Toastmaster Speech

Title: Ten Minas

Delivered on Tuesday, November 28th, 2018


I am forty-five years old, and I feel as though my entire life has been a long preparation for this very moment.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, I learned about elite performers and absorbed some great advice about how to be successful. To be great at something. Anything.

You need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours, before you get good”.

10,000 hours!

If you begin today and practice for one hour a day, I will see you basking in your own greatness in about twenty-seven years, four months, and twenty-three days.

Of course, there are twenty-four hours in a day, and you can get there a little faster.

I took the long road.

I have been playing shy and have struggled with feelings of incompetence my entire life.

I told myself countless of times that it was not my turn, that I was not really good enough. I don’t think I remember a time, when I didn’t feel on the outside looking in. My every step, every movement, every attempt to become someone I have always dreamt of being, was always underwhelmed with unbearable caution and great trepidation.

I got really good at anticipating what people would say. I anticipated what they would think. I braced myself for criticism. I readied myself for failure. I hid and run away from myself, until I grew tired and stopped.

I have always wanted to be a writer and a motivational speaker.

I have always felt that I had something important to share, something important to give. I have longed for years to play the infinite game of writing and listening. An endless literary conversation of sorts.

I have longed and dreamed of being published. Of no longer dreaming, but being.

I didn’t know what to do with my life after High School and stumbled along obtaining a Business Diploma program at George Brown College. I pursued philosophy, quickly changed to a major in English, and graduated with a teacher’s certificate in the year 2000. The year the world was to end. Maybe next year.

Many years have passed since I have tried to inspire hundreds of motivated but often unmotivated students for three periods a day, for the ministry mandated seventy-five minutes. For ninety periods per semester, for two semesters, each and every year, for eighteen years.

Looking back, I have put in more than 12, 150 hours of repeatedly speaking to a challenging audience. It has taken a lot of repetitions and gusto.

For the longest time, I believed that I had wasted my life.

That I wasn’t making a difference and that I served no purpose. The grinding, thankless, bureaucratic wheels of our great educational system didn’t help much either.

I continuously longed to be a writer and a speaker, but thought that I had written nothing of value or ever delivered a meaningful dissertation on anything.

How blind we can be in our perception of reality. How close can we be to something, and yet how distant and unapproachable it can all feel.

Being a member of Toastmasters International has been a great decision in my life. I feel very much at home at First Speakers, Club 368, in beautiful Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

The few, but the mighty.

I’m here because Zig Ziglar told me to come.

Every single morning, I seem to listen to his voice and a few months ago he convinced me, from beyond the grave, that the best way to overcome self-doubt and a toxic self-image, is to begin speaking unabashedly, and in front of any audience.

Besides First Speakers, on January 13th, 2017, I also started

I stumbled upon the ‘Habits of Successful Artists’ in Seth Godin’s book The Icarus Deception, and that made a positive impact on my life..

I discovered that ‘there is no such thing as writer’s block’.

There truly is no such thing as writer’s block!

No such thing.

Understanding this is the difference between living and existing, being and doing. Knowing the difference is the difference between being a writer and perpetually dreaming of becoming one. The difference between being an amateur and living the life of a professional.

The difference is not in the money you earn. The difference is not the number of followers and fans you can buy or gather to your side. What matters is the care and attention you give to your craft.

This is why I started

This is why I write every day, without fail, without ever experiencing writer’s block.

But I am not lucky.

I made a choice.

A hard choice. An uncomfortable choice. A lonely existence in a literary spiritual desert.

I choose to write.

I concede the fact that I may write gibberish at times. That I may compose words unfit for human consumption. But I continue to write.

I write well. I write not so well. But I write.

I write with a new-found tenacity and unharnessed purpose.

I trust in the method. In repetition. In my ability to improve as an artist.

Why Ten Minas?

I took my inspiration from the parable of the talents.

I heard the parable of the talents, many times. I am sure you have as well.

