A NewsHour interview with the Council of Chief State School Officers’ 2012 teacher of the year helps illustrate the second pledge in A Toastmaster’s Promise: to prepare all of my speech and leadership projects to the best of my ability. Ray Suarez sets the piece up with the question is this something you can feel yourself getting better at the longer you do it? and about 1:19 into the interview Rebecca Mieliwocki states that I have been at it 15 years now and I know two things. I’m far better than I was when I started and I have a lot still to learn.
I think there are two elements at work in this pledge—first, as Suarez and Mieliwocki both acknowledge, you’re not going to get better unless you work at it, and, second, you’ve got to strengthen the club environment that others have made available for you by making sure that the club is ready to support them too. Don’t show up just for your speaking assignments; be available to serve as Toastmaster, evaluator, timer, and all the other roles.
It’s foolish to think that Toastmasters provides the only opportunity we will have to build habits of success. But we’ve got to take advantage of some opportunity that comes our way. More than 100 years ago, William James, the father of American psychology, observed
Just as, if we let our emotions evaporate, they get into a way of evaporating; so there is reason to suppose that if we often flinch from making an effort, before we know it the effort-making capacity will be gone; and that, if we suffer the wandering of our attention, presently it will wander all the time.
That’s a powerful reminder.