How long should you stay in Toastmasters? The answer depends on many factors. But many members leave way too soon. Some leave before completing even the simplest of goals, others after achieving a specific goal. What concerns me the most is when members reach a significant goal in communication and leadership and then move on without ever putting these skills to good use.
To paraphrase Mark Twain and others, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” Likewise, a Toastmaster who won’t lead has no advantage over one who can’t lead. Think about it. Some Toastmasters complete all phases of the program, earning the coveted Distinguished Toastmaster award, and then do nothing with it. Don’t let this happen—keep moving forward! As you near completion of your current goal, set a new one.
Scientific studies show that lifelong learning stimulates the brain and may be the key to a vibrant later life. Many years ago, I met a Toastmaster from District 31 named Charlie Keane, DTM, when he was 101 years old. I learned that he was district governor when he was 98! A member from 1953 until he died in 2008, he lived and breathed Toastmasters and wanted to share his experiences with others. Charlie personified lifelong learning.
A Toastmaster who won’t lead has no advantage over one who can’t lead.
Lifelong learning helps us adapt to change. The world is changing fast, and we need to accept that. Toastmasters is an ever-changing program, with new educational paths, new opportunities and new ways of doing old things. As Toastmasters, we learn to deal with change.
And finally, lifelong learning helps us increase our knowledge. We join Toastmasters to be more than what we are. We learn a great deal: goal-setting, team-building, how to run a special event, how to evaluate and mentor, and so much more. And, of course, we greatly improve our communication and leadership skills.
Don’t fail to put all this knowledge and these skills to good use. Run for office, volunteer for other organizations that need leaders, mentor a young person, sit on a board, teach a class, start a business or volunteer for a group that needs your kind of expertise. Don’t be that person who knows how to lead, but doesn’t. Don’t be that person who knows how to communicate, but fails to do so.
Tens of thousands of Toastmasters have changed the world in some small way. Join them. Make an impact in your world with what you learn in Toastmasters. You will experience the joy of knowing that you have made a difference!
BALRAJ ARUNASALAM, DTM