Opinions Are Not Facts + Mastery / Identity / Humility


Will you allow me to be crude for a moment?

(OK, even if you won't allow it, I'm still gonna go ahead because #myblog.)
Opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one, and everyone thinks everybody else's stinks.

There's an interesting phenomenon happening in our society these days: people confuse feelings and opinions for FACTS. "My thoughts are the TRUTH!" (With a capital 'T'.)


Now I could go into a long rant about how someone's thoughts (thoughts that, incidentally, pass as quickly as a fart in the wind) which they have chosen to verbalize are not COLD HARD FACTS, but I won't because I think that's a point we can all agree on.

We can't do anything about the fact that a lot of people flash around their opinions like a toddler who's just discovered the marvel of their own anatomy and who runs around pantless to show everyone their new discovery. So let's move onto discussing a more useful topic: what we CAN DO about those people and their opinions.


We cannot entertain everyone's opinion of us.

Why?

Because if we did, we would be constantly questioning ourselves.

And while never questioning ourselves is bad (only the insane never question their sanity), constantly questioning ourselves is debilitating because it is paralyzing.

In that space of asking "Am I doing this right? Am I crazy? Does my work suck? DO I SUCK??" we aren't doing anything. Therefore, paralysis, which equals non-production. And in a world of Critics and Talkers, the Doers, regardless of the perceived quality of what they are doing, are still ahead of the game.

Therefore anything which threatens to halt the DOING needs to be carefully assessed.


Now, why am I thinking about all of this?

I've given speeches at Toastmasters for the last three weeks in a row.

I hadn't gotten up to speak since May because I haven't been going to Toastmasters. I had a specific goal which was to get my Gold-level certificate, and I achieved that last year. Since then my attendance has fluctuated.

However, getting on stage for the last few weeks highlighted to me that speaking is a skill, and like any other skill, it gets rusty with lack of use. I had butterflies in my stomach which is something that I was no longer used to feeling. When I was working towards my Gold-level, I spoke almost every week, and that nervous slightly breathless feeling I get when I first walk on stage was more or less gone.

I felt myself struggle a bit with nerves, with delivering the flow of my thoughts, with using the stage to my advantage - all things which I had overcome.

Now despite all of that, I know my speeches were still good; solid with a few clear takeaways for the audience. (That's the most important part of getting up to speak: having a clear point that the audience can relate to and learn from.)

But the girl who evaluated my speech last week PANNED it.

DECIMATED it.

ANNIHILATED it.

TORE IT APART.

Not publicly. She didn't have the balls to do that; she beat around the bush in her nonsensical verbal evaluation in front of the group. (Because at Toastmasters, all speeches are evaluated in front of the audience.) But on the evaluation sheet, which I didn't look at until I got home, she threw me into the toilet and hit flush.

CLARITY: Spoken language is clear and easily understood.
MARK: 2/5

WTF?! Part 1: I mean, was I slurring my words?! I speak English very well. I enunciate! I know this for a fact. English is my third language (after German and French) and even if I wanted to speak very fast and swallow my words the way many native English speakers do, I couldn't do it. Believe me, I've tried, but every time I do, I end up stumbling over my words because I did not grow up speaking English, so I am forced to slow down and pronounce every word. I've had foreigners tell me that they can understand my English better than most others because of how well I enunciate.

WELL-SUPPORTED: Speech Content is well-supported and sources are available if requested.
MARK: 2/5

WTF?! Part 2: Every single point I made was supported by an example or an anecdote!

INTEREST: Engages audience with interesting, well-constructed content.
MARK: 2/5

WTF?! Part 3: My speech was well laid out. I had a clear introduction, supporting points, and a strong conclusion. I KNOW THIS.

EYE CONTACT / GESTURES / AUDIENCE AWARENESS all got a 3/5.

VOCAL VARIETY / COMFORT LEVEL got a 4/5.

I couldn't believe it.

Now the speech I gave that night was not the best speech I have ever given. I had a lot of things working against me. I had a PowerPoint presentation which I couldn't use because I had forgotten the cable that connects my Mac to the projector (because Apple products do not play nicely with non-Apple products, and there's always a special wire or adaptor required #annoying #monoploy). There was a lot of background noise: we meet in a community centre and there were people coming in and out, talking, using the kitchen, and the windows were open so we heard kids yelling outside along with several passing airplanes.

