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.
January 15th, 2019 marked the 10th-anniversary celebration for SF Toastbusters, an International Toastmaster club based in San Francisco, California.
Days leading up to the event was one filled with excitement, an overabundance of emails, and a whole lot of anxiety as the guest list continued to fill up.
5:05 PM: In a relatively small room underneath the towering buildings of San Francisco, the club president along with a few members began the process of preparing the celebration.
5:15 PM: We were setting up the seating structure, testing slide shows, preparing our speeches, and taking nervous restroom breaks.
5:45 PM: Tensions began to skyrocket (at least for me) as numerous amounts of people walked through the doors of the Google Community Space in spite of the harsh weather.
6:00 PM: A slew of, "Good to see you!", "How are you these days?" ensues as many people come together for the first time in several months to several years! It was a beautiful sight to see.
6:10 PM: Time to show what SF Toastbusters was all about. The members of SF Toastbusters were ready to put on an unforgettable night.
"Hello everyone! Welcome to SF Toastbusters!" ...
If I could personally sum up the entire meeting in one word, it would be:
Grateful for the past and present members who made and make the club what is it today. And thankful that SF Toastbusters has been a massive catalyst of positive change to so many people.
"SF Toastbusters is a community..." - echoed by our very own superstar Toastmaster of the Decade, Wilson Chu.
Indeed, a community it is, and a fantastic one at that. But what makes SF Toastbusters the wonderful community that many past and present members claim it to be?
In the past, I've visited other Toastmaster groups in the bay area and was fully involved in one aside from my current club at SF Toastbusters.
I was also once part of a large religious group that took community living to, for lack of better words, a "whole new level." In other words, they crafted a stellar community compared to that of a modern-day village in the midst of our current individualistic culture.
My workplace also has a community of its own that is often admired by others from the outside looking in by other envious departments.
You can probably say I've had various experiences with different kinds of people in multiple communities.
Though I wouldn't know a good community if I also have never been with the worst of them. I've been a part of terrible, toxic communities where you can feel the dread as you walk within ten feet of it, wondering to yourself,
"What's going on? Why am I even here? God help us."
So then, what makes a fantastic community versus a good or bad one? Here are five ways to cultivate a culture that leads to the ideal community.
1. Established Focused Goals
Where's the direction of the community going? What's the purpose?
Without an established direction, there's no community, only a population of people in a meeting space.
A community always has a defined purpose and direction. In the world of Toastmasters, it's practicing leadership and fostering public speaking skills in a safe environment.
For SF Toastbusters, our specific goals are to not only develop ourselves in these ways but to manifest a culture that allows for comfort, fun, and personal engagement, without having to take ourselves too seriously. We desire a club culture that will enable people to enjoy their time being there rather than dreading it.
Where do they want to see themselves in a given time?
With hard, defined goals comes a sense of urgency, and most importantly, action.
Each Toastbuster officer meeting that we have as a club lays out the foundations of our goals for the rest of the term and begs the question, what's the "deadline" for all of this.
That deadline begets action, and action is what keeps the club moving forward. The next question is then, what are the specific steps to this action that would result in achieving our goals?
Get to brainstorming, then get to work on it together, bringing us to our next point.
2. Personal Engagement: small groups, mentorship, and cheerleaders
Smaller, intimate groups
Introverts such as myself aren't going to thrive being mentored or coached in a broader public setting. My growth generally comes in both forms. I'll enjoy learning in a larger crowd, and then taking action or having a discussion within a smaller group setting.
In my old my religious community, we met with over five to seven hundred people at one time to listen and learn. Afterward, we gathered in smaller groups of about three to six people to discuss and mentally engage with what we learned with a group leader who facilitated the discussion.
This enabled me to better engage with my ideas as well as hearing from others with a similar mindset and background.
We determined step by step action plans for a specific kind of change we wanted for ourselves and held one another accountable for those actions.
One on one mentorship
Those who come into a community are generally looking to learn and grow in some way. They're there for a purpose, which needs a form of guidance and direction.
Someone who is thoroughly versed in the typical ways the community and operates along with the vision and goals would take new people "under their wing" and lead the way for them.
A great mentor would allow for newer people to feel comfortable and be able to jump right into the action without having to navigate unfamiliar territory on their own.
No one takes a swimming lesson without an instructor.
Feeling a part of something, rather than observing from the sidelines
People aren't going to stick around a community if they aren't engaging within the community. Cheerleaders for a football team aren't going to feel the pride and joy of a touchdown as much as the football player who put their blood, sweat, and tears into getting through that end-zone.
Active involvement helps people know that their work is going beyond themselves for the "greater good" of the community.
