Four Ways to Create Your Ideal Life

Read time: 6 minutes 8 seconds

85% of employees are not engaged at work, according to a 2017 Gallup poll.

You probably know employees like this. I know I do. They ebb and flow through the waters of life complaining about their day jobs while waiting for the weekend, the next vacation, or retirement. This Gallop poll has always fascinated me, so I explored strategies that anyone can use at any age to create their ideal life. The four themes that surfaced the most during my research were:

  • Have a vision
  • Think BIG!
  • Invest in yourself
  • Work harder than you ever worked before

Dani Johnson, now a multi-millionaire, who was raised on welfare, pregnant at 17, and homeless at 21, calls the first theme, “The Law of vision“. She encourages readers of her book, First Steps to Wealth: A Revolution to Increase Your Income, Improve Your Relationships and Expand Your Influence, to write down any dreams you have, no matter how big or small, even if they start out as seemingly selfish, monetary goals. At this point, you don’t need to know how to accomplish them. You simply need to write them down.

When writing your vision on paper, think BIG!! Don’t hold back! Norman Poole said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will still end up in the stars.” Let me give you an example. If you’re tired of shaking, and sweating profusely before, during and after a work-related meeting, join Toastmasters. If you are already a member, don’t quit. To expand this goal, you could:

  • Aim to finish your first pathway in one year.
  • Schedule your speeches in advance so you are continually moving forward at a steady pace and never, ever cancel a speech, even if you don’t feel ready.
  • Compete in a Toastmasters competition.
  • Become a club officer.
  • Another idea is to work toward giving a TED talk. That is my ultimate goal. One day, I hope to speak from TED’s signature round, red carpet.

We’ve all heard the phrase if your goals don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. Grant Cardone, a bestselling author and owner of several multi-million dollar companies, says in his book, The 10x Rule, that you should push yourself to be scared. The more you push yourself, the less scared you’ll be.

I have found Grant’s advice to be true. As a seven-year-old, I loved ballet but I was paranoid at recitals. As soon as I got on stage, I stood there frozen looking around at all of the girls not knowing what to do even though I knew the routine. Within two years, I quit.


Fast forward over 30 years, my daughter asked me to join her tap class last year. Even though I was nervous, I said “Yes, let’s do it!” because I didn’t want her to be scared like me when she is my age. In the first year, we participated in two dance recitals. Three weeks ago, we started our second year of lessons.

Can you believe that I actually love the recitals now? When one is over, I can’t wait for the next one. So many people have come up to me afterward and said, “I could never do that!” to which I say, “Yes, you can! If I can overcome my fears, so can you!”

When you have your vision on paper, and your dreams are as big as they can be, ask yourself, “How are you going to get from point A to your final destination?” You are going to need a plan. Linda, a fellow Toastmaster, would tell us to build a door. The best way to build that door is to take Dani Johnson’s advice and invest in yourself.

  • What can you do to increase your skills?
  • What classes can you take?
  • Who do you know that is successful? Go and talk to them.
  • If you want to be a writer, talk to a successful writer.
  • If you want a successful marriage, talk to a couple that has been married for decades.

When you start thinking big, you will notice that opportunities are all around you.

To achieve your goals, you will have to work harder than you have ever worked before. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a great example. As a young boy growing up in Austria after WWII, he desperately wanted to come to America. One day, he read a bodybuilding magazine article about Reg Park who grew up dirt poor in England. As he flipped through the magazine barely able to put it down, he learned that Reg Parks worked out for five hours a day. He went on to become Mr. Great Britain, then Mr. Universe twice, and finally secured the leading role of Hercules.

After that, Arnold’s vision was clear. He was going to move to America, become a champion like Reg on that same stage and become a movie star. Like Reg, Arnold weight lifted for 5 hours a day, took acting and language classes. Despite all the odds against him and directors telling him that nobody would ever hire an actor with such a strong accent, he was finally offered a few small roles. He got his big break with the move The Terminator. We all know who Arnold is. To view Arnold’s Five Steps to Success speech, click here.

If you don’t like where life has taken you, push yourself away from the bank, and swim towards a brighter future. You will encounter rough waters and naysayers, but know that if you have a vision, think big, invest in yourself and work harder than you ever have before that you will find yourself amongst the stars, and you may even end up on the moon.

P.S. The above blog post was my second Toastmasters speech from 19 September 2018 which took 6 minutes and 8 seconds.


Toastmaster Success Story: My First Unplanned “Toast”

Today, I attended a retirement lunch for a colleague who has helped me tremendously over the last five years. After the initial formalities and awards, the host opened the floor to comments from the11717619ad12dc4901d44f979c82023b--faces.jpg audience. 

