The Power of the Ice-Breaker

Don’t Tell Them -Show Them-Take Them:

Ice Breakers contain all the elements you find in well-crafted speeches. Some of the best speeches I have ever experienced have been ice breakers. Some were never intended to be an ice breaker, but because the speaker used the following principles of good speech writing, the result was a speech that could be a club, contest, or even a World Champion speech winner. Use the following tips from Topic Selection to your Magic Moment as you tell your next story, and you, too, will realize the power of the ice-breaker.

Topic Selection:  Choose a topic you are passionate about. Your presentation should not be all about you. And don’t be the hero. Your story should also have some universal appeal. It could be a single story or a three-story speech. Establish a connection with your audience through your personal stories and real-life events spun into a unique and powerful presentation. Use persuasion and the power of the spoken word effectively. Where possible, use dialogue and you will keep your audience engaged.

Establish Your Speech Purpose Early: Be clear. Are you speaking to inform, entertain, persuade motivate or all of the above. One should be your primary purpose. What do you want your audience to think, feel or do in that crucial minute of silence after hearing your speech. If you have your audience feeling like they are sitting on pins and needles, anxious to take some action, you have achieved your purpose.

Develop your Foundational Statement (FS) : Your foundational statement is a carefully worded sentence, question, or phrase on which your speech is built. The speaker should be able to fit that well-crafted statement on the back of a business card. That statement should be powerful, catchy, and memorable. It should also resonate through the speech from your introduction to the conclusion. Look at speeches and see if you can identify their FS.

Don’t Tell Them–Show Them-Take Them: Be descriptive. Use word pictures to convey your message. If a picture paints a thousand words, paint word pictures. Be concise, be clear, be engaging and be present. Remember, audiences may forget what they saw or what they heard. However, they will seldom forget how they made you feel.

Every Unanswered Question Becomes a Distraction: Answer every question you pose. Don’t leave your audience guessing or hanging. Also, if a conflict is introduced in your presentation, make sure it is resolved. Resolve your Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

Timing is everything (For Toastmasters 5- 7 Minute speeches): Write a 6 Minute Speech and Deliver it in 7. Find Your Speaking Rate – Men average 125 – Women 150 Average The number of words in your speech should be between 700 to 780 words. Use single syllable words.

Your Magic Moment: This is the signature moment in your speech. It should also be connected to the flow of your presentation. It should be the most memorable moments in your speech. 

Prepare your next speech using these tips, and you will come to realize the power of the ice breaker.

Your 3 T’s

Every unanswered question will become a distraction

How do you make your presentations linger forever, in the minds and hearts of audiences? Many of us Toastmasters use the three T’s formula to prepare our presentations. The first T is you tell them what you are going to tell them. The second is you tell them. And the third is you tell them what you told them. But do you know that formula dates back to over 2,500 years? Yes, that formula has been tried, tested, and proven. It has withstood the test of time. Rooted in Aristotle’s Art of rhetoric, written in 350 BC it is still valid today. Aristotle believed that the foundation of good rhetoric must include attentiveness to the Ethos, Logos, and Pathos of the presenter. The famed Greek philosopher also believed that when you focus on the three T’s and present with Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, you can appeal to your audiences and persuade them with power.

Ethos is your personal credibility; the faith people have in your integrity. It may be because you are recognized as an expert in the particular field you are addressing. Sometimes it is because of your experience. You may know a thing or two because you have seen a thing or two. Why should your audience listen to you speaking on that particular topic? They will because of your Ethos. As you develop your speech or presentation, avoid leaving what I call loose ends; unanswered questions. Every unanswered question will become a distraction from your message. If your audience still has a myriad of questions after you have delivered your speech, your clarity or credibility may be an issue. When your story may produce doubt, leave it out.

