Before Labor Day, my Toast of the Town Toastmasters Club lost one of our dearest members. Several years after her first meeting, after having served as our Club’s VP of Education (the most time intensive of our Board positions), inspiring and uplifting us with her humorous and thoughtful speeches, critiques, and leadership, she gave us her last farewell speech. Margo accepted a dream job for herself, working downtown for Macy’s – which means our Kenwood lunch time meetings no longer fit into her schedule. Margo’s speech was about transitions. As could be expected, it was insightful and powerful. Its messages are ones we all can learn from and live by. I recorded it and am sharing the transcript below.
Transitions by Margo Hess
One of the things that I have taken away from my 2 years at Centennial Inc. is that we are always in a time of transition. Think about that.
You are always either in transition or thinking about what is next. How many of you can say that where I am today is definitely where I will be next year – whether it be personally, professionally or whatever financial goals you have?
It is a big transition for me but it is a time of transition for everyone in this room.
About a year and a half year ago I came to my first Toastmasters meeting at the arm of Becky. She said you are going to go to this meeting and it is going to be good for you. And I sat in the back. She made me put my name in for table topics. I groaned. At the first meeting, guess what happens, I got picked.
Now here we are and it is my 10th speech. That in itself is transition.
Transitions can be bitter sweet. There is the excitement of something new, what is next, who am I going to meet, what am I going to do, what am I going to accomplish. But there is this sad part. The ‘this is my last time I am going to do this or the other. Or the last time I will see this person on a regular basis. The last time I will pull into this parking spot. Even the last time I will likely be at this meeting.’ Those are the sad parts.
Through it all, you have to remember that it is ok to be sad. And it is ok to be glad. Things change for a reason.
So it is during those times of transition when you need to focus on a few simple rules:
Think about what and who got you here. For me personally, there is a long list. My family, my grad school mentor, my college friends who kept a light even when I was unsure. We all need those people. But I think it is not enough to reflect on those people. I think you need to thank those people and let them know they inspired you. And let them know they mattered. And then take it a step further and see if you can inspire them back. Also think about where do you come from, what got you here.
This next opportunity is a passion for me. It is a mix of things. It is everything I have learned at Centennial. It is the start of me as a celebrity at the Old Navy through a weekend sales person at Bath and Body to a manager. The marriage of those things. It is the use of my masters degree.
It seems like it is one big jump but it is made up of a lot of little steps. Transition is just a big goal that is divided into chunks. It is the what and the where and the people that got you there.
I think that is the sad part .It is sad and happy at the same time because you are thinking about the people that matter to you and you are thinking about the sequence of events that got you there, all the random lunches with your work family, all the nights with your friends, and all the work in between.
And that is ok. You are supposed to think about that. Because it matters and you are supposed to feel thankful for that.
But there is the second part to that. It is ok to be sentimental. You should also be really excited. It is ok to move on and it is ok to move forward because it is not like you are just disappearing off the face of the earth. Especially in this day and age. You can communicate with anyone.
Just because you move on, that does not mean that you lose those people. Instead, it is time to connect with the new people whether it be bonding over cooking, couponing or alligators at the zoo, it is connecting.
You are keeping your old friends and making new friends. Connecting over common interests and realizing that the next step is here and you can do it. You have taken all these steps, all these people, these places and you are ready.
Be excited. Be sad. It’s ok.
Finally, it is realizing it will not be your last transition. So be sad. Have your last lunch. Know there will be another last lunch and another first lunch. And then another last and another first. And enjoy all that because that is what is going to make you who you are. If you can take that and share that with others, then maybe transition won’t always be so scary. Maybe transition is a good thing. Maybe it allows other people to step up to the plate and be there best.
I encourage all of you to think about your personal transitions, where you are today, and what got you there; and where you want to be tomorrow and what will get you there. Say thank you to those who helped you, help someone else, and just have fun and laugh a lot because life is too short not too.
And to Margo, I want to say thank YOU for pushing me to keep scheduling my speeches, for your encouraging words and smiles, for your laughter and your insight….for just being you! I, and all of us at Toast of the Town will miss you!
I joined the Toast of the Town Toastmasters Club earlier this summer and have been loving the experience. It is such a positive, supportive group that I hate to miss our Tuesday meetings. This week I gave my first speech. I have so appreciated the positive support I received from my friends on Facebook too. I thought I’d share my speech here. I deleted some personal information but the rest of it is pretty much what I said. (Well, not exactly, as I memorized it and adlibed a bit.)
