Posted by Deven P-Shah on Jul 31, 2020
1568 reads  

I stumble into an activity. Before you know, it sets me off on a fascinating journey. Not just that, I am inundated with a cascade of blessings.
Here is a story that changed me, saved me, blessed me, and anchored me in countless and priceless ways.


It started about 13-14 years ago.

I saw a fellow toastmaster run a public speaking program at the local Boys and Girls Scout chapter. I went and checked it out a couple of times. I spent a little bit of time with a teenager. It gave me refreshing energy; it planted the seeds.

One of my classmates signed me up to help high school age teenagers prepare for job interviews at a non-profit in Costa Mesa. We did a 10-week program using the Toastmasters Youth Leadership structure/curriculum.

Working with youth is fun.

Ripples and synergies have their ways to touch and resonate. Or, maybe coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous. It came up from a few friends to do a public speaking boot camp. We did it for 10-weeks using the same Toastmasters youth curriculum; the kids were in 12-16 years range. The coordinator guide for the program strongly suggested organizing a family event at the end, inviting parents to join and listen to the speeches from the youth.

The family event was a blast.

One fascinating thing happened, though. All of these 12 or so kids asked whether they can continue doing this. It was music to my ears, as it is giving me so much energy, joy, fun, and quality engagement.

The strong pull from the kids to continue doing this was almost intoxicating. It was a good feeling to be wanted, especially by the youth. You can't have enough of it. We set up a Toastmasters Gavel club and got them access to the same curriculum that adult toastmasters have.

What made it click? Where was the pull for the kids? I learned a few things:
  • The program naturally allows them to be an active contributor. They are running the meetings, taking on different roles. The opportunity to be an active contributor rather than a passive listener seems to make such a big difference with youth.

  • They are encouraged to think of their topics for speaking. It became a space to explore themselves without fear of being judged. I had no idea when this started, but this had a powerful appeal to the kids. Every kid can be true to his or her natural self, becoming more comfortable in their skin. They got their space. They got their channel for expression. In a way, it becomes a journey for them to discover themselves – that connection from inside is so motivating.

  • The manuals and the program give them clear, achievable, tangible goals with youth when they see opportunity with a clear enough path to see how floodgates of their energy open.

  • Friendships – it is not just your space to explore, but do that together with your friends.

  • Encouragement from parents – they realized the value and potential for this to make a difference to their kids. It added to the momentum.

The journey of seeing young kids get more comfortable in their skin is so fulfilling. When you can engage with youth, they will give you their “whole world.” The range of ideas, refreshing energy, seeing the world from their vantage points full of new possibilities, boundless imagination, enthusiasm, and zeal to make things happen has made a lasting imprint on me. I am so grateful for that.

I read Carolyn Drake’s Mindset; nugget that drove it home for me is, appreciate others for following through the process, making a sincere attempt, trusting the process, putting the heart in preparation. That is, rather than tying it to the results. That seems to do wonder with teenagers.

The control freak in me seeks security in the structure. It can get to my nerves. My time as the Awakin Calls coordinator for a few years helped me. I enjoyed being a facilitator and used to draw so much energy and lightness from conversations with volunteers and our guest speakers. One priceless intangible was, I would naturally loosen up, lighten up, keeping it all in the right perspective. One more priceless gift from that I enjoy even now is self-awareness and mindset to reflect. It helps me steer clear of trouble in so many ways – I can get myself in the woods, but then navigate my way around by tuning into my inner net. If I were to identify one common thread among so many Awakin calls speakers, that would be listening to a voice from inside and acting on it.

The support system helped me soften my edges and not drive people crazy from my type-A temperament.

#GratitudeAwakinCalls :)

You can be productive with a workshop type communication program when the group size is around 12-18 people. As the demand got strong and numbers went up, the only way to make that happen is by splitting them into multiple groups. Gratefully, several volunteers and parents offered to join hands, opening up an entirely different feel to the program. Now, our youth can see it over time from so many experienced coaches.

Gratefully, I got a chance to do the Laddership Program. One question in the application was whether I have a “labor of love” project lined up where I can practice and explore the ideas we introduce in the program content and weekly conversations. My answer then was – not sure yet, I can use the ideas while helping with the Awakin Calls coordination. That 6-8 weeks program was the best thing that happened to me.

Little did I realize then, or silos in my mind didn’t make the connection right away, I was able to use the insights in setting up our coaching program. I started enjoying going early to set up rooms for all our groups – there are stillness and peace I used to draw on from merely being at the center early.

I started developing content for the coaching program. It gave me one more connection to writing that I enjoy doing so much.

The active feedback loop among coaches and friendships brought a new meaning to it as well. Ripples have their ways to emerge and connect and resonate – what a blessing to have so many much smarter, brighter individuals drawing meaning into this in their way. There is something so empowering for me when I am a "trenches guy" setting the turf for others to play. I enjoy it.

#InspirationLaddership :)

With the Covid-19 pandemic and all going around, we haven’t been doing this since the middle of March. Several kids reached out to me asking over emails, or text messages, to do something virtually. That being wanted part is always an energizer for me. I sent the fillers out, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

It is quite an experience trying and developing communication skills over the medium of video conferencing.

Blast from our recent Zoom call:

I am doing a little more meditation and mindfulness visualizations this year. It was one of my resolutions. It naturally allows me to reflect – that is when I can slow it down and relax. After resuming with our toasties over Zoom, it popped in for me from inside last week while running – why am I doing this? What has kept me going?

The answer is – it is connecting with meaning from inside. It is a creative outlet. Most importantly, it is part of my support system that has helped me keep my sanity while going through crazy times over the past 10-12 years.

Am I helping the kids, or are they helping me? My answer is the latter.

Within your realm of thinking patterns and bindings of energy field you create around yourself, knowingly or unknowingly, can set you off on crazy adventures. That is one part of my story with entrepreneurship and all that I have done. It creates so much pressure on the people around me.

I am blessed to have a fantastic family and friends with their support system. That, and my ServiceSpace engagement for a few years, and youth coaching might have kept me alive. Add to that blessing of my ability to run and endorphins it gives to me, and self-awareness or ability for reflection.

There is a reason, a meaning, a purpose to all that I might be doing. Mindfulness is helping me connect with it.

My deep sense of gratitude for a cascade of blessings that nourish me, nurture me, help me grow, and connect with not only others but also my inner net.

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