Then there is Pathos, the speaker’s ability to connect to the audience’s feelings. Speakers should target the parts of the body they are after when they are presenting. Sometimes it will be the head, other times the heart. Showing that you have the ability to empathize is important. The ability to understand and share the feelings of others takes practice. To bring your audience into your speech or presentation at an emotional level takes careful planning. Your ability to connect with your audience increases tremendously when you get your audience emotionally involved. However, as a presenter, you should know when you are going after the head. You should also know when you have achieved your goal. The same goes for when you are after the heart. Strike the perfect balance. If you are all head or all heart, you will lose your audience.

Logos is the substance of your presentation; the words, the organization, the logic. It is the appeal of your presentation based on reasoning. Is the presentation logical and well-supported? That is one of the questions the presenter must answer. One of the Toastmasters projects I have always enjoyed is entitled: “How to Say It” That project focuses on the three C’s. Your speech must be Crisp, Clear, and Concise. Words are powerful. The selection of your words is crucial. Words have the ability to stir imagination into the audience’s mind. Combine the power of your Ethos, Pathos, and Logos with the clarity of the three T’s, and your presentations will live on in the hearts and minds of your audiences forever.

The Competing Occasion

Time is of the essence when opening your presentation

Every speaking occasion is different. Every time you open your mouth to speak, you are judged – on or off the platform. But what about when you are speaking competitively? On those occasions, both speaker and speech are judged by individuals with different levels of expertise. Therefore, you must provide reasons to persuade your judges and audience to favor your presentation over someone else’s. Competitive speakers must know what motivates both their judges and their audience. The competing occasion demands that your topic selection must be appropriate for that particular audience and occasion.

How are great speeches created? They are created by the speaker having a clear understanding of their topic. Speakers should also know how they will get audiences to listen, be entertain while informing, and how they can make their presentation memorable. Speakers must also know exactly when they have achieved their goal and not overstate their case to undermine their credibility. Good sales-persons know exactly when to go for the head, heart, and your pocket-book. Speakers must also know their points of attack and when they have achieved their purpose, and it’s time to close the deal.

Time is of the essence when opening your presentation. Lead with your strongest point or argument. Get to the point. First impressions leave an indelible impression on audiences. Statistics show in your first minute; a speaker can win-over or lose their audience. Speakers should hint where they are going or plan to take you in the first minute of your presentation. In that first minute, you want your audience to think silently, come with me – l will tell you more. That curiosity you arouse in your opening will serve as the impetus for the rest of your presentation.

D’Brooks, the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking, advises that you make brevity a part of your speaking style. He’s also an advocate for writing out your speeches, not to be read, but for them to be edited and re-edited. He stresses – “Great Speeches are not written, they are re-written.” Whether you choose to write first and then deliver or deliver and then write, it’s OK. When you write your speech, you can focus on your choice of words as you re-edit your speech. As you check your sentence construction. As you see visually, if you can deliver each sentence with fewer words.

David also reminds speakers that we should compete to become better. It’s not all about winning a trophy. It is about competing at a high level and taking the time to know as much as you can about your audience and their expectations. Find your voice. Don’t speak too fast or too slowly. Don’t try to sound like someone else. Be yourself. Use strategic pauses for emphasis. Practice enunciating each word clearly. Make sure you have a memorable or magic moment in your presentation. Your conclusion is just as important as your opening. Recall some of the main points of your presentation. Leave enough time to summarize and emphasize your take away message. The quality of your performance and not the trophy will determine if you made a winning presentation when your speaking occasion is competing.

2020 is Hindsight Finally

The future is now

For years we have said in jest 2020 is hindsight. And finally, it has now come to pass. However, for those who live life looking back, it will come to stay. Every year is a good year considering the alternative. But life is where the rubber meets the road. Before stepping forward into another year of your speaking journey, it is a good idea not to get stuck looking back but to review the feedback you received from your mentors, coaches, and trainers. Now is a good time to review what worked and what didn’t as you move forward to make 2021 a year of speaking excellence.

