I am a firm believer in lifetime learning. If you aren’t growing, moving forward and seeking new experiences, life can become routine, boring and just plain hard. Now I don’t mean that I am always so focused on the future that I miss the pleasures of the present, far from it. Nor would I dare say that at times I haven’t been drawn into yearning for things and people whose time has passed. My view is that you revel in the present and look to the future. You then enhance your current moment and improve your chances of enjoying the future when it becomes the present.
Following my personal philosophy, I joined a local Toastmasters International chapter. For those of you unfamiliar with Toastmasters, it is an organization developed to help people develop their public speaking skills. Our group is a fun, supportive, well educated collection of people who meet every other week for an hour to offer encouragement to each other as we travel down the road toward earning our Competent Communicator and/or Competent Leader title.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of giving my first speech (The Icebreaker) before the group. The Icebreaker is designed to get you up and speaking in front of an audience while remembering to breathe. I have never had a problem with public speaking, in fact, it is something I enjoy very much. My fondest dream (and goal) is to get my book published, develop seminars to complement it, and tour the country. (Of course, in my dream – and goal – the appearance on Oprah will help me become a household name, just remember you saw me here first…)
I have had the date for my speech for several weeks. The TMI handbook suggests practicing your speech a good bit, making sure the timing is correct and you are comfortable, etc. Many people practice their speech in front of family and friends to be sure they are truly prepared. I began preparing in my mind by picking the title: My Life of Passion. This came with a disclaimer that it was not an X Rated sort of passion I was going to discuss, but rather my passion for life and the many wondrous experiences available to us. Ideas drifted into my conscious (and obviously my subconscious) mind about the body and contents of the speech, and I knew for a closing I would use a favorite quote by George Carlin, but I put nothing on paper. The night before last, as I drove home from work and climbed into bed, (I get home from work around 11pm), more ingredients of the speech presented themselves to me. I tossed them into the pot to let them simmer. Yesterday morning while having my teeth cleaned, I reviewed a bit, then while on the acupuncturists table, rearranged a bit more (like tasting a stew and adding a bit of seasoning). From the acupuncturist I went directly to my meeting, a few lines of notes and my George Carlin quote in hand. The rest was still percolating in my mind. I was terrified. Not of getting up in front of people and speaking, I love to do that. The fear was of failing. I had not prepared the way the manual had instructed me to, I had not even written a speech, per se, much less practiced it. I was sure I would speak for 45 seconds, run out of words and slink back to my chair in shame and disgrace….. You would think that after 48 years, I would know myself a little better. For starters, me run out of words??? A highly unlikely scenario (I can get many family members and co-workers to verify the absurdity of this notion, should you doubt me!)
After having taught horseback riding lessons for over 20 years, thinking on my feet really isn’t a problem, nor is improvisation. I would know before I went in to teach a lesson what my basic goals were, but I didn’t have the words scripted and ready. I had to respond to what was happening with the rider and the horse. I had to be able to make it up as I went along, and that is how I presented my speech. I made it up as I went along.
Making it up as one goes along is usually viewed in a negative light. It smacks of a free spirited, undisciplined individual who hasn’t paid his or her dues, done the time, walked the talk. But I challenge you to live your day today without making it up as you go along, at least in some small manner. You are having a conversation with someone at work. You can’t foretell what the other person is going to say and exactly the words you will use to respond. You make it up as you go along. Traffic is bad, dinner is burned, the washing machine doesn’t pump out, all the treadmills at the gym are being used….. you make it up as you go along.
So, just for today, be aware of the opportunities you have to extemporize. Let go a little bit and see where life is willing to take you. Don’t be too afraid to make it up as you go along. You never know, you may discover that the real you has a chance to shine through in ways you never imagined. Who knows – you may even get a standing ovation….. I did.