I think what communities often mistake themselves in is not giving a chance for newer people to jump into the action, or at least, to be involved in some small way that gets them involved.
I once hated my religious community because even in the latter part of the first year I was with them, I wasn't encouraged to help out with any tech equipment takedown (there are reasons to this, but in hindsight, I wasn't fond of it).
In contrast, one of our newest members, Michael, in SF Toastbusters, could thrive at such a faster rate because he decided to run as an officer for our club. Essentially, the role forced him to take the club seriously and to be a part of our community as he engages and interacts with other people in his officer role.
3. Constant Changes = Constant Growth
There's a reason why companies make changes and move around. Being stagnant is dangerous.
Or, just as important, look at it in an organizational stand-point. People need to move around, and you need new managers, seating structures, whatever. Doing this creates a little discomfort that entices a sense of growth.
Growth only occurs through discomfort.
Can't see it? Let's narrow in on yourself within a company. You could go to work, day in and day out without any desire to grow within the company. Instead of trying to better yourself, you go in, get the same old task completed, and move on with your life.
This is the reason why robots are going to replace us someday folks!
Changes keep people on their toes, learning new things, and going beyond their comfort zone for the opportunity to grow and thrive.
Can't take my word for it? Look at Blockbuster or even that one company camera company that wouldn't go digital (what was it called again? Exactly).
For instance, Blockbuster had the chance to buy out Netflix, but instead, they passed. This, of course, led to their demise.
As the times change, people change, and we need to adapt, improvise, and keep up to par with societal culture. Or better yet, BE THE CHANGE.
The most dangerous situation you can find yourself in is having no idea which direction you're going in.
There's no such thing as a plateau
A plateau at any organization becomes doomed for death and destruction.
If you're a company that remains the same throughout as the world around you is changing, then you're going to be in a terrible place. While everyone is ten steps ahead, you'll become my Asian mother who doesn't use the dishwasher other than to dry clean plates (yes, this is a thing).
Rather than being a proponent of changes like Apple, or embracing the new-age world of digital like Netflix, you'll be the definition of insanity. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
At the very least, if you're aware you aren't doing well, you can make drastic changes to improve. However, plateaus are like a deadly snake, patiently waiting for you to walk into its trap and snatch you when you least expect it.
You did it to yourself Blockbuster.
4. Taking Each Other Seriously
Opinionated voices shall be heard
Voices need to be heard and acted upon if necessary. That could mean a simple response. There's nothing more dreadful than having someone outright ignore you.
Great CEOs will listen to their customer or employees if there's a problem and take action to change it. Terrible CEOs will think they have everything perfected. That's when I want Gordan Ramsey to come in and yell at them, just like how he does it in Kitchen Nightmares.
At the end of every Toastmaster meeting, there's a general evaluator that comes up after the meeting to talk about the overall flow of the meeting. They decide what has been positive about the meeting and what needs improvements.
Then, potential changes are made based on what they suggest, making the club a little better than before.
Of course, there isn't always going to be agreements made, which brings us to a culture of respect.
Having a culture of respect
What's great about my work community is that the opinions of others are seen with the utmost respect.
What I've observed with successful communities is that everyone is on an equal playing field. No one person is better than the other. Everyone has the right, and the opportunity to speak their mind without a verbal backlash.
This openness creates an atmosphere of trust and comfort that would enable everyone to put in their ideas and suggestions that would make the club better as well as fostering a positive culture for change in our group.
And as we mentioned before, changes are good.
No one is left behind
From the several amazing communities I've been a part of, they have a culture where individual success is accounted for.
Individual success is a reflection of the community.
At SF Toastbusters, we notice who stays and goes for both guests and members. If they leave, we don't dwell on it for too long, but we're curious about where people are because we care. We care for their well-being and whether or not they're reaching the best they could be, and what we can do to help in any way possible.
5. Most importantly: Vision
Being "a part" of the vision.
The vision of the community is the ultimate foundation of how the club wants to leave their legacy.
Toastbusters, take pride in the vision of having a fun, engaging, and accepting community from all walks of life to come together and personally develop ourselves and one another so that we can be the best that we can be in our endeavors.
Grounding that vision earlier on in everyone.
As soon as guests walk through the doors of our club, we ensure that they know what we're all about our interactions of the meeting.
I love having guests attend our meetings because it reminds me of the club culture that we have as we crack jokes and laugh at the cringy, awkward mistakes that we make (like showing a slideshow that I made for my girlfriend to purchase an electric bike).