Feedback has played an important role in my public speaking journey. I still review many of the comments I received from when I first started my journey twenty-four years ago. I look back at those remarks to see if I have grown. I look back to be reminded of the bad habits I corrected and the good ones I must continue to develop. It is easy for habits, both good and bad, to creep into your presentations when you’re growing as a speaker. When you stop speaking for a few days, you will know. Stop for a few more weeks; your audience will know. Stop for a few more weeks, and everybody on the planet will know. A constant review of your past will lead you to a brighter future. Looking back, but don’t stay back. Keep moving forward.

The comments you receive from evaluators are different from the feedback you’ll get from your mentors, trainers, and coaches. Although we love to hear what helps us build confidence as a speaker, there comes a time when only the truth matter. The comments that will help you most are the raw truth. And sometimes, that truth may be too painful to stomach. Anyone can stroke your ego, but it’s the truth that will help you to excel. Dana LaMon – the 1992 World Champion of Public Speaking, said it best when he visited our District 4 in 2007 – He said, “I am stuck on excellence. Compare your performance today with yesterday’s results, and if you have improved or advanced, just a little you have excelled”.

There are no shortcuts to achieving excellence in public speaking. For some, it takes baby steps. It’s a long and winding road, with many milestones to record along the way. Enjoy the successes, but it’s the failures that will drive you to achieve your goals. When you can say to yourself with conviction, it doesn’t matter what failures I have had in the past; what matters most is what I will make happen in the future, and the future is now; you are on your road to excellence. Let’s ring in the new year with a new challenge. My new challenge in 2021 will be podcasting. What’s going to be yours? Let’s begin the New Year with a brighter outlook as we wave goodbye to 2020, to let it remain in hindsight, finally.

My Little Christmas Tree

My Little Christmas Tree

Can you remember your first Christmas tree? Was it real or artificial? My first was really artificial. As kids back in the country of my birth; Trinidad, my sisters and I would explore the nearby pastures to find a broken limb from a tree. We would paint whatever we foraged green, sometimes white, add tinsel for flitter, cotton for snow, some homemade decorations, and “hallah”; we had our Christmas tree. When the celebration was over, the dried-up tree was put out to the pasture from where it came. And so began my Christmas tree tradition, which continues slightly different to this day.

Christmas tree traditions began long before the advent of Christianity. Trees that remained green all year round had a special meaning for people in winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, it was customary to hang evergreen boughs over their doors and windows in ancient times. People believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illnesses.

In my early teenage years, one of my neighbors, nicknamed Dad-dad; a recluse, who I thought was as old as dirt and quite scary before I got to know him, taught me how to make my first real fake Christmas tree. He took me to a nearby hardware store, where we bought rope, green die, wire, and a mop-stick. With a hand drill and a vice, we made our branches every evening over a three month period. We made over fifty branches for every wrung of that tree. Dad-dad went from Scrooge to my Santa. We had the best Christmas tree on the block. After that Christmas, our tree was carefully placed in a box. It was displayed the following year and for many more Christmases that followed.

That homemade Christmas tree lasted many years until we got a real artificial tree from the USA, which was metallic. It shone and glittered both night and day. It was the most beautiful and the most expensive Christmas tree in the neighborhood. Lights added more glitter to the tree. However, it harbored a shocking secret. You may recall the tree was metallic, right? While the lights looked beautiful. A caution sign – don’t touch on the tree – had to be hung on it, not for decorations, but a good reason – the tree had a short. For fun, we would dare each other and friends to touch the tree to get a tingle, which we called – the shocking feeling of Christmas.

When I moved to America, I began a new tradition – going to the Christmas tree farm. Have you ever visited a Christmas–tree–farm where Christmas trees are raised like chickens. My first visit with my kids took me back to the pastures of my childhood days. These we not dead or broken trees; they were all very much alive. We selected our tree from the lot, which we loaded onto the roof of our car. It was a joy to see the kids start their Christmas tree tradition, and life come full circle. Today, my Christmas tree tradition is much simpler. Now I hang an ornament on my kids’ trees to celebrate each year and the memories of all my real and artificial little Christmas trees.

Taming Your Verbal Clutter

Practice makes perfect – Practice also become permanent.

