Posts Tagged ‘toastmasters’

We All Fly-Including Me

Posted: October 29, 2015 in Leadership
Tags: ,

Almost a year ago my dad had a heart attack and died. Our family and community lost a wonderful man who thoroughly enjoyed living, working, and loving. His celebrated life sparked something that has inspired me to make a few changes. After primarily staying at home with my family for the last twenty years and working part-time in the Family and Human Development field and secretary of my church (which I plan to continue), I made the decision to move into a marketing/real estate career. I began to stay up late pouring over business leadership books and quizzing my husband (to his dismay) when he would come home from work about sales and marketing strategies.

Late one night, my husband asked me about continuing in the Human Science field and maybe working for a government agency that I had previously wanted to work. I said, “no, I want to own the whole government!” Ha! Well, I know that’s a little absurd, but I realized that my expectations for the future in terms of employment, enjoyment, and fulfillment had shifted significantly. Four months ago, I started working as the marketing director for a real estate agent. Joy! Just recently, I finished the prerequisite sixty-hours of real estate school in order to take the Tennessee state licensing examination. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve always had these dreams of pursuing a career in business, but due to my own “gender restrictions” I never felt like it was a place for a mother with children. (Please, no rotten eggs!) Recently I read a book called, Lean In: Women, Work, and a Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. I began to see the future with fresh eyes and a new mindset. I love taking care of my family. I’ll never stop, but I will do it with the mind-set that we all fly–including me. It doesn’t mean that we won’t gather back in the nest to trade flight stories and bandage each other’s wings. We will. And, we will laugh and play and love. I will teach, encourage, and share as much as my children need. I wouldn’t trade anything for the last twenty years of being home with my kids. They have been my life and focus. But, I’m not doing anyone any favors by sitting on my wings and holding tightly to theirs. As painful as it is, we all need to fly.

I joined Toastmasters in June which has helped me bridge this season of change. Toastmasters is helping me develop and polish leadership and communication skills. It gives me a place to practice new skills and baby step my way forward. It’s loads of fun! I’m thirsty for this part of my life! But–what about all my work with children and families? Is that still a passion? YES! Human Science is a great background for business. I mean–guess who my clientele will be? Humans!! But, seriously, I want to contribute to public policies and economic efforts to improve the lives of children and families (particularly those with disabilities) by working with others in providing opportunities for growth and development. Michael Maher speaks about the “generosity generation” in the book Seven Levels of Communication. It’s a beautiful story written primarily for real estate agents regarding giving and relationships. It pairs perfectly with human development theories of needs and desires. I feel like I have arrived at “my spot”–whatever that means. 🙂

The new season makes my heart race. Everyday I wake up and have to talk myself into “leaning in” to this new place. Maybe it will feel normal one day. And Daddy–he would be happy and proud. He thought everyone needed to work doing something they loved. He taught me to “lean in” a long time ago–I just didn’t know it.

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The following is my second speech using the guidelines from the Competent Communicator book. The assignment was to choose any topic and organize it with an introduction, body, and conclusion, use appropriate transition words, and write out a personal outline. If I had to do this one over again, I would chose a different topic. I love giving inspirational speeches, but this one could have been a 20 minute speech. I only had 5-7 minutes. By the time I whittled the speech down to 5-7 min, I felt like it had lost part of the meaning. Since I was rushing through the information to stay in the 5-7 minutes, I communicated more from memorization which I don’t like doing. The other “problem” I had during this speech was with my arms and hands. When I started giving the speech, I became very aware of my arms! I couldn’t figure out what to do with them–hold the lectern, gesture, pick my nose, etc. Nothing felt natural. I’m hoping I become more at ease with my arms as I give more speeches. Overall, it was lots of fun, a little stress, and great feedback. If you are interested in leadership and communication development, check out a Toastmasters Club near you! If you live in Murfreesboro, then check out the Heart of Tennessee (HOT) Toastmasters http://heartoftennessee.toastmastersclubs.org/.

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Five years ago my daughter and I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Honduras. The main focus of the trip was to build houses for some of the poorest families in the city of Tegucigalpa.  We raised money for building supplies, bought our tool belts and we left over Thanksgiving week with a team of ten people. I really thought God was sending me to the people of Honduras to bring them a small amount of development and a lot of love. But I’ve have time to reflect over the five years since the trip, and I’m not sure God was sending me to help them. I believe God did send me, but it was for them to help me. I wasn’t prepared to see an impoverished country. I definitely wasn’t prepared to see people who were hungry. Today I want to share with you how the people I met and the gift I received taught me how to choose hope in all tough circumstances.

First, We arrived in Teguc and in minutes of setting foot off the plane began seeing the effects of poverty. I knew we were coming to work in a poor country. but I just didn’t have an understanding of what that really meant. My first real encounter with the hungry happened at Church’s chicken where we ate our fill just after we arrived. When we came out of the restaurant, I noticed people waiting for leftover scraps of food. It didn’t take me long to realize that I may have been hungry because I had missed lunch, but I had never experienced hunger like what was staring back at me. Sadly, hunger was everywhere. I thought I had seen the worst of the hunger until day 5 when we visited the Teguc dump. We weren’t there to throw trash away, instead we were going to feed a meal to the people that live there. I didn’t even know anything like that existed. People were everywhere sorting through piles of garbage in order to eat. I felt numb as I sat in the back of a truck giving out food with men and women’s hands reaching out while buzzards sat beside us.  How could we out-give what we were wittnessing? The excitement of the trip turned into a knot of reality in my stomach. Hungry people were real.

