Top 5 Lessons From 5 Years in Toastmasters

Today marks the 5th year anniversary of my primary Toastmasters club, All Nations Toastmasters in Anaheim, California. I have experienced exponential growth from my membership with the organization, and learned both from the people I have met as well as the education program.

Lionnel at Toastmasters

As I take a moment to reflect on the achievements of the past and look ahead to the victories of the future, some of the lessons drawn from this endeavor surface. Here they are, with some of my thoughts on them:

  • Self-confidence is a skill

It can be improved. When I joined Toastmasters 5 years ago, my confidence level was at about -10/100. Today, it hovers around 70/100. What is different today compared to then is that I am aware that just like playing soccer or using the guitar, self-confidence is a skill that I can keep getting better at. Here is a great TEDx talk that elaborates on self-confidence as a skill: The skill of self confidence | Dr. Ivan Joseph

  • Courage is not the absence of fear

The fear of speaking in public is not logical, but so isn’t falling in love.  I have seen terrified people step up to their fears and thrive. Fear is normal, and should be embraced, not fought. The more you step up and face your fears, the more courageous you become.

  • Serious work beats talent

I have been told that I am talented as a public speaker, and it might be true. However, I have also put it an incredible number of hours into developing my communication and leadership skills. I have seen countless others do the same. Talent is the seed. Hard work is the soil and nurturing that grows the seed into an oak tree. If you lack talent, hard work will make up for it. If you already are talented, serious work will make you extraordinary.

  • Humans are not that different from each other

I have heard hundreds of stories throughout the past 5 years, and we all live our versions of the hero’s journey. We go through similar challenges, face similar evils, have similar aspirations, and all strive to live happy and fulfilling lives. That’s one of the fail-proof ways of connecting to anyone you interact with. Relate to others the way you wish they would relate to you, and you will build better relationships. If you need a friend, be a friend.

  • If you don’t use it, you lose it

This has been my first hand experience. It relates to the third point. I have friends who have been active Toastmasters for the past 20+ years. They don’t need to be members anymore, but they know that the best way to remain sharp is to keep sharpening oneself. If you don’t use your good health, you will lose it. Similarly, if you use the skills and talents you have or are acquiring, you will lose them.

I personally believe that the largest room in the world is the room for improvement. No matter how good I think I am, or how bad others see me as being, I am only getting started. My best is ahead of me, and it is exciting to be moving towards it.

PS: If you want to learn more about Toastmasters International and find a club near you, visit

The Power of Association

It is no secret that the people we associate with have a significant impact on our lives. Who we associate with determines what we earn, how big or small we dream, and how well we fare so far as our psychological and emotional health is concerned.

In the past few months, I have observed how the people I spent an increasing amount of time with impact my day to day habits and choices. It is important to make a conscious choice of the people we associate with, and to make sure we reach our goals, near and far, we must remember that our life will always be the average of the sum of the lives of the top 5 people we associate with.

Who are the top five people you associate with and how are those associations (or relationships) impacting your life?

Race to Great Health

I started working a new project: Race to Great Health. It is a blog I created to help me build the habit of running. I love running as a way to exercise and stay in good health. Moreover, staying in great health and regularizing my weight is one of my goals for 2017.

Eventually, I will organize and host a 5K run in Anaheim. That will be fun. 🙂

Head on to to see what this is about.

My Top 5 Goals for 2017

As a tradition, I used to start the year with a list of 10 to 25 goals. After learning about goal settings and top performance, I shrunk that list to 5. The list of 5 is much more effective and it forces me to focus on what’s important. For 2017 below is my list of goals:

  1. Study for and successfully pass my California Real Estate License Exam.
  2. Earn >= $100 / month from speaking opportunities (including product sales).
  3. Reduce my weight from 197 to 180 during the first 6 months of the year to remain in great physical condition.
  4. Continue teaching at the local college.
  5. Start and complete my change of status.

In my journal, I also specify how I have to be and what I have to do for my goals to be executed successfully. There are a few comments I could make about those goals and why they are important, but I will leave that for a possible future post.

What are your top 5 goals for 2017?

My Top 5 Books on Public Speaking

If you have had any chance of public speaking, you know it can be intimidating or empowering. That is depending on what stage of your learning experience you are at. I am a student of public speaking and I have been sharing what I know on my YouTube channel: 365 Days of Public Speaking ( A lot of the things I know, I learned from books. In this post I share my top 5 books on public speaking. It is a great place to start if you need help or have targetted questions on how to improve your public speaking skills.

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Steve Gallo is the author of the pitch enthusiasts’ ‘bible’, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, and his Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds boils down to nine secrets of effective presentation, gleaned from his analysis of more than 500 TED Talks. Drawing on the research of psychologists and other experts in communications, Gallo also offers pearls of wisdom extracted from interviews with some of the most notable TED Talks speakers. This has broad appeal, bound to be read as enthuastically by a fan of TED Talks as it will be digested by public speakers.

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The CEO of TED Chris Anderson has been at the head of the organisation since the early 2000s, and so is one of the ultimate authoritative sources on public speaking in the modern era. He has an intuitive understanding of how the best speakers and presentations can get the audience onside, stir excitement and share knowledge, both within the presentation room and much farther beyond. For TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Anderson draws on a huge range of material drawn from working with the best TED speakers in a bid to help you become a master of impactful presentation.

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Another entry by Steven A. Beebe and Susan J. Beebe, A Concise Public Speaking Handbook (4th Edition) is a concise primer in preparing, researching and delivering a speech underpinned by the Beebes’ signature audience-focused strategy, which shows the speaker how to consider and analyse the audience at every step of the process. As a comprehensive round-up of the core presentation skills, this is an excellent resource for public speaking in any walk of life.

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This is one of the definitive and classic public speaking reference works. Self-help colossus Carnegie is no longer with us, of course, but his lessons for effective public speakers are timeless. Unsurprisingly, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking focuses on boosting your confidence, as well as using props and exercises to develop your speech. Sure, it’s old school, but in this case, there is no school like the old school.

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The sub-title of Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker shows that this is a book for entrepreneurs who are ready to “tell, sell and compel”. There is some great information in here for those who want to blitz their pitches with maximum engagement presentations. This is a great book, easy to understand, and you will find that the skills it imparts will stand you in good stead in life as well as in business.