It’s Never Too Late – Week 6 – Vhairi

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Reigniting a Sense of Humility

The one part of Julia’s programme I’ve found ‘easiest’ to ignore has been the weekly Artist’s Date with myself, but this week I decided I must – must – do one.

I love giving workshops.  Give me a subject I am passionate about, a well-prepared script to work from, a powerpoint to rely on, and I can give a good class.  But… if someone throws me off by asking me a question – even one to which I know the answer, or even when audience members are friends – I go straight into deer-in-the-headlights mode.  My brain literally freezes.  I blush, stutter, and struggle to get back on track.

A few years ago, a friend suggested I check out Toastmasters, but when she described the 2 minute table-topics, where you get given a subject and then you have to talk about it for 2 minutes, that was enough to scare me off.  Thank you very much, but I’ll stick to my well-prepared script that I know works, and will time my workshops so carefully that there will be no space for questions at the end.  Phew – I’ll be safe.

But then I read Julia’s discussion about being a humble beginner. About having the courage to fail. She talks about how, at this age, we’re usually skilled at many things – our jobs etc – and how it’s hard on our ego to fail and not be perfect.

Working my way through my memoir I realised that, yes, I am good at a lot of things, but deep down in my core I feel a huge failure because of the failure of my marriage. That loss has left me feeling extremely reluctant to willingly expose myself to any future failures – big or small.

And then…

A local Toastmasters club held an open house this week, so I took a deep breath and decided to make that my Artist’s Date.

The members I spoke to talked about it being a safe place to fail.  Everyone wants the best for you, and that became clear as the evening wore on… especially when it came to the two-minute table-topics.  Even though, as a guest, I was exempt from having to speak, I felt my heart clench as people’s names were called and given their topic.

And then a great thing happened.  A guy who’d obviously been a member for a long time, who had a great presence and talked extremely well, gave his talk… and even I could tell it didn’t last 2 minutes.  It wasn’t until the end of the evening that I found out he’d spoken for only 45 seconds.  But that didn’t matter.  The feedback he was given was constructive.  Yes, he was short on time, but this, and this, and this was what he did well.  What I’d heard about it being a safe place to fail, seemed true.

So I’ve decided to sign up.  Will I feel it’s a safe place when it’s my turn to talk for two minutes…?  I’ll get back to you on that, but I’ve taken a small step to put myself in a situation where I know I will fail.  I can’t possibly be perfect first time out the gate, but perhaps – perhaps – with practice, my failures will turn into a success.

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