But, I don’t want to leave you with only those thoughts. Not only was there poverty, but there was extravagant generosity. Our team received a gift while we were building a house in hillside slum. We had torn down a little shack made of rotten wood and bits of scrap metal and were replacing it with a one-room wooden house. Community folks gathered and the day had a joy to it that stood out beyond the conditions of the city. This day, our team made trips up and down a large hill carrying trash and supplies to and from the site. This older woman watched us all day. On one of the trips down the hill she invited me, my daughter, and a couple other teammates into her home and chatted incessantly in Spanish. I wish I could have understood what she said. 🙂  She had a small table set up with glasses, a 2-liter of coke, and snack cakes. And in a country where people were malnourished and starving, we were given the gift of food. Our leader had already been invited to her home and had told us that she had spent everything she had on snacks for the missionaries to say thank you. Nothing else seemed to matter but that moment. I’ve always heard the saying “it’s better to give than to receive” but that day I learned that it’s good to give and it’s good to receive. And even though I was a middle-class woman from the US standing in a home in the 2nd poorest country in Central America, I wanted to do what she was doing … choosing hope!!

Finally, how do the hungry find hope? There is a proverb from the Christian Bible that says, “a generous person will be enriched, and the one who gives a drink of water will receive water.”  My daughter and I gave water but we definitely left with our cups full. How could the poorest woman I’ve ever met take everything she had and give it to strangers working nearby? All I saw was a country full of deplorable conditions that outnumbered the relief efforts. She taught me a lesson that changed the way I think. This sweet lady’s identity was not in poverty or the slum. It was in something much finer and grander. Her identity was wrapped in riches of love, generosity, and goodness. Those things can never be taken away even in the worst of circumstances.

To conclude: I never want to be prepared to see hungry people or a community of people that live in the dump. In addition, I never again want to underestimate the power of receiving a gift wrapped in love. Maybe it’s when we learn to receive extraordinary gifts that we can give more than we could ever imagine. There’s a quote by Mother Teresa that says, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Yes, I learned about hunger and about giving and receiving, but the most important lesson I want to leave with each of you is how the woman on the hillside choose hope.

I heard about Toastmasters International several years ago, finally found a club near me and joined! I’m just getting started but already having a blast. If you are interested in improving your communication and leadership skills this is the club for you! It’s fun, affordable, and a quick way to learn. The Ice Breaker is the first speech in the Toastmasters Communication manual which is all about me (or you) or whoever is giving the speech! It’s a perfect way to confront the fear of standing in front of a new group of people. The subject is familiar and everyone is waiting to learn more about you in 4-6 minutes! If I can do it, I know you can!! I’m including the link to Toastmasters if you want to learn more or find a club near you. If you live in the Middle Tennessee area I would love to see you at our local club!!

My Ice Breaker is below. Although it looks short I delivered it in 5 minutes and 5 seconds. I had a difficult time finding the balance between too short and long. I was pretty happy to have stayed within the time frame. 🙂

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The Ice Breaker:

Inspired

My dad died unexpectedly seven months ago. He was only 67. My father was an amazing man who lived out his dream of owning and operating a successful dairy farm his entire life. Suddenly life seemed very short and even a little fragile. Since his death I’ve spent time reflecting on my life’s dreams, and I’ve decided that it’s time for me to quit dreaming and start doing, which is why I’m here! I learned about Toastmasters 10 yrs ago at a leadership school. Ever since that day I’ve wanted to join. I work at Stones River Church and also lead advocacy projects in the community. I have a dream of being able to speak and authentically connect with people with skill and confidence.  So, in early June I signed up for Toastmasters. I immediately started working on my ice-breaker speech but, soon after, I started experiencing fear—fear of starting something new, fear of standing in front of a new group of people, fear of failure.  I almost quit before I ever started! But then I remembered something that challenged and inspired to lean into the fear instead of running away. I want to share this with you.

I have three children. My youngest son, Andrew, was born with low-vision. He is considered to be legally blind. When he was five years old he told me that he wanted to play golf. Now there were several sports that I had researched that might be a good fit for a child with low vision like swimming and track. Golf was not one of them!  So like every good mother, I wanted to protect my child from getting hurt and from experiencing failure, and I did everything I could to discourage Andrew of his dream of playing golf. He didn’t give up! When he was seven years old my husband and I gave in and signed him up for golf lessons hoping that it would be the end of his ambition to play golf. He loved them! Now Andrew is thirteen years old. He plays in golf tournaments all over Tennessee through the Special Olympics. He’s good and getting better every day. Recently, I asked Andrew two questions about his golf game.

“How do you see the ball?” I asked.

He answered, “I don’t. I just know it’s there.”

Then I asked, “What happens when you can’t find the ball after you hit it?”

He said, “It’s simple; I ask for help.”

To conclude there are three things I learned from Andrew regarding golf: 1. Relentlessly pursue your dreams. 2. You don’t always have to see the ball to be a part of the game (don’t fear the unknown)  2. Ask and trust that others will help you along he way.

I’m grateful for how my dad has inspired me through the grief and sadness to look ahead, and I’m grateful for my son and how he overcomes obstacles daily to pursue his dreams. And I’m thankful for being able to take this next step of my life with each of you.

Andrew and his golfing buddy, John.

Andrew and his golfing buddy, John.

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https://www.toastmasters.org/

http://heartoftennessee.toastmastersclubs.org/