I completed my first Toast Master speech today which is project #1 – The Ice Breaker.

Lots of nervous anticipation and stress led up to the day. It went very well though my conclusion was not too smooth and it was the part I was most confident of going into the speech. Toast Masters is a great organization for self-improvement path that’s inexpensive and provides real-world opportunities to learn.  The first speech you give is 4-6 minutes and the topic is on yourself called the Ice Breaker.  After the speech, you are presented with a box of Ice Breakers :), a standing ovation from the group making your first speech a memorable life event and one where you receive a lot of positive energy!

Here is the transcript from my Ice Breaker:

In 1976 a movie called the Bad News Bears came out that my parents took me to. It would be a significant moment in my life because for whatever reason it inspired my imagination to a level only later in life do I truly appreciate. That night I came home and started creating fantasy sports leagues.

The sport leagues evolved into an obsession which fueled my introversion. For the next years through high school, I would spend the majority of my free time behind a shut door in my room creating leagues in football, baseball, and basketball. I would act as a player, tv announcer, and even league commissioner. I had multiple notebooks filled with made up team names like the Las Vegas Gamblers, the Oakland Bay City Rollers, and the Miami Sharks. Dice and statistics would be used to determine game outcomes – always slanted to the NY teams of course! Stadium designs would be made out of cardboard and drawings on sketch paper. I had my own Championship game called the Summit Bowl and even created an all-sports television network.

Yet there was always a deep part of me that felt shame in doing this. After all, I was not playing on a real playing field dealing with real challenges. I controlled everything in my leagues, the wins, losses and the uniform design decisions. And it made me more introverted as I had an obsessive quality towards my “24/7 hobby”.

To tell you about me how about starting at the very very beginning, my birth! I came out with a full head of hair and screaming – this would be my personality early on in life. A yeller, screamer, and temper tantrum extraordinaire. An only child.

As an infant, people would tell my parents how sorry they were to have to deal with such an unruly baby. When you looked up the definition of the terrible twos in the dictionary there was my face!

There’s a photo of me banging my fist on the ground with my head buried in the concrete pavement at the playground because my parents said its time to go home.

That was my young personality and a precursor of who I was to become. Or was it?

An early memory I have is from nursery school when I was 3-4 years old. When the teacher told everyone to take a nap after milk and cookies, Michael the defiant screamer would have none of it! However, on this day my defiance would not be tolerated. The teacher imposed her authority and said simply “it’s time for you to take a nap like everyone else”.

I think the reason I remember that moment is because something immediately shifted in me. Like a snap of the fingers. It was at that moment I went from the yeller to an inward personality. Quiet.

We all have significant moments in our lives that shape who we are and who are to become. Some moments are very obvious while others more subtle when they first occur.

Interesting I can’t recall much else about my early childhood that had an impact on such vivid memory as that moment in nursery school until I fast forward to age eight.

I remember the morning my mom and I ate oversized Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies – you know the ones that come in that log and are real gooey which I baked myself. These cookies were my mom’s favorite comfort food. That day she had a doctor’s appointment and I went with her. Not knowing this was her annual mammogram checkup because I was a young boy. Looking back it’s clear why chocolate chip cookies for breakfast made sense to comfort her nerves.

Yes, this was going to be one of those thunderbolt life moments that would significantly impact me. After a very long day, I recall sitting in a corner of the doctor’s room playing with toys the nurse gave me as my mom went into major distress learning she had breast cancer. Hearing her cry I focused on this juicy fruit gum toy to try and distract my feelings of utter terror. How can you still live if any part of your body is removed I fearfully wondered?

This moment was clearly a big one and added layers to my inward nature.

3 years after I started this imaginary world the real world started to mimic it. An all-sports TV station called ESPN launched on cable television. A new football league would emerge named the USFL – the same name I had created a few years prior.

Fast forward today and my two sons show me on their Madden Video Football games how they digitally create stadiums, leagues, uniforms, players attributes and even the personality of the owners of teams. Wow. Not to mention the popularity of fantasy sports leagues on the internet.

Now I wish I could tell you all those years in my room led to my being part of developing the great video and sports fantasy technology games of today.

But it did not.

What I can say is my mom survived breast cancer, then survived Ovarian cancer and now is 73 years old.

I evolved as a person and have had a successful career in the extroverted world of the sales industry. Pretty ironic right for an introvert.

In conclusion, I’ve learned it’s important to pay attention to how life’s moments both big and small can effect my path. And it’s possible to continue to evolve myself as I did from an extrovert, to introvert to who I am today.

Most importantly to not sell myself short with shame and guilt as I did as a young boy who created sports leagues keeping everything inward.

I think this is very important because we all could be the next creator of a Madden video game or Apple computers. When you believe in your passions no matter how different they may seem in your mind it’s important to not sell yourself short because anything is possible.

Thank you!