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 www.toastmasters.org

The Toastmaster’s Log (www.mytlog.tk)

If like most people you have ever “Googled” for solutions to problems or answers to questions, you know that there is virtually nothing you cannot find online. From web applications to native apps, going through web app, browser extensions and plugins, there is an online service to solve (or guide you toward solving) almost every challenge you could be faced with. phone-apps

When I joined Toastmasters International in June 2012 my objective was to earn my Distinguished Toastmaster Award within a maximum of 18 months. I missed that objective. I know people who have done it and it was a goal in alignment with my life plan and priorities at the time. Getting familiarized with the Toastmasters International educational program, I admired the fact that they had one of the best system to turn any dedicated learner into a top-notch communicator, and leader. I shifted my focus to enjoying the process and making the most of the experience. That might sound like a justification for not reaching my initial objective, because it is. 🙂

I spend a lot of time online and belong to an age group that is estimated to spend on average 7 hours online every day. After serving as a VP Education for 18 months with two different clubs, I thought it would be nice to have an online tool to help me keep a record of my speech and leadership projects completed. This online record would be maintained concurrently with my physical manuals.  One of the benefits of such a solution would be to show me in real time my progress toward my DTM.

mytlog dashboard

www.mytlog.tk

Before setting out to create a system that would help me in that way, I googled and the best results came from this page on the Toastmasters International website: http://www.toastmasters.org/software. As you notice on that page, all the tools available are geared toward club management as a whole. Therefore they are club-centric, rather than member-oriented.

After a few dozen hours of hacking, The Toastmaster’s Log emerged. It is currently a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and it already serves its intended purpose well. The system is available here: www.mytlog.com and I have used it for a few months. There could be dozens of more features added to make it more appealing and features-rich, but that will defeat my initial purpose of keeping focused on individual member’s need to complete record their progress towards their DTM, online.

If you are an active Toastmaster, you are welcome to sign up and start using the system, it is and shall remain free. If you are not a Toastmaster, you can use the application to record speeches you give. It is always good to have a log.

Is there any other tool you have used for similar logging purposes, what features do you feel you need most?