Monday, October 24, 2016

18 Life Changing Words

Words can heal a heart or break it. Free a soul or shame it. Empower dreams or demolish them. Motivate action or debilitate it. Words are powerful. They are constructive or destructive, either building up or tearing down. Words change lives. Let me tell you a story about the life changing power of 18 simple words.

Recently, Dan gave an inspirational speech for the Toastmasters International Speech Contest. The title of his speech was "18 Words". With a heart full of gratitude he spoke with poise and professionalism about how his life was changed by one person’s 18 words written on a small piece of paper 5 years ago.

A civil engineer, Dan almost did not graduate from Penn State because he literally passed out presenting his graduation project. Generally speaking, engineers aren’t expected to be eloquent speakers. Known to be analytical thinkers, they are not typically good communicators. For fifteen years, Dan hid in his cubicle at work rarely opening his mouth to speak. He was paralyzed by fear and riddled with shame that he fainted and nearly failed college because he couldn’t effectively communicate.

Then one day two co-workers roped him into going to a Toastmasters meeting. They were clueless about the fear and shame that lurked within their friend; he was clueless about Toastmasters. All three obliviously joined Toastmasters that day. After three meetings, one dropped out. After three months, another dropped out. Finally, Dan was the only man left standing. He too intended to quit, but was scheduled to give his dreaded Ice Breaker Speech at the next meeting.

With a lump in his throat, sweat on his brow, and trembling hands Dan stood up and delivered his Ice Breaker … and did not pass out. I was in the audience and unaware of the badge of fear and shame he wore on his heart. But, I knew how frightened I was the day I gave my Ice Breaker at Toastmasters several years prior. I remembered the kind, encouraging words others gave me.
I took a little slip of paper and scribbled on it 18 simple words:

Dan, Great ice breaker! What a heartwarming story. I look forward to learning more about you in future speeches. Beth

Today, because he took a huge risk, joined Toastmasters, persevered, and determined to overcome his fear of public speaking Dan is a rare gem among engineers. He’s not only a competent and confident communicator, but also an eloquent speaker who won our Club's International Speech Contest. From there he went on to win the Area, Division and District contests earning a place in the semi-finals for the World Championship of Public Speaking. At the semi-finals he competed against speakers from Australia to Sri Lanka, Japan to Canada and won second place.

He learned to address his boss in the hallway with a quick and accurate answer., and gained the courage and confidence to walk away from his job and start his own engineering consulting firm where he is the boss.

He used to only be able to talk about waste water systems. Yawn. Now he enlivens and entertains large audiences with words that change lives.

I am so proud of him, and honored that several years ago God gave me 18 little words to encourage him allowing me to play an important role in his personal and professional development.

Simple words scribbled on a scrap of paper may positively impact a life forever. Who will you set free, empower or motivate today? Words – they don’t have to be eloquent, only sincere.

As a Consultant with Insight Management Consulting, I help bring communication skills to workplaces; skills that improve relationships, respect and results making the workplace friendlier; skills that can be carried over to the home making families happier and healthier. Contact me to help develop your own communication skills, or to bring a communications class to your organization.

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