How I Let My Life SPEAK… and advice for you too

I guess my reputation preceded me. Someone, told someone, etc… and my phone rang… the long & short of it I was invited to speak to a group of Toastmasters. The talk was VERY WELL received, unfortunately it was not recorded but I think my notes will serve you well. Nearly every person in the room came up to me after the meeting and thanked me for the 3 Gifts I give in the talk.


Thank you for asking me to join you this morning. I'm incredibly honored.

You probably know that I don't really live in Santa's Village at the North Pole… but I do live in a village up north. I live in Ashland, Oregon which is nestled at the base of the Siskiyou Mountains just north of the of the Oregon border. Ashland is home to about 25,000 who love the charm and quaintness of small town life.

One of the most popular events in Ashland is its Annual Festival of Lights parade and town lighting which happens the Friday night after Thanksgiving. The Chamber of Commerce estimates that between 15 and 20,000 Ashland Christmas Paradepeople line the streets for the small town parade and the Grand Illumination of Plaza in the heart of town.

It's usually pretty nippy in Ashland in late November, often in the 30 or low 40's. So you just imagine the streets lined with people bundled in their Christmas sweaters and hats and boots… Carolers and warm cider and hot chocolate and even roasted chestnuts. It really a wonderful event.

The parade starts Scout troops, the high school marching band and the kids who are performing in the Nutcracker and several other entries make their way down the short 10 minute parade route.

Who is the final entry? Yes, it's me and I'm sitting tall in a sleigh made out of plywood by local volunteers. It's Santa & Mrs in Sleighpainted red and placed on a small flat bed trailer that's towed behind a decorated pick-up truck.

I'm waving and Ho Ho Hoing… Having a blast.

As the sleigh makes its way down the parade route the spectators fold in behind us and we make all converge on the Plaza at the town center. This is where all of the spectators gather for the GRAND ILLUMINATION.

I dismount from the sleigh and make my way through the crowds. I navigate up 2 flights of stairs to the balcony at Alex's Restaurant that overlooks the Plaza.

Now imagine, just before I step out on the balcony I'm handed a microphone, I step out and look down… below me stretches a sea of humanity, remember there or 15 to 20,000 people below me, some are chanting Santa, Santa, Santa, all these eyes are staring up at ME and now I'm supposed to deliver a 3 minute speech … I have people to thank, a Christmas message to deliver and of course I have the countdown to the Grand Illumination…

When I looked down at those thousands of people how do you suppose I was feeling?

Before you answer let me tell you this happened in November, 2008… now and let's jump back 30 years to November 1978. I was 24 years old pleading with a co-worker, Mary Nelson. I was a new real estate agent and I had just listed a home for sale. The custom at the time was for the "Listing Agent" to get up to a microphone, in front of 80 to 100 fellow Realtors at the weekly Multiple Listing Breakfast, and "pitch" their listing. I was pleading with Mary to "pitch" my listing for me and she, in a very caring, Mother Knows Best, kind of way Mary tried to Just Listedconvince me to do it myself, telling me how important it was for me to get comfortable pitching my own listings. Of course I knew she was right but I'll tell you here and now… I couldn't do it.

There was absolutely no way, I mean there was a zero percent chance that I would get up in front of that group and "pitch" my listing.

Yes, I had a 5 month old baby at home, and no, I didn't have enough money in the bank… but I could not overcome the fear and get up in front of that group to pitch my listing.

Why?  Why is it that I could not get up in front of that group and talk for 90 seconds about this house that I had just listed and so desperately needed to sell?

While your thinking about that let's go back to the balcony 30 years later. How do you think I was feeling when I looked down at that massive chanting crowd with the microphone in my hand?

Let me tell you, I was exhilarated!  I could not have been more excited. I had none of the paralyzing fear that I Santa on Balconyhad 30 years earlier with the Realtors.

My question to you is this…

What is it that can move a person from experiencing sheer terror at one time in their life and then at a later time in a similar situation experience sheer joy? What changed?


The answer of course is- I changed

Toastmaster PinThe process of going from terrified at age 24 to exhilarated at age 54 started with Toastmasters in 1988.

As a started learning and developing speaking skills I began to change. I gained confidence and I started questioning the beliefs I had that had been limiting me. As I look back I can now see that learning new skills, gaining self confidence and choosing empowering beliefs are 3 of the Greatest Gifts I have ever received in my life.

