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In which the author concedes that when preparing for competition, thinking you can do it alone is … kinda dumb.

Ordeal of the FishStart: Mentors. Who needs them?

You do.

In the spring of 2004 I had won the club level of the Toastmasters International Speech contest, the very first step in a competition that literally spans the world, reaching dozens of nations, East and West.

At the same time in some Toastmasters Districts, a second contest was underway, the sometimes whimsical and usually humorous “Tall Tales” contest. At the outset I had no intention of competing in this second contest, but Life had other plans.

At the eleventh hour I realized if I wanted to go real any distance with the International competition, I needed help. The man I am calling Fred Bacher, the former fellow member of my home club who had helped to reignite club interest in the Toastmaster contest scene, had already pointed me at a resource that I had not yet embraced.

Before Fred had moved out of state, he had joined a specialty club called Jackpot Speakers, a rebel band of contest animals intent on having within their ranks, in only a few short years, winners of the International Speech contest, a rare species of Toastmaster known in the organization as “World Champions of Public Speaking.” Fred had encouraged me to check it out, but I resisted, partly due to being intimidated by the caliber of speakers Fred was traveling with. And partly, the one thing I did have on Fred was my ability to write compelling material.

At the time I was still harboring the thought I could conquer any given contest alone.

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