Meet Our Buddy: Gustavo Matias

Where are you from?

Very proud to say that I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Where do you live?

I now live in Sunny San Diego, CA

What are your top 3 favorite activities?

Sometimes is hard to believe I’d ever say this, but I really enjoy taking speaking opportunities and happy whenever I get the chance to talk to people the way I imagined and can connect to people in a deeper level.

On a more physical side, Capoeira has become a passion of mine which I truly enjoy doing twice a week with the group I’m part of. For those having no idea what that means, I recommend Googling it, it’s a fascinating art.

Third but not least, using my brain as much as possible through building software has been a pursue of mine for over decades now, and whether is for the company I work for or a side-project, coding has been a skill I enjoy honing.

What brought you to Toastmasters?

The strong desire to turn my weakness into a strength with communication and leadership at work and relationships with whoever I get to meet.

Why Buddies?

It’s online, so it’s very convenient. It’s also the most diverse and exuberayting community I’ve ever been part of, this is precious and worth nurturing and seeing the seeds we’re planting growing overtime.

I also believe online communication is already mainstream, and Buddies platform is a way to practice for the “real”digital world we interact with on a day-to-day basis be it through a Podcast we get invited to talk, Youtube or Instagram live session we’re part of, a remote interview with our dream company, work meetings and whatnot. Digital is the present and the future, knowing how to navigate and present myself in those situations is becoming even more important to me.

How much have you grown since your first Toastmaster meeting?

I still remember to this day. Toastmaster sounded great in theory as I researched about this non-profit organization, but very awkward and uncomfortable at my first meeting; Imagine I get called to answer a Table Topics, and although I have the courage to do so, it’s one of the most terrifying few seconds. I remember feeling like time is going slower than usual and that words are slowly coming out of my mouth without making any sense at all, until I almost run out of breath, have no more thoughts in my head to share and decide to abort by going back to my seat as quickly as possible while my inner-critic gets louder and louder.

Nowadays, I nearly don’t care as much and am way more comfortable talking to a group of people regardless of the perceived outcome, specially if I know I did my best.

How is Toastmasters helping you in life?

I’m happy to say now I’m able to more comfortably stand for much longer in front of a group of people to talk about various subjects and have done for probably hundreds of times by now, whether it’s at work or any other group I happen to join, I have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Who are your top 3 favorite speakerS?

  1. Haroldo Dutra Dias (Brazilian Spiritualist Speaker)
  2. David Goggins (Ultra-endurance Athlete and Speaker)
  3. Trevor Noah (Comedian and TV host)

What’s your top 3 favorite speeches?

  1. Conhece-te a ti mesmo (Know yourself) – Haroldo Dutra Dias
  2. David Goggins Interview at Joe Rogan Experience Podcast (It’s an interview, but there are amazing bits and power on how he speaks to the audience)
  3. Elon Musck’s Interview at Joe Rogan Experience Podcast (Another interview I know, but I loved how he talks in a very intelligent and thoughtful way, I like speeches that feel more like a conversation than a one-way only speech)

What kind of communicator and leader do you want to become?

I’m going to become a leader and communicator who is natural, relaxed, comfortable and confident on my ability to deliver and talk despite the situation or event, able to answer and ask questions to engage people and facilitate conversations in a harmonious and entertaining way.

Where do you think you can go with Toastmasters in 12 months ahead?

In the next year, continuing giving speeches, signing up for roles every meeting taking the most challenging/difficult/uncomfortable roles and expanding the practices in Toastmasters to my work, social situations and family that is going to drastically continue to help me find opportunities to serve more people around me as I’ll be better at expressing myself, communicating and leading as opportunities arise.

Network For Service

If you’ve ever been to a networking event such as a conference or meetup (like Toastmasters), it’s natural to ask – “What’s in it for me? What will I learn from the people at the event? What will the organizers and speakers teach me?”. While this is a totally fair question to ask, sometimes it made me feel deficient of knowledge and experience, that I had to participate and learn to get something out of it.

Not too long ago, as I start thinking about going to my next big tech event. I end up receiving an email from the organizers promoting the conference. I get so excited by the line up of speakers and their talks, the venue and location, which I never been before! I was so exhilarated for my next travel adventure and going to this event that I almost miss the barely readable words at the footer of the email that read “Want to volunteer? Click here!”. This immediately gets me thinking – “Huh, I wonder who are behind the scenes. This is an enormous event and I wonder how much work it’s put before, during and after each of these conferences…”. Without hesitation and a good dosage of curiosity I Immediately start composing a new email inquiring about this volunteering opportunity.

