Most of us, at some age or other, have had someone put a damper on our aspirations. When I was quite young I wanted to be a nurse. My mother, not really meaning to, discouraged me from this career, saying the shift work that was part of the job made it a very difficult one. Weve all heard about the kids who were told to mouth the words in the school choir (maybe not today, but in the past). And many non-progressive companies get along in life by not encouraging and promoting people, so they can hang onto their pool of workers doing functional but necessary jobs.
This article, written by Rick Silva, a Massachusetts Toastmaster member, speaks to the importance of setting our sights and going for it. He articulates it well, and it in a way that got my attention. I do think Ricks a bit too modest when he says I know earning a certification in Java isnt the biggest achievement of all time. It was for him at that point in his life.
The article, published in February 2010 in TOASTMASTER, is reprinted here with permission from Rick and Toastmasters. I hope you find it uplifting:
My Turn: The "Yes I Can" Moment: When the best voice to hear is your own
If I had only one piece of advice to offer the world, it would be this: Dont let other people tell you what youre capable of. Dont let other people tell you what you can and cant do.
Ten years ago, while I was working as a database developer, a new programming language called Java was introduced. With all the buzz in the industry about Java, I was excited to learn it.
Sun Microsystems offered an exam, and if you passed, you would become a Sun Certified Java Programmer. I told a co-worker that I was seriously considering becoming certified in Java.
My supervisor, Kevin, heard of my plans and took me aside. He said, Be realistic. Youre just a database developer. Youre never going to be able to pass that exam. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to learn Java? Do you have any idea how hard it is to pass that exam? Youd be wasting your time.
I believed him because he was a senior manager at a prestigious company; he had a lot of experience and he knew the industry. But mostly, I believed him because he spoke with such authority. He really sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and he persuaded me to give up my goal.
That night I couldnt sleep. I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, replaying the days events in my head. The more I thought about what Kevin had said, the more I grew annoyed. I thought, Kevin never took that exam! He doesnt have that certification. How could he know how hard the exam is? How could he possibly know that I wouldnt be able to pass?
I promised myself that I was going to get that certification and nobody was going to stop me. I spent the next six months with my nose in a Java book. I passed the exam and became a Sun Certified Java Programmer.
If you let other people tell you what you can and cant do, they will define you. People will try to put you in a box. Dont let them do it. Human beings have almost unlimited potentialand that includes you.
I know that earning a certification in Java isnt the biggest achievement of all time. Every day people achieve bigger and more important goals. But it was important to me. And if I had listened to Kevin, I would have stopped before I even began.
How many times have men and women heard comments along the lines of, You cant become a firefighter youre a woman. Or, You want to become a nurse? But thats a womans job. Never let another person define you that way. The interesting thing about statements like that is that if you believe them, they become true. You dont need anybodys approval to pursue your goals.
Last year I served as Vice President Membership for my local Toastmasters club. People who were considering joining Toastmasters in my area would contact me, usually by e-mail, to ask questions about the club. I sent answers and offered to help with any other questions.
After a while, I noticed a pattern to our correspondence. The first contact was always about logistics: Where do you meet? or What time do you meet? or possibly, What are the directions? But the second e-mail was always deeper usually about how difficult public speaking had been for them. By this time, they were starting to get cold feet.
I learned to read between the lines of that second e-mail. They really were asking, Am I crazy for thinking that I would be able to speak in public? Can I really do this?
My answer was always, Yes, you can do this! Dont let anybody tell you that you cant. Dont allow anybody to put you in that box and tell you that you arent worthy, or its too hard. If you do, youll never make it.
One of the most beautiful things about Toastmasters is that moment when you realize that you can. It is the moment when you discover that the people who said you couldnt were wrong. It is a moment that transcends public speaking. It is a moment that you carry with you throughout your life.
About the Author:
Ellen Besso is a MidLife Coach and Author who helps women develop lives that are simpler and less stressful, and to re-discover their passion. Ellens writing on topics like caregiving, self-care and her volunteer work and travels strikes a chord in many midlife women. Her recent book, Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End & Yours Begin is a help guide for women.