Seeking to attain that vision with everyone on that ship
A vision is like being on a ship in the middle of the ocean with everyone going in the same direction to a particular destination. If one person isn't "on board" (no pun intended), then it will create some form of chaos. Maybe even leading to outright rebellion.
In my religious community, we had plenty of people who didn't want to join in on the vision, leading some to rebellion, verbal toxicity amongst peers, and in my case, depression.
At SF Toastbusters, we inform guests there are other clubs out there with different times, culture, sizes, and demographics. We do this for the sake of being transparent so that guests know that other clubs may do things differently. Therefore if they decide to choose SF Toastbusters as their club, they're doing so because they want to take part in our vision.
We have to accept the reality that not everyone will be on that ship with us, and it's our duty to ensure that they find that vision for themselves.
Bonus - A Great Leader
A ship without a captain is bound for destruction.
On this night, Wilson, our dedicated "OG" of the club aka, our mentor, leader, and advisor, was rightfully awarded the
"Toastmaster of the Decade" award.
Wilson has been instrumental to our club's success in every way possible. He's involved in every step of our success and ensures that we're ALL involved in our own way so that we can be amazing Toastbusters through and through.
Wilson has been committed to this club for several years and leads it with pride and humility as he sees people come and go. His mission is for not only himself but for others to experience the positive impact within the SF Toastbusters community as we continue to move forward, together.
Because if there's one thing that we can't do, it is to become a success alone.
I’ve been made fun of and laughed at for joining a clubs and classes that help me develop confidence, communication, and leadership skills.
I get made fun of for the books I order online or get strange looks from others when I tell them:
“Oh, I love writing.”
“I read a lot!”
Or, “I listen to podcasts.”
Then all of a sudden to them, I become this strange self-help freak who thinks he has the secrets to life.
Funny how that is. Since when does trying to grow yourself become such a strange phenomenon? Wouldn’t people encourage this?
It’s because of this reason:
Trying to better yourself and go above and beyond your comfort zone to live a better life for yourself is a THREAT to others.
I always thought that most people would love to engage, learn, and grow in their life, but I guess that’s only reserved for particular [weird] people, given that seemingly, most of society seems to be okay with the status quo.
“If it works, don’t fix it,”
With the years that I’ve been made fun of for taking out time for myself to develop and grow, I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Here are three ways to help you “over-achievers” cope.
Accept That You’re Weird. Yes, You’re Weird
Acknowledging you’re different isn’t a bad thing.
If Einstien conformed to peoples’ expectations, then we wouldn’t have the technological luxuries we have today.
It takes someone weird to disrupt society, large enough to bring about change.
Martin Luther King Jr. was weird. He knew that it wasn’t “normal” to consider equality an inherit ideal. Dr. King fought against social norms and became a proponent of change that folks in his day never thought possible.
The man was weird.
Embrace the reality that not everyone is like you, you’re different, and that’s okay. If people can’t understand you, that’s not your problem, that’s there’s. Ultimately if you’re the one happy and it isn’t infringing on their lives, then keep doing what you do!
“Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”
The “GRIT” mentality is the idea that you refuse to quit regardless of the various setbacks of life. For us “weirdos,” it’s on the basis from the opinions of others.
Haters, aka, the insecure people you may come across, will make fun of you and bring you down. It’s an, unfortunately, reality, but it’s the truth.
“The most insecure of people will be the ones most critical of what you do.”
Your “haters” could very well be those in your immediate family, friends, co-workers, girlfriend, boyfriend, and you don’t even know it.
They’ll talk behind your back as you know full well they think you’re some kind of idiot, impractical, and not putting your time and efforts into giving them attention.
In spite of all this, remind yourself of who you’d like to be ten years from now. What kind of person would you want to be for your future children and spouse?
Your ability to desire and take action to change will only benefit you and everyone around you.
“Self-help,” in the sense of reflection upon the self and your own life, isn’t a bad thing and should never be condemned. It ultimately brings you on the right track.
Greatness Isn’t Achieved Alone
You NEED others in this journey and know that you’re not alone in it. It’s not impossible to find people just like you.
When I joined clubs and went to conferences, I realized that I wasn’t alone in my endeavors to improve myself. It was a breath of fresh air to know that there are others who are doing it with me and I wasn’t the only weird one.
So if you’re feeling alone in your journey to achieve greatness, remember that there are weird people out there just like you and me who embraced their weirdness, won’t give up, and are willing to go at it along with you.
Find that greatness in spite of the odds.
Hello Toastbusters and Guests!