After the fifth person spoke, I mustered up enough courage to participate. I power walked to the front of the room so as not to change my mind, told a story about how we met and how much he helped me over the years. 

In true Toastmasters style, I managed to avoid all ahs, ums and filler words. I even had the room laughing at one point, I made eye contact with everyone in the room, and used gestures. My Toastmasters club would be so proud!

I was thrilled that I found the confidence to publicly explain how much someone meant to me, instead of hiding in the corner wishing I had said something.

This was a huge confidence booster for me! Never in a million years would I have given a “toast” before joining Toastmasters two months ago. If I had, it would have been thoroughly rehearsed and I would have stressed about it for days or weeks beforehand. The table topics sessions are clearly working! 

I share this small success story as proof that Toastmasters does in fact work. If Toastmasters can help a person like me, who has avoided public speaking for the better part of 30 years, it can do the same for you.

I challenge you to visit your local Toastmasters Club and consider joining. You won’t regret it! You might even discover a new and improved YOU!

Once you visit a club, let me know what you thought. I would love to know!


Five Tips for New and Aspiring Toastmasters

The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy with the kids going back to school and sports/dance starting up again. Finding the time to blog has been a challenge. The one thing I have not stopped is my weekly Toastmasters meeting. Since I last wrote on 22 August 2018, I have given my Ice Breaker speech and served as the Toastmaster, or lead for the overall meeting.

I learned five valuable lessons since becoming an official Toastmaster that I hope will help new or aspiring Toastmasters.

  1. Be prepared. Prepare for your Toastmaster’s role several days in advance of the meeting. There is no shortage of resources to help you. Start by asking your club’s officers for guidance. They are more than willing to help point you in the right direction, answer questions and explain the club’s protocol. In addition, there are plenty of videos, tutorials, and sample scripts you can reference from various clubs on YouTube and the Toastmasters site.
  2. Volunteer for all of your club’s roles. Our Vice President of Education assigns us roles with increasing responsibility. New members start with the Ah-Counter role and then progressively fill more challenging roles like the Timer, Grammarian, Table Topics Master, and Toastmaster, in that order. Once you have given 3 speeches, you can serve as a speech evaluator for someone else. If your club does not assign roles and simply takes volunteers, consider following the same path. Before you know it, you will be comfortable filling all roles which will help when a person is absent and the Toastmaster of the Day needs to call on you to fill a role.
  3. Participate in every table topics session. Our club is small so we all participate in the table topic session no matter what role we are filling or if we gave a speech that day. This portion of the meeting is led by the Table Topics Master who gives you a topic, quote, question or image after which you talk about it for up to 2 minutes with no preparation. This portion of the meeting helps you think on your feet and forces you to share your ideas or argument in a logical manner. To give you an idea, my table topic question for today was, “Why should we celebrate green lights?” I used to be so nervous for table topics yet the more I do them, the easier they get. If you want to quickly improve your public speaking skills, always participate in table topics.
  4. Prioritize your speeches. Talk to your Vice President of Education about prescheduling your future speeches so that you are forced to stay on track. I pre-scheduled mine every four weeks which gives me one to two weeks to research and write the speech and another two weeks to practice it.
  5. Attend every meeting. If you allow yourself to miss a meeting, especially when you first start out, you will be even more nervous when you go back. Set yourself up for success and show up.


When I leave my weekly Toastmasters meeting, I find that I am more confident. I have begun starting conversations with people I don’t know and have assumed roles outside of the club that I would have shied away from previously. This change is after 5 weeks of being an official member. Imagine the difference six months or a year of toastmaster meetings will make!

I have been so inspired by Toastmasters that I established some new goals. I plan to become a club officer, give a speech every four weeks, and participate in a Toastmasters competition. I can’t say enough good things about Toastmasters! I feel like I am finally breaking out of my introverted shell. If I can do it, you can too!

Don’t let the fear of public speaking hold you back from what you were meant to do in life. Take control of that fear and shape it into something meaningful.

If you have a dream, start now! Carpe diem!

If you have a dream, start now.

If you can’t start now, start tomorrow.

Don’t put off your dreams any longer. Time will pass anyway. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish in one month.

Since my last blog post, I have attended four Toastmaster meetings as an official Toastmaster and two additional meetings as a guest. I filled the role of Ah-Counter, Grammarian, Timer, Table Topics master and volunteered to do several table topics. I am giving my Ice Breaker speech next week and scheduled my second speech at the end of September.

I also completed the Toastmaster’s questionnaire to see which path is most closely aligned with my interests, strengths, and weaknesses. It recommended the leadership path so that is the one I chose.

In four weeks, I have already noticed a difference. My fear of public speaking seems to be subsiding. I no longer feel overwhelmingly nervous, get headaches, or race to the restroom before Toastmaster meetings.

