Experiences, Peter&Beth

Going Back to Toastmasters

ToastMasters

This week I was invited to help my old Toastmaster’s club celebrate their 60th anniversary.

I joined Toastmasters 15 years ago. When I joined, I was a manager at a consulting company and just recently diagnosed with depression. I was in a world of hurt and thought Toastmasters could help me.

I remember walking into my first meeting. I was so frightened and hoped they wouldn’t notice or call on me. I couldn’t believe I was there but felt it was the next best thing for me to do. It was an important first step.

I still remember one of the first talks I heard. It was about being present. Tony gave the presentation, and he told us how baseball players have to be present. When they are out on the field, they have to be in the moment. They can’t be thinking about the last play or what they will do in the next inning. The ball may be hit to them at any time, and they have to be ready and know exactly what to do.

Tony was at the celebration this week, and I reminded him about his talk. Even though he couldn’t remember it, I shared with him the significant impact it had on me. I also told him how much the idea of being present meant to me and how I often write about the power of now.

After my first couple of meetings, I remember how safe I felt attending Toastmasters. Our chapter focused on helping members feel comfortable talking in front of others and allowing each person to grow at their own pace. I know other chapters focus on providing critical feedback, but in our chapter, we would smile and clap – no matter what you said or what you did. It was all about supporting each other.

At the 60th celebration, I was asked to share a few thoughts about my experience with Toastmasters and what I’ve been up to since. I went to the podium and felt the love and acceptance from the group of 30+ attendees. I only knew three or four of them dating back to when I was an active member, but everyone looked at me with smiles and anticipation. They wanted me to succeed. They wanted me to enjoy myself so they could enjoy themselves.

I didn’t have a talk prepared. I had an outline of what I wanted to say, but I didn’t have one memorized. I was prepared to be me and felt the audience was there to support me. That’s exactly what happened. I enjoyed myself and could see them enjoying themselves.

When I first walked into Toastmasters 15 years ago, the idea of standing in front of 30 people without a memorized script would have kept me at home. Today, thanks to Toastmasters and all I’ve learned about the power of my thinking, I felt quite at comfortable.

Taking the plunge and joining Toastmasters was a big step for me at the time. Since then I’ve taken many more steps to get to where I am today. Every journey begins with a first step.

What about you, are you taking steps in your life?

They don’t have to be big steps. They all add up. The great thing about life is you really don’t have to go anywhere to have a successful one.

When I think about the high and low points of my life, they are because I took steps. Often the steps were beyond my comfort zone. The wonderful thing about life is what was once uncomfortable can become familiar and comfortable. When that happens, it’s nice to reflect on the progress we’ve made and appreciate our growth.

Perhaps appreciating steps you’ve taken in the past will inspire you to take another step – if you choose.

About Peter and Beth Bostwick

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