Monday, October 11, 2010

Toastmasters Speech One

A couple of months ago, I joined Toastmasters. For those of you that don't know what Toastmasters is, it is an educational organization dedicated to creating leaders, and improving public speaking and communication skills. There is a lot of cheese involved in a toastmasters meeting, but for someone such as myself that is more afraid of public speaking than anything else in this world - it is some damn good cheese.

The first speech I need to give, I wrote out a couple of months back as well. I have not yet practiced the speech or seriously gotten the nerve to sign up. However, today I am publishing it here, and plan on giving the speech by the end of November. It is supposed to be an Icebreaker speech, one where I am to communicate some background information about myself including my interests and ambitions.

My Speech:

Don't ever become a pessimist... a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun.
Robert A. Heinlein

Many times in my life that I get down about work or school, the one sure thing that has allowed me to rise back up to meet the challenges of life is a sense of optimism - looking at the good side of things while making a cconscious decision not to dwell on the negative.

When I first started here at Foremost, I was married to my wife less than a month from the day I started working here. This makes it easy to remember how long I've been married, I just need to remember how long I've been working here! In the Group home and auto area, I was on the customer service side of things, and took calls speaking directly to insured's about their policies. There was always a fair share of upset customers, especially when it came to billing issues. We got the news that the Group program was going to be backed out, and the floodgates opened when it came to negative calls from upset customers calling because they received their non-renewal notice or upset over billing issues created by an archaic system.

I am the type of person that finds it difficult not to take it personally when someone on the phone is upset - they may be upset at the company, but they're upset in my ear! I remember coming to work and having to force a smile onto my face just to make it through the day sometimes. The Idea being to fake it until I make it. The main thing that helped me through that period was an optimistic outlook, that eventually things would get better. It also let me view each of the calls with an upset customer as an opportunity to turn them around and make them a happy customer. In my mind I saw each of these negative calls as a problem, and an opportunity to solve that problem. It is a great feeling to take that type of call, and by the end having the insured thank you for your time and effort on their behalf.

I am not a skilled socialite by any definition of the term. I oftentimes have trouble holding personal conversation without feeling some discomfort. I haven't been diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder, but I do have my suspicions. The point is that this job was not really something that fit Me as a person. I was in a position where talking to people was my primary responsibility and it just did not fit me.

What I did truly enjoy about the job during that time however, was figuring things out. It was in the solving of peoples problems as best I could that I found the part of the job that I truly loved. I continued to be determined to followup on issues and resolve them satisfactorily.

Just over a year after I started working here at Farmers Specialty, an opportunity presented itself in an open posting for the STAR Help Desk. I interviewed for the position, and soon after was offered a home there. Things did get better, just as I had told myself on those negative phone calls. The calls were completely different from what I had been used to. It is a whole new dynamic when you are speaking with agents as opposed to insureds. I was given an opportunity to use my troubleshooting skills and put my general knack for problem solving to good use. In less than two years after I started there, my enthusiasm, hard work, and determination earned me a promotion to Level 2 Support.

Throughout the years since that promotion, my position has changed names, and pay grades, with more responsibilities a number of times. I have had many opportunities to grow right from within my current position in the last 6 years. It is my belief that there were many times where choosing to be pessimistic would have given me some satisfaction, because frankly, as quoted earlier - I would have been right. With that attitude, I don't think I would have lasted here very long. Me - a shy guy who gets anxious whenever he has to speak on the phone. Keeping an optimistic attitude allowed me to get closer to where I wanted to be.

That is all about how Optimism plays a part in my professional life, but it is just as important in my personal life. I have three growing boys at home, Michael, Gabriel, and Daniel who are 7, 5, and 3 respectively. As many of you probably know this means that just because I get home from work, it does not mean that my work is done! I have always tried to remain as optimistic and positive as possible when it comes to being a father. I feel that being pessimistic and expecting things to go wrong can oftentimes be a self fulfilling prophecy. Take attitude for instance, if I am negative with my kids, they feed off of that and return that negativity. At their young age they are just like computers in that if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. When putting more of my time and energy into creating a positive environment, I do get more positive results, not only from my children, but from my work environment as well.

To conclude, I would like to leave you with one more quote, this one from the great orator and statesman Winston Churchill.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Thank you