Join us NEXT TUESDAY NIGHT for our "UGLY HOLIDAY SWEATER PARTY" themed-meeting led by Toastmaster LIBBY! Dress in your finest. I know I will be ;)
Date: Tuesday, December 18th
Time: 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Location: Google Community Space, 188 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105
For new and returning guests: RSVP HERE + review TIPS here
See MAP/Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/mTFC3Yufe1k
Enter on Steuart Street.
Tell the front office attendant that you are here for the Toastmasters meeting. He or she will direct you down a hallway to the Main Conference Room, where we will meet.
Google Community Space should already provide a projector. Please contact Jonathan Raxa if you have any questions.
Hope to see you soon!
Shout out to our guests of the evening:
- & Laura
for coming out and experiencing the amazing, awesome, and occasionally strange Toastmaster club we call SF Toastbusters.
Our theme of the evening called "Active Listening", was lead by our very own Arjan who came up with the idea based on...something I forgot (yes, I know it's ironic that I wasn't listening entirely, give me a break I was writing a bunch of stuff down).
To start off the meeting Arjan handed out white pieces of blank paper. Then, he had us write down everything that was on our minds, anything. So here's what I wrote down:
"Oh shit, I'm shaking"
Then, he had us crumple up that piece of paper and throw it across the room. This was a great way to figuratively say, "screw you thoughts in my mind, I'm going to be actively listening!"
After that wonderful exercise we had another moment where we broke off into pairs to put into practice some active listening.
Some things that Arjan pointed was how active listening requires us to be fully engage to the point where we can paraphrase and even include feedback. He had us talk about what our dream job would be or what we would ideally want to go for Holiday.
Me being me, I really didn't know what I'd do, but nonetheless I babbled on about random stuff while my partner had to take it all in (sorry Linda).
And of course, the highlight of the evening, where we got to learn more about our two members Linda and Libby!
They were vulnerable and graciously share with us their stories and that captivated all of us. They spoke about things we could we really relate to that involved their personality, their character, and overall willingness to take a chance on something new and exciting.
Great job both of you on your first speech and looking forward to hearing many more!
With all of that being said folks I wish you all a great week and remember, stay actively listening my friends!
ANNOUNCEMENTS: NO Toastmaster Meeting Next Week! (November 20th, 2018)
Nonetheless, we started on time and had our very own fashion guru Lorna give us the run down of what she does on a day to day basis titled, "The Other Side of the Beauty World". Spoiler alert, it's the other side of the beauty world, aka, not what you normally would see (see what I did there?).
To sum it up, Lorna is a boss at her work place making sure stuff is done accordingly in lines with safety. She'll pose the question my mother used to always ask me, "What are you doing?" *with a more sinister tone of course, or of one that portrays annoyance.
Not only is Lorna in the business of risk management, but she's also in the business of advising for other business. So she's in the business of makeup and business success!
She's looking for a manager. Want to work with her on her team or know someone? Email her!
I found it funny that we couldn't shake Victor's hand throughout the meeting because he was sick. Given the habit of our usual handshakes, this called for awkward attempts to fist bump. We should totally make that a thing form now on, we're just cool like that.
Of course, let's not forget the amazing story that Kenn shared about having apparently gone through an initiation period with the Church of Scientology.
Just in case they're reading this, let just say, that folks, is a story I may never forget.
...Oh, and it's not "Jennifer". Her name was Stefanie! Just another one for the books there. If you were at the meeting, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about unfortunately.
Kudos to Terri for throwing another awesome Happy Hour at Gotts. Burgers were great, drinks were drinks, and the conversations were a thrill with stories and interesting facts. I learn a lot from my fellow SF Toastbusters.
Ya'll know so much.
WORD OF THE DAY: "EERIE"
USED IN A SENTENCE: "It was a dark and eerie, Tuesday night when the ghost was spotted in the boardroom of the YMCA." (it was probably just me looking pale before my speech).
SPEAKING TIP: Vary your hand gestures to help illustrate your talking points.
It's difficult to concentrate on anything before you go up for a speech.
Tuesday was one of those days. I, along with fellow member Terri, both had speeches this past Tuesday and we were quite relieved to see that it was a small crowd consisting of all members and one guest. So small that I made the announcement to remove two of our five tables, they're big tables! Kinda.
Wilson, aka Mr. Quantum Fantasy (which I still don't get), lead us as the Toastmaster of the evening, giving us these cool Hawaiian lays (which I still don't get either).
Ah, but Mr. Quantum Fantasy had a trick up his sleeve. He began by asking us what kind of dream we had. Then lead us in a group conversation about how we can divide up one million dollars. THEN said something the along the lines of, you are forever trapped in the eternal abyss...okay I need to write this stuff down.
It was some kind of eerie remark. (man, I'm on a roll).