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What I Learned From Skipping My Speech

07/12/2015 09:20 EDT | Updated 07/12/2016 05:59 EDT
Jessica Peterson via Getty Images

I gave a speech at my Toastmasters club Wednesday night. The speech was a success, but I felt massively sheepish walking into the club.

Why? Because I felt like there was an elephant in the room. What the elephant represented to me is the fact I was supposed to give a speech at the last meeting and I didn't. I bailed.

And so I got to thinking. Why would I do that? Why would I bail on something so important to me? Simply put -- it was tunnel vision. Before I explain what that I mean by that, let's back up the truck a little bit.

As many of you may know, I bought a car last month. It offered me something I've never had before -- true freedom. It's an incredible feeling.

I remember the day I decided to buy a car.

It was a sunny Tuesday night. I stood on the sky train platform, listening to an announcement informing all passengers there were no more trains and the station would be closing down for the evening. Simply put, the city's main transit system was down at rush hour and a chaotic scene was unfolding.

Thinking quickly, I explored my options. I checked out the bus depot -- it was mayhem. I thought, "I know, I'll call a cab." Apparently other people had that idea, too. So I spent the next 90 minutes running between the packed bus depot and the loading dock where the cab was meant to pick me up, sweating profusely and cursing intermittently. Somewhere in the midst of all this madness I said to myself, "I can't live like this!"

As much as it sounds equal parts comical and dramatic in hindsight, the whole situation had struck a chord with me. What I meant by, "I can't live like this" was, "I can't rely on a transportation system that's unreliable. I need to buy a car."

And so there I stood on the train platform. I opened an app on my cell and started looking at cars. One caught my eye, ticked all the boxes, and I called the dealership.

That was Tuesday night. Over the coming days I continued to grill the dealership and by Saturday morning, I was driving up to Squamish to buy my new set of wheels. By Saturday afternoon I had drove my new car home and proudly parked her outside my house.

Five days.

Five days from deciding I was buying a car, to parking her outside my home in all her shiny glory. That's fast.

Then the day of the Toastmasters speech rolled around and... I had no speech.

Zero. Nada. Zilch.

I contacted one of the group's leaders and explained my predicament. Being such an understanding bunch, I was told, "Oh just come down, it's all good, don't worry!" Knowing how positive and supportive the group is, I knew I wouldn't be judged and I would be welcomed with open arms. And I still bailed.

So what's up with this tunnel vision thing?

Tunnel vision is what happened when I was so focused on buying my car that everything else in my life fell into my peripheral vision. When things are in our peripheral vision, we know they are there, but they look blurry. We can't see them clearly. That's exactly what happened with the speech -- I simply wasn't focused on it.

It made me think about other people who live their lives with this outlook of tunnel vision. There are certain entrepreneurs, athletes and singers who are considered extremely successful in their chosen field, but in many cases they have blinders on to the world around them. They become so focused on succeeding at their craft that everything else falls by the wayside. Their health is a mess, their relationships are a rollercoaster and they have no real personal life to speak of.

It made me think. What do I want? Do I want that for myself?

It didn't take much time to decide.

With all of this in mind, what I'm focusing on now is having more balance in my life. It's not going to be perfect -- there will be times when I stumble and fall off track. It will be a journey.

But it's a journey that I'm choosing to take with my eyes wide open.

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