I’ve been thinking about financial matters more than usual in the past few months, ever since my landlords boosted my rent exorbitantly. I love my Port Moody apartment—both the view and the lifestyle it gives me—and I made the choice to stay here.
This choice, as well as some other influences, has made me question my values. Two major influences in my life recently have been reading Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People (in January) and joining my local Toastmasters club (in February).
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
After reading 7 Habits, I was on fire! I analyzed my core values. I understood the importance of creating a personal mission statement that would express my purpose in life. I faced up to the necessity of being proactive; of taking the steps required to achieve goals in line with my mission statement. I fully agreed with the idea that time must be managed carefully, with planning and discipline, in order to make “first things come first.”
I adhered to my goals and schedule for about two weeks, and then it all fell apart.
Like most people, I could give all kinds of reasons. One is that the most crucial steps of achieving goals are usually the hardest: we procrastinate because of fear, uncertainty, or even other worthy goals that make demands on our time.
Then there is simply the lack of discipline. The pleasure principle. Wanting to have fun.
I haven’t given up on Covey’s ideas, though. His book has permanently changed my awareness of my core values and my understanding of what it takes to be successful and happy—however I define those words for myself. I will not lie to myself about why I haven’t achieved my goals yet.
A friend invited me to attend a Toastmasters meeting in February. I was quite nervous, but it wasn’t too bad—I was immediately struck by how welcoming this group was. Someone asked me if I wanted to take part in the “Table Topics” section of the meeting. During Table Topics, a few people are called up to the front (one at a time) by the Table Topics Master. Each person must respond to a surprise question with a short impromptu speech.
I agreed to take part, and in my wildly disorganized speech I succeeded in going over the time limit of two minutes. Once I was 15 seconds over, I was “clapped off.” Apparently this was the first time a guest had ever been clapped off—a more common problem for guests is a complete freeze-up as they face the audience.
I did receive several positive comments about my speech, though, and I was hooked on Toastmasters! I soon joined the club.
Public speaking is not critical in my professional life as an editor, but I joined Toastmasters because I was impressed by the amazing talents and generosity of this club. The group includes many seasoned speakers who have competed in Toastmasters speech contests at a high level. Also, there are several people who are great at humorous talks.
I have much to learn from this group. I will not only become better at public speaking, but also better at communication in general. It’s a real privilege to get to know everyone in this group. They are already high achievers, but they are all striving to improve, and to help others improve. As a freelancer who spends much of my time working alone at home, I have come to look forward to Monday night meetings as times of entertainment, inspiration, and support.
Great speakers can inspire, educate, and entertain, but I was reminded last week that they can also use their persuasive powers for commercial purposes. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this, but I listened to a webinar last week that disturbed me. It was a free webinar directed at small business owners by a woman named Karen McGregor. She tells a typical rags-to-riches story about how speaking engagements are the best way to sell a product or service. The service she is selling is her “method” for this, her training programs.
I listened to the whole 75-minute webinar even though it rang alarm bells in my head from the start. Karen did share many tips and tricks for constructing a speech that would encourage listeners to buy something. However, I wasn’t at all impressed with her as a speaker or as a person. Maybe it was because the only passion she was sharing was her desire to get rich. She made frequent casual, smug references to how well she had succeeded in this.
Sure enough, the final 15 minutes of the webinar consisted of Karen’s attempt to get me to register for a $1,997 live training program; there were numerous “freebies” added for webinar participants, and even more bonuses if we registered and paid within the next 30 minutes!
Karen’s webinar left me troubled for a while. Should I be trying to build more financial stability for myself? Am I too lazy or too cowardly to follow her method? For sure, I can’t be easily parted from $1,997!
There are principles involved here. The way a person chooses to “commercialize” their talents and experience is not simply a practical financial decision; it also must be in line with one’s ethics and personal goals.
For example, I’ve been writing in this blog for over seven years, but I never intended to make money from it. In fact, my blog breaks all the rules about how to have a successful, money-generating blog. I don’t care, because my reasons for writing here aren’t compatible with the kind of writing I would do if my primary goal was to make money.
Why do I write?
There are clues in my blog’s tagline: Reading, Running, and Relationships.
That tagline captures some of the topics that most stimulate me, and I want to write about them in a deep, exploratory way, not in short, quickly-scanned articles that can be easily digested by a mass audience. Why do I write?
- to express and share my love of running and working out.
- to explore the psychology of running.
- to explain what I find wonderful in books or in Eleanor Wachtel’s Writers & Company program on CBC Radio.
- to analyze relationships with people who are or have been close to me.
My writing often serves a therapeutic purpose. It helps me clarify my thoughts and understand myself. Some of my articles (for example, the ones about my mother and about George, my coach) are written out of love, gratitude, and the recognition of how strongly one person can influence another’s life. Of course, I am selective in what I write—I need to protect my own and others’ privacy.
Sometimes the comments I get in response to a blog article make all the work seem worthwhile. People compliment me on my writing, or show me that they’ve been able to connect with my words.
In any case, writers are compelled to write, and knowing that I have a small (but faithful) audience motivates me to write better. With my blog, I’ve created a permanent record (at least as permanent as computer files and The Cloud can be) of things I consider worth writing about: people, runs, books, or simply the musings of a moment.
The morning after listening to that disturbing webinar, I rode to Belcarra. It’s only about 11K from my apartment, but it’s a ride I hadn’t tackled for a while because it includes several giant hills. However, the scenery is nice and much of the ride is on nearly-deserted roads.
This time I took a small detour so I could reach a good viewpoint. I left my bike at the base of a hill where there was a clearing for hydro lines, and climbed to the top. Wow, I was high!
My burning quads got a break, and after that I had a few kilometres of descent. As I flew along that quiet road cutting through the forest, I knew that this lifestyle I have, the places I love and move through every day, are more valuable to me than being rich.
I arrived at Belcarra just as the sun broke and banished the clouds of the morning.