By Sudha Krishnamoorthy
An oft-repeated question asked of Toastmasters is, “Why did you join Toastmasters?” Invariably, the response to this is, “to improve my public speaking skills.” Other common responses are to improve leadership skills or communication skills. Once we join a club, two scenarios unfold. Some of us become avid Toastmasters – taking up speech roles, leadership roles and going beyond the club to achieve growth. Others begin with the best of intentions but find themselves in conflict with personal/family goals. Unfortunately, a few end up quitting Toastmasters. In fact, I too faced such a predicament a year ago. But, by staying on, I learned something profound: we grow from pursuing our goals in parallel than by achieving them one at a time. I hope to inspire those who have a similar challenge to continue and reap the benefits of concurrently working on goals.
I joined Toastmasters in Jan 2016 for the usual reasons. I had recently moved to Fremont and I found that Toastmasters helped me form connections with the local community. I was not working at that time and with so much time on my hands, I dove right into the world of TM. Six months later, I was elected the VP Membership of my club.
Soon, life started to get busier! In May 2018, I was accepted to the Graduate English program at San Francisco State University. I was one step closer to my goal of becoming a professor. Incidentally, that same month, I was also nominated for club president for the next term! I was in a dilemma. Both of these would be great experiences and I did not want to miss out on either. But, could I handle both? As it was, I already had a “full-time job” as Soccer Mom to my two sons!
Common sense warned me not to accept the nomination at my club. I was tempted to slow down and tackle one goal at a time. I seriously considered taking a break from Toastmasters. I knew I could always come back once I settled into my graduate program. When I shared my plans with others in my club and outside. Everyone suggested that I give it a shot before I gave up on Toastmasters.
So, I took their advice and accepted the nomination. Soon, I was juggling the dual roles of Club President for the current term and that of a grad student with the myriad responsibilities that come with them. At times, I found it challenging to manage home, club and college work. I tried to do the best I could without stressing out, by planning ahead and organizing my time. I also learned to delegate and ask for help from my club members who were willing and ready to help.
Now, our term is almost up, and we are in the process of planning for club succession. Thanks to my supportive fellow officers and the commitment of all the members, our club scored all ten goals by February of this year and reached President’s Distinguished Club status! I got to meet many inspiring people over the course of the year, and I achieved my individual TM goals by placing at the division level in the International Speech and Evaluation contests. Through it all, I maintained decent grades too! To my surprise, I am doing much better now than ever before. In fact, I am happier, more fulfilled and have become a much better mom/wife to be around.
As I reflect on the past year, I realize that by doing more I was doing less! I still managed to maximize my learning and growth in every area. How did that happen? Is the adage not true that doing too many things can set you up for failure? Quite the contrary. One direct benefit I received from taking on “too much” was the crossover learning – my Toastmaster evaluations aided better student feedback, writing college essays enhanced my speech-writing skills. I experienced major growth beyond what I had foreseen. I had learned multiple skills by taking on the leadership role:
• effective time management
• organizational and planning skills
• team leading
• networking with people across levels
I realized that by working towards both of my goals and signing on for two roles, I had achieved maximum learning and growth. In fact, it was just as if I had taken on another role besides being a grad student and club officer – that of a project manager!
Fellow Toastmasters, do you find yourselves overwhelmed having to balance different goals at the same time? If so, don’t just give up on one goal to attempt another. Instead, consider the strategy of working on your goals concurrently with the knowledge that you may experience optimal results with each of your goals. I am confident that you will discover your own project management of these activities to reach all of your goals and pick up valuable leadership skills like I did. Toastmasters provides you endless opportunities to learn by doing and to grow holistically. I urge you to take on a leadership role at your club, area, division, or the district in the upcoming term and experience the transformation in yourself.
Now, if you could have your cake and eat it too, why would you rather not?