Despite that, I know that I delivered a solid speech.

My speech topic that night was very a propos for the circumstances: What's the difference between Professionals and Amateurs?

My conclusion: Professionals do their thing all the time, no matter what. Amateurs do it only when they feel like it and when all conditions are favourable.

When I realized in the car on my way to Toastmasters that I wouldn't be able to use my PowerPoint, I considered bailing for about five seconds "I can't do my speech without my presentation." And then I thought "This is exactly what my speech is about! I committed to doing a speech tonight, and although the conditions are not favourable, I'm going to get up and do it anyway."

Until a few minutes before my speech, I thought that I wasn't going to use my presentation at all. And then I had a flash of "Think Outside the Box-ness" - what if I acted as the eyes of the audience and described the image on each slide and read the caption as I gave my speech?

Brilliant! I was so proud of myself for adapting to the situation on the spot. I was going to do the best I could with what I had - THAT IS WHAT LIFE IS ABOUT. And it's what professionals do because professionals make it happen no matter what.

In the verbal feedback which she presented to the club, the girl who evaluated me made the following points:

"By telling us in your speech that you haven't spoken in three months, you set the bar low for us as an audience which you shouldn't have done since you're clearly a seasoned speaker." (Umm...I said I was a Gold-level speaker - high bar - and I mentioned the fact that I hadn't spoken in three months to highlight my first point which was that Professionals need to practice their art as much as possible so as not to get rusty. It tied into the speech, get the wax out of your ears.)

"In your speech you mentioned some of the constructive feedback you received after your speech last week, which was negative and you shouldn't bring up negative points in a speech." (Umm...they weren't negative points you dunder-head, it's called "constructive criticism" for a reason and I said during my speech how much I appreciated it because I had agreed with the feedback. Again, get the wax out of your ears.)

"Your speech would have been better supported with your PowerPoint presentation." (Holy crap! I mean, I don't know how big the Q-tip is that you need in order to clear that level of wax out of your ears, but I OPENED my speech with the reasons why my slides weren't accessible and I informed the audience that I would describe each slide instead, which is exactly what I did.)

When she handed me my evaluation sheet, she broke one of the cardinal rules I have for myself: that of giving unsolicited advice. (See opening points re: opinions and assholes.)


I am VERY reluctant to give anyone advice. Even when people ask me, more often than not, I steer them towards themselves because when we start polling the audience (aka asking for advice) it's because we already know what we want to do, should do, but we want someone else to validate our own opinions to us.

If I have an opinion or a piece of advice, I usually ask the potential receiver if they are open to hearing my thoughts. I ask PERMISSION of the person before sharing my opinion because I respect the fact that ultimately, no one knows what's best for us except us.

But this girl - as she handed me my evaluation sheet - felt that she had the right to further expand on the points she had already brought up. (Listen, you already had your three minutes in front of me and the audience, no further elaboration required.)

In a roundabout, long-winded manner, she told me I had rambled during my speech. (Who's rambling now bitch?)

It took all of the Zen fortitude within my soul to smile graciously and say "Thank you, I will take that into consideration."



I videotaped my speech. I'm not in the habit of doing this, but now that I'm focusing so intensely on my writing and speaking, I need videos to both showcase what I do, and to review myself in order to improve. (So many athletes do this in order to improve their game, which is exactly what I'm trying to do. Because no one will criticize us more harshly than we will criticize ourselves.)

But based on the feedback I received, I was dreading - DREADING - watching this video. Still, I sat down and forced myself to watch it. I braced myself as I prepared to witness what - according to my evaluator - had been a train-wreck of a performance.

It was fine. There was nothing wrong with it.

I could have been a bit more concise with my points, used the stage a bit more. It was not a perfect speech. But it was still good. I usually knock speeches out of the park, and would rate my best performances as a 6/5 because I surpass all expectations. This speech? I give myself a 4/5.



We cannot afford to entertain everyone's opinion of us.

We need to focus on entertaining the opinions of those we respect. Those we wish to emulate. Those whose work inspires us.

When someone offers us an opinion, we need to ask ourselves "Is this worth considering based on who I am in the process of trying to become?"

