“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” —Henry David Thoreau
Joining Toastmasters in 2001 was the first step toward reaching my dream of becoming an inspirational speaker. I took many more steps along the way. My first speech made me very uncomfortable. My first Table Topics® experience was extremely uncomfortable. Being in front of my first non-Toastmasters audience was beyond extremely uncomfortable.
Likewise, your first anything will be uncomfortable. To succeed at a new goal, we must become comfortable being uncomfortable, because what was uncomfortable yesterday will be comfortable today. The pursuit of a vision is a pursuit of a purpose. And what better time to think about achieving new goals than now—the beginning of 2021?
Find Your Passion
Passion is the fuel for your vision. What excites you every morning when you wake up?
A number of years ago, my wife and I took up ballroom and Latin dancing—I took my first lesson at the ripe age of 23. I felt like a fish out of water but developed a passion for dancing. We had a new big dream: competing internationally. Every morning we woke up excited because we knew that on that day, we would either talk about dancing, go to a dance, take a dance lesson, practice dance, or go to a dance competition.
Our dream-big vision, fueled by our passion for dance, became reality when we represented our country—Canada—at the 1999 World Ballroom Dance Championships in Vienna, Austria. What is the one passion that fuels your dream each day?
Take the First Step
Having a dream and a passion don’t mean anything if you don’t take action. Taking that first step is scary. But the exciting part of action, even if you fail at first, is knowing that you are one step closer to your goal. Failures are inevitable; expect them and learn how to navigate around or through them. I truly believe that our biggest failure is allowing our egos to decide our fate instead of listening to our hearts.
My dream, when joining Toastmasters, was to become a professional speaker. During my journey, I became an avid participant in speech contests and pursued my Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award and the Accredited Speaker designation. I readily admit that I failed often and wanted to quit many times, because my ego was coming up with many excuses to quit. You see, when the ego speaks, the failure becomes everyone else’s fault. It’s important to push the ego aside so you can find the lesson you need to learn to succeed. This is taking ownership for your failures.
It took me eight years to reach Toastmasters’ World Championship of Public Speaking®, 17 years to get my DTM, and 15 years to get my Accredited Speaker designation. Regardless of all the failures I encountered along the way, I can now say that I am a professional speaker. If I allowed my ego to choose my path, these accomplishments would not have been possible.
Create a Dream-Big Vision
If you remove all obstacles, what would be your ultimate goal? Write down your vision statement and tell people about it. Too often our vision gets blurred because we allow others to tell us that we can’t reach it, that our goal is too lofty.
Not my mother, however. If you told her she couldn’t do something, she would simply reply, “Watch me.” An inspiring example to me of passion and determination, my mother fulfilled many of her goals.
In an era (the 1940s) when women in the United States did not often play competitive sports, she used her brother’s identity to play men’s semi-pro basketball and baseball. She paved the way for many women as she eventually went on to become the first woman in New Brunswick, Canada, to earn her commercial pilot’s license. And not only did she become a lawyer in her mid-40s, she learned a new language to do it. My mother went to a French university in New Brunswick (the only bilingual province in Canada) to learn the language. She subsequently earned her law degree in French.
It’s no surprise that she taught all her children a quote from motivational speaker (and former Toastmasters Golden Gavel Award recipient) Les Brown, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” The first step to reaching any dream-big vision is to learn to say, “Watch me.”
What’s Your Why?
Your purpose is the “why” part of the dream. Once you know it, you have a reason to pursue it. When your dream has a deep-rooted purpose, it assumes a life of its own. This is difficult to unearth and may take time.
I pursued becoming an Accredited Speaker in 2017 with the purpose of using my speaking skills, along with my lifelong career and experience as a teacher and school administrator, to advocate for today’s youth. I have taught every single school grade and worked with at-risk youth. I often speak to large audiences of educators on the subject of improving harmony and developing a better understanding of our youth. Too often we forget what it is like to be a child and expect our children to grow up too fast.
A student I will call “Jeremy” came to a class I taught at the time. He was a well-known drug dealer who spent more time on the streets than in school. He was very close to being kicked out of school, and I am embarrassed to admit that I was fine with this decision. But I changed my mind when I learned that he had been on his own since age 12 and was alone, abused, and homeless. I started to advocate on Jeremy’s behalf. As a result, Jeremy graduated from high school and was accepted to college.
My life-changing purpose is to use my voice to help people to better understand our youth. With understanding comes compassion, and a willingness to help. What is your life-changing purpose?
Countless people have defied all odds to accomplish their dreams. This year, it’s not too late for you to start your journey. I encourage you to write down your actions, your dream-big vision, your life-changing purpose, and your passion. When you write it, and speak it, you will be more committed to the dream. If you are told “You can’t,” reply with, “Watch me.”
Joe Grondin, DTM, AS is a Toastmasters Accredited Speaker, finalist in the World Championship of Public Speaking, an author, speaker, and retired educator in New Brunswick, Canada. He is the author of the books Living in Harmony with Our Children and Speak to Reach, which encourage anyone willing to listen, especially our youth, to realize their true potential.