What Toastmasters Taught Me About Gardening

As many of you will already know, I’m a member of Toastmasters International and I love writing and presenting speeches.  

But there are many other aspects to Toastmasters and being a member of the organisation.  It’s not ‘holey and solely’ dedicated to speech writing, or perhaps I should say, it’s not holey and solely dedicated to improving your ability to speak in front of an audience, be that small or large.  Yes, public speaking is a big part of the Toastmasters program, but so is leadership and learning skills that help you become a better leader.  Hence the Toastmasters tagline – Where Leaders are Made.

Over the next four weeks, I am going to use my blog as the platform for completing an assignment where I need (or more accurately, I’ve chosen) to Write a Compelling Blog.  With the approval of my mentor (who is also my club President), I’ve chosen to post articles about the lessons I’ve learnt from Toastmasters that I’ve been able to use elsewhere.

In this first post, I’m going to talk about the lesson I’ve learnt that I’ve been able to transfer to gardening.

Lesson No 1

If at first, you don’t succeed . . . try, try again.

Originally coined to encourage American schoolchildren to do their homework, this maxim has become relatable to many situations and activities, however, Toastmasters has never demanded that I “try, try again”.

The mission of a Toastmasters Club is to:

. . . provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.

It’s about providing members with opportunities to grow and develop and learn new skills.

It’s about providing a safe environment where members can put those new skills to the test without fear of failure or reprimand.

It’s about providing members with feedback on their performance – be that a speech, a meeting assignment or a leadership role they undertook.

Everything you do in Toastmasters is evaluated.  Evaluations are the cornerstone of how the program works.  And yet, when a member fails to meet the criteria of a speech project, an assignment or leadership role, they are never told to “try, try again” because feedback isn’t used that way.  It is used to encourage members to continue their journey, to highlight where they excelled, and to identify how they might challenge themselves next time.

Do you remember putting a huge effort into an assignment at school only to receive an F or some other grade below what you expected?  What about being overlooked for that promotion at work or receiving a bad yearly review?  Or (worse still), what about a loved one being brutally honest about you personally?

It’s heartless and it hurts.  It cuts to the bone and (for most) being given feedback in this manner puts you off even wanting to try again.

This is why, in Toastmasters, we are never told we failed.  We are never told to “try, try again”.

We are only told how we could improve next time and given more opportunities to ‘have another go’ in the hopes that when we step up ‘next time’ we take on board the feedback we’ve been given.

We are allowed to “try, try again”.

– ⋅ o ♥ o ⋅ –

And so it is in/with my garden.  I’ve been given many opportunities to “try, try again” and although the situation that resulted in the requirement of additional effort was often out of my control, sometimes it wasn’t.

For example – I chose to plant Yuccas in my front garden, and then I had to remove them because they got ‘out of control’.  I now have a garden less ‘overgrown’ as my friend Marietta put it, and have replaced the Yucca by the door with a Snowflake. Yes, that Snowflake will grow and will, if I allow it, impede access to the front door.  However, it can be easily cut back and must be after flowering each year.  Most importantly though, it won’t ‘poke you in the eye’ as you try to walk past.

I chose a buy a weeping fig and then had to get rid of it because I couldn’t eradicate the thrips that found it irresistible.  I tried everything from an all-natural spray, to a stronger pyrethrin spray, and even a sever ‘hair cut’.  But nothing worked.  So I made the tough decision to throw it away.  I replaced it with a fiddle-leaf fig that has fast become a gorgeous, showy, spectacular replacement.  (In fact, I now have three fiddle-leaf figs.)

And finally, I chose to ignore my plants following the hail storm in November.  I was distraught after assessing all the damage and being so, coupled with ignoring my plants, resulted in a few dying unnecessarily. My Happy Little Hoya survived the hail, but not my neglect and it almost broke my heart because it was a plant I rescued from my Aunty Pat’s garden after she died.  I take solace in knowing I rescued two pieces of hoya that day and the other piece is still alive and thriving.  I took almost three weeks to dust myself off and try again after my garden was pummeled, but now, some 14 weeks later, my garden is showing signs of recovery.  Just the medicine this crazy plant lady needs.

– ⋅ o ♥ o ⋅ –

In Toastmasters, we are Empowered to Exercise the Education we receive.  It’s a safe environment in which it’s ok to make mistakes, to try new things and practise new skills, to take on board the feedback we receive. And all those valuable lessons can be transferred to other aspects of our life.

It comes as no surprise that I was able to connect a lesson to my garden.

Gardening gives me so much pleasure, and so does being a member of Toastmasters International.  I’m proud to be a member of an organisation where the skills to do something (anything) are not a prerequisite to volunteering and, having done so, having put your hand up, you are then in the wonderful position of learning new, transferable skills.

Stay tuned for some before and after photos I will take when I’m home and there is good light.  Of late, every time there is some lovely sunshine, I’m at work and this is not me complaining – we need the rain and it has been glorious, making everything in my garden happy – even me 🙂 

Author: Clare

Ever-expanding one star at a time, my cosmos is a galaxy of thoughts and creativity where you can find poetry, short stories, photography and so much more.

8 thoughts

    1. Congratulations Richard. I hope you enjoy both as much as I do. I’ve been blogging for (almost) six years now and enjoy adding to my eclectic cosmos whenever the opportunity presents itself. I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘Write a Compelling Blog’ project and hope you do too. Please do send me a link to your blog when your ready – I’d love to follow as you complete the same project 🙂


      1. Struggling to get mine going – have drafted 4 posts and changed name of site so it is not my firstsecond name to get away from trolls. Have visited three countries TM and some more in UK. Might publish later.

        Liked by 1 person

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