This morning I have 3 Gifts for you. These Gifts, like Santa, are magical. They have the power to forever improve your life, but only if you believe…

The first life improving Gift will strengthen your personal philosophy. Gift 1 –  IS ALLOWING YOUR LIFE SPEAK

Here's what I mean, I believe that each of us are endowed by our creator with innate gifts and talents. We are born with them, they are a part of our life essence and when we recognize these gifts and talents and use them for the benefit of others we experience a deep sense of self-satisfaction and contentment. We feel our lives have meaning and purpose.

Letting your life speak… means you are listening to your inner self and you are allowing that inner voice to guide your actions.

Causing people to smile and laugh has always made me happy. In school I lacked the confidence and outgoingness that it took to run for class office… but I was always something of a class clown.

I also noticed many years ago that I seemed to naturally gravitate to leadership positions.

A quote I heard many years ago has stuck with me… it said, "A leader without followers is just a person taking a walk…" I didn't want my life to be that of just a person taking a walk.  So for me letting my life speak has meant being a leader and teacher. Public speaking has helped me do that.

The next Gift will strengthen your personal psychology- GIFT 2 is ELIMINATE YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

How we experience our lives is determined, entirely, by the beliefs we filter our information through. In other words the meaning we give to the events in our life are entirely determined by our beliefs.

If we are fearful it is because we have adopted beliefs that undermine our confidence, or make us self conscious, these beliefs limit our ability to fully realize our potential.

It was my BELIEFS, not my lack of speaking skills, that kept me from getting in front of that group of Realtors… even though intellectually and logically I was absolutely certain that making that 90 second pitch would be in mine and my families best interest.

Here's what I'm suggesting, spend a few hours in silence thinking about your beliefs and your actions, and lack of actions. Identify the beliefs that empower you and move you to live aligned with your highest vision of yourself… and also identify those beliefs that hold you back and limit your growth and development.

The mere identification of limiting beliefs will often start the process of them slipping out of your life.

GIFT 3 will improve your income, GIFT 3 is –  DON'T WORRY – BE HAPPY

One of the beliefs I adopted is that personality trumps perfection.

I believe perfection equals paralysis. I started giving speeches before they were perfect… long before… the fact is I have NEVER given a perfect speech.

I realize that at times I um and ahh too much… sometimes I have pregnant pauses and other times I speak too fast… AND, and this is key, despite all my flaws I have earned well over a million dollars in speaking fees and product sales… I also have hundreds of testimonials and reviews singing my praises… I'm always looking for ways to improve… but I'm VERY OK with being who I am, how I am. Don't worry… just have fun.

Learning new skills and adopting new beliefs has allowed me to not only be comfortable, but be exhilarated, standing on the balcony looking down on the sea of humanity.

Seeing those faces brighten with smiles as I began to speak… that warms my heart… and lets me know that I am letting my life speak. I'm on track. I feel blessed that I am able to make people smile and add a few minutes of happiness to people's lives.

But I do think it's important to remember that I'm not I'm doing this for others… I'm trying to be the best version of me I know how to be… for me. I simply like myself better when I can be a source of joy… when I can be a trigger for positive emotions.

Becoming comfortable speaking in front of groups has earned me a lot of money but what is MUCH more important is that public speaking has allowed me to live more congruently; by getting in front of thousands of groups and sharing my information I have made lives better, some much better, and that makes me feel good. By being a teacher and leader I'm letting my life speak. Public speaking has helped me create an outward version of myself that more closely matches my inner vision of myself.

I owe a HUGE debt of gratitude to Toastmasters for creating a vehicle that allowed me to more fully live into who I'm here to be… and I want to thank each of you for allowing me to share my story and for allowing me again today to feel that maybe in some small way I have made a life a bit better.

I wish you all, all the best, and I ask each of you to join me in helping to keep the Spirit of Christmas, the love, the consideration and the fellowship alive ALL YEAR LONG!



One Response to How I Let My Life SPEAK… and advice for you too

  • Larry Cosgove says:

    In 1960, at 35 years of age, I joined Toastmasters and my life changed. Toastmasters not only helped with me as a speaker, but gave me confidence and belief in myself. I recommend it to all, both men and women, young and old, rich and poor. Everyone benefits.

    thanks for the soapbox.

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