The Most Important Lesson of Toastmasters

Roald Amundsen, Polar Explorer

In 1910 two adventurers, Scott and Amundsen, were on a race to the last unexplored point on the planet, the south pole. Scott was the hero of the British Empire: older, more experienced and with lots of resources at his disposal. Amundsen was the hero of Norway.

They both arrived at the shores of the Antarctic about the same time and both began their journeys of 1600 miles on foot, carrying everything they would need.

Scott would wake each morning and open his tent door. If the sun was shining and there was no wind, he would set his team a goal of 50 miles. If it was a terrible day, windy, cold: he would stay in the tents and wait for a better moment.

Scott’s journey continued this way, day after day. Each day he checked the conditions and then decided how far to travel.

Amundsen woke up each morning and pushed his team for 20 miles. Every day, 20 miles. Some days were sunny and they would achieve 20 miles by lunchtime. Some days were harsh and it would take until the last hour of light to achieve the 20 miles. Every day, 20 miles.

Amundsen won the race to the pole, and his team could have continued their journey for months more. Scott lost the race to the pole, and his whole team died on the return journey.

Focus on the Process Goals

Stress is a result of believing I can control more than I can realistically control. Outcome goals are a driver of stress. I cannot control the weather. I can only control my own actions. If I set €1M in sales as a goal, I set an outcome goal. If I decide I want to be as good a speaker as Florian Mueck or John Zimmer, I set an outcome goal. These are great dreams, but they are not helpful goals.

This is a big challenge in Europe today. There is little education in setting healthy process goals. If I know that €1M in sales requires 3 meetings a week, and this requires 20 phone calls per day – a healthy process goal is 20 phone calls today. This is under my control. If you want to be a great speaker, the process goal is to practice speaking 3 minutes every day.

Toastmasters shows me that every member who sets a healthy process goal of regular practice gains control of their progress towards mastery. This is a message that people in Europe today need. In addition, the support of people who are there in the water with you makes the journey more enjoyable.

Originally published in the European Toastmasters newsletter.

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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