“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
Speaking in public, so they say, is the number one fear, surpassing even that of death, for some people. I tried to avoid speaking duties for the first 50 years of my life. In that time, I got roped into giving speeches twice and both times failed miserably.
Wells, Fargo & Co, CEO, John Stumpf, said his intense fear of public speaking nearly derailed his career. His boss, picking up on that fear, said, ‘You’ve got to fix this. If you can’t, that’s a career disabler.’ Stumpf joined Toastmasters in the eighties. “The feedback I received on my speeches wasn’t always feedback I enjoyed getting. But it was real stuff. It was a life-changing experience for me.”
He said in an interview. “Toastmasters was the vehicle that saved me.”
Last year, in a bid to face my insane fear of public speaking, I joined Toastmasters, too. All I wanted to do was to be able to give a speech at the launch of my first book, without looking like a complete idiot.
By the end of 2015, I had given four speeches, one of them being a ten minute oration at the launch of my novel in September. I know for a fact, that I could never have nailed my speech, not even a two minute one, without flubbing it, if it hadn’t been for Toastmasters. So, I can testify to the fact that the system works.
Once Christmas had passed, however, I thought perhaps that would be where Toastmasters and I would part ways. After all, who are we kidding, it’s hard!
Yet, I went along to my first meeting of 2016 this week. Something about the friendships, and that unparalleled opportunity for growth that Toastmasters represents called me back. How can you not admire a group of people who are all in the same boat as you, tackling this really intimidating, unfailing challenge of public speaking? These are extraordinary people. And, there’s something thrilling about being around extraordinary people.
None of which makes it any less nerve-wracking. Talk about ‘starting off with a bang.’ I was the honourable ‘Toastmaster,’ and therefore had to run the meeting. I could hardly remember the protocol! Yet, that is the nature of the beast, to be put-on-the-spot and expected to deliver. Just as in the “Table Topics,” when you may get called upon at any moment, to speak for a minute on the topic-du-jour, there’s ever a sense of the possibility of being tested—that prickle of challenge—is always in the air.
Paulo Vasconcelos told a story in the December issue of Toastmaster magazine, that after traditionally avoiding every chance to speak in public, he’d spoken spontaneously at his son’s seventh birthday party. “To everybody’s astonishment, including my own, I spoke fluently and inspirationally about the importance of frequent family gatherings. But best of all,” Paulo said, “I saw my son’s proud face staring at me like never before.”
I knew exactly what he meant. I had the same experience at my book launch, when all three of my sons watched me with pride. It was a great moment and memory.
Is it scary to have to face your fear each week? Yes. This is the thing; if we don’t tackle the fear, it’s going to feel the same, we have to feel the fear a little bit – in “safe” settings – in order to grow. So, I keep stumbling forwards with this self-development tool. How long will I continue? I don’t know. For now, it helps me to do this thing that I didn’t do.
I’m preparing towards the next speech. I’ll give #5 in a couple of weeks. Wish me luck!
Have you ever thought of joining Toastmasters, or doing the things you don’t do? How do you tackle your fears?
Talk to you later.
Keep on Creating!
Yvette K. Carol
Life should not be comfortable; it isn’t to a person’s advantage to have it so. Nor should art. Never have the masterpieces of life or art been pleasant or easy. They are always rugged peaks to be ascended by the few. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
Each moment we’re given is a building block, a stepping stone, an open door, toward greater self awareness and cultivation of our individual abilities. ~ Gigi Sosnoski
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