How do you tame your verbal clutter? Verbal clutter is the result when we use unnecessary filler words in our communication. We all use them subconsciously without realizing the impact they have on our presentations. They become a distraction, causing your message to be lost. Listeners tune you out when your message is cluttered with unnecessary fillers: (ahs, uh, em err), Interjections (and, well, but, so, like, you know), cliches, and repeated words. Verbal clutter is habit-forming. We use them primarily when we are unsure about what to say or what we should say next. In place of silence, we hesitate and fill the moment with verbal clutter, filler words.

Fixing bad habits perfected over time takes practice. First, you must be aware of your tendency to use fillers and when they occur. Adding silence to your vocabulary is a good first step. Get comfortable with silence. When you are on the speaking platform, practice treating silence with the same importance as the spoken word. If you are writing a speech, indicate silence with white spaces. In Toastmaster, we count the number of times speakers use fillers or interjections unnecessarily in their presentation. When your fillers and interjections counts are high, your clarity is low. The use of fillers is also a sign of nervousness or lack of preparation.

Observing punctuation marks when you are speaking is a practice all speakers should adopt. Just as we punctuate a written speech, speakers should be mindful of your verbal punctuation. A full stop can be a long or a pregnant pause – a comma, a quick break, or a short breather. Special care should be taken with the use of commas. They can change the meaning of a sentence if used stylistically to separate a sentence’s grammatical components. Care must be given to your verbal punctuation, written or spoken. Winston Churchill, one of the great orators of our century, was once given a speech to critique. He took one look at the script and said it was a bad speech. When asked why, Churchill said, “not enough white spaces.” White spaces are key indicators of how your presentation will sound when delivered.

Filler, interjections, and repeated words can be avoided by practicing how you deliver opening remarks – your first words matter. Practice making a statement or question, the first words out of your mouth. Add body language before you begin speaking. React physically before you respond verbally. A physical gesture could be a smile or facial expression to indicate your feelings to telegraph your verbal response. Use that physical reaction as a confidence builder to give yourself enough time to formulate a statement or question in response to the topic being addressed.

Building confidence comes with practice. Practice makes perfect – Practice also become permanent. Over time, your practices become part of your persona, especially when you are on the platform. Fillers, interjections, and repeated words will evaporate from your vocabulary, and the authentic you will begin to flourish as you tame your verbal clutter. Your confidence will increase whether you are on or off the platform. In the world of public speaking, less is more. Speak in short sentences. Control your breathing. Be at ease when you speak. When you are at ease, you will put your audience at ease. Reduce your usage of overused words like clearly, honestly, truly, and cliches. Observe your own habits, both the good and bad practices, and habits of other speakers. The more you look, the more you will see. Take corrective action, and your confidence will grow as you continue taming your verbal clutter.

Seasons Greetings to you and yours

The Dream:

The journey we all are on will have its peaks and valleys.

Are you following your Toastmasters dream or living it. Dr. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters, didn’t only follow his Toastmasters dream, he lived it. That dream was to build a better world through better communication and better leadership. His inspiration was drawn from the belief that communication is a gift to be used by everyone for the good of all. Many who knew Dr. Smedley often said if you ever asked the doctor of humane letters – how can I become a better communicator or a better leader – He didn’t point you to places of higher learning. He pointed to your chest. You see, Dr. Smedley strongly promoted the principle of learning by doing and improving through the power of evaluations.

In 1903 after graduating from the Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, Dr. Smedley started his journey as a YMCA director. There he quickly observed the young men who stayed at his facility could not communicate effectively. I am sure some of you ladies might be thinking, tell us something women don’t already know. Dr. Smedley decided to take action to make a difference. He invited the young men who stayed at his facility to remain after dinner to participate in toasting each other. The participants took turns evaluating each other’s toast. The person who delivered the best toast at every gathering was declared the Toastmaster. Soon the gatherings began to grow. The young men who took part in the toasting sessions after dinner became known as members of the – After Dinner Club. Now in case you are wondering, that was not the humble beginnings of the Toastmasters we know today. Between 1903 and 1924, Dr. Smedley was transferred and promoted many times within the YMCA organization. Wherever he was posted, he started a new – After Dinner Clubs. Sadly, each time he was transferred to another facility, the clubs fell apart.

