddha had finished his speech, one of the villagers approached him and asked how he was able to continue speaking, seemingly unfazed in the face of such hostile aggression.

The Buddha smiled and replied, “If you buy a gift for someone and that person refuses the gift, to whom does the gift belong?”

Puzzled, the villager said, “I guess the gift would still belong to me.”

“Exactly!” Buddha exclaimed. “And it is the same with that young man’s ‘gift’ of anger. I simply refused to accept the gift and, therefore, that anger still belongs to him… and only him.”

Anger is human. Very few people learn to develop total immunity to it. I am certainly not one of them. But over the years I have come across advice from people wiser than me on the subject, and it seems as though they all share the same basic outlook…

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Buddha

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
Mark Twain

“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” Benjamin Franklin

“He who angers you conquers you.” Elizabeth Kenny

“Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.” Albert Einstein

The lesson on anger that most resonates with me may be the result of having given many speeches. Some were to business groups. Some were simply to my sons. I try to remember this… 

“Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Lawrence J Peter