Leadership Movie – The Pursuit of Happiness

Written by Warren Jones, Content Writer

I love watching a good movie and one movie I enjoy watching is The Pursuit of Happiness. This movie came out in 2006. Chris Gardner has big dreams for him and his family but it doesn’t seem to come together for him. Chris has an opportunity to be a stockbroker but first, he has to go through a grueling internship, which means no pay. Chris decides to do it but when his wife leaves and he is evicted, he has to take care of his son on his own. So, they find themselves sometimes living on the street and struggling to get by. But, Chris is determined to make it.

This movie is loaded with leadership keys. Some of these keys can be seen below

1.)   A leader must be able to be committed despite the obstacles they face. All leaders at some point no matter the profession will have obstacles that can knock the wind out of them. Last year I lost my mother July 27th, 2016 after a 10-year bout with cancer. I could have given up caved in and quit but being the leader I am I kept pressing and just achieved  Advanced Communicator Gold in June of 2017. What obstacle currently that you are facing makes you want to quit?

2.)   A leader must be disciplined for success. In the movie, Chris Gardner takes his son to the day care every day and went to his internship as a stockbroker with no pay. He did what he had to do day in and day out with no help at all. Many times as a leader you will not get the help and support you are looking for but the more disciplined you are you will eventually see the desired success no matter how small it may be. The secret of your success is hidden in your daily routine. Are you truly disciplined as what you want to accomplish?

3.)   A leader must be focused on achieving and getting the job done no matter what. In the movie, one key that stuck out was as a broker he made more calls than all the other stock brokers did. He took shorter lunches and drank less water so he would not have as much bathroom breaks. Recently the club I am a part of was one project and four speeches short of getting to President Distinguished for the fifth year in a row. I spoke with the leaders of my club and we made it happen and had to get the job done. When you focus on the team, achieving and not you then you will be more committed because of seeing the team succeed. What is your focused on achieving by the end of 2017?

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Yvonne Aasen – Gold Medalist at 81

Interview by Pearl Matibe

PEARL: Why did you join Toastmasters?

Yvonne: Years ago in the 1960s, I was a member of Toastmistress (women’s Toastmasters). No one wanted to be president and the group dissolved. I always wanted to get back into it and Carroll County Toastmasters was not far away, so I joined. I wanted to be comfortable speaking in public.

Last October I gave a toast at the wedding of my granddaughter. There were 150 guests. The toast was well received.

PEARL: Have you ever competed in a speech contest? If so When? Please share also an anecdote.

Yvonne: Yes, I competed in our humorous speech contest about four years ago. I won and went on to the next level but didn’t place. The last time I gave a humorous speech I disqualified myself by going one second over the time limit.

[Anecdote]: I live in a retirement community. Whenever an emergency vehicle gets near the campus, they turn their sirens off so as not to alarm the residents. One Saturday morning I was on my way home from a race in Annapolis. I was snacking on pretzels while driving–digging in the plastic bag with one hand while steering with the other. As I neared the campus, I noticed a county patrol car behind me.

“I think I’m supposed to pull over,”

I thought. I rolled down my window and a clean cut young police officer wearing a crisp blue uniform came to my window. “Are you all right?” he asked. I told him I was fine. He said I was weaving a little on the road and came close to a curb. He asked for my credentials and said he would be back. Another patrol car came and I thought I’m in big trouble now! The officer came back and told me I checked out okay and I was free to go. I told him I learned my lesson and would not eat and drive at the same time again.

As I neared the Village I mused, what if he had followed me all the way home? If he had followed me all the way home, I could have asked the CEO, he followed me home, can I keep him?

PEARL: When did you begin to run?

Yvonne: When I was 46, just turning 47. It was something I always wanted to do. My husband had a heart attack and part of his therapy was to increase his walking to four miles a day. I walked with him for six weeks and when I started running a few yards at a time, my legs were so weak I felt as if I would fall down at every step. I worked my way up to a quarter mile, a half mile, a whole mile, and the next spring I ran my first 10K.

PEARL: How does running in competitions compare to taking part in speech contests?

Yvonne: There is a lot of preparation.

There are pre-race and pre-speech jitters.

The frosting on the cake is winning an award.

