When the weather turns cold, my dad dons a beret. As kids, my siblings and I would ask him why he chose a beret and not some other kind of hat. He explained that a “man of distinction” – a distinguished man – wore a beret. When we’d see another man wearing a beret (a rare sight, indeed, in northeastern Ohio), we’d point and exclaim, “Dad! Look! A man of distinction!”
Each of us in our own way wants to be distinct. We want to be admired for what makes us unique and special. What distinguishes you from the others? What sets you apart?
In Toastmasters, being Distinguished – with a capital D – is one way to set ourselves apart. It’s a long road for most of us to earn the Distinguished Toastmaster award. Not everyone is interested, and that’s ok. Not everyone is aware of it. I know I wasn’t. It took me 14 years to earn my DTM, in large part because I didn’t know much about it for my first nine years. The DTM was something other people did. Or so I thought.
Then a mentor urged me to complete a High Performance Leadership (HPL) project. A what? Why? I had just agreed – after saying “no” for some time – to be an area governor, now called an area director. Now you want me to do what?
She said I’d need an HPL if I ever wanted to become a Distinguished Toastmaster. The thought truly had never crossed my mind. But she encouraged me to say yes. She would help me, she assured me. She’d be on my committee. (A committee? Yikes!) My fellow area governors would be on my committee, too – and I’d be on theirs. Oh, dear. What if I blew it? What if I let them down?
With great apprehension, I said yes to the HPL. Then I chartered a club (which took over a year, but it happened, and the club is still going strong). The road opened up before me. It was a road I’d never imagined. There were travel companions, Toastmasters who encouraged me, and whom I cheered.
Where are you in your Toastmasters journey? What opportunities await you on the road that lies ahead? What would you discover about yourself if you were to say “yes” to a chance to lead and serve? What could a mentor help you discover in yourself?
You may never don a beret. Your way of distinguishing yourself is up to you. Your path may include a DTM (or more than one). The journey starts with your icebreaker. Where will it lead?
I encourage you this Toastmasters year to envision a goal, and take those next steps, no matter how tentative. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Say “yes” to the opportunities that lie before you. Be distinguished – or Distinguished – in the way that’s best for you.
Wishing you a very successful Toastmasters year,
Vicky Nann, DTM