On Success …

This is my latest Ice Breaker speech that I delivered to the Early Bird Ocala Toastmasters group on November 3, 2018.  Toastmasters is a great way to develop your public speaking and leadership skills and there’s probably at least one group in your local area.  Check out ToastMasters.org for more information on the club and where you can find it in your area.

What is success?

You can tell a lot about a person by how they answer that and whether they are actually trying to achieve their definition of success. Not everyone defines it personally for themselves.

If you had asked me when I was 18, I probably would have said something about money. Marriage and kids were never a goal for me but I spent a lot of years trying to get my career going.  I was also very religious at that time so I might have said something about following God’s will for my life – whatever I eventually perceived it to be.

Mostly, I wanted someone to hire me …

I wanted a job and a paycheck so I could pay my own bills and not feel like a loser living with my parents.

Several years later, I had the good job but now I wanted a new title.  I was doing more than my job description spelled out, I felt pretty good about it and I wanted other people to recognize it with the right title … and a small office … not too big, just enough so that I could have that space to myself and feel that my work was being recognized.  I didn’t care as much about the money anymore – I had enough of that but boy, I wanted that title … and the office space.

I wanted the recognition of others …

I wanted them to see me as someone.

Eventually, I gambled on a job at another company, lost and found myself wanting a paycheck again.  Now there was a glimmer of something more and I found a much better job by building on what I had learned from the other jobs and what I could do.  I eventually ended up with more money than I knew what to do with, a title I had never expected and enough recognition most of the time.

But I wasn’t happy for long.  There was always something else I wanted from the company or from other people around me, in and out of work, even if it was just for them to act in ways I found less annoying or to recognize me with the friendship or love that I wanted.

I came to a turning point a few years ago without realizing it when I started the Ocala I.T. Professionals, a local networking group for I.T. people.  I saw that it was needed, knew I was able to do it and put it together.  I still wanted other people to show up and respond to it but I mostly just wanted to meet some of my colleagues in the area and build something good.

That group helped people connect, opened other opportunities and eventually led to my being recruited by a local college to build and teach a software development program.  We saw that need in the area and were able to create something to try and meet it.

As part of my work at the college, I’ve spoken to a lot of high school students during our recruitment drives. I usually spend more time trying to convince them that they are capable of a career in I.T. than specifically trying to get them to attend the college.

In a recent talk, I found myself having to wing it when the projection equipment went down and I ended up telling them something about what I’ve learned about success through my career.  I told the kids that they would make a success of themselves by finding new ways in which they could meet other people’s needs and that a career in I.T. enables them to do that through technology.

I’ve come to believe that the actual point at which someone starts on the road to success in whatever area of life they’re focusing on is when they stop saying “I want …” or “I need …” and start saying “I can do this …” or “I can create that …”.  Before that point, they are negotiating from a point of weakness and neediness for things that only others can give them.  Once they’re able to focus on demonstrating their value and potential, others are drawn to them, connections are made and the possibilities multiply. It took me too many years to get this and I’m still working on applying it to some areas.

My personal definition of success is still being refined.  It no longer includes money or titles or recognition or even having my name on something I’ve created.  Those are things that can be taken away as easily as they’re given.  Now it’s mostly about knowing that I’ve used my talents to create things that provide value to others and trusting that whatever grand design exists will make the best use of that contribution.  The older I get and the more I do, the smaller my place in that grand scheme seems to get and I’m fine with that so long as I’m filling it well.

The Early Bird Ocala Toastmasters group meets every Saturday at 8 a.m..  If you’re in Ocala and would like a fun and supportive group of people to help you learn about public speaking, come check us out!