Monthly Archives: February 2016

Toastmasters Icebreaker


I recently joined a public speaking club at work called “Toastmasters.”  We work together in a supportive environment to help each other become better communicators.  Last week I gave my first speech, called an Icebreaker.  I mined previous blogposts for information that would help me introduce myself in 4-6 minutes.  Afterwards I got some great feedback and enough encouragement to be excited about next time!   Here is my first speech:

Listen. Focus.  Wonder.

These three verbs hold special meaning for me. Several years ago a friend gave me the book “My One Word” and challenged me to choose one word of intention for that year instead of an overwhelming list of resolutions and I have done so ever since.   I will be introducing myself using three of my recently chosen Words:  LISTEN FOCUS & WONDER.

Working in a call center was a large part of the motivation to choose the word LISTEN for 2015.  It was just over a year ago in mid-December that I became employed by USAA—my first full time job in 20 years. LISTEN was a great stretch word for me vocationally as I spent 3 months in training.  We all know how important it is to LISTEN to our members, their challenges, timelines, preferences and concerns.  The word LISTEN also benefitted me at home with Chris my husband of 25 years, and our four—you heard that right– FOUR teenagers.  Before choosing the word LISTEN I frequently offered what I considered the “helpful service” of finishing people’s sentences for them.  What can I say?  I’m a giver.  As it turns out, that particular gift is not always appropriate, appreciated, or even accurate.  Instead of “reading” people and jumping in to validate their feelings and offer an empathetic example of my own, I am newly challenged to offer my full attention and the gift of processing to the speaker.  To LISTEN shows value and respect, allowing the speaker to fully express themselves and clarify their thoughts. I also discovered the difference between “hearing” and “listening.”

Webster’s Dictionary provides this definition for listen:

“To pay attention and take something into account.” (repeat)

Did you hear that? Are you still listening?

Before LISTEN my word had been FOCUS.

As a creative, spontaneous, impulsive, social multitasker, I have a lot of fun most days. The frustrating downside comes with my tendency to   lose things, forget important details, and speak or act without thinking.   My initial motivation to choose the word FOCUS was to become more organized.  While that is still happening (gradually), I also recognized my sometimes spastic behavior was largely fueled by fear—fear of forgetting a great idea, or losing the opportunity to have an important conversation.   FOCUS could indeed help me become more organized in my thoughts and behaviors as well as my environment.

One of the definitions I found for FOCUS was

“selectively concentrating on one thing while ignoring other things.”   (repeat)

Focus led me to prioritize which led me to the reality that I cannot do it all and am wasting a lot of time trying to. I still have a front seat on the FOMO struggle bus (fear of missing out) but I focus on what I am supposed to be doing and experience relief that the rest is not my circus, not my monkeys.  There is freedom in focus!

For 2016 I chose the word WONDER. With LISTENING and FOCUS there was a heavy need for discipline.  With the demands of work and now 3 of our 4 children in college, the empty nest is staring me in the face.  I determined it was time to spend some intentional time recovering what brings me joy and inspiration.  I love to create, write & doodle but as Teen Angel sang to Frenchie in Grease “I’ve got the dream but not the drive.”  My inspiration tank is tapped and in need of refueling.  Seeking and experiencing WONDER provides a space to enjoy an intriguing moment with no immediate expectation of performance or application.  No action is required, there is nothing to emulate or capture, share or explain.  My goal for 2016 is to marinate in delight and admire the incomprehensible.  I want to be swept away in amazement.  I’d like to linger in the strange.  I hope for moments of content confusion. On many days, I’m sure WONDER may mean “I wonder where I left my keys,” but I am primed to be, as E.B. White once said, “always on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”  I encourage you to pick one word to inspire, delight or challenge yourself this year!