NOTE: This post was originally presented as a speech at the International Speech Contest – Toastmasters Puerto Rico areas. For more information on Puerto Rico Toastmasters Club,  click here. Don’t know what a Toastmasters is?  Get more information here. 

I was a shy little boy. I was so, so shy… that sometimes I thought I was invisible.

I remember NOT the first girl that I fell in love with, but the first girl that all the other children made fun of me saying that I was in love with her. Her name is Alba. We were in the same classroom from First to Tenth grade.  After that I moved away and we didn’t see each other for many years. Then, one day I met her and she didn’t recognize me. She remembered the name but not the face. I was lucky that my name is Cristóbal Colón (1); otherwise, she would have not remembered even my name. That’s how invisible I was…

I love the outdoors: mountains, rivers, caves, seas… After I graduated from college and got my first job I took scuba diving classes, started exploring caves, hiking, camping and many other things. I found that these hobbies were a good option for meeting and connecting with new people.

I took it all very seriously. I learned a lot, travelled to different countries, and started teaching, started training other people and giving workshops. Somehow, this has helped me overcome, or at least, manage my shyness. The good thing is that lately, I am not shy. I am what they call now, an INTROVERT.  And that’s supposed to be a good thing.

In all my workshops and lectures, a lot of people ask me for advice on how to choose and buy gear and equipment. They ask me: “Hey, which gear is better? Is a Figure Eight better than a Rappel Bar Rack?”  And my reply is always the same:


Even though there are differences between these two devices, the most important thing is mastering the use of the gear. If you know how to use it, the first figure can be one the best gadgets you’ll ever have. If you don’t know how to use it, the rack can be very dangerous, even deadly.

Last June, I came to my first Toastmasters meeting. I wanted to know if this organization that so many people recommended was as good as they said. I needed, I wanted to improve my public speaking and presentation skills. And also was hoping that it would help me with my INTROVERSION.

I remember the first time I heard this one guy speaking. Let’s call him Pedro Rocafort. After his speech, I was “Wow! I want to be like him when I grow up!”….

What? You think that because I’m 51, I can’t grow up? Come on!

I took it all very seriously. I already reached the Competent Communicator designation. And I am participating in this contest. This have been a little stressful. How can I give a decent enough speech when I am not a half as good speaker as Pedro?

Suddenly, it came to my mind:


This is my gear: my shyness, my voice, the things that I have learned, the experiences that I have lived. These are the best tools because they’re mine. I have to focus on optimizing my resources. I am learning so I can become an expert using my own equipment. Even though that I accept that I am different from Pedro, there are a lot of things that I can learn from him and all my fellow Toastmasters.

It’s tempting to look to the greener grass on the other side of the fence. If we do it, let’s stop judging and start analyzing so we can learn how to make our own grass greener. Accept, enjoy, and be thankful for your own gear. Maximize it! Optimize it! Soon you will outgrow it, will get additional new gear, new tools to keep going further in your life!

“Focusing on the things that you have and that you are thankful for will make you more receptive to receiving and experiencing more of what you enjoy and want.”

Dr. Mayra Lladó, Author of “Run your Race: A Guide to Making your Impossibles Possible.”

(1) “Cristóbal Colón” is the Spanish name for Christopher Columbus. That’s why it’s such an easy name to remember.

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