Viewpoint: Old Dogs and New Tricks

Viewpoint: Old Dogs and New  Tricks

A message from our International President

Several years ago, a friend presided over an orientation meeting for a prospective Toastmasters club. As he extolled the benefits of membership, someone stood up and said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Taken aback, my friend paused for a moment and in true Toastmasters fashion replied, “That’s true. But you are not dogs. So you can learn new tricks!”

When I joined Toastmasters, one of our local Toastmasters was an elderly gentleman who had been a member for more than 30 years. I was always awed by his presence. Here was Mr. Toastmaster in the truest sense of the word. He had been around so long (at least from my perspective then) that I was sure he knew all there was to know about Toastmasters.

Despite his age and failing health, he never missed his club meetings. When asked why he kept coming back, he replied, “Because I have never been to a meeting where I did not learn something new.” Isn’t that Simply Amazing!

Have you been in Toastmasters for so long that you feel you “know it all?” Do you think the program no longer offers anything that could benefit you? Try working in the new Competent Leadership manual. Yes, it’s very basic. Yes, it teaches leadership to members who just joined our clubs. And yes, even “old dogs” can still learn “new tricks” from working through that manual.

I know this for a fact, because at the February Board of Directors meeting, Deputy Executive Director Dan Rex said, “I challenge anybody to work on the projects in the Competent Leadership manual and then tell me they didn’t learn something new with every project.” I thought it would be interesting to test his statement, so I started working on the manual. And wouldn’t you know it? He was right!

Too often, we relegate the “minor roles” of the meeting to new members. “Timer? Let Joe handle it. He’s new. I’m a DTM, and that stands for Don’t Time Me.” Well, the project teaches us the importance of time management as a skill needed in leadership development. Every project in that manual opened my eyes to things I had taken for granted after having been around long enough. Try it yourself! You’ll be simply amazed.

At that February Board meeting, I also had a chance to visit with Past International Director Don Ensch. Don has 50 years of Toastmasters experience tucked under his belt. But the best thing I learned about Don was that after years of resistance, he now has e-mail! And what a wonderful new world that has opened up for him! He said, “My computer journey is a long one, but I must admit it has been an enjoyable one in spite of my frustrations, difficulties and temptations of abandonment. The computer has converted me!”

Learn from Don’s experience. Let our programs and manuals convert you. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? That only works for dogs, not for Simply Amazing Toastmasters eager to learn new and wonderful things.

Johnny Uy, DTM
International President