If I don’t place, I can be a gracious loser and learn from the experience.

PEARL: What instilled a “competitive” spirit in you?

Yvonne: In a race, I wanted to catch up with the person ahead of me and pass him if I could. Actually, I don’t know if that qualifies in Toastmasters.

PEARL: Who is the best influencer in your life’s success?

Yvonne: I cannot name any one person or event. There were many influences; maybe it was acknowledging that I had the skill to develop.

PEARL: What has Toastmasters taught you about communicating and leading when you run?

Yvonne: Encouraging others. Saying a simple thank you when receiving an award or a compliment.

PEARL: Why do you stay in Toastmasters?

Yvonne: Improvement. Conversation. Friendship. Learning from others. Encouraging others as a speech evaluator. It helps me in communicating in a conversation and with communicating with my five children.

PEARL: Were you born a leader?

Yvonne: No. I was a very shy child but when I was in high school, I had parts in some plays and learned to project my voice. Perhaps for me, my gift is leading by example.

When I was in high school to this day in my mind’s eye I can still see the boys going to track practice. How I envied them, there was no track for girls and if there was, I may have been too shy to join. I couldn’t sing or play a musical instrument but I could run.

PEARL: What insight or perspective on communication and leadership would you like to share with the world beyond Westminster?

Yvonne: We would all be better off if we would do more listening than talking.

PEARL: Where did you grow up – tell us a little about your upbringing, your family, your family’s heritage?

Yvonne: I grew up on a farm in North Dakota during the Great Depression and eight-year drought of the 1930s. Rain and a degree of prosperity came in the 1940s. My parents were determined to send all four of us to high school, which must have been with some sacrifice on their part (we boarded in town during the week).

I recall that I entertained the family at the dinner table (noon time) by reading jokes from the Reader’s Digest. We had little contact with the outside world–we did get Time and Look magazines and a church magazine. We had battery powered radio for news and weather forecasts (we loved the comedy shows) newsreels at movies and a local weekly newspaper.

Our ethnic origin was Germans from Russia. My German forebears had immigrated to Russia under the Manifesto of Catharine the Great. My father was born in Katzbah, Bessarabia, Russia–which is now Ukraine. I have always regretted that I did not learn the German dialect. My father and grandmother (who lived with us) were fluent in German but my mother was born in North Dakota and grew up learning English so we spoke English at home. As an adult, a cousin once told me that their family thought we were stolz (proud) because we spoke English at home. That was not the case at all.

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September 1, 2017 – by PEARL MATIBE

Win or Lose, Compete

For someone to win, someone must lose. Achieving first place is a goal that cannot be shared. Whatever the loss, it can always be turned into a positive outcome. We learn and grow.

Personally, I learned a lesson—not everyone can be on top and not everyone can be on top at the same time. When a job is open. You’re not the only one who is applying.

The question might be how, then, might you influence success?

To bring out the best in ourselves, competition is often encouraged. Contestants at times feel a great deal of pressure. What do you gain by competing? A sense of pride. You challenge yourself and learn from others competing that may be better than you. In the Evaluation Speech Contest, though, you will only have an opportunity to see only the contestants that, by random draw, present after you— plus observe a five-to seven-minute target speaker before you present a two-to three-minute evaluation. The best competitor of that cycle will advance. The measurable criteria and rules are laid out on the judges’ ballot and speech rulebook.

Just as I had once stepped up the stage stairs to compete in the Humorous Speech Contest, so too now will hundreds of Humorous and Evaluation Speech contestants stand before an audience and judges in competition with one another.

Believe it or not, competition is a lifeline. Without it, a part of you may not grow stronger. Let’s always encourage our new members—and tenured Toastmasters—to tap into an innate spirit to make the competition that lives inside each of us, flourish.

Competition isn’t only good, it’s great—it promotes growth. Speech contests are a Toastmasters tradition. Here’s an idea. If there was no competition, we may not have:

  • Faster jets
  • Landed on the moon
  • The Internet

We, the human race, owe much to advances in space technology because of competition. Without competitors, we may not have new car brands, remarkable new creations in technology and lower retail prices. Competitiveness allows you to become more creative. Hence the saying: necessity is the mother of invention.

