Shoot for the Stars

By Dennis Neary

The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and (we) miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. – Michelangelo

Toastmasters International provides us with goals every year.  The Distinguished Club Program (DCP) provides three levels of achievement a club can attain; Distinguished, Select Distinguished and President’s Distinguished.  Each year only one third to one half of the clubs worldwide achieves one of these goals.  If your club is one that achieves President’s Distinguished status every year you have achieved all you can achieve.  There is nothing further to strive for, right?

Wrong!  Since when do we need to have a higher authority set our goals for us?  We can use the goals of the DCP as a starting point and set our own higher goals from there.  The 2017-2018 Toastmaster year was the first of three years when World Headquarters (WHQ) gave us 16 DCP goals, although only 10 would count toward the DCP.  About half way through the year, Warehouse Toastmasters realized that we had a good shot at completing all 16.   We set that as our stretch goal and managed to achieve it.  Warehouse Toastmasters was one of five Toastmasters Clubs in the world to complete all 16 DCP goals that year.

One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals. – Michael Korda

The incoming 2018-2019 club officers decided to set the bar even higher and give the club a set of goals that they had a real chance of failing to achieve.  The four club goals for the year were:

  • Repeat accomplishing all 16 DCP goals for the year.
  • Have at least 20 different club members complete at least 30 educational awards.
  • Achieve 10 DCP points on the earliest day possible. Since District 57 does not schedule makeup training sessions until Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) is completed, that meant we needed to have nine DCP points going into the winter TLI and get at least four officers trained at TLI.
  • Conduct a Youth Leadership Program (YLP) with a local youth organization. This was our stretch goal, as the club had never conducted an YLP.

These goals did prove to be high enough that we failed to complete all four.  We did complete three of the goals, including submitting more than 40 educational awards and conducting two Youth Leadership Programs.  However, we fell just short of what should have been the easiest goal.  We had completed nine DCP goals going into TLI, but did not get four club officers to TLI.  We had to wait for the makeup sessions to complete goal #9.

I never lose.  I either win or I learn – Nelson Mandela

Since we only accomplished three of our four goals, does that mean we failed?  Not at all.  We learned one area where the club should improve, and we can use that knowledge improve the club this year. Paraphrasing Mandela: You never fail.  You either succeed or you learn.

Now our incoming officers are challenged to give us a difficult set of goals to accomplish.  They don’t have to repeat last year’s goals, as long as they pose a challenge for the club.  The only goal that I am going to demand they set is to go for a threepeat of all 16 DCP goals.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. – Henry David Thoreau

If you are in a club that is President’s Distinguished every year, repeating as President’s Distinguished is no challenge.  Don’t settle for that.  Setting even higher goals for your club stimulates your members, adds a renewed sense of accomplishment to the club and builds upon the club culture of excellence.  Ask your club officers, “What are our club’s stretch goals this year?”  You can start with something such as, complete the President’s Distinguished requirements by March 31, or February 29.  Then build from that each year.  Just remember – If you shoot for the stars and only hit the moon, you are still better off than if you shoot for the mud and hit it dead center. 

Shoot for the stars!