Inquisitive, Ungrateful, Violent, Treacherous, Envious and Uncharitable Toastmasters

“The people you meet in Toastmasters are truly amazing. Smart, intelligent, willing to work on themselves, kind and generous with their time.”

an enthusiastic Toastmaster, newly elected/appointed to a leadership role, usually when speaking to an audience

Sometimes they remain “flying high”. More often, however, reality sets in.

Then I get to hear – this time rather in a private conversation – things such as:“Lukas, I wish our President / Director was more active,” or “Lukas, the clubs are not responding to my emails and don’t follow my suggestions”, or “our club members don’t really work on their speaking, they’re just fooling around in the meetings.”

Enthusiasm turns into disillusion. Disillusion turns into “I feel somewhat burnt out, I think I need a break from Toastmasters”. As a result, the organization loses someone who had much more to give. Because they did not get in return what they expected.


The problem

While I’ convinced we Toastmasters are a cool bunch, expecting us to be “Smart, intelligent, willing to work on ourselves and be generous with our time” all the time – is not realistic. Using the famous formula “Happiness = Reality – Expectations”, the project is doomed to fail.

To avoid any future disappointments, why not follow Marcus Aurelius’ advice? We can suggest our volunteers, as they embark on their journey to change the world via contributing to the mission of empowering individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders, to say to themselves each morning:

“I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable Toastmasters.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (replace “Toastmasters” with “men” to get the exact quote)

(feel free to replace the negative adjectives above with some you find more fitting)

While not as uplifting as “everyone in Toastmasters is amazing”, it prepares one better for dealing with real people. Real people with good days and bad, sometimes motivated and sometimes down, sometimes sticking to their commitments and sometimes dropping them, as their day job, family, or a suddenly more exciting hobby distracts them from what they promised.

Actually, isn’t it even better this way?

After all – if all Toastmasters were simply amazing all the time, what would they need any leaders for?


Bonus: Marcus Aurelius Quote

For more context on the Marcus Aurelius quote, here it is in a full paragraph, as quoted in Derren Brown’s Happy:

“Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill. But I, because I have seen that the nature of good is the right, and of ill the wrong, and that the nature of man himself who does wrong is akin to my own … I cannot be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. To work against one another therefore is to oppose Nature, and to be vexed with another or to turn away from him is to tend to antagonism.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, quoted in Brown, Derren. Happy (pp. 195-196)


Photo by Michael McAuliffe on Unsplash

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