Power is a Beautiful Thing
Have you ever stopped to think about the power that you have to affect lives? To empower, strengthen and ignite in people – in ourselves – a fire to want to do more, be more, achieve more.
To fill chasms in communication wells, break down stereotypes. We all have it you know.
Let me tell you a story…
One day many years ago, I was working in my garden when two young girls, about 7, were suddenly standing on the other side of my fence. I had never seen or met them before. They were inquisitive and persistent. And, in the moment, as I stood holding a carton of pansies, I decided I could do with two less. From that one simple act, our lives became intertwined. Minutes later they reappeared around the fence and spent the remainder of the afternoon weeding, playing, laughing, talking. They came back often after that day, for the next year (until they moved away). Both from homes with personal challenges (to protect the girls, I am leaving out additional information), one became withdrawn when questions were asked and the other had a tendency to not always telling the truth.
At any other time these girls who were prone for trouble, but they always want to help me. And I always found projects for them to do. They watered my plants, sanded my backdoor, weeded my garden, helped me clean bird cages, all the while we talked and shared.
I think what they really wanted was my presence and a positive place where they were encouraged to grow. And they grew so much in the moments and days that we shared.
Those girls were not the reason why my quest for information led me to my first teacher and mentor in animal behavior, Dr. Susan Friedman, who pioneered the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to captive and companion animals worldwide, or the reason I began writing about behavior but they were my first humans whose lives were strengthened as a result of my knowledge in Applied Behavior Analysis.
I mapped out a plan for how I would help them grow. I will never forget the day I came home to find a spilled can of pop on my back wooden porch. I was aggravated knowing it most likely was the little girl who had a talent for fiction. Then I remembered that she probably was there because it was a safe place to be after school. I didn’t say a word about it when she came over but the day that she told me what she had done was huge. I was so proud of her.
Yes, ABA has served me well. It has seen me go from sharing a home with an incessant screamer to an incessant talker. (That’d be my African Grey parrot, Barnaby) It has seen me strengthen my relationship with my pets, and led me down a path that has involved hundreds of hours of studying and practicing, ultimately earning the status of Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed and Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant.
And, ABA has helped me in my public relations work as well. Everyone performs better, learns better, works together better when their strengths are the focal point and their wanted behaviors are what is reinforced. It is a perspective that all managers, co-workers, and sales people can benefit from when it comes to motivating others to listen and take action.
I have always been one that has been driven to affect change. ABA is helping me to do that better but my drive to be a change agent has always been a part of me.
For more than 25 years, I have been using my communication skills to support the cause of organizations making profound impact on individuals and communities. I create messaging and strategies for raising awareness, building relationships that support individuals who are in constant pursuit of a world void of complacency and injustice. I’ve earned local and regional awards for projects and campaigns but the real reinforcement for me is in the change I am part of creating.
In 2014, I was hired for my largest project ever. I was part of a team whose shared purpose is inspiring others to look beyond differences to appreciate each other’s unique gifts that collectively strengthen us all. When I was hired by the Cincinnati ReelAbilities Film Festival much of Greater Cincinnati had never heard of it; and few people who I reached out to had any idea of the scope of the event or its value to our community – including me, admittedly.
People experiencing a disability or cognitive, genetic, physical and behavioral difference are often misunderstood. They are portrayed in photos and sometimes news stories as ‘less than’ normal or super human just by virtue of their own being. They are often not included, or at least not to the extent that they are people first with interests, hopes, dreams, talents, and even bad days, just like everybody else. Yet ‘they’ are about 20% of our population. And ‘they’ are the only minority population in which all people will be counted among them at some point in their lives.
The overarching goal of LADD and ReelAbilities in hiring me was for me to be a catalyst for change – to bring the community together in support of not only an event but a cause so powerful as to have impact on each and every one of us in a direct or indirect way. I wanted to get people in this region talking to each other and realizing that inclusion and togetherness is not about ‘other people’, it is about themselves and each other. I wanted to get people excited about ReelAbilities as a world class film festival, and come out to support and learn from it. The challenge was to do all of this with a very limited budget including for my own time.
It exceeded beyond our wildest dreams. Events sold out. It was the talk of the region. It became a selling point for Greater Cincinnati. And its impact is continuing through inclusion in the workplace and in the community.
So, it was a Saturday night and I was rushing, preparing to go out….years after that beautiful day when I gave up two pansies in my garden. The girls’ families had long moved away, and although they were no longer present in my life, they will always have a place in my heart.
There was a knock on my back door. I opened it.
And, standing before me was a blossoming teenage girl standing before me. She remembered me. She remembered my impact.
Power is a beautiful thing.