Undaunted, he continued to not only follow his dream but to live it. He emphasized the power of simplicity, building a better society made up of individuals functioning in small groups to enhance their lives and the lives of others. In 1915, Dr. Smedley was the director at the YMCA in San Jose. There he started a club that again failed upon his departure. Finally, in 1924 he formed club number one in Santa Ana to officially start Toastmasters. In 1932 the federation was incorporated as Toastmasters International, following a club’s chartering in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. By 1941 Dr. Smedley realized Toastmasters needed full-time attention. He resigned from the YMCA that year to dedicate the rest of his life to make his dream of building a better world through better communication and better leadership a reality and continued to lead Toastmasters until his passing at age 87 in 1965.

Dr. Smedley’s home club was the Smedley Chapter number one club, which exists today as a testimony to the gift he left us all. The Toastmasters journey is a long and winding road for all who seek to share the gift of better communication and better leadership. If you were to visit club number one, you would see an empty chair at the front of the room. That chair serves as a reminder that the journey we all are on will have its peaks and valleys. Today, Toastmasters is known as a leader in the world of Communication and Leadership. The Toastmasters organization has grown to over sixteen thousand clubs in one hundred and forty-five countries. Membership is now over three hundred and sixty-four thousand and growing. The dream is now ours to continue. If we follow the dream and live the dream as Dr. Smedley did, that dream will become a reality one day.


Twenty-four solemn notes completed in 59 seconds to signal – day is done.

Sing –[Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes from the hills from the skies, All is well safely rest, God is nigh, God is nigh]

Every Girl Guide or Boy Scout may recognize those lyrics and melody as the “Butterfield’s Lullaby” or “Day Is Done.” It is a Lullaby sung at sunset, just before lights-out, marking the end of another day of fun and festivities. But everyone, who has ever served in any of the armed services of America, will recognize that melody as Taps. It is played while old glory is folded as we listen silently to that haunting sound, played by a single bugler. Twenty-four solemn notes completed in 59 seconds to signal – day is done – for some- or – the end of a lifetime of service to flag and country for the preservation of our freedom.

I know those notes very well as I have had to play them many times for brothers in arms. Brothers I never met, Brothers I never knew. However, each time, those notes brought a lump to the throats of some and a tear to the eyes of many. Some may ask why is Taps is so important. It is important because it serves as a reminder that by honoring and remembering the contributions of our Veterans; those brave men and women who have served us in the past, we are preserving our future and the promise of life, liberty, and justice for all.

The origins of TAPS date back to 1862 when Union Captain Robert Elli and his men were at Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of a narrow strip of land. The battle raged all day and into the night. During the night, Captain Elli heard the moans of a severely wounded soldier on the battlefield. Not knowing if that soldier was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his own life to bring the wounded soldier back to his encampment for medical attention.

The Captain crawled through gunfire on his stomach to reach the stricken soldier. By the time Captain Elli reached his own lines, it was only then he discovered the soldier was a Confederate, but his efforts were in vain as the soldier had expired. The Captain lit a lantern and went numb with shock when the dim light caught the face of the soldier. It was his own son.
Elli had lost contact with his who had gone to the south to study music and, unknown to his dad, had enlisted in the Confederate Army without telling his father. The following morning, heartbroken, the Captain asked his superiors’ permission to give his son a full military burial, despite his enemy status – that request was denied. He then asked if the Army band members would be permitted to play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. That request was also denied since his son was a Confederated, but out of respect for his father, he was granted a single musician’s services. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he found on a piece of paper in the pocket of his son’s uniform. That wish was granted, and the haunting melody we know today as TAPS used at military funerals was born.

