“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means” ~ Inago Montoye in The Princess Bride
The word referred to in this quote is “Inconceivable” but another word to which this quote could be applied is “failure”. Over the many years I have been a part of the Toastmasters organization, I have seen many people take on the role of Club Officers. Some did amazing jobs and others . . . . not so much. The point of taking on the role isn’t that your Toastmaster club will rise or fall based on your performance. The point is to grow as a leader, a communicator and a person.
As human beings, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. If you are taking the role of (as an example) President of your club this year, you may compare how well you do to past Presidents. If, in previous years, the President has led the club to be a President’s Distinguished club and you do not see that happen during your year, this does not make you a failure. If you then quit Toastmasters because of that experience, that might qualify as failure.
The only failure in life is really the failure to learn something.
When I had been a member of my first Toastmaster club for only 2 years, I was asked to be the Vice President of Membership. At the time, my club had 34 members and the literature suggested that a healthy club should have at least 20 members. I thought, “Cool! I could do a terrible job and still will be very likely to wind up with more than 20 members.” I did almost nothing in my role as VP of Membership that year. I was unaware of the statistic in Toastmasters that suggests that an average club will lose about 1/3 of it’s membership at each renewal due to moves, changes in situation, and just plain losing interest. When the end of that Toastmaster year came around, my club had only 16 members. I hadn’t just blown it. I had blown it spectacularly!
But I had learned something! I learned that in order to survive, a Toastmasters club needs to constantly be growing. I learned that, even when a whole year of ignoring that fact, had decimated my club, we could come back to being a strong club again. Most of all, I learned that the point of being a club officer is not just to help the club. It is to learn lessons about leadership.
We learn by taking Club Officer Training. We learn by watching and learning from other officers both at the training and in our own clubs. Mostly, we learn by making mistakes, seeing the results of those mistakes and adjusting our course.
When I was a little boy, I conceived the idea that I could sneak out of my second storey bedroom to go and play by climbing out of the bedroom window, edging along a 5 inch wide ledge below the window and shinnying down the downspout from the roof. I had a harrowing experience which saw me dangling out of the window terrified for my life and being hauled back in by my mother. When I was safely back in the house I fervently asserted, “I’ll never do THAT again!”
Sometimes, that may be the lesson we learn: that the position we took on, was not a good fit for us. Perhaps, instead of “I’ll never do that again” we can say “I won’t do that again until I am ready for it” but it is still a lesson learned. It is a lesson learned without costing us anything but a little pride.
Did you join Toastmasters to get a club officer pin? or did you join to become more effective in business and in personal life? Don’t miss the opportunity to grow. Try something new in Toastmasters today.
By Bud Brown DTM