This summer has been like no other for me. I am in hot pursuit of a long-held dream, and it is changing me and my world.
I am in the chase for the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking, which is held annually at the Toastmasters International convention. The contest began in February at the club level. That contest is followed by the area, division, and district. I won at the district in April. That means I get to go on to the semi-finals on August 16.
TI says 30,000 Toastmasters enter the contest in their local clubs. At the semi-finals, 86 contestants remain.
I feel proud of the efforts that have brought me this far. To be in the top 0.3% of this year’s contestants feels wonderful. I am doing everything I can to win the top prize, because I know it will open doors of opportunity for me as a writer and professional speaker. I am eager to bring my message about healthy thinking to a much wider audience.
I have learned so much by going through this process. Whatever happens at the next levels, I have gained valuable knowledge and experience by pursuing my dream. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity.
Some knowledge is new for me. I am learning more detailed skills about speaking itself.
I already knew many of the other, more general lessons, but that knowledge is being reinforced. Top among those themes: Growth without pain is rare; some people will be frightened or angry if you change; self-development is worthwhile.
I am listening to an audiobook which I highly recommend: Innovate You by Jeff DeGraff. He describes one of the reasons change is difficult: Change not only creates the new, but in the process, it also destroys the old.
DeGraff cites the example of becoming a marathon runner. To successfully run a marathon, a sedentary person needs to do more than just start running. He will also have to change the ways he eats, drinks, and sleeps. The activities of a sedentary life will not produce a marathon runner, and so anyone who wants to run at that level must give up many of his previous activities. Maybe there won’t be any more golf outings on Saturdays, happy hours with coworkers, or greasy fast food meals with the kids. The golf buddies, coworkers, and kids may not be happy about these changes. They are likely to pressure the new marathoner to go back to his old ways. Change, DeGraff writes, may take you away from people who are not changing.
The process of this speech contest is very similar to the one experienced by the marathoner. This summer, I am seeing far less of my friends. I am spending less time in the pool, and I have yet to take the boat out of storage. Reading, studying, writing, and practicing are consuming many hours. I am traveling frequently to get feedback and coaching. I wake up thinking about speaking. I fall asleep pondering whether to put a particular word in the middle of a sentence or at the end for the most impact.
To be frank, I am probably quite a bore. I am sorry about that, but not sorry enough to give up my dream.
Win or lose at the next level, I will be forever changed for having gone through this process. So will the people around me. My husband is pitching in more at home; my daughter is learning to contribute more as well. My friends are seeing less of me, but when I am around, they notice that I am more satisfied with the direction my life is taking.
Growing into a dream is the hardest work imaginable, but it is also the most rewarding.