Ron Lewison, a very experienced fellow Toastmaster, noted that a valuable career lesson he learned was to join groups or organizations where you just barely qualify for membership. They’ll pull you up to a whole new level.
This is outstanding advice.
On one hand it’s uncomfortable being in the bottom 10% of any group. But on the other hand, you’ll either move up or drop out. And you can usually avoid dropping out simply by choosing to stick with it.
In such a group you’ll have massive learning opportunities. Virtually everyone will be able to teach you something. So although you may feel overwhelmed in the beginning, you’ll be soaking up new ideas like a sponge.
In Las Vegas there’s an advanced Toastmasters club called Powerhouse Pros. Most Toastmasters clubs are open to everyone, but Powerhouse Pros is intended only for people who are interested in speaking professionally. In order to join, you first have to become a CTM (which requires giving 10 speeches), you have to attend at least 3 Powerhouse Pros meetings as a guest first (so you can get to know them and they can get to know you), and then you have to give a speech about why you want to join. I’ve already met the first two requirements, and I’m scheduled to give my “why do I want to join” speech on April 4.
Many Powerhouse Pros members are professional speakers or entertainers, including George Gilbert, John Kinde, and S. Frank Stringham. I’ve seen all three of them speak multiple times, and their level of talent is just amazing. George Gilbert and John Kinde are also the only two Toastmasters Accredited Speakers in Las Vegas, out of only 56 in the world.
And lucky me … I’ll be competing against George Gilbert in the upcoming speech contest this Saturday.
When you join a group you’re just barely qualified to join, like I’m doing with Powerhouse Pros, you really can’t lose. First, no one expects much of you because you’re the newest member. So if you fall on your face your first few attempts, it’s no big deal — it’s expected. Secondly, you’ll learn rapidly just by shutting up and listening. And thirdly, you’ll be so engaged trying to keep up that you’ll never be bored.
One quote I love, which I think is from Denis Waitley, is this: “There never was a winner who wasn’t at some point a beginner.” Some people get so bent out of shape worrying about failing as a beginner, so they avoid trying new things. But you’re expected to fail as a beginner, so get over it and try anyway. No one expects beginners to look good or perform well. Imagine Bruce Lee falling on his butt while attempting his spin hook kick. Picture a young Jim Carey being booed to the point of tears at a comedy club. Imagine little Albert Einstein being labeled as a moron. No matter how skilled someone is today, at some point they were really bad. Even Mozart was a poor musician at age 1.
Just start anyway and fail your way forward. In the beginning you’ll probably stink. You’re supposed to stink. So have fun with your stinkage, and keep at it. Eventually you’ll get good, and no one will remember how bad you once were. They’ll just assume you were born great.