Awards don’t happen overnight.
In September 2007, I joined the Walter Gage Toastmasters club at UBC, not knowing what I was getting myself into for life. I stumbled onto a small group of 10 people wanting to improve their presentation skills. I was a catastrophic jumble of nerves, my stomach dropping at the thought of standing up and speaking in front of these strangers.
The worst part came when they went around the room, asking everybody to stand up and introduce themselves to the group. I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me? I don’t want to speak! I just want to watch people speak and learn from that! It’s more comfortable.”
Luckily for me, I didn’t exactly have a choice.
As I stood up slowly, my heart jackhammered into my stomach… and my mouth suddenly became extremely dry, my lips reliving the cold brisk air of Alaska. With my knees quaking and my fingers nervously scratching the belt-loop on my jeans, I opened my mouth.
“Hi, my name is Jay.”
5 years later, I’ve completed over 40 speeches and 140 presentations, workshops and seminars. I’ve spoken to small groups of 10 to larger audiences of 500. Leadership has come not from being extremely awesome, but instead from a simple dedication to showing up every week, all 8 months of the school year, for 5 years. Several days ago, I received the Distinguished Toastmaster award. At the age of 22, I'm also the youngest in the world.
Every single time I get up to speak, my body still freezes up, my heart still throws out a heavy tempo beat like an 808 keyboard. Practice does make perfect, and although I’ve had a lot of practice, I’m far from perfect. In fact, receiving this award has made me realize how much better I could be with more work and more practice.
To Toastmasters, thank you for acknowledging my work. To everybody wanting to get better at speaking, you’ll get better by doing it ALL THE TIME. Painfully. Don’t worry, it gets better. To all the speakers that are better than me, I’ll be in the stands, seeing you in action.
I’m REALLY young, and there is only one logical next step. The World Championship of Public Speaking in 2013 will be awarded on August 24th, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. They say 3rd times a charm, I’d like to make sure they’re right.
I have a long road ahead of me in terms of writing, speaking, story-telling, and learning humor. I also know that to be the best, I have to be brutally honest with myself about who I am, what I value, and what I’ve learnt.
Every time I don’t feel like writing or speaking, these words come to mind. It’s EXTREMELY humbling, knowing that I have so much to learn and I’m not anywhere close to where I want to be.
Every time I speak now, EVERYTHING is on the line, because EVERY TIME I speak, I need to get BETTER with each audience. Delivery, thought organization, flow, vocal variety, enthusiasm, and charisma all come together into one short time-frame where the minutes sync up.
I love what I do, and I love where I am, but the only way to improve is to throw myself into new situations, new audiences, and new groups where people are miles ahead of me. So that’s what I’m going to do.
To the friends that have helped me grow, thank you. To the people I’m about to meet, I can’t wait.
Awards don’t happen overnight. I guess it’s a good thing I have a lot of dedicated nights ahead of me.
Let's get ‘er done!
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.