Back to Zero

Back to Zero

By Chew Yi Shen

Winning speech for BVTMC Chapter Meeting on Monday, 21 September 2020

Pathways Manual, L1P1 – Ice Breaker 

General Purpose: Share with Audience on adopting the beginner mindset towards the skill you’re mastering despite being experienced.

Specific Purpose: Audience will learn how to master a skill by adopting strategies of a beginner mindset.

Strong Impactful Opening:

  • Are you one of those people who commit an enormous effort and time to become experienced in a field, trying to become a subject-matter expert. You have spent 1 year – 2 years – 5 years or even 10 years, yet you find yourself trapped and unable to take your skill to the next level?
  • Well – I hate to say it but I am one of them, I have spent 5 years of my precious time with toastmasters, trying to hone my public speaking skills to the next level.
  • If you are one of them, I’m going to share with you how you can cultivate the Beginner Mindset so that you can bring your craft to the next level.
  • Toastmaster of the Evening, Fellow Toastmasters & Friends.


  • Newbie in Toastmasters Club –
    • Five years ago, I remember the first time I stepped into the door of Buona Vista Toastmasters Club.
    • I was greeted with smiles from friendly people such as – Clement, Qinghong, PeiGeok, Sandip, Joseph, Eric etc.
    • I felt at ease when I am in a fun, energetic, encouraging environment that promotes growth.
    • I remembered the first time I did a table topic, I was so nervous that I couldn’t speak for at least ten seconds as my mind went blank after reading the table topic and I can’t seem to organize a speech regarding that topic. It was embarrassing, to say the least, but I learned a lot from my mistakes than successes.
    • Over the past five years, I have participated in numerous contests within toastmasters. But I have also realized that I started to lose that enthusiasm and in terms of pushing myself further to become better in public speaking.
    • Then – I started to ask myself how can I find back that state of mind that motivated me to join a toastmasters club in the first place?
    • I am going to share with you the benefits of the beginner mindset and what are the steps you can do to embrace it.
  • Benefits of Embracing Beginner Mindset –
    • You will become More Creative
      • (i) You see – When you work in a particular field and see a similar set of problems time and time again, habits of thinking become engrained. But when you deliberately experience a problem with the mind of a beginner, it can provide you with a fresh and different perspective on existing challenges that you’ve not face before in the past. You will explore opportunities that you didn’t previously consider as you’re masked from your preconceptions what’s right/wrong due to your vast load of past experiences.
    • You will have More Fun
      • (i) You will experience more fun due to discovering new things about your current challenges and about yourself, how you think that you always need to think the same way but now you’ve realized there are new ways of thinking and most importantly having FUN while embracing the mindset of a beginner.
      • (ii) Beginner’s mind helps you re-acquaint yourself with the interesting aspects of everything you do. Relive the reasons why you started doing those things in the first place!
  • Two Ways to Embrace Beginner Mindset –
    • Empty Your Cup – A famous Buddhist anecdote on Zen –
      • (i) “A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
      • (ii) The point of this story is that – the cup is like your mind, if you’re closed-minded and filled the cup to the brim and overflow it with your past experiences and what you think is right or wrong, you are unable to receive any new information from a mentor/coach.
      • (iii) What you can do instead – is to start questioning your own thinking, does my current thinking and mentality allows me to reach the desired goal that I set for myself? If No, how can I start emptying my cup regularly so that I am ready to explore new ways of thinking and receive guidance from others.
    • Be Childlike Like a Little Kid – Filled with Curiosity –
      • (i) Just think back to what it is like when little kids learn about something. Children are overflowing with questions. Their imaginations run wild. They ask simple questions that are obvious, and profound questions that you have never considered.
      • (ii) Children are natural at this because they are always beginners at something. But as you get older and older – due to society, family, workplace expectations, we tend to act in a way that’s conformity to the social expectations, which is not wrong but it’s easy to lose touch with the qualities of mind that once came so naturally.
      • (iii) What we can do starting from now, will be to start unlearning those conditionings we have from society, and gradually go back to that state of mind of a child.

Conclusion: (red card)

  • In conclusion – when you allow your mind to go Back to Zero, you are like a sponge that can absorb things that are valuable to you and use it, or you can squeeze it out to let go of things that are useless to you.
  • Back to you Toastmasters of the Evening.

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