When you think back over your life what are some of the greatest commitments and longest lasting experiences you have had?
Perhaps it’s your marriage, a sorority or an association?
Involvement in a charity, an organization or a worthy cause?
Passion for a hobby, past time or particular sport?
How did you get first get started? How long has it been?
And in introspection how has your life been changed, influenced and enriched because of it?
Today marks my 30th Anniversary of joining, Voyagers, a local Toastmasters club. Little did I know on that crisp morning when I walked across bumpy lobby tiles and through the doors into the El Fandango Mexican Restaurant in Old Town San Diego my life would be changed… forever!
Two women, professionally dressed, greeted me at the door with confident handshakes and sincere smiles. The fire was crackling in the background as they offered me coffee and a seat next to the Barbara Bush look-alike who had invited me to attend. A few days previously, when I met Mary Porter at a business function, she said something about how this “club” would help me with my business and giving employees “feedback.” Being a business owner, at age 28 in the male dominated industry of graphic design and printing, had its challenges. Add to that, each of my employees were older than me. Offering feedback while still showing respect was difficult, and nothing I learned in college.
Here I was, in a breakfast meeting room, not knowing anyone, yet identifying somehow with everyone. There was much activity and high energy… oh, and clapping for everything! I’d never seen anything like this at any networking meeting. No sense of professional competition fighting for business. Instead, there was a sincere support of one another, facing the fears of public speaking, listening and leadership skills.
The meeting had structure, an agenda to follow, impromptu speaking answering creative questions, and three speakers who spoke for longer periods of time, with other members offering them insights and feedback (evaluation) on their speech organization, gestures, pausing, etc., with suggestions offering improvement. (You don’t get that at networking meetings either. People just don’t do business with you!)
As the meeting progressed, the cracking fire was second to the warmth of the people. I think I found my tribe. Positive, supportive, caring… and fun. I really needed FUN in my life.
At the end of the meeting I joined. I needed this, even more than I thought! This would help me become a better boss, a better daughter, a better person.
No one knew I had recently filed for divorce from an alcoholic and abusive husband. No one knew of my personal pain. No one knew how the self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth had been verbally and physically beaten out of me. (I pause to shed more tears.)
Little-by-little, driving 45-minutes in morning traffic, attending each weekly 90-minute meeting (perfect attendance for four straight years), I began to find my voice. Okay… I cried through my first three speeches. The first one was a pretty “ugly cry.” (Just ask folks in my Club!) I read my speech, for a painful 6 minutes, hanging on to the lectern as if for dear life. Evidently, I also said “uh” or “ah” 19 times. (I said what?) Each “filler” gives away credibility. By the second speech, my filler words were 6, and only 1 on the third speech. Progress is measurable – wow!
Since joining on March 19, 1987, I have presented over 3,500 speeches, in 12 countries, from audiences of 10 to 5,000, from 20-minute inspirations and 90-minute keynotes to facilitating 2-day retreats. Had it not been for Toastmasters – this longest commitment (and most functional relationship) I’ve ever had, I never would have been able to do what I have the pleasure of doing today.
Thirty years ago, I found voice, my passion, and my purpose. Today, I feel truly blessed to serve individuals and organizations, helping them to Speak and Market like a Pro.™ My choice, made 30 years ago, was easy, and the commitment, lasting.
When YOU think back over your life what are some of the greatest commitments and longest lasting experiences you have had?
And… how has your life been changed, influenced and enriched because of it?
A Non-Profit Educational Organization: Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. With more than 345,000 Members, individuals dramatically improve their listening, thinking, speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 15,900 clubs in 142 countries. Find a supportive Club near you, www.toastmasters.org