by Niall Doherty

Below is a video recording of a speech I gave as part of a Toastmasters contest this past Monday. A text version follows.

One thing that saddens me is when people settle for less than their best. Much of the time it’s for no other reason than they believe that their best, if they were to give it, wouldn’t be good enough anyway.

I had a conversation with a friend recently and discovered she has a secret desire to become a published author some day. Now that surprised me. I’d known this girl for years and I never even knew she liked to write. As it turns out, she writes short stories quite frequently, but they usually end up in a drawer somewhere, unread by anyone but herself. Once she even took part in that National Novel Writing Month, where you try to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in the month of November. My friend completed the challenge, actually wrote a 175-page novel in four week, but again, once she was done, she decided to hide the pages away in a drawer and not let anyone read them.

I listened to my friend tell me all this, and I asked her why she didn’t enter her stories in some competitions, or post them on the internet? How did she expect to become a published author if nobody ever got to read her stuff?

She replied that she didn’t feel her stories were good enough. She reads quite a lot herself, and couldn’t see her own stories and writing skills measuring up to the those of the pros.

Here’s a girl with all the intelligence and potential in the world, and she was telling me she believed her best simply wouldn’t be good enough. That saddens me. And the fact that there are sooo many people like her out there… well, that saddens me even more.

I’m lucky in that I was able to overcome such a limiting belief — the belief that my best isn’t good enough — and I’m so glad I did.

A little more than six months ago, I started this blog about personal development, which was kind of a ridiculous thing to do. Ridiculous because, if you Google the term “personal development blog,” you get back more than 50 million results. That means there are literally millions of other blogs out there on the same subject, many of them with huge followings and massive archives of great content. What made me think that I could carve out a niche for myself in such an already over-saturated market? What made me think that people would find and read my blog, and benefit from it? I mean, with all of those other blogs out there, you could assume that pretty much everything that ever needed to be said about personal development has already been said, said in hundreds of different ways and translated into languages that I’ve never even heard of.

Really, what the hell was I thinking, setting up a personal development blog?

Well, truth be told, I wasn’t thinking too much. I wasn’t worrying about the big picture. All that really mattered to me was that I loved personal development, and I wanted to help people. And so I started with that. I focused on sharing concepts that helped me and writing about my own experiments and experiences.

And you know what? These last six months have been fantastic. I’ve accelerated my own growth by forcing myself to research and write articles once a week, and I know for a fact that I’ve helped people and made their lives better, got them thinking in new ways and believing in themselves more. I’ve gotten feedback from people all over the world, folks thanking me for writing something that resonated with them, or challenged them in some positive way. One article I wrote resulted in a lengthy e-mail exchange with an old college friend, who had never been interested in personal development, but who is now setting lofty goals and striving to become a better version of himself.

What it all comes down to, is that I know I’m making a difference in people’s lives.

And it makes me wonder, what if I hadn’t set up my blog? what if I’d kept my passion for personal development to myself? what if I’d been scared to compete with those 50 million other blogs and decided not to bother?

Lots of folks would have missed out and I’d be feeling a lot less fulfilled, that’s what.

Now, I know I’m not the best personal development blogger out there, and I might never be… and I’m okay with that. What’s important though, is that I’m giving it my best shot. I realize that I don’t have to be the best in the world. I just have to be the best that I can be.

And when you think about it, everyone can be the best that they themselves can be. Personal greatness is within everyone’s grasp. The only person you have to compete with is yourself. Nobody else.

I’d like my friend, the secretive writer, to know this, too. She doesn’t have to be the best writer in the world. She just has to be the best writer she can be. If she strives for that, she’ll find an audience, she’ll make an impact by doing the thing she loves to do, and, most importantly, she won’t wake up some morning 50 years from now, filled with regret, wondering what her life would have been like if only she had followed her dream.

I’d like to leave you with this short poem, author unknown.

At God’s footstool, to confess,
A poor soul knelt and bowed his head.
“I failed,” he cried. The master said,
“Thou didst thy best. That is success.”