I don’t remember exactly, when and how I came to know about Toastmasters International . Initially, I thought I would never find a local club in Zambia. Reluctantly, I searched for a “club near me” from Toastmasters website … there it was, information about a local club meeting not too far from where I lived. As they say, the rest is history.
Today, I wanted to share a few experiences from Toastmasters and the life lessons that we easily forget:
DO MORE OF WHAT YOU FEAR AND YOU SHALL KNOW NO MORE OF THAT FEAR
When I joined Toastmasters, I was very fearful of public speaking. Few months into it, I no longer dread it as much as I did at first. In fact I relished every chance to speak in front of my peers. What has changed? Many things perhaps; but one thing is for certain, I have become familiar with the object of my fear. I had looked fear in the eyes and was no longer afraid of speaking within the Toastmaster club setting, something I dreaded at the start.
You can READ about public speaking until your mind fills up; you can THINK about it until you turn blue, but eventually you MUST DO public speaking if you are to effectively deal with the fear. You must become familiar with public speaking.
The same principle applies to all other fears of life; the more familiar you become with what you fear, the more you master the fear and the less you fear. The fear you avoid, you strengthen; the fear you face you weaken. Familiarize yourself with the object of your fear by moving towards it, not away from it. Start with the “small” fears that cause you to shrink from your greatness and take on the “bigger” debilitating fears as you go along.
YOU ONLY KNOW IF YOU ARE READY WHEN YOU STEP UP TO THE PLATE
There are many times when I have affirmed my readiness for a speech or any other challenging role during the club meetings but it was only when I stepped forward to speak that I realized how ready or not ready I truly was.
Prepare all you want; plan until your eyes are red; the verdict on your readiness comes when you step forward to actually begin DOING.
So it is with life; don’t obsess with whether you are ready or not; you will never really know anyway… until you step forward and begin to DO. Just begin to DO. This is not to say, you should neglect planning and “trying to be ready”; it is a way of saying you should be careful never plan yourself into inaction.
FIND SOMETHING THAT IS STRONGER THAN YOUR FEAR, THEN YOU WILL CONQUER THE FEAR
This is something I experienced first-hand when I was giving my icebreaker speech. Prior to making that speech, I was really scared. I thought I was going to make a fool of myself. It was the first prepared speech I had ever given in any setting. Before that, the closest I had come to give a speech was when I was reciting bible verse in church, as a 13 year old.
But when I stepped forward to speak, I seemed to have taken on a different personality. I delivered with passion and conviction.
For the next few days, I was baffled for all the good reasons; why had I done well when I was afraid before the speech?
As I later realized, it was because … added to the fact that I had prepared adequately, I spoke about my dreams; things that are stronger than my fear of public speaking.
In life, you need to find the thing that is stronger than your strongest fears and hang on to it. It can be an idea, a person, a philosophy … whatever.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLES OF LIFE
It sounds selfish but it helps to realize that you are not alone in your struggle. During one of our club meetings, a guest (a school going kid), when asked how he found the meeting, innocently spoke of how “encouraged” he was to find that “even adults are just as afraid of public speaking and we the kids”.
So it is with life; you are never alone. Sometimes, that is all you need to hear; that “the brethren are also going through the same things”. At every point in your life there is someone on this globe going through the same challenges you are going through.*
I have found that this thought has a way of restoring your sense of self-respect and cause you take life for what it is; a journey for everyone.
EVERYONE NEEDS A PLACE WHERE THEY CAN FAIL FREELY
Toastmasters is a place where you can freely fail; it is a friendly environment that takes off the pressure of performance and allows you to try out different techniques of speech delivery without loss… because it is a training ground without undue expectations that come with the “real world” public speaking engagement.
We live in the “real world” but we all need such a place; a place where you can freely fail; a place of second chances. This is how we learn.
Toastmasters is a wonderful experience in the quest for self-growth and honing skills in leadership and public speaking. If you are not already a member I would invite you to look up the Toastmasters Website and find a club near you. You will not regret.