Posted by: Michael George Daniel | March 27, 2008

My First Toastmaster Speech


March 28, 2008

Mr./Madame Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, esteemed guests: I am not who I thought I was. In fact, if it weren’t for the little bit I’ve learned over the last few years, I wouldn’t have a clue. Fortunately, I do have a clue. Thanks to an open mind and the help of others, I’ve been able to wake up to a wonderful life, one in which I choose who I am, and what I do.

Not all of my days and nights are magic. I can still get emotionally overwrought over insignificant things. I can still spend sleepless nights with a chattering mind. A couple of recent nights with the full moon blazing come to mind.

This past full moon, with its convergence of the Easter holiday, Christian archetypes, astrological cross formation and the breaching of the threshold from winter to spring, was a bit of a bumpy ride. As difficult a climb that might have been, the run down the back side of the mountain is refreshing! This speech, and a chance to tell you a little bit about who I am, is part of the reward of flowing with these great, ever changing cycles of the universe.

My earliest memories are of being sick at the age of four. As the oldest of three, doted on by my mother, I was bathed in the light of her exclusive attention. When my sisters were born, I have come to see, that it was traumatizing having that attention diverted. It was, for me, literally gut-wrenching. I was diagnosed with an intestinal obstruction that required surgery. Of course the surgery was successful and I recovered.

But that emotional wave has stretched through my life. That feeling of losing the bright attention of my mother has affected my relationships and is at the core of my motivations to this day. It has spawned among others, a motivation to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed. My parents did the best they could. This is my karma. Only in awakening to a more authentic life, has it been accepted.

Equally powerful is the memory of the fourth grade. Everyday Bobby McCurdy played America the Beautiful and every day the teacher asked, “does anyone else want to play?” One day I gave in to some impulse and volunteered, even though I didn’t know how. Needless to say, my mother was unable to teach me in one evening. I humbly tried, but failed in front of the class.

So another wave was created, spawned by my spirit – a deep, honest desire to just get up and play – yet in conflict with the heat of my embarrassment; a disruptive wave extending into the future, even to this moment.

Given the level of consciousness of the world in the 60’s and 70’s when I grew up, it is not surprising that these enormous emotional waves were dealt with in a certain manner – they weren’t dealt with at all! In fact, they were suppressed. Yet another wave was created, 180 degrees out of phase; a wave of repression, conformance and denial; an inauthentic wave.

There is though another wave that slowly unfolds throughout our lives. About halfway through life, this particular wave hits a peak – or a trough – depending on how you see it.

Yes, midlife. A time when all of the dissonance is suddenly is forced into focus for one reason or another. It is the unexpected expression of deeply held, shadow characteristics that explode to the surface and literally make us look and feel, well…crazy.

But it is not craziness. It is the doorway to sanity, an opening to a path of greater authenticity. What we do with this opportunity is a personal choice. I started to dream more vividly and memorably.

Two dreams became my guides. In one, I was inside a boat on a brown, flowing river. I came out of the boat and jumped into the turbulent water. Swept along, I swam to another, nearby raft with a shack in the middle of it. Inside of the shack, I meant the archetypical woman – mother, lover and sage. She told me I needed to go back into the river, and I did, but not without a deep sense of loss and loneliness.

In another dream, I sat in a dark, wood-panel library in a heavy oak chair along with a German engineer and an Italian artist. Suddenly I threw my head back as my chair floated to the ceiling. Laughing, I exclaimed, “Now I understand, I’m a romantic!” And I did, quite literally begin to understand and sort out the difference between that which I was told and taught and the that comes from within.

So I quit my job as an engineer/project developer. I became certified as an Integrative Processing Therapist working with feelings and emotions. I opened a consulting firm to work with local people, small business and the immediate community. I began to focus on the relationship between individual growth, cultural inertia and the challenge of creating a more sustainable economy.

Part my journey is about learning to organize and present ideas to people; to communicate and to inspire; about peeling back the layers of conditioning and seeing the waves clearly. Thus I am here tonight taking a new step in this direction.

Becoming aware of the waves in our lives is as simple as noticing. When the inspiration for a speech decides to come to you, coherence means stopping what you are doing to accommodate that awareness. This ability comes from practice – of becoming aware that an inspired thought is occurring; realizing that we can not command inspiration but must instead bow to it.

Such is the trajectory of my own growth. Sure there are others that just sit quietly and creative thoughts come in like proper houseguests. Not me. Instead they come in waves. But for the many waves in my life, slowly converging into this moment, there go I.



  1. […] I am Not Who I Thought I Was by Michael Harris […]

  2. I was just reading through the ice breaker speeches in preparation for writing my own ice breaker. I certainly can relate to the title and content of what is written here. I spent my life dreading becoming so “old” that I would be considered midlife. What a kick to find out that that is where the old shells fall off, and reality breaks through – and finding yourself makes everything you’ve been througn in the past worth it – just to be who you really are.

  3. Beautiful speech, thank you so much for posting this speech. I am working with archetypes to remove my fear of humilation. I desire to be an efficient communicator. So amazingly I aligned myself with toastmasters and your speech.

    • You are welcome and good luck with your speech. For me, the best medicine for fear was to accept myself as I am and drop the illusion of ever doing it perfectly. May the spirits of expression be with you.

  4. Great speech.

  5. I enjoyed reading your icebreaker speech, I am working on mine now. Hope the presentation went well!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this deep part of yourself. In preparing for the icebreaker speech, I see the value in being authentic.

  7. Similar to others, I am preparing for my Ice Breaker speech…in the first TM meeting of a new club focused on the environment and consciousness, so it is serendipitous that I’ve come across your blog. I would like to keep in touch on your work and efforts as ours are aligned. I consult with organizations across this and into areas of executive consciousness, sustainability reporting and sustainable leadership.

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