There's a fine line between accepting constructive criticism and adjusting accordingly, and re-evaluating ourselves on such a constant basis that we lose our grounding in our sense of self
Constant evaluation is psychologically debilitating: we cannot afford on an emotional level to take everybody's opinion into account, so we need to get really good at filtering quickly because the whole world is constantly offering us it's opinion.
I know that of which I speak because I used to listen to everyone's opinion of me except my own. My abusive childhood led me to believe that my thoughts, feelings, opinions and preferences had no validity and did not deserve to be acknowledged. I've spent my entire life thinking that everybody's opinion of me was gospel, while my own opinion of myself counted for nothing.

But in finding my own sense of self-worth during this past year, I started valuing my opinion of myself above the opinion of other people.

Through honing in on my purpose and using my #GOALS as a beacon to guide me in how I live, I am better able to quickly assess whether I should consider an opinion or dismiss it.

The girl who evaluated me?

She's 19. And she's given one speech at Toastmasters.

I'm turning 39 next month. And I've given more than 50 speeches at Toastmasters.

I have an extra 20 years of life experience, and far more speaking experience than she does.

Therefore, her opinion cannot hold any weight for me.


Now, I want to add that age and experience aren't necessarily the discriminating factors here (part of, but not entirely).

If she herself was a public speaking protege who, despite her age and lack of experience, had gotten up to speak and mastered the stage like a young Tony Robbins, then I would have had to give her opinion some weight. (See above re: entertaining the opinions of those we wish to emulate.)

But...her speech was boring. The topic was dull. I failed to comprehend what her ultimate point was.(It's challenging to focus on something which is so incredibly mind-numbing.) She herself was as entertaining as watching paint dry. Her delivery, her lack of stage presence, her lack of charisma. Blah. Dull.

Which is totally understandable given her age and lack of experience. I would have had a much more kind and generous view of her performance except for the fact that she decimated my performance. People in glass houses...

So again, I say: we cannot afford to entertain everyone's opinion of us. We need to focus on entertaining the opinions of those we respect. Those we wish to emulate. Those whose work inspires us.

I'm grateful for this experience. After having spoken for the last few weeks, it became clear to me that I need to get up and speak somehow, somewhere, every week, if I want to master the art of speaking.

But it also made me realize that I needed to surround myself with people who are at my level.


Everyone is here to teach us something, especially those we have unpleasant interactions with because uncomfortable situations are generally a call to action.

So thank you, Young Grasshopper, for being my teacher.

Thank you for making me realize that I need to leave this particular Toastmasters Club. Yes, we can learn from everyone. But I'm an Advanced Speaker, and I need to go to a club with other people at my level so that I can learn from them.

It wouldn't make sense for someone who's a Karate Black Belt to train with White Belts. While it would make the Black Belt feel good (big fish in a little pond = EGO TRIP) the only way that the 1st degree Black Belt will ever become a 10th degree Black Belt is to train with other Black Belts (small fish in a big pond = GROWTH).

RELATED TANGENT: Isn't it interesting that there are different levels of the Black Belt? That even once you've technically MASTERED the art of Karate, there are DEGREES OF MASTERY? The Black Belt has TEN levels (!) - called Dan's - and reaching the 9th and 10th Dan is "extremely rare and is mostly awarded posthumously, or to those who have practiced their art for more than 40 years."

That means there are martial artists who practice Karate their entire lives and never reach full mastery.

Now although becoming a 10th-degree Black Belt is extremely rare, it's still something to aspire to. If we don't have something to aspire to, then we cease to grow. When we stop growing, we stop living.

Masters never stops growing and learning, because the truth is that there's no such thing as Mastery. We can always be better.


If we want to master anything, we have to surround ourselves with people who are better than we are.

If we want to become masters, we must always feel somewhat inadequate because of the high degree of skill surrounding us.

Although everyone has something to teach us, our time is limited so we need to carefully choose who we learn from.

If it hadn't been for that girl and her ludicrous evaluation, I wouldn't have been spurned on to search for other Toastmasters clubs and discover that there are clubs in Ottawa EXCLUSIVELY for Advanced Speakers. That's where I need to go.

I want to feel inadequate in my skills not because the person listening to my speech is too inexperienced to understand what I'm trying to say, but because the level of skill surrounding me is beyond my own.

Masters are not afraid of feeling inadequate. Masters do not take this personally. They do not use it as an excuse to shrink like turtles back into their shells. They use that feeling to RISE, to demand more of themselves, to keep getting better.

Masters welcome the opportunity to be a small fish in a big pond. They welcome opportunities to fail because they know that shying away from those opportunities is its own kind of death.



