3 Aug 2017

Guest Post from Paul White : Pathways is like a Haiku Poem

Three month ago, I begun this blog. I can celebrate today, offering you something really special! 
A guest post from Paul White, who just finished his Path Presentation Mastery.

Paul is the biggest gift, Pathways offered me
Meeting Paul, Chief Ambassador of District 27, fellow storyteller, an example of what storytelling should be, is what I gained in these month, more important then new knowledge and a new ways to see around me from Pathways. Paul just finished his path, delivering the Reflection on his path to a group of veteran toastmasters. 
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In preparing to reflect on the Presentation Mastery path, as is my custom, I first sought to center my mind by losing myself in Nature.  On this particular occasion, I looked at my backyard Japanese carp (koi) pond. What I saw opened my mind to a framework for talking about my initial experiences with Pathways. 

What did I see in the koi pond? 

Captured in the still water of the koi pond was a reflection - clouds set against a deep blue sky.  The reflection looked so real that for a fleeting moment I asked myself, “Are the clouds I see in the water a reflection or are they reality?”

Then several beautifully colored Japanese koi swirled through the reflected clouds. As the water was set in gentle motion, the illusion of sky and clouds shimmered out of alignment making it clear that they were a reflection on still water.

As I sometimes do when observing Nature, I wrote a haiku poem.

Flash of color darting.
Clouds billowing in still water
Or perhaps in the blue sky.

What does this have to do with Pathways?

The clouds in the sky represent the reality of the world we live in, work in, and play in.  The reflected clouds are also a reality – a perceived reality. Real and perceived reality is always with us. We are a part of the reality around us and it is a part of us. That is also true of the learning – both in the Legacy Toastmasters program and in the revitalized Toastmasters education program known as Pathways. The learning in the two programs is essentially the same.

The difference between the Legacy program and Pathways is in how the learning is used. 

The reflected clouds in the water represent the Toastmaster’s Legacy program. That Legacy program is largely focused on process – the techniques, the tools, the way we should speak and lead to be an effective communicator and leader. In the Legacy TM paradigm, we learn the details just as in the reflected clouds in the koi pond we see the light, the shadow, the shape, the perspective, and even the movement of the clouds against a blue sky. 

The flashes of color in the water – the koi - represent Pathways learning. Like koi, new learning in Pathways comes as we discover the true reality and not the reflection. The flashes of Pathways learning take on a new reality when taken to the reality around us.  The Pathways learning experience is designed to take us from reflection to reality. It takes us from acquiring and understanding learning and knowledge to utilization of that learning and knowledge. 

That is a quantum change!

In Pathways, we are guided along a utilization path. The learning path challenges us to apply our communication and leadership learning to and in the world that we live in, work in, and play in. The Pathway flashes of color constantly urge an engagement with the world. Without the flashes of color, we might stay focused on the reflections and miss the reality. Utilising learning in Pathways can (and I am certain will) fast-track us from understanding to personal and professional achievement and recognition. 

From rare time to rare time, the Legacy program pays lip service to practical applications of learning. The HPL project is the best example of where there is a practical result. But the HPL comes late in the Legacy program. Most Toastmasters never get that far. In my opinion, little is said and done about applying learning, early Legacy projects beyond some brief allusions to its importance. On the other hand, Pathways, from the outset, constantly takes learners from learning through understanding to application.

A second big change from the Legacy program is that Pathways is a customizable program. In the Legacy program, the Toastmaster "fits" into a rigid program structure. In Pathways, the Toastmaster crafts a path where there are many options. Based on individual personal and professional goals and interests, a custom pathway is designed and followed. A clear description of learning competencies are outlined for each project and a pre- and post-assessment of learning is done for each project. When combined with the push to apply learning, this custom feature of Pathways makes it a powerful tool for self-advancement or self-satisfaction. 

I have to express one big and important caveat about my reaction to Pathways. I am hardly a Toastmasters “spring chicken.” I have climbed the mountain – having held every club officer position multiple times.  For example, I have been Club President 15 times, club VPE 20 times, club VPPR 31 times; I have served as Area Governor/Director 6 times. I also served as Division Governor, Lt. Governor Marketing, Lt. Governor Education and Training, and District Governor. I have been District Extension Chair 4 times. I have earned 20 CC awards, 30 Advanced Communicator awards, and I have 6 DTMs. That all comes with longevity, persistence and love. 

I point to my record only to say that I perceive Pathways differently than will a new Toastmaster. So far, Pathways has not given me a lot of new and original learning. Rather, it has been more of a review or remembering of past Legacy projects with some wonderful twists. New Toastmasters will have a very different experience as it will be new learning for them. My Pathways learning, while not new, has been substantial because Pathways has launched me into new thinking about things familiar. It has given me a new excitement about Toastmasters because its new structure has caused me to think about the basics in different ways. 

As a veteran, the Legacy program had become all too familiar and too easy for me. It no longer required my focused engagement and attention to be successful. I could compose a speech at the last traffic light before a club meeting and deliver it well. Significant new learning had plateaued for me long ago and my focus had shifted to being a resource, a mentor, a coach. My own learning took a back seat to service.  Pathways has given me new things to think about and new ways to do things. It has definitely pushed me from a comfort zone.  It is true that  learning takes place when we go beyond our comfort zone.   Pathways has brought about a better balance between my own learning and serving others.  That is a good thing.  

This “reflection” is like a haiku. It is a brief glimpse into what lies before veteran Toastmasters  - a new and exciting path to be explored. There are many twists and turns.  Sometimes the path is rocky and slippery. There are frustrations. But overall, it is a wonderful sojourn that I will continue on with great joy and anticipation. When you have the opportunity, do engage early and with the intention to push through the initial frustrations. 

Just as the words of a haiku poem only attempt to capture a feeling or emotion of the moment that pales in comparison to the actual experience, so it is that to personally experience Pathways requires engaging the program directly. As they used to say, "try it, you'll like it."   
If you are a veteran Toastmaster interested in revitalizing your Toastmaster learning experience, I am sure that you will fall in love with Pathways.
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I added a few italics otherwise it is as I got this wonderful reflection.

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