As many of you know, most people would rather die than stand up and give a speech in front of others. I was plagued with this disease, glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, for many years. The first 49 years of my life, I was terrified to speak in front of others. What a terrible legacy to pass on to my two sons. Finding my voice and passing on the legacy of voice to my two sons has been my number one goal. I was a single father, a tough row to hoe.
As I was moving rapidly through my forties and thinking about my two sons, and what would be my legacy, I began taking personal inventory. I didn’t want to regret that I had not developed the courage and ability to stand up and tell the world what I think. Most importantly, if I wanted my two sons to break the generational shyness driven by lack of self-esteem I needed to go to work. So, I went to work learning to speak in front of audiences capably and confidently.
When we learn to speak with confidence, we gain strength and more effectively connect with others, we extend our reach and our grasp. Our health and our welfare depend on our ability to connect with others to become an integral part of the global community and share our good thoughts to best effect.
So, what did I do to overcome my phobia? I joined Toastmasters and after a while, I developed confidence in myself and my ability to speak. My relationship with the world and the people in it soared as I had never before experienced in my life.
As I write this, I feel like the luckiest man in the world, to borrow a page out of Lou Gehrig’s life. (“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest guy on the face of the Earth.”)
As I was speaking one night at the Rose City (Portland’s nickname) Toastmasters, I told my fellow Toastmasters that I was honored and privileged to be to be a part of the Rose City Toastmasters. My goal this particular evening was to share with my fellow Toastmasters some lessons which I had learned since I had found my voice.
I said, “Many of you are already great speakers, I have heard a few great talks, and I feel right at home. If you have found your voice, great, let’s band together and help other people find theirs! I ask each one of you to reach out to someone! Invite another person to join us next week and the following week on so on.” When you find your voice you also find closer, stronger connections to your community.
Find your voice by participating in Toastmasters or another positive and safe haven actively, not only will it help you to speak better but it will bring each one of you a bountiful harvest in your relationships at work, at home, and at play.
I have learned that the best ideas don’t have traction until we find our voice. We need to learn how to say what it is that we have to say and how to say it and then say it. When we speak clearly and passionately in front of others it speaks volumes and gives off positive energy. Words have impact and our words and the way we voice them is our speechcraft and reflects our ability to make the world go better, especially when we find our voice.
I have also learned that the words that I deliver are a message of my choosing. I’m accountable and responsible for my word choice. The tone in which we voice our words is our individual report card. Words count can say a lot about us as individuals.
Toastmasters has taught and continues to teach me to be a responsible and capable speaker. It is a place that gives listeners and me a sense of belonging to a community truly driven by friendship, support and mutual encouragement. I draw energy from listeners, which helps me to be a better and better speaker.
Today, I’m pleased to report that both of my sons have successfully completed the Toastmaster course curriculum. My older son was gifted with his trip to the Dale Carnegie Speaking Seminars for his 21st birthday. My younger son completed his Dale Carnegie speaking course which was his 18th birthday gift. After following the curriculum, he became among one of the youngest members of his Toastmaster Club for a couple of years while attending college in Santa Cruz.
Finding our voice is an essential part of our flight to freedom. When we learn to speak well, we develop wings to help us soar to the highest heights. Fly like an Eagle!