Like an athletic sport, regular practice is necessary to prepare for a Humorous Speech Contest— five-to seven-minutes in length that must be thematic in nature, have an opening, body, and close. In addition, it’s not to be a monologue (series of one-liners). Each competitor is vying for the top spot and to come as close as they are able to their own concept of what a perfect performance is. Also, they will walk away without knowing what the final numerical scorecard points were by the judges.

Some may not wish to compete, some believe by not competing, they journey the path of less resistance.

Oratory History

I find aspects of the old world have relevance, still, in today’s public speaking. Recently, I had the privilege to review a book written about the Roman Empire, Cato versus Caesar, which reminded me of our modern Toastmaster context of speaking in front of an audience.

Back then, it was considered an essential part of educating, young boys, in public speaking, for success. They used to send their sons away (e.x. Julius Caesar) to study under a master or employ a slave. (Marcus Tullius Cicero [106 – 43 B.C.E.] is considered one of the best public speakers of that time. Of significance about Cicero’s ideas, is sentiment. This was an age when a speaker’s gravitas was of the greatest importance for success. Back then, and still true today, a speaker ought to persuade the audience, entertain and arouse their emotions. On the Toastmaster judges’ ballots, however, judges are unable to judge the audiences’ emotional impact—there are no points allocated for ‘emotion’.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, born 106 and died in 43 B.C.E. (Before Common Era)

Both Aristotle and Quintilian studied and discussed oratory. The idea that the art of public speaking (in Latin: Ars Oratoria), must be studied remained true throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance periods. Without ‘studying’ it, it was deemed that you did not have a complete education. Post-American Civil War, World War II and all the way up to present day, the ability to wield words well has placed many people firmly in our history books.

As advice for today’s oratory, I’ll cite Quintilian,

“The orator should use the plain style to instruct,

the grand style to move,

the intermediate style to charm”.

From ancient Rome, to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan—they all demonstrated speaking styles defined in the Roman Empire of 44B.C.


Haven’t competed before? Take a chance. Speech contests are a place that promotes chance taking—healthy, safe contest environments bring out the best in you. What’s more is that it motivates you to be goal oriented.

No matter what oratorical style you decide to use, Humorous category or evaluation speech, I wish you all happy learning success.

Win or lose, compete.

Demosthenes used to talk with pebbles in his mouth and recited verses while running.

Demosthenes, Greek Orator born 384 and died 12 October 322 BC, used to study in an underground room he constructed himself. He also used to talk with pebbles in his mouth and recited verses while running. To strengthen his voice, he spoke on the seashore over the roar of the waves.

He is regarded as a “…overflowing fountain of genius…” that inspired Cicero’s speeches against Mark Antony. Cicero also tried to imitate his career.

Who knows, maybe if you study Demosthenes’ fifty-six prologues (openings of speeches), you might just craft openings that will propel your public speaking success.

Compete in a Speech Contest? WHY NOT?

Trophies on Elizabeth Carter’s mantlepiece

Each month, I will share with you my thoughts on a particular topic.  It will align with our calendar of events. This month, my blog is “Compete in a Speech Contest? WHY NOT!”

During my tenure as a Toastmaster, I have competed in all 4 contests, and have made it to the Division Level in 3 out of the 4 (Table Topics is my nemesis, lol! ).  Since becoming part of the District leadership team in 2015 which prohibits me to compete, I now observe and coach others.  As we approach the season of the Humorous and Evaluation contests,  I’d like to share with you what I have learned over the years and hope that you will ask yourself; WHY NOT?

What is stopping you? These are the common reasons I hear:

  • Fear- I haven’t yet seen anyone faint or die in a contest, and if you never approach fear head-on, you will never move ahead in life.  There are far more greater risks we have taken in life, and we have survived, haven’t we?
  • Preparation- If your club contest is in August, you have some weeks to write a Humorous speech, edit, practice, re-write, edit and practice.  And if you are fortunate to move on the Area contest, that gives you time to get feedback, revise and practice. For the Evaluation contest, sign up to be an Evaluator at every meeting prior to the contest, and/or reach out to a neighboring club and ask to be an evaluator at their meeting.

