By Stacy Langsdale

When I was in college, I enjoyed ice skating, but a friend of mine was really dedicated to it, and practiced on a regular basis.  He told me this story that really stuck with me because it is an important life lesson.

Everyday he practiced on the rink, carefully attempting new moves like jumps and turns.  Another girl practiced at the same time.  Day after day, she also attempted to master new moves – tried, and fell, got up, tried again.  She fell again and again during her entire practice.  One day, my friend came up to her and said he’d noticed her practicing for weeks, and asked her how she could subject herself to falling – of failing – again and again.  How could she get up and try again each time?   Her response was that she also had noticed him on the ice, but could see that his fear of falling was really holding him back.  That to advance, he will have to not let his fear of falling get in the way of skating.  That day was a big turning point for him – he was able to let go of his fears and his skills really took off.

This applies perfectly to Toastmasters and public speaking.  It is easy to let our fears hold us back, but the only way to succeed is to get up there and just do it.  Failure is a necessary part of the road to success.  No speech is perfect.  But, we have to get up there and do it anyway if we are ever going to have the chance to succeed.

I have a videotape of my senior capstone presentation from college.  Boy, it is the most painful thing I’ve ever seen.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I had at least three crutch words for every real word.  But, I pushed through and finished my presentation.  Many years of speeches later, I still battle my stubborn “um’s” but they are more under control and I’ve enjoyed delivering many speeches anyway.

Perhaps my New Year’s Resolution Challenge will be to fight back harder at those crutch words.  But, please excuse a few “failures” along the way – I’m on the road to success!