Have you ever been impatient? Ever wonder if some of your goals will ever come to fruition? Me, too. Perhaps you remember being a newbie at a professional association and seeing the mentors on stage in front of the group. Maybe, somewhere in the back of your mind, a tiny little dream seed was planted, and you knew that you wanted some day to become that mentor that everyone is talking about. You aren’t alone. Not even close.
In the 1990’s when I first came to Toastmasters and the National Speakers Association, I had that dream. I thought, “How cool would it be to be the one up there in front of thousands of people?” In those days I was also immersing myself in listening to educational tapes. Among my favorite and most influential were my recordings from Brian Tracy.
To this day I can still hear much of his advice running through my head. One memorable bit of wisdom was Brian’s quote from Abraham Lincoln. After losing an election, Lincoln said,
“I will study and prepare myself,
and someday my chance will come.”
That has stuck with me. It has now even become a reality in my career. After being a member of both organizations for over twenty years, I recently got confirmation that I will be the opening speaker for the Toastmasters International Convention at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas this summer. Wow. That is cool. I’m not trying to brag. I’m saying this because often it is easy to think that our hard work and service are not being noticed. If your intentions are good and you are putting in a lot of effort, chances are people are noticing.
It is reminds me of my early days of playing football in high school. I was not very talented, nor did I work harder than everyone else, so I did not stand out for three years. For three years I sat on the bench as a second string player. It was in the summer before my senior year that I decided enough was enough. I started lifting weights, running four miles a day, going to summer training at a local college, and putting more intensity into the practices with my team. When the season started, I was still not a starter, but I could tell that my efforts were being noticed. When the starters were not performing to their potential, the coaches started looking around the sideline for better solutions. I studied, I prepared myself, and on the third game of the season my chance came.
Full disclosure: my attitude has not always been so wholesome. I went though a period of time when I was jealous seeing other speakers get their chance when I felt I deserved the spot. Have you ever felt that way?
Mr. Lincoln did not say, “I will be jealous and bitter because I’m better than they are.” Many times I had to catch myself and remember the Abram Lincoln quote. It got me back on track, making me a better teacher and speaker. Our energy and effort should be forward in the direction of our goal, rather than backwards toward feeling entitled. Instead of thinking, “They should…,” consider thinking, “Why should they?”
Intention and persistence usually pay off but not always in the short term. Instead of politicking to get invited to be a featured speaker, work twice as hard to become the leading expert in your industry. It doesn’t matter what you think. It is about industry perception. When everyone in the industry starts thinking and noticing that you are the best, then you are.
Thank you, Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Tracy. If you ever feel impatient when you don’t see the fruition of your dream on the horizon, keep this in mind. I’ve still never had the main stage at N.S.A. for more than seven minutes. That’s cool. Though I dreamed of doing it at Toastmasters, the little 1994 wannabe Darren didn’t really think it was possible. Now, over two decades later, it will happen. On a side note, I believe the main stage is just a privilege earned as a result of what you do on the small stage and how you act off-stage. If you are impatient waiting for your change, what could you study and do to prepare more with that same energy, whatever your dream is. Whether you present to five people in a boardroom or to one hundred people at a conference, you never know if someone in the audience might be someone who can recommend you. Some of my smallest presentations have led to my biggest clients. As for N.S.A., I will study and prepare myself, and some day my chance will come. How about you?
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