Significance over Success

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September Contemplation: Well Hello Fall
Monthly Post #3: Significance over Success

I spoke at my Toastmasters club yesterday, where the theme was “Football” in celebration of kicking off our good ol’ American pastime. I decided to tie our theme into my speech project in which I was required to reflect on my time serving as immediate past club president. Preparing for this presentation, I learned a lot about a young quarterback who knows a thing or two about falling up when falling down. I thought I’d share my speech with you this week as my midweek blog.

Please…read on. 

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Disappointing Start. Saturday night proved to be heart-wrenching for the Florida State ‘Noles. With only six seconds left, and a 59-yard pass, Jacksonville State scored a touchdown and won the game, 20-17. This, after the ‘Noles lost to Notre Dame in overtime the previous week. Not a great way to start a season.

My fellow Toastmasters, let’s all take a deep breath and let it out, in empathy for Florida State.

Quarterback, McKenzie Milton. Now, regardless of whether you are a Gator fan or a Knights fan or a ‘Noles fan, or any other kind of fan, it doesn’t matter. Because rather than focusing on rivalries and wins, I’d like to instead focus on a face behind football—FSU’s QB, McKenzie Milton, a 24-year-old with a “momentous living” comeback story

Milton was the one who led University of Central Florida to a 23-game winning streak in 2017, and onto division and conference titles. And then, a claimed, yet unofficial national title after beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl. I happened to be at that game. It was nail-biting exciting to say the very least. 

Unsettling Pre-game. The following 2018 season, in the finale against University of South Florida, Milton felt unsettled before the game. This is important to point out because this was not typical. He felt so unsettled in fact that he told a teammate that he felt like throwing up. Again, not typical. He got through the first quarter. But then, in the second quarter, he took a hit from USF’s cornerback, resulting in a crippling knee injury that would change the trajectory of his football career and his life. 

Surgeon, Dr. Bruce Levy set two goals for Milton. 

“My immediate goal is to get through the surgery tomorrow,” he said, “and you still have your leg; because if we injure the artery again, there’s the chance that you’ll still end up with an amputation. So Goal #1 is to safely do the operation so that you keep your leg. Goal #2 is to give you a limb that you can walk with that’s stable and doesn’t have pain. Anything above that is unknown and in God’s hands.”

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New Chapter. Fast forward three years and to last Saturday’s game, with Milton now FSU’s quarterback, a decision he made to allow UCF’s quarterback, a fellow high school teammate, to claim his place as the Knight’s lead quarterback. Milton believed his next chapter was with Florida State. Regardless of his new team’s slow start however, I suspect that challenge is a mere drop in the bucket to what he overcame on his treacherous trek back to football. I predict McKenzie Milton will lead his team to overcoming its season kickoff setback. And he’ll do it the same three ways he overcame multiple surgeries and a possible leg amputation (in his following words, not mine):

  1. Patience.
  2. One step at a time.
  3. Trusting God to write the rest. 

Football Translates to Toastmasters. Fellow Toastmasters, as I reflect on my past year as president of Toastmasters at Twelve, Milton’s strategy resonates with mine: patience, one step at a time, and trusting God to write the rest. We started our year with a stumbling start and an unrelenting pandemic, challenging us to focus beyond obstacles and on to forward momentum. 

My immediate team, Eveline, Ashley, Serena, and Charles patiently worked through a plan, one month at a time. Additionally, we gained some amazing new members who consistently added positivity and encouragement, and who always delivered speeches that spoke to both my head and my heart. 

Power of Prayer. In the end, we did what we could do. Beyond that, like with Milton, I believed God would write the rest. I’ve never given a speech about my spiritual beliefs, but those beliefs are my core. Last year, in addition to believing in this club and doing my part in its success, I prayed, believing that whatever the outcome, we were going to have one heck of a journey that would mold and make us into more of our best selves. I focused on the gold last year, not for the success of it, but for the significance of it. It was attainable, so why not go for it? This year, we don’t have the same Golden Gavel goal, but perhaps our focus goes even deeper as we strive to continue to impact lives regardless of our final score. 

Looking back on last year, I can say, “It was really hard.” Certainly not as hard as a devasting knee injury, multiple surgeries, an infection requiring more surgery, and a comeback onto a football field, but the road felt similar: patience, one step at a time, trusting God to write the rest. 

Significance over Success. I think football, Toastmasters, life, are really more about significance of the journey than they are about the success of the end score. 

Dr. Tony Ferretti, psychologist, says this about success and significance: “We think of a successful person as having wealth, status, fame, power, and possessions. When I think of significance, I think of a person who has a positive impact on others’ lives. Decide today to stretch yourself, connect with others, and show by actions and words that leading a healthy and positive life can impact others.”

Impacting Others. My aim for stepping into leadership in Toastmasters, in addition to my own personal growth, was/is to positively impact others along the way. There’s power in our words and power in our stories when we become grounded in them. And when we know ourselves well, we can better impact others. I believe that’s what Toastmasters can provide its members—significance over success. 

Last year, serving as president, was golden far beyond success. It was golden at deeply significant levels as I watched members grow. And just like with McKenzie Milton, what will matter most as we continue forward, is not the setbacks we will inevitably face, but rather how we choose to go through them. 

Published by Debby Kerr-Henry

I am a creative nonfiction writer who loves to capture you-can't-make-this-stuff-up-type stories. I believe in life-long learning and growing, in a "Better self. Better world." I value holistic health. My writing reflects these themes.

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