Posts Tagged toastmasters

Review of 2009 and Plans for 2010. Part 3: Communication skills & Toastmasters

This post is a continuation from my previous entry about my review of 2009 and plans for the next coming year. (

Communication skills have become a topic of focus for me over the last year. It began with a work training course about creating business ideas and pitching them to business minded people in order to receive funding. Because my company is heavily involved with engineering, the classes were geared towards geeks and had a communication-based focus about them – opposite to the technical focus we were used to in Uni at our various courses. I guess this is something they thought we needed to learn.. This is something I enjoyed very much, because time and again I felt that I had great ideas throughout uni and work-life but short of something I could code together to illustrate, the ideas never seemed to make the light of day. I was a very nervous speaker and giving speeches was the worst task I could imagine. Yet it is a very necessary part of business and idea development.

The course left me with a hunger to improve my communication skills. Previously the easiest way to stop the nerves was to avoid speeches or confrontations whenever possible. However now I was willing to face the fact that this was something that scared me and that in order to proceed, hiding away from it was not the answer.

I discovered the Toastmasters group shortly after and went to my first meeting in March last year. Since then I have attended every other week and participated in roles and speeches. In October I took the role of Toastmaster for the first time. It was a very nerve-racking ordeal but I got through it OK without dieing. On later reflection, it showed me that when it comes to social gatherings, its important not to act on nerves. Toastmasters helps to work on things like nerves, as well as communication skills in the form of feedback and speaking tasks.

One unexpected thing about the Toastmasters group is the people I’ve met there and engaging in their own views. Its actually pretty hard to get away from it when they give a speech about their favourite topics. I’ve met Life coaches, NLP practitioners, veteran Toastmasters, engineers, students and other beginner Toastmasters. By meeting every couple of weeks and hearing what they have to say, they inevitably give off a particular view to a subject which is diverse and inspiring to me and makes me challenge my own view. Quite a change from the usual haunt of workmates in the same department and friends who share the same general interests as me.

The end result of this is huge. From my initial view of wanting to improve my speaking skills, my aims have catapulted to other sections of my life such as challenging my own beliefs of the world, to more accurately planning what it takes to become more happy and goal setting. This is a topic I would like to mention later on in another post.

Plans for 2010

I aim to keep on going with the Toastmasters group. Its a very clearly structured environment and because its so encouraging for progression, I dont have to worry about planning what I’ll do. I’ll be continuing my speeches courses, taking roles and chatting to the other toastmasters.

One particular aim I’d like is to meet more people from diverse backgrounds. Its interesting to meet people from all walks of life and can have an influence over your own path. To achieve this I hope to keep on looking at more clubs and meetings which might achieve this. A few months ago I discovered where people can join groups of a particular topic of interest and then have real life meet ups to discuss the topic. Edinburgh has loads of groups and I attended one to go for a visit to a local attraction.

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Review of 2009 and Plans for 2010. Part 2: Health

This post is a continuation from my previous entry about my review of 2009 and plans for the next coming year. (

The topic I’d like to cover next is Health

Sore knees

I started 2009 with some health problems. 8 years ago I had a skateboarding accident and since then I have suffered a condition where they become very painful when bending past a certain point. For most activities they are fine, such as walking, climbing stairs and cycling but I found stretching or bending my knees was too painful. I have found in recent years that stretching my legs regularly helps a great deal with the condition and I do so on a regular basis. Strangely I found that Tae Kwon Do was exceptionally helpful because I had so much stretching and leg exercises to do. Sadly I gave up the club after university.

At the start of 2009 I began walking 1hr to work each day, which didnt agree with my knees after a festive period of no exercise or stretching. The result was agony whenever I straightened my leg and I had to take time off work as I couldnt walk. Thankfully this was only temporary and after a few days I able to get about again. This prompted me to seek out more medical advice and I was eventually passed to a specialist at a hospital where I received an MRI scan. Unfortunately the results were inconclusive, but the time I spent at the physiotherapist was worth it. After a few weeks I had begun more simple stretching exercises and kept to a daily routine. The other day I crouched down to switch on the TV and I noticed that the pain I would usually experience had disappeared completely.

I doubt the doctors have a conclusive reason why I’m cured, but I certainly know my body enough to know what I need to do to keep my knees healthy.

Working Out

Because of my earlier knee problems, I was reluctant to go out and walk or cycle to work. Add to this I moved in summer and then had a 1 hour drive to work, so walking or cycling to work was impossible. As a result I know I have not given myself the time to get the exercise or training I would like. It hasn’t resulted in any major change, but I know I am about 1 stone heavier than I could be. From summertime I got into the routine of getting up at 6am every morning and that gave me the time to go for a 10 minute stroll and do some press-ups, stomach crunches and stretching. I found this very beneficial and I found myself more alert at work as well as solving the previously mentioned ailments. More recently its become more challenging to stop being lazy and make sure I do these quick exercises, partly because of the time of year (always dark in the mornings when I do them, always feeling tired)

Diet changes:

Since the start of 2009 I read more and more about Raw Food diet and I actually met a person who is a Raw Foodist in Edinburgh. Its great to meet people and hear stories who are committed to becoming more conscious about their food; how damaging some agricultural practises can be to make that tasty steak or burger and keep the corporations get larger through their practise of damaging the environment and serving unhealthy food.

At the end-of-year toastmaster meeting I publicly declared my new-years-resolution to become vegetarian! It wasn’t a particularly well thought through goal, but I guess the calumniation of healthy diets stories had inspired me to say it. I know that for me to take on a goal like this, I couldn’t just keep it to myself, being accountable to others is just the sort of prodding I need to keep up this task.

Unfortunately on New Years Day I failed; I went to a dinner party and had Steak Pie! It wasn’t till it was on my plate and I put the first piece in my mouth that I realised I had just failed. At that point I realised thats going to take more courage and power on my part to make this goal a reality.

This year I want to become more aware of the health implications of my diet, and discover what I can do to enable me to eat the very best; health wise, and for the environment.

Health plan for 2010:

For this year I am confident to keep my health up to scratch, by exercise and diet. I am to continue to keep my knee problems at bay, whilst getting back into shape and drop a few pounds to a more natural weight. I want to become more aware of the food I eat and take measures to be maintain a more healthy balance and how it affects people.

I realised on the very first day of this year that these plans mean nothing if I don’t have an action plan to enforce these goals.

Specific plans include working on a more rigorous exercise and work-out plan. I have a friend who recently turned his hand to become a Personal Trainer at a gym. I will talk to him and help make a battle plan with him for working out. At this stage I am very happy to work out in the early morning daily for a short time but I expect more time will be needed to achieve better results.

I am glad that I mentioned to my toastmaster group about becoming a vegetarian. Although they wont be there all the time to ensure I don’t fail (I usually do most of my eating outside the club), in my mind I am accountable to them if they ever ask me how I’m getting on with it, so I will endeavour not to disappoint.

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