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Filed Under , on January 12th, 2019

Plan for the Journey

By Seth Kabala

Toastmasters is moving away from its physical manuals and static speech-making program into a dynamic program called Pathways. On January 10, 2019, I delivered my first speech in Pathways: a re-imagination of my ice-breaker speech. If you don’t know me, know this: if you give me a rubric, I will test the limits of its flexibility, which may require glue to put it back together. But that’s me. Here’s my speech:

“The most meaningful outcomes happen after your first plans change. If you describe your perfect next 10 years today, and you stick to whatever you decide, I believe you will end up underachieving. We’re only so creative and so imaginative. How can we possibly know what exciting choices we’ll have in front of us in three years? Seven years?”

–Maia Josebachvili, founder of Urban Escapes, a travel adventure company

I pulled that quote from the book When to Jump, subtitle: “if the job you have isn’t the life you want,” by Mike Lewis. [book slant]. Maia’s quote resonates with me on a number of levels, a few of which I’m going to talk about today.

I gave another ice-breaker speech back when I joined Toastmasters, going on three years ago now. That speech focused on memories from early jobs, comparing and contrasting those with how things were going for me career-wise in 2016. This speech will borrow from that one, add some new ingredients, and by the end, I hope you’ll know me better than you did.

I’ve been many versions of myself. The earliest I can remember, I was a kid growing up on West 13th street in Davenport, IA. My parents didn’t have much money, so our neighborhood was a bit rough. How rough? Let me describe it this way: we lived across the street from a crack house, next door to a kid who was convicted of accessory to murder, down the street from where a body was discovered burning in a ditch, and up the street from a kid who shot a hole in my cheek with an air rifle—still have the scar.

If I had been a planner from the ages of 0 – 10, the age range in which I lived in that rough neighborhood, I may have thought, Well, these are my peeps. I guess I’m headed for a life of crime. If I had known that 30-some-odd years later I’d be living in Portland, OR and paying two-grand-plus/month for housing, maybe I would have gone down that path to crime willingly. Think about this: in prison, housing prices are always stable.

But I didn’t plan. Well, that’s not entirely true. I planned to stay out of jail, go to college, get a good job, and try to leave the world better than I found it. Going on 38 years into the ride, here are some of the roles I’ve held:

1. Paperboy
2. Track and field record holder
3. Professional pianist
4. Published author
5. Survivor
6. Bereaved friend
7. Bereaved cousin
8. Manager
9. Janitor
10. Family man

By general standards, I’m successful. I’m healthy, got a great wife [Hamilton quote], three brilliantly exasperating kids, a job that affords me a level of freedom from common anxieties. I am grateful for all of it, but I didn’t plan for it. I just worked hard, kept my eyes open for opportunities, and snatched them out of the wind when they came along.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

–Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of the Rings

The road is dangerous, for sure. But to me, keeping your feet is just hitting the high points, things like friends, family, a modicum of financial stability (which I know is hard to obtain. Believe me. I know). But if you can do that, you can award yourself the gift of agency, to be the author of your story. If you can do that, rather than being a slave to wherever you might be swept off to “if you don’t keep your feet”

You can plan to be swept.

Plan for the journey.

And discover the destination as you ride the wind.

Push the limits and bring glue, dear reader. Some of the best times in life happen when you’re putting back together what you broke.

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, and musician. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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