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I recently was prompted (challenged?) by Sara Rice to share the origin story of how I found my calling.

I’ve shared before on LinkedIn how I got my start in the world of training, a story having to do with Kansas City Southern Railway and my predilection to saying “Sure, why not” when presented with new career opportunities.

Before that, however, is the story behind how I became comfortable speaking to groups, which has driven my love of–and skill at–keynote speaking and group facilitation.

Coincidentally, it’s a story that’s been front-of-mind lately due to loss.

In 9th grade, I joined my high school Speech Team, a top-tier program with many awards and accolades, coached by Mr. Harvey Green.

When I auditioned for the team, Mr. Green (I have never been able to call him Harvey in adulthood) strongly recommended I sign up for an event called Special Occasion Speaking (SOS).

Stupid event name, yes. Cool event. Each contestant had a personal speech they would prepare for the season, no more than 8 minutes in length. Essentially mini-keynoting. We’d give that speech multiple times each weekend, judged each time.

I can’t even begin to quantify the number of hours I spent going over my speeches with Mr. Green, and the number of times he heard the same content. The patience he had was incredible.

And he was 100% committed to helping me be the best speaker I could be.

His coaching is reflected in my style every time I speak. Whether it’s using my physical presence for engagement and emphasis; modulating my voice in tone, pace, volume, or diction; or framing the arc of a presentation, it’s all grounded in what I learned on the Speech Team and from Mr. Green.

Today, when I am presenting to rooms or facilitating groups, I feel a sense of fulfillment and joy like nothing else in my work.

A few months ago, I saw a post on Facebook that Mr Green was fighting cancer. That’s when I really started to reflect on the impact he had on me and my career.

I intended to reach out and express support, tell him how much he meant to me. I got distracted, etc., etc. and didn’t.

A few weeks ago he lost his battle with cancer.

I was with some dear friends when I got the news, which unexpectedly shook me. I was so disappointed in myself for not reaching out, but as the incredible Jill Hauwiller, MA said to me, “His energy is still here. Tell him now.”

So I did. And with the invitation from Sara, I’m telling him again here.

Thank you, Mr. Green, for encouraging me to stand in front of rooms of people I didn’t know and talk about something that mattered to me. Thank you for teaching me how to do it well.

And thank you, all these years later, for seeing in me a joy and strength that fuels my purpose: To provide others the support and space to step into their true leadership potential.

What’s your origin story?

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