I am a Gold-level Toastmasters speaker; I am the Karate equivalent of a 1st-degree Black Belt. But as with the Karate fighter who finally achieves mastery and gets his Black Belt, I know that it is only now that my real journey to Mastery can begin.

I am not a Master. But I will spend my life aspiring to become one.



I have no issues with getting a bad evaluation. Not everyone is going to get what I do, or like it. That's fine.


So it wasn't the fact that she panned my speech that really bothered me. (Especially because as we've already covered, her opinion has been discredited and therefore discounted.)

The thing that bothered me was the name - my name - that she wrote at the top of the evaluation form.

I am Jasmin Wolf.

When I felt that this new chapter of my life was coming, I decided that I needed a different name.

I needed a name that represented the fact that I am an entirely different person than the one I used to be. In the last year, I've been born again into my new self. Or perhaps my real self, the self I always was, but upon whose wings the world had thrown so much mud that the real me was indiscernible. Now that the mud has more or less fallen off, and that I'm the me I've been trying to be my whole life, I needed that new identity to be reflected in my name.

I am Jasmin Wolf.

I also needed to create a separation between myself and my family. I love them all, but I need to let them go in order to fully expand. Yes, sometimes it's possible to be our full and whole and true selves within the circle of our families. For me, it is not. I've spent my whole life trying, but I've let them go now and am moving on because it's time that I do me.

I am Jasmin Wolf.

Wolf is not a random name. It's the English translation of my foreign last name. The full translation of my last name is The Wolf. (I wanted to be entirely accurate in my translation, and so for a while I toyed with the idea of De Wolf or Von Wolf but thought that sounded too hoity-toity, so I dropped "The".) I didn't even know what my last name meant until I was in my mid-thirties. It was my Uncle who said to me (in his thick accent) "You know what zis name means? It's meaning Zeh Wolf. We are zeh Wolves."

I am Jasmin Wolf.

On the agenda at Toastmasters, beside my speaking slot, my name is listed as "Jasmin Wolf, Advanced Communicator Gold."

But this girl did not write Jasmin Wolf at the top of my evaluation form, she wrote my foreign last name. She misspelled my first name (!), but correctly wrote down my foreign last name.

I know, I know, I can hear the questions in your mind, because they echoed through my mind too.

How did she 1 - Know my foreign last name in the first place and 2 - Happen to remember the exact spelling of it? Because in the history of me being me, almost no one has ever gotten my name right.

Let's backtrack a little... Maybe about a month and a half ago, I got an invitation from somebody on LinkedIn. I had no idea who this person was. Usually when strangers send me invites on LinkedIn, they introduce themselves and explain why they are trying to connect with me.

But this person sent a cold-call invitation. We had never met, and there was no introductory message. Therefore, I ignored the invitation.

It was this girl.

And so here we have our answer folks. She stalked me on social media, remembered my difficult to remember last name, and chose to use it on my evaluation form despite the fact that my name on the agenda was listed as Jasmin Wolf, thereby admitting to the stalking.

What a fucking weirdo.

(Listen, we've all stalked people on social media, but most of us have the common sense not to make the person we've stalked aware of that fact.)


And that's the thing that made me angry because it felt so disrespectful.

I have chosen to be know to the world as Jasmin Wolf.

Identity and the labels around our identities is an important thing in general, but even more so in the world now. Take for example the many people who are finally able to stand up and declare "Although I was born a man, I identify as a woman. I will present myself to the world as a female, and I wish to be referred to as 'SHE.'"

Caitlyn Jenner

That's something that, in the realm of our politically correct society, needs to be respected.

When I was still working at Company X, I organized a product launch event in the heart of Toronto's gay village, at a well known LGBTQ2 community centre. I had hired a spoken word artist who was transitioning female to male, and who did not want to be know as either 'SHE' nor 'HE' but preferred the gender neutral 'THEY.' I respected that. I did not fully understand it, but I respected it, and so did my entire events team.

We do not need to understand people in order to respect them. It can help, but it's not a prerequisite.

Identity is important. We live in a world where we have the ability and the freedom to reinvent ourselves. And having fought as hard as I have my whole life for the real me to emerge, to then have this snippet of a girl blatantly disrespect that, well...it pissed me off big-time.

Nobody gets to tell us who we are.

ONLY WE CAN DEFINE OUR OWN IDENTITIES.