Not too long in just a few days, I receive a reply from one of the organizers; I was in! I’ve volunteered before at few smaller events, but this one wasn’t only going to the my first time, but I’d be also going to volunteer at an event that was expected to receive thousands of people! The venue? A hotel that had hosted six presidents, The Beatles and was were the Oscar statue was first sketched, on a napkin. Though those are not the type of things that fascinate me too much, I thought it was pretty cool 🙂

The event venue

The day is finally here, and I hop on plane and travel all the way over to Los Angeles, CA. Where the conference is happening, and from day one I realize how much work is put into just to prepare things for the volunteers themselves. Most things were already unpacked and ready for us to begin organizing and sorting in preparation for the attendees. From filling up bags with some cool swags, to putting everything in place at the registration desks and making sure things are in order all around the venue, it took us hours, and I was very enthusiastic all the way throughout the first day.

The following day is finally time and I can’t wait to see how it’d all unfold. Thousands of people coming early morning to register and grab the best seats for the conference’s keynote speech and a first opportunity to network with their fellow other attendees. Right up-front, during the registration period signing people in, I get to greet and chat with so many people. For some, a few seconds to check them in, handout their badge, lanyard and wish them a great day ahead. For others, a first quick eye contact that open doors for more connection to happen on the days ahead. It’s fantastic to see people’s excitement in their eyes, it lights me up!

As a volunteer, I got to watch the most fascinating talks, was steps away from some of the brightest people our community has ever seen, met some of the most friendly people I’ve ever met and had close experience on what it takes to run the entire show. Would I have had such a blast hadn’t I decide to be at service to the community? I doubt it.

The most incredible and unforgettable experiences I’ve ever had in my life were rarely the ones I was receiving something, they were the ones where I was giving. Giving my time, my sweat and my heart. It’s never enough. Give to the people around you, your family, friends, your communities, and since we’re here, give to your fellow Toastmasters. 😉

What if you fail on stage?

Today I gave a speech at my physical Toastmasters club.

[about a week ago…]

I go on Toastmasters website, click on Basecamp, pick my “Innovative Planning” Pathways curriculum, select project for level 3 which states the following purpose — “Become aware of his/her thoughts, feelings and responses on the audience as well as a two-week assignment on turning negative thoughts into positive”.

I immediately thought — “hmmm, how? I need to find situations that I tend to think negative about and feel a lot of weird stuff inside… but what?”

If you’re anything like me, these thoughts and feelings may seem familiar:

  • “I can’t do it”
  • “I’m not ready”
  • “I’m feeling anxious”
  • “I’m feeling nervous”

Do you notice a pattern of these in a specific situation in your life? Where does this normally happen?

FREAKING PUBLIC SPEAKING

To me, it’s a love and hate relationship still, but hopefully not for too long. Either way, I think and feel a lot when the opportunity appears and it gets closer to the event.

I then decided to take a step further and make it a bit more intense; — “What if I don’t prepare my speech at all? Completely wing it and see what happens? Will I freak out? What different sorts of thoughts and feelings will arise? Will I fail terribly and pass out on stage?!”

Well, that’s what the assignment is about. So I decided take up the challenge.

Isn’t it funny how much control we want in life? The tendency was to at least mentally think about my opening or closing, or some points I could bring up during my speech. It was hard! Apparently it’s harder not to prepare a speech than it is to prepare, rehearse and do it! There’s this innate need to control the situation whenever possible. Quite modestly, I can give decent speeches once I’m given a topic, enough time to prepare and practice. It became easier and easier as my time in Toastmasters went on and I was completing project after project. The challenge though, is standup on a stage with dozens of people for 5-7 minutes and speak. For some this might be a piece of cake, but for me is almost as bad as my own heart-attack.

As the day of my speech approaches, my mind keeps wanting to think about some ideas for my speech, even though I didn’t jot anything down. The need for control was intense, I wanted more certainty! But I insisted and kept my mind occupied with other subjects and concerns as much as possible.

