My first Table Topics speech, I remember, only lasted 48 seconds without me knowing what I had said. Now I can take a deep breath, think for a little while before I start to speak, and try hard to squeeze everything into two and a half minutes. Very often I still lose my train of thought and mumble nonsense. Most of the time I think of a much better way to deliver the topic only after, well, I’ve delivered it. But the torch of my wish to grow has never been brighter.
I used to think that my own personal progress would be the single-mounted engine used to fuel my passion for growth, which, after all, is a personal issue. Not until I was elected Vice-President of Education in Buddies Online Toastmasters Club did I realize that I was partially, if not completely, wrong.
Why do you want to grow? If you randomly pick people you meet on the street and ask the question, you will likely get a thousand different answers. But if you do that across the Toastmasters landscape, you will most likely receive one answer or a few variations of it. For me, growth in the Toastmasters community means more confidence in speaking, better communication skills, and greater power as a leader. How I found these things relevant to my life is a long story I’d rather not disclose here, but they are universally essential to personal value as a function of success.
Over the past 22 months, I have made some progress in those areas – from a shy woman whose heart would race faster than a bullet train when she greeted her neighbors, to a club-level speech contest winner, and then to online club leadership. Indeed, I should feel proud of myself. I really do. But what makes me feel even prouder is when I see in our club another shy Muslim girl whose first Table Topics speech also failed to make to one minute, now speak with great confidence as Secretary in less than two months. Or that Chinese man who fidgeted and scratched his head when he first came to Buddies, now presides over the club with charisma and integrity. Or Mr. Monotone who used to have great trouble raising or lowering his voice, now delivers a speech with as much vividness as that of Christopher Walken acting out lines in Hamlet. Their notable achievements have filled in me with more joy and warmth than my own. They have become one of the reasons that I wish to go further on the journey of self-enhancement.
In a recent discussion with the other club officers, I proposed the concept of Three E’s:, Encouragement, Engagement and Empowerment. Individually as members, we wish to be encouraged, engaged, and empowered to reach whatever goal we set for ourselves on different paths. Of course we need an environment for personal growth. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s nothing personal when we join a positive community. Every one of us has the power to encourage, engage, and empower other fellow members by laying milestones for ourselves. The effect is compound. The environment makes us, and we make the environment.
So, it is important to grow yourself because, when you do that, the world will grow with you.
A few tips:
- Let the club officers know your needs and concerns;
- Focus on your goals;
- Be open-minded to new possibilities and opportunities for growth;
- Say to yourself “Yes I can” three times when you feel you’re losing confidence;
- Remember the Three E’s when you communicate with new Toastmasters and you may get a surprise from them.
Let’s practice these in Buddies! Be there or be square!