There are three verses to this melody, which serves those who serve in the shadows of death, protecting our lives and our liberty. We can honor their lives and memory by remembering these words and lifting our voices whenever we sing these lyrics: Day is done. – Gone the sun – From the lakes – From the hills – From the sky – All is well – Safely rest- God is nigh – God is nigh.

Fading light- Dims the sight – And a star – Gems the sky. Gleaming – bright – From afar – drawing nigh – fall the night. Thanks and praise – For our days – Neath the sun – Neath the stars, Neath the sky – As we go –
This we know – God is nigh.

Watch Your Ps & Qs

There are things we didn’t learn on Sesame Street.

In your wonder years, when we all wondered about everything and cared about nothing, did you ever wonder what you should do when you were told to watch your P’s & Q’s? Did you? In case you are still wondering, that was a question. If I did, it was NFL – not for long. I knew I had to watch my mouth, my words, and my language. And if I was a little hard of hearing, I got the look. Do you remember the look from hell that sent chills up your spine? I still remember those times as if they were yesterday. Still those were happy, happy days.

It did take some of us a little time to figure out the true value of the letters P & Q. There are things we didn’t learn on Sesame Street. So you decided to make your first big purchase unsupervised – and brought home the green lemon, still sitting in your driveway. You watched your P; the price and ignored the Q; quality. Now you know good things are not always cheap, and cheap things are not always good. To drown in your sorrows, you drag yourself down to your nearby tavern and again ignored your P’s and Q’s, your pints and quarts. The next day you awaken with a headache and a hangover the size of Texas. And although you promised never to touch another pint and quart in your life, as soon as that hangover was over, so to was that promise.

Later in life, as I began to take an interest in public speaking, I returned to Sesame Street and started watching my P’s and Q’s differently. I began watching my primacy and quantity – pace and quickness- pauses and quietness – I began realizing that by watching your P’s and Q’s, you are watching your manner, choice of words, language, and conduct. Do you pay attention to your P’s & Q’s when you are on the speaking platform?

Primacy is your primary opening statement. Don’t waste that time with pleasantries. Forget that P and get to the point; what is most important to your audience and your speech? The related Q to that P, primacy is quantity – How much information you should give your audience in your opening. How much is enough to prime your audience for what is to come? Your opening is your prime time. As World Champion speaker Craig Valentine has often said – “When you squeeze too much content in, you will squeeze your audience out.” In your opening, watch your primacy and quantity.

Pace and Quickness are also important as you deliver your speech. Whenever I take a ride on a local train line, I am reminded how to approach pace and quickness when speaking on the platform. The pace of the local train varies, making measured stops along the way. There is no rush. Each stop is identified then, the pace quickens for a while again. The process is then repeated over and over until you get to the end of the line. Don’t take the express. The express will often makes the first stop long after the first five to seven minutes. Before your next speech, take a ride on the local line and enjoy the ride. And you will learn a thing or two about pace and quickness.

When you are on the speaking platform, never pause just because, always pause for a cause. And always remember this golden rule,when you pause never to look up to the heavens while pausing. That’s a dead giveaway you’re lost. Your silence should also be delivered with the same passion as your most powerful line. A pause should not be like a silent um. Make every pause count. Do you know, there is a difference between pausing and being quiet? When you are being quiet, you should quiet your entire body. Quiet your hands, feet, and even your eyes. Quiet them before and after your power lines. Quietness creates the moment – Silence sends the message. If you keep moving while you are pausing, the message is lost.

Try adding many more valuable P’s and Q’s of your own. They will help you advance as a speaker. Word of caution, don’t ever take to the speaking platform after you have had a few pints and quarts. If you do, you will for sure have trouble watching your mouth, words, and language. And most likely, your speaking career will be NFL – Not for Long – all because, you didn’t watch your P’s and Q’s.

Two to Tango

Today! we dance the Tango!

The Tango is often referred to as the dance of love. But to me, it will always be the dance of life – Why! Because it takes two to Tango, so, shall we dance? Let’s dance!