Have a structure for your Evaluation.  #1 point many members don’t realize; An Evaluation is a Speech…

  • There should be an opening, a body and a close
  • Use one of the evaluation formats to construct your comments. The most popular one is the Sandwich Technique (commend, recommend, commend), but there are more advanced formats such as POSE (Purpose, Organization, Suggestions, Encouragement), CODE (Content, Organization, Delivery, Effectiveness), and GLOVES (Gestures, Language, Organization, Voice, Eye Contact, Stage Use).   These are ways to organize your content to provide feedback to the speaker.

You can make most situations funny.  A number of Humorous Speech Contest winners stated that they didn’t think they were funny.  They won with their ability to create humor with their words, visuals, and situations.

  • A humorous speech is not a stand-up comedy act.
  • Using information from the Toastmasters Humorously Speaking Advanced manual, here are some ways to add humor to a speech:  Exaggeration,  Surprise, Play on words, Expression, Implication.
  • The delivery is key; the set-up, pause, punch line, punch word, and pause (for the response)

  KNow the Rules.  In a contest, you are not being evaluated, you are being judged.  The person with the highest score wins the contest.

  • Understand the judging criteria and scoring.  Your goal is to get the maximum number of points in each category.  Too often, I have seen contestants wonder why they did not win, and it was because they did not understand the scoring criteria
  • Know the timing rules!!!!  If you go over time, you are disqualified, regardless of your judging score.  In the clubs, I know we glaze over this, but in the contest, the rules must be strictly followed.  If you are over 7 minutes 30 seconds in the speech contest or 3 minutes 30 seconds in the evaluation contest, you are disqualified

Opportunity to expand your depth and knowledge of Toastmasters.

  • You step out of your comfort zone of the regular club meeting agenda (also, the roles in the contest do count towards projects in the Competent Leader manual and the speech can count towards your communication manual, as long as they also meet those objectives).
  • You joined to improve your communication and leadership skills.  This is another way of validating your progress.  How much have you improved as a communicator, and how much have you improved in providing feedback?
  • Your speech writing is done for a different purpose. You will then think differently about every speech you write after that point.
  • You expand your network.  The people I have met from being involved in contests have become friends and great resources. This comes not just from competing, but even helping out at an Area, Division, or District contest.

Try it at the Club Level.  Here are some tools to help

Speech contest information on the Toastmasters website:

Judging form for the Humorous Speech contest:

Judging form for the Evaluation Speech contest:

There are pre-canned downloadable presentations that the club can facilitate on evaluations:

Feel free to Google key words; “Toastmasters evaluation …..”, ” Toastmasters Humorous Speech….”  to find a wealth of information.  To see humorous speeches, search YouTube

I hope this information encourages you to consider participating.  WHY NOT take the leap and compete.

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In the July/August timeframe, the District hosts club officer training. Whether you are a brand new Club Officer, a tenured Club Officer, or not a Club Officer, there are several reasons for you to attend a Club Officer Training session.

  • It is a great way to meet and network with other Toastmasters.
  • You gain confidence in your role and being part of a leadership team.
  • You gain new ideas, and offer your ideas to others.

If you are a brand new officer/ new Toastmaster…

  • You become part of group of peers, which is now your support group.
  • Just like starting a new job where you are trained, we similarly provide you the tools and resources to be successful.

If you are a prior officer and holding the same or a different position…

  • If you are repeating a Club Officer role, volunteer to lead a general session or a breakout session. You would be sharing your expertise with others.
  • Go and support a newer officer. Introduce them to people you know, and help them expand their network. In addition, after the training, if the new officer has other questions, you can answer them.
  • You meet more people who can be future resources for questions, joint club meetings, or future leaders If you are not a Club Officer, you can attend the training for these reasons…
  • If you considering a Club Officer role in the future, you can understand the responsibilities in advance. You can even volunteer to be the Assistant to the role.
  • Are you a leader in another organization? Take the information from the Toastmasters roles and incorporate the responsibilities into your role. There may be best practices that could benefit your other organization.

The added benefit to what is described above is that if 4 officers attend the training that completes half of the requirement for goal #9 in the Distinguished Club Program (DCP). The DCP is the measurement that recognizes that clubs are providing a positive and supportive environment that leads to member success.

Visit our website at www.toastmasters-D18.org to find the training location nearest to you.

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