So what was up with this chick? Because evaluations as harsh as the one she gave me are usually personal.

Was it the LinkedIn thing? Really? Because I didn't accept her invite?

Maybe.

Or maybe she's an insecure little girl feeling jealous and lashing out angrily like a wild animal at the one she feels threatened by.

Animals attack for two reasons:

1 - You are food and they want to eat you.
2 - You are a threat and they want to destroy you.

Since cannibalism is not a thing in our society, humans only attack one another when threatened.

We often have guests at Toastmasters; anyone can come visit and see what a meeting is like. Guests are always asked to introduce themselves at the start of the meeting, and then to share their thoughts at the end.

The last two weeks in a row, guests specifically mentioned me and my speeches in their feedback. Not hers. Mine.

Last week we had a record number of guests - five people. And out of those five people, four said things along the lines of "I enjoyed the speeches, and I especially liked Jasmin's speech and what she said about...it's something I can use in my own life."

BOOM.

Game - set - and match.

For me as a speaker, that's the best feedback I could hope to receive: to hear that my words have changed for the better the way someone is going live their life.
When we open our mouths to speak, we are either adding value or taking up space.
- Sally Hogshead

With that in mind, the knowledge that my words were impactful is the biggest win, and the only evaluation that matters.

So this girl? She sees me as a threat. Thank you for the compliment Young Grasshopper.

I spoke to one of my friends who said "Don't you find it interesting that the whole audience felt it was a good speech but this one person didn't? Don't you wonder about that? Like how 9 out of 10 dentists recommend Colgate toothpaste. Don't you wonder about that tenth dentist?"

No. No I don't.

You know why? Because I've met that dentist (Hell, I've dated that dentist). And he's usually the weirdo fringe guy who makes candles out of ear wax and believes in the health benefits of drinking his own urine (that's really a thing - Urotherapy - Google it).

Sometimes - sometimes - that fringe person is a GENIUS with visionary thinking too advanced for anyone else to see. Those nine dentists agree because they're sheep, and the tenth dentist who doesn't is the one who sees what they don't. Sometimes, the fringe person is THAT person. But most of the time the fringe guy is the fringe guy because he's a legitimate weirdo.

In this audience, she's the weirdo fringe 10th dentist. The earwax collecting, urine drinking dentist.



I sent an email to a few members of the Toastmasters club executive committee, including the club president.

I informed them of my decision to leave the club, and I told them about the evaluation I had received from the Young Grasshopper, as a heads up. I closed with the following:

"It might be helpful to give an overview to new members about how to give feedback. I'm a big girl and can handle having my speech decimated, but if any other member had been as brutally rated as I was, they might never want to get up and speak again. Young grasshopper seems like she's going to be a regular member, but at this point she's a loose cannon that needs to be reined in if you want anyone to get up and speak. If she gives me, with my level and experience, 2/5's and 3/5's, what is she going to do with someone who's getting up to give their very first speech? Or someone who legitimately does not speak English well? 1/5? Zero? That person will be totally crushed. There is a fine line between constructive criticism and steamrolling someone."

People are terrified of public speaking. This article by The Washington Post says that public speaking is the number one fear that people have.

Which is why all feedback given at Toastmasters needs to be gentle; because for most people when they get up in front of an audience, they're confronting the thing they're most afraid of. Feedback needs to be kind and constructive; in general there should only be one or two points for improvement, and they should be sandwiched between positive feedback.

Here's one of the major problems in our society: we ridicule imperfection.

And this is why people are reluctant to try anything new: because they know they won't be proficient at it right off the bat and are afraid of being laughed at.

Which means that few people are brave enough to ever put themselves out there and try anything new; most people never do anything or try anything because of this.

We are a "scared but safe" society. We have a false sense of safety in our lack of trying which is based in our fear of not being good enough which is counterproductive in a society that hopes to evolve.

The only way to become proficient at anything is to try and to make mistakes in the process of that trying. But that only works if the society we live in makes the space for people to be beginners.

No one ridicules a baby for not knowing how to walk, but we annihilate someone who - just like a baby - is in the process of learning something new. We cannot do that. We need to give ourselves and each other permission to be beginners and to make mistakes.

Now in this analogy, I'm not a baby learning to walk, I'm an experienced runner so I can take the harsh feedback from the Young Grasshopper, but the rest of the club, who are all babies (people who have never gotten up to speak) or toddlers (people who have given less than half a dozen speeches) cannot handle that level scrutiny, they need to be encouraged if there's ever to be any hope for them to learn to walk and then run.