The date and time finally arrived. I’m not going to lie, nervousness, anxiety, excitement, fear and much more was felt right before it was time, as well as countless well-known negative thoughts of “You’re going to fail”, “Everyone will see that you’re a fake speaker”, “You can only give prepared speeches”, “People will no longer want to connect with you”, “Not today, do another day” and much much more that I could write an entire journal on…

It’s finally time. The Toastmaster of The Day introduces me, I step up on stage and the result? Normal. Yes, just normal. It was surprisingly calming and peaceful up there. A feeling of comfort and surrendering poured over my body, I realized was OK. It’s OK to not know anything I was going to talk about, it’s OK to be nervous or having a lot of thoughts, it’s OK to not be always prepared, it’s OK to experiment and try something new, it’s OK to feel, it’s OK to fail.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it was my best speech with the most amazing subject. Though it was my best internal preparation and performance.

Where else would I be able to have a safe space where I can try these sorts of things out? To me, only at a Toastmasters club.

Attitude of gratitude, here we go again…

The first time I heard this sentence, it came out with a disgustingly childish tone from the person who mentioned while I listened to a podcast episode at the time; “The attitude of gratitude, bleeeeehhh…”. It kind of pinched my heart a bit, because I respected the podcast host and his show, and thought it wasn’t a funny joke. I brushed it off at the time, but whenever I hear the word “gratitude” I have flash backs of the event.

I used to journal pretty consistently for about a year, and one of the things I’d write about is a list of three things I am grateful for in that day. As you might have noticed, I said “I used to journal”. I haven’t been in almost 2 years by now and wasn’t planning on continuing. Until I stumbled upon a Innovative Planning Pathways project called “Focus on the Positive”.

This seemed like a different project than the other ones I’ve done before. Its main assignment was to not only prepare a speech on a given theme, but also keep a journal for two weeks, with three things you’re grateful for, and write about negative things you’re seeing in life and rephrase them as positive.

The moment I read the assignment I thought to myself “An attitude of gratitude, bleeeeeehhhh….” just like that Podcast guy. But then immediately switched to thinking about how much I’ve done it before during my journaling days, and that I actually might enjoy giving a speech on my experience with how much or how little that assignment has changed me.

Although I’m only a few days into my assignment, I honestly am feeling more optimistic, resilient, seeing the bright side of many situations, appreciating people and things more and overall feeling lighter and even happier.

I’m not sure whether I’ll keep journaling past the two-week assignment or not, but all I can say is that I’m enjoying it today and am grateful for finding this project in good timing.

I’m looking forward to give my speech on it soon!

Speak Consistently

How often do you speak in public? A few times a year? once a month? maybe on a weekly basis? or do you have the courage to find an opportunity to share your message every. single. day.?

The truth is, the more you practice the faster you will become the communicator and leader you aspire to be. There is no shortcut, no motivational and informative Youtube video, no amazing article (not even this one), webinar or workshop that will give you what you want and who you want to become. I’d go as far to say that the same goes for everything else in life.

But how do you get there? As Nike likes to remind us, you Just Do It™. Do it excited, do it scared, do it bad or good, do it poor or excellent, do it weak or strong. If your vision is clear enough and you’re acting with a sense of urgency (a hint of fun wouldn’t hurt too), you know you will get there someday and it’s just a matter or when.

Sometimes it may feel like we’re very far away from that goal, and other times, we feel like we’re already there. That feeling after an incredible speech, where everyone applauded and congratulated, you have finally become the outstanding speaker you always wanted to be. Good job. Though I would not fall under the illusion that your last best speech defines how your next ones will go. Sure, you have more confidence and courage. But what happens if you stay weeks, months or years without speaking? Will that skillset, courage and confidence still be there? I’m afraid not.

Think about when you go out for a run or any sort of physical workout. The first days are usually a struggle, difficult and uncomfortable. However, if you stick with it long enough and keep running or pushing the weights, eventually you will get better and things will get easier. What do you do next? That’s totally up to you. You can either repeat the same distance, sets, reps and weights OR you decide to move the needle a bit further; one more mile, one more rep, or one more pound.

I confess that sometimes I run away from opportunities I know will help me become a better communicator. I see a chance to speak up in meetings but I dismiss it, I see an open slot to talk to a group of people but I think I’m not ready yet, I know what I want to say next but I don’t. This does not help, and actually only reinforces the idea that we can always easily escape from our fears. It is important to forget that there is an EXIT door and dash forward, every. single. day.