Ever since the beginning of the new year, SFToastbusters have creatively initiated themes that inspire, motivate, and encourage personal and professional growth. At the recent (February 26th) meeting, the spirit continued as Toastmaster Jon led the "Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Harder," themed-session.
It was a reflective moment for all of us as guests, functionary roles, and members shared in some sense what their most successful or memorable failure was. Jon's lesson and personal reflection in why he encouraged the power of failure made me recall a beautifully illustrated quote by Zen Pencils of J.K. Rowling's 2008 Harvard commencement speech .
Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control and the humility to know what will enable you to survive its vicissitudes. I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. You might never fail on the scale I did but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default. Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift for all that it is painfully won and it has been worth more than any qualification earned.
Conventionally when we think of failures, we look at it through negative lens as we struggle with the humiliation of our mistakes and weaknesses. To many, failure is synonymous to losing. And when you feel like a "loser," it's hard to see the motivational benefits of failing. However, it's how we persevere even in the face of difficulty that our failures really become the stepping stones for us to succeed.
This can be applied to your personal and professional growth, but also towards your journey to be a better leader and public speaker. So in the words of Jon, "GO OUT THERE AND FAIL HARD!"
With that I'd like to end this post with an endearingly uplifting song about how it's good to be "Such a Loser" by Garfunkel and Oates because at least you're out there reaching for something greater!
Word of the day: Persevere (per-se-vere) — VERB — to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.
Speaking Tip of the day: Use surprise to make your speaking points memorable. Novelty triggers a biological response that enhances memory creation and processing.
Below is a gratitude journal that Terri forgot to hand out during the Toastmaster meeting. Check it out!
"You've ever thought about keeping a gratitude journal?" my mentor once asked me one evening during a dinner at his house. "It would help you. Give it a shot for a month. Keep it to say, three things each day and work your way up from there."
Begrudgingly, I gave it a shot. I was desperate for anything to fight against my anxiety and depression.
A week later, I was still in a rut. I hated writing down just three things and the act of doing it was so incredibly difficult. My three things went something like:
"1) I am thankful for...the concrete stairs.
2) I am thankful for...the sun.
3) I am thankful that I don't have class today."
Little did I know, this was completely FINE to do. Gratitude, even in the smallest of ways, goes a long way in your life as long as you continue to practice it.
It didn't make sense to me at that time, but it makes a whole lot of sense now. Looking at it from a different perspective, I realized the PRACTICE ("practice" is key here) of gratitude created a subconscious mindset of "having enough."
My one month ended but I never stopped putting in the habit of gratitude. I began reading books and scientific articles about being grateful. It turns out that the practice of gratitude will have tremendous positive effects on your day to day life.
As people, we tend to look for particular things we don't have, versus focusing on what we do have in abundance of already.
With the mindset of NOT having, we get into this depressed, anxiety-filled state that only begets unnecessary pain. Your focus is so narrow in life when you focus on the, "I don't have this" or, "I don't have that."
Instead, broaden your life with gratitude, and you'll become a happier person in life because of it.