The people who do get up the nerve to put themselves out there need to be encouraged, not publicly humiliated. I hope the executive committee takes my words to heart and has a talk with this girl before she damages someone's fragile ego to the point where they are never again motivated to step out of their comfort zone.



Mastery needs to be EARNED.

I am a PADI certified Master Scuba Diver (aka Dive Master). It's the first level of professional diving, where one can actually work as a dive guide.

I EARNED that title.

MY DIVING JOURNEY + CREDENTIALS: Open Water Diver course with a practical and written exam. Advanced Diver course with a practical and written exam. Rescue Diver course with a practical and written exam + Emergency First Responder course, then finally the Master Scuba Diver course with a practical and written exam. I did all of my diver training in the Red Sea, in Egypt.


In order to get my Dive Master (DM) certification I had to log 60 dives. (I now have more than twice that many - I stopped logging after I hit 100. )

Becoming a DM was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I have ever done. I had to physically exert myself (see below), but I also had to overcome the mental blocks that said I couldn't do what was being asked of me. The mental part was the hardest. I swallowed half the Red Sea in the process. (I also cried a lot.)

Me carrying my instructor out of the water during my Rescue Diver course.

The written exam for the DM involved math, physics, decompression theory, etc. It wasn't glamorous and exciting, it was hard work. But to become a DM, you first have to learn how not to get yourself killed under water, and then you have to learn how to make sure others don't get themselves killed under water.

Becoming a Dive Master is the most difficult thing I've ever done, and the title I've worked the hardest to earn, which is why it's my proudest accomplishment. (Nobody is proud of anything that comes easy. People only appreciate things they have to work for.)

One of the rewards of MASTERY: belief in ourselves to do the difficult things, to achieve that which we put our minds to.

Another one of the rewards of MASTERY: it opens doors to worlds that otherwise would have been closed.

A few years after becoming a DM, when I lived in Mexico, I would go diving a few times a week. I had a deal set-up with a local dive center; they gave me a good price and I did all of my diving with them. (I lived there for four months so it was a good deal on both sides.)

I did mostly regular dives; exploring coral reefs or just being under water to look at the fish, but I would occasionally do specialty dives.

I did a shark dive which was just...fucking cool. Eight Bull Sharks. No cage. Just us and the sharks swimming together. And wreck diving was neat too, although I prefer dives with fish rather than sunken man-made objects.

Bull Shark

But there is one dive which stands out in my memory because of the degree of difficulty of the dive.

A cave dive. A cave which was full of stalagmites and stalactites.


The dive was for Dive Masters ONLY.

Why?

Because one of the most important skills in diving is the ability to control your buoyancy; that's your placement in the water. As a diver, you have to be able to dictate where you are and where you go.

It sounds easy to someone who's only ever swum laps in a swimming pool. But diving in the ocean or the sea is an entirely different matter because of all the unknown factors; strong currents, fixed obstacles (reefs, corals, cave walls, ship walls in wreck diving) or moveable obstacles (other divers, giant sea turtles, moray eels, lionfish, or any other sea creature you don't want to come into direct contact with). If you can't control your buoyancy you risk seriously injuring yourself (I personally wouldn't want to body-slam a giant sea turtle).

As a diver, you have to be able to dictate where you are and where you go.  So in a cave full of stalagmites and stalactites, if you cannot do this, then you risk skewering yourself like a human shish-kabob.

Therefore, a dive for Dive Masters ONLY.

Now, I was the least experienced Dive Master among us; we were a group of six, and I was the youngest (in my early 30's) and I was the only girl. The others were men in their 50's. But I was still a Dive Master. I had EARNED the right to be there, with other Dive MASTERS.

And that was fucking awesome.

Which brings me back to my original point: Mastery needs to be EARNED. We have to earn the right to swim with the professionals.

The Young Grasshopper had not earned that right: she had not earned the right to evaluate a MASTER

And if you as a White Belt are to evaluate a Black Belt, you must do it with deference in recognition of what the one standing before you has accomplished.

She did not do this because she's not experienced enough to recognize a situation where humility is required. She has not yet learned the beautiful art of being HUMBLE.

If you are not humble, life will humble you. How do I know this? Because that's what it did to me. You see, I used to be like the Young Grasshopper; quite certain I knew a lot more than I did with the right to speak authoritatively on the little I knew.