You see, there once was a wealthy CEO of one of the largest, most profitable corporations in the world.

He called three of his most promising junior partners together to his office and informed them that he was going away for a few months. He disclosed very little detail, but told them that she had tremendous faith in them and trusted that they would grow his business in his absence.

She told them that they would be given all the resources they need.

She told them she expected results.

The first partner was given a team of ten or so of the best marketing and advertising minds in the country.

The second partner was given five.

The third, was given none. He was an expert in his own right.

All three partners went to work or so it seemed, and soon enough, the wealthy CEO returned.

She called all three of her junior partners together and wanted to hear about their success.

The first partner came forward and put his reports on the big, shiny, mahogany desk, and indicated that in her absence he created several new branches, and had earned the corporation an excess of ten million dollars.

The second partner came forward, and placed his report on top of the same desk. He stood tall, and although he had been given less, he too managed to earn the corporation, over five million dollars.

The third partner was reluctant to come forward.

He had nothing to put on the desk.

He didn’t speak. He didn’t move. He kept his eyes down and begrudgingly focused on nothing.

The wealthy CEO got up and went over to speak with her last partner.

“What do you have for me?”, she said.

“Sir, with all do respect, this is completely unfair. You gave the first partner ten of the brightest minds, so it’s no wonder he earned so much on your behalf. You gave the second partner five, and no wonder he could do the same. To me, you gave nothing and no one. Absolutely nothing and no one! I was alone. Scared. With no money. No contacts. Very little time and too much pressure. You are unfair. You gave me nothing. You set me up to fail. You demanded too much, but fuck you. Here is your nothing”, he replied.

“You ungrateful, spoiled, slithering waste of space. I had everything you ever needed and yet you wasted all of it. You churned your stomach with jealousy and diseased rage. You wasted your life complaining, bitching and moaning about how unfair life can get. I won’t make the same mistake twice. Pack your things and go. Take your nothing, be a nothing, and disappear”.

With eyes cast down, the third partner left.

He was never heard from again.

I heard this parable often as a child, and I always unconsciously measured my life against it. I contemplated what it could mean and what I was to do with my life. Growing up, we were very poor, but so was everyone else thanks to an abusive Communist dictatorship, which made things even worse.

I could never imagine myself as a partner.

I had nothing to give. Not 10, not 5, not 1.

But I didn’t want to be kicked out of the kingdom either. So, I invented a fourth partner. The one that was given one talent and turned it into another talent. The one who had little and made very little.

This vision sustained me for a very long time, and I realize today that although I was never kicked out of the kingdom, I never fully embraced the joy and beauty of living a meaningful life either.

I am making up for that now.

Here are two lessons I see today, that just couldn’t see as a child:  

1. Abundance

The wealthy CEO didn’t need her partners for anything. They could have all failed her and it wouldn’t have made any difference. The missed lesson is that life is full of abundance. Happiness is not scarce. We don’t have to fight for it. We don’t have to hide it and hoard it. What we want is there for the taking and if it isn’t, we have the power within us to create it.

2. Being Worthy

It’s not what you have, it’s what you give. Life is about being and the process of living. It’s not about doing, or getting all tangled up in producing something that will crumble to dust anyway. Shrouds don’t have pockets, you see. We have much to give, if we would only accept the fact that we are very worthy of it.

I see clearly that I have been given much and much is expected of my life.

It is not a burden to bear, but a struggle to be embraced and cherished.

If you have some time today, please lend your support the fourth partner, and please sign up for the email. Or send an invitation to someone that could use to hear some good news.

My thoughts will arrive to your mailbox every morning. I will not sell your contact information to anyone. I will not abuse your trust. You will not receive spam and I promise not to sell you my timeshare in Florida. The rusty shed is particularly valuable, but I’ll tell you about that later.

The emails may contain a few spelling errors. They may even be punctuated with a few grammatical errors, but it will be written from the heart.

Thank you for listening.

Thank you for reading.