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