Seagulls, as you know, never falter, never stall.  To stall in the air is for them disgrace, and it is dishonor.  But Jonathan Livingston Seagull, unashamed, stretching his wings again in that trembling hard curve – slowing, slowing, and stalling once more – was no ordinary bird. 

When Richard Bach wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1972, he wrote a story of freedom and flight.  It’s a story of repeated failures, of the voice in Jonathan’s head telling him that he couldn’t do it, to accept his limitations, and to stay where it was safe and comfortable.

I want to talk to you today about stepping outside of your comfort zone.  How do you push your limits?  What does it mean to really allow yourself to fail, so that you can truly succeed?  You don’t just have to go from here to there.  You can learn to fly.

Slowing.  When you’re running 100 miles an hour between responsibilities for your work and your home, it’s hard to slow down and focus on something that benefits only YOU.  And when you slow down, you start to see where you actually are, right here and right now, where you need to re-adjust, and what your priorities are.  I sometimes run to the Toastmasters meeting, but once I am in the room…I slow down.  I listen.  I learn.

Stalling.  Then the questions start, because your first evaluation from your peers can be a real eye-opener.  When you try something new and it’s not perfect, you may hear a voice in your head saying, “What was I thinking?  I’m limited by nature.  If I was meant to fly, I’d have wings!”  This is the tough part, because you can’t get from here to there without going through all of the stuff in the middle.  A month ago, I gave a model speech at the Ashburn club that was polished, and then two weeks ago I gave a speech that went 3 minutes longer than it should have.  That meant that the person after me in the meeting didn’t get the time they needed to do their role.  The only way to learn to fly…is to allow some failures.  And to re-adjust and try again.

Flying.  After you work your way through all of the slowing and stalling, you may actually fly.  That means you’ve practiced, you’ve organized, you’ve gone through the list of items in your manual and worked your content through.  But technical preparation is only part of it…it needs to have YOU.  Your energy, your spirit, your insight.  My favorite speeches are the ones that have shown me who my fellow toastmasters are outside of work.  A father struggling to potty-train a child.  A mother proud of her daughter’s Irish dancing.  A woman who misses the landscape of her native country.  A man who can still use a tin can and stones to play childhood games.

Leave your comfort zone.  Slow, stall…and fly.

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