Stick to your DREAM

Blog submission by Distinguished Toastmaster Ashin Paul

Truth be told, I have never chased the Distinguished Toastmaster title. I just got lucky.

My dad says this often, of all those trophies I have received and would probably receive, those ribbons that cost a rupee or even lesser are more valuable. I agree with him on that.

The first time I saw these ribbons was at the house of my dearest Aliyan (brother from another mother) who introduced me to this amazing movement called Toastmasters International, Appu GB. I saw a bulletin board on his study table that had these colorful ribbons pinned to it. When I inquired what these were, he told me these were the awards they gave away to the best speakers in their Toastmasters club and I remember my eyes twinkling at the sight of it. Our club hadn’t been chartered by then and being a new club, we did not have the practice of giving away ribbons to best speakers. So, I came back and discussed this with my club mentors and it turned out that we had a few ribbons handy. Thus, began the hunt for these priceless beauties. These ribbons stand witness to the hard work that one puts which essentially has been the foundation to my speaking journey too.

My journey in the Toastmasters movement has been quite a revelation for me. I started speaking on the stage at the age of 7. I joined Toastmasters at the age of 19 and being on stage was not new to me. But what I thought was public speaking was shaken up when I joined Toastmasters. For those of you who know me in the Toastmasters circle, probably might know that I wouldn’t have stood a chance to become a Distinguished Toastmaster. This award requires you to fulfil a certain criterion which is to be a district officer that was a deterrent to my biggest dream. Well, not exactly a deterrent but I couldn’t imagine a year without being on the stage of the International Speech Contest and for that reason, I never had hoped to finish the requirements to be a DTM.

I probably am not the best of examples for DTM aspirants. It took me over 7 years to get here and if you are determined enough you can very well accomplish this in much lesser time. But I must say things rather worked in my favor despite my choices.

There’s this Sanskrit shloka by Adi Shankara in which he says, “Nishchala tattve jeevanmukti” which means for one who is unwavering in his intention, liberation cannot be denied. This has been quite true in my case. For years, I have had this dilemma as to whether I should stand for a district leadership role or should I continue chasing my dream without wavering from what I had set out on. I chose the latter. Many people including my mentors and well-wishers advised me to give the leadership track a try and I loved the responsibility too. It was quite tempting but there was this voice inside that kept saying “stick to your dream, stick to your dream”. For multiple years when the nomination forms for district leadership rolled out, I would cringe inside for not filling it up and see many other members around me benefit from it. But looking back, I feel that it was the right thing to do at least, in my specific case.

Thanks to the Toastmaster leadership, I stood a chance to accomplish the requirements for the DTM by employing an alternate option given last year for which I did not have to compromise on my dream either. So, my message to the reader is, hold on tight to your dreams. Don’t let go of the target that you have set upon. There would be many testing times, situations where you feel like taking a detour. When you feel something else is more enticing, but in such times if you feel your dream is still a burning fire within you, there would also be this voice inside that would keep saying “stick to your dream, stick to your dream”. Things will eventually fall in place. Let the universe do its job in conspiring for you.

I am continuing to chase my dream. And I could be miles away from the destination, if the journey is fun, I am going to stick to my dream.

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