It was a cold rainy Sunday afternoon when I stormed into a dance studio in downtown Santa Cruz. No, I wasn’t late; I wasn’t even trying to join a class. I was merely seeking shelter from the pouring rain, and that studio was the only open door I could find.

I was immediately greeted by Nina, a firecracker who mistakenly assumed I was her tardy new student. In a tissey she shouted: “Quick Jose join the other, warm-ups have already started!” Jose? As I looked around for a way out, curiosity got the better or me. The statue-like bodies of her students, flexing and stretching, caught my eye. I could not help thinking, “Am I in heaven or hell?” Feeling unworthy of a place in either, I decided to exit quietly through a side door marked – Emergency Exit Only. I did notice the sign – “Caution – Alarm will Sound,” but thought, those signs are never legit – Right? Wrong! Guess what, that one was!

“Woo. Woo. Woo.” Off went the alarm, and so too did Nina, with laser beam eyes affixed to mine. In a panic, I froze! The heat I drew from Nina was so intense my body began to thaw. With my olive oil tongue, I convinced Nina that the puddle I was standing in was rainwater. I was screaming, I am not Jose! I am – Enrique! Nina, realizing her mistake, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. With a forgiving smile, she offered me a dry set of clothes and a dance class on the house, guaranteed to change my life forever. Would you refuse an offer like that? I didn’t! I was ready to dance.

Nina then announced, “Today! we dance the Tango! A dance born in the barrios of Argentina, a dance anyone can master if they watch their P’s & Q’s. Pints and Quarts – I thought – what does Ps & Qs have to do with dance, but before I could even ask a question, Nina explained your P’s are your POISE, POSTURE, PASSION – your Q’s – what you take from your partner. However, when I tried to inform Nina that Cue is spelled with a C, she snapped-” who cares about the Q, when the P – Passion is the point – Pair up- it takes Two to Tango.”

My knees began shaking, my palms sweating. I felt like I was about to deliver my very first icebreaker. My eyes were hunting but soon realized that the “hunter was indeed the hunted” when across the room, I spied a friendly smile, with a wink, beckoning me to come, to begin, what would become the dance of a lifetime.

Nina’s first lesson was about finding your balance. “For the dance to be successful, she explained you must find your balance and maintain it. Sometimes it is OK to lean on your partner – or allow your partner to lean on you. But if you’re continually leaning – too hard or too soft, the dance is doomed to failure. Lean if you must, but lean with gentle pressure, the same gentle pressure Mother Nature uses to convert a rosebud into a beautiful rose, the signature of the Tango. At times, I couldn’t help wondering if we were in a dance studio or a philosophy 101 classroom –But soon, we were dancing like contestants fit for “Dancing with the Stars.” I was feeling the Passion when Nina shouted: “Change!”… And I responded WHY?

That’s when I got Nina’s second lesson: “The only constant in life is change – and we must change with the changes. Let your partner go! And if changes were meant to be, time would let you know.” That day, as we kept changing and changing, I began to realize that perhaps our lives did not intersect by accident. That day, Nina taught me to recognize adversity as an opportunity. That day, I changed in more ways than I could have ever imagined. As Nina promise, from that day forward, my life changed forever.

Soon, I was back with my mystery partner as if we had never left each other. By then, every dancer had blossomed, from rosebuds to roses. But every rose has its thorns. Suddenly, the room began to feel smaller. We were now bumping into each other – even exchanging dirty looks with each other. It was then we got Nina’s third and final lesson. Be a love, not a fighter – at times, your partner will back you into a corner -then what do you do? fight your way out? No! Dance! Look for that opening and dance your way out. Sometimes we must dance or walk away to live to dance another day.

That day, I realized why the Tango is indeed the dance of life. Nina’s lessons changed my life forever. And so too will yours, if you always remember, whatever you do – find your balance, embrace change and know when to dance and when to walk away – Why! Because by now I am sure, you know – It takes – Two, it takes “Two to Tango.”