Every week, I look forward to Toastmasters! The club’s members are incredibly amusing, witty and creative. I am continually in awe of their public speaking skills and look forward to speaking more like them in the future.

In addition, I finished reading two books on success by Dani Johnson and finished the book “Everyday Greatness”.

Challenge yourself to do something you have always wanted to do.

Take one small step toward your dreams today!

What small step will you take today?


It’s official! I’m going back to Toastmasters…

Next Wednesday, I return to Toastmasters with the goal of finishing the Competent Communicator Manual which consists of 10 different types of presentations. Last night, I filled out the application and corresponded with our local club’s President.

Toastmasters, here I come… again!


Nine years ago, I gave a particularly bad speech. It was really awful! I still cringe thinking about it.

My then boss asked me to give a briefing with two days to prepare. I was new to the topic, had not briefed in years, and was not ready to brief the material.

The night before the presentation, I had something close to a panic attack. I broke down and cried the ugliest of tears. I dreaded that briefing with every fiber of my being. I barely slept. I woke up exhausted. I drove to work in a fog.

adult alone black and white blur

When I walked into the room, 20 people stared at me. Within 30 seconds, I could feel the nervousness growing inside me with every word. My face turned bright red. I started sweating profusely. My mind went blank. Silence.

My boss was sitting in the far right corner quietly watching his employee turn to mush. I asked him if he would like to take over. The visitors shifted in their seats uncomfortably. They glanced at each other wondering what was going on. Much to my dismay, he said no. I had no choice but to struggle through the briefing. I survived. Barely.

The next week, I signed up for Toastmasters. I vowed that I would never humiliate myself and my employer again. I attended a local Toastmaster’s Club every Thursday night for 6 months. Before every meeting, I doubled up on deodorant. I began counting uhs and ummmms, participated in table topics, and gave my first Ice Breaker speech. When the club changed locations, I stopped going since the new facility was too far away. With the club gone, I fell back into my old habit of avoidance. The few briefing skills I had went dormant.


My All Things Great project has inspired me to try again. With a three day public speaking course under my belt as of this week, and a few briefings here and there since 2012, I am more determined than ever to finish the competent communication manual. For details on this manual, see Toastmasters Speech Series: Your Guide to the First 10 Speeches.

Toastmasters, here I come… again!

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Public Speaking Tip No. 1: Calm Your Nerves By Using the Two Second Rule

Calming your nerves before a briefing can be especially challenging if you are not an experienced briefer. A helpful tip I learned at this week’s briefing class is as follows:
  • Walk towards the podium or location where you will brief
  • Turn toward the audience, pause, and smile
  • Make eye contact with one person and internally count, one-one-thousand, two-one thousand
  • Make eye contact with a second person and internally count, one-one-thousand, two-one thousand
  • Make eye contact with a third person and internally count, one-one-thousand, two-one thousand
  • Start your presentation

There were six people in our class. We all thought this nerve-calming technique felt forced and awkward. Yet, as we got used to it, we found that it really helped reduce the effects of nervous energy.

It also forces the audience to focus on you because they are waiting to hear what you have to say.

The 2017 World Toastmaster champion, Manoj Vasudevan, used this exact technique quite effectively. If you watch him, he follows the same formula that I shared above.

If a Toastmaster champion can use this technique, so can we!

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Face Your Public Speaking Fear Head On

On July 1, 2018, I wrote a blog post on facing your fears. See 5 Steps to Overcome Your Fears So You Can Live Your Ideal Life.

Within that post, I explained that one of my fears is public speaking. It hasn’t done me any favors in my adult life. In fact, it has held me back more times than I care to admit. Never again… I have finally decided that public speaking will not paralyze me anymore.

Since I last posted on my blog, I have taken several steps to overcome my fear:

  1. I asked my boss if I could brief a topic I am passionate about at an upcoming meeting. The briefing opportunity did not materialize because my topic was outside the scope of the meeting. I was a little disappointed but, as you can imagine, secretly relieved. After asking though, something fascinated happened. I felt immediately empowered. I felt like I was finally chipping away at my fear.
  2. I also signed up for a three day briefing class which I am taking this week. I finished the second day today. Is it ever brutal! I will write about it in later posts.
  3. Finally, I filled out a Toastmaster application for a local club. I start next week.

Within the space of 10 days, I clearly identified my fear (if the truth be told, I have known about this fear my whole adult life), wrote a specific goal that I could achieve (e.g. I brief at least 5 people per month for the next 12 months), and have decided to improve.

I am nervous but excited to begin this journey.

I am confident that your ideal life can be achieved if you face your fears.

Wish me luck! 🙂


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