And then life gave me experiences that broke my heart and tore open my soul. And into those cracks and crevices is the space where God walked in.

Now, I only know that I know nothing; that the Universe knows better than I do, and so my prayers always end with "You let me know what it is I'm supposed to do, what is YOUR will, and I will do it." I never pray for specific things anymore because I feel this is based on the assumption that I know better than God what's best for me. He has the whole map for my life - I do not - so He knows my next best steps. That, my friends, is called FAITH.

THE UNIVERSE ONLY HAS THREE ANSWERS:

1 - Yes.
2 - Not right now.
3 - I have something better for you.

For those of us who choose to believe it, God is the one who created heaven and earth, the cosmos, and all that we are, all that we were, and all that we will ever be.

Deference in recognition of what the one standing before you has accomplished.

Therefore, who am I to dictate anything, to say that I know best?

I am no one.

LIFE WILL HUMBLE YOU BECAUSE IT HUMBLES ALL OF US.

ALL OF US.

We cannot escape it. And for those of us not humbled, it's because life has not yet come for you. Because you have not lived enough. Or maybe it has come for you, and you thought you could dodge it, get away with avoiding it forever.

But no one gets out of paying the Piper. No one.

"Hellooo my lovely, remember me? We've met so many times before, but you've proven yourself to be an elusive little being. But now here I am again come to collect, and this time, there's nowhere for you to run, nowhere for you to hide. Oh, you didn't think I'd let you get away, did you? (The Piper can be a bit dark at times, especially with those who try to escape him.)

Through the darkness of future passed
The magician longs to see
One chance out between two worlds

Into the fire, or around it?

We either walk through the FIRES OF LIFE which will humble us to the point where we will turn to God on our knees with our arms outstretched and say "I do not know, please show me the way" - or we will spend our lives running from the fire, dodging it in ever way we can through the many avoidance mechanisms that this society has at the ready for us to escape into; drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, etc. All avoidance of the discomfort of walking into the truths that we are trying so desperately not to see.

The trait of a true MASTER?

Humility. For despite everything he knows, he is aware that he still has so much more to learn.

He bows in front of the unknown. He has deference in recognition of what the one standing before him has accomplished.



We humans are judgmental creatures. Try as we might, we can't help but judge one another.

Judgment stems from two different places:

1 - Feeling superior to the person we are judging.
2 - Feeling inferior to the person we are judging.

"You are superior to me in Point X, and I feel insecure about my own Point X, so I will judge your Point Z because I know my Point Z is so much better than yours and this way I can feel better about feeling inferior to your Point X."

WANT TO STOP JUDGING?

When we are entirely focused on our own authentic journey, we judge less because we don't have the time to do so. We aren't in a constant state of comparison because the act of comparing requires us to take our attention off of what we are doing and look at what others are doing. But when we're entirely focused on our work, we don't compare, and are less apt to judge.

TRANSLATION: Keep your eyes on your own work.

One can only judge as harshly as the Young Grasshopper judged me when one has not fucked-up enough times in one's own life (because there's nothing as humbling as repeatedly standing in a pile of your own shit to discourage you from judging other people's piles) or not owning said fuck-ups (your are surrounded by piles of your own shit, but do not acknowledge them despite the swarm of flies buzzing around you).


Everything happens for a reason.

Had the Young Grasshopper not judged me so harshly, I would not have been pushed to seek out a different Toastmasters Club, one which is exclusively for Advanced Speakers. Her unnecessarily harsh evaluation jolted me out of my comfort zone.

When life delivers harsh messages, it can be a very good thing because it wakes us up and gives us a good swift kick in the ass, and sometimes, WE NEED A GOOD SWIFT KICK IN THE ASS.

We cannot emotionally and psychologically afford to entertain everyone's opinion of us.

We need to focus on entertaining the opinions of those we respect. Those we wish to emulate. Those whose work inspires us.

When someone offers us an opinion, we need to ask ourselves "Is this worth considering based on who I am in the process of trying to become?"

And remember that at the end of the day, our own opinion of ourselves is the only one that really counts.
Stop wasting your weapons on what people say, because it is not what they say about you that matters, it is what you say about you that threatens your destiny. You will never be defeated by what they say about you, you will be defeated by what you say about you.
- Reverend TD Jakes

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