Picture this. I’m pacing a three-foot area muttering to myself, making small, but definite air gestures. My eyes may seem focused but there’s that far away gaze. My friends, you’ve seen that look on people. It’s the pre-speech preparation, heightened for me because it’s a Toastmasters contest … and competition gives me rush!

Suddenly a pair of eyes set in a round face and attached to a slightly shorter person are peering at me – close-up. “Do you know what you want to say?” the shorter person asks.


“Have you practiced some?”

Some? Just about a hundred times.”

“So here’s the thing,” my fellow Toastmaster says. “Just have fun.” And he walks away.

“Yes, yes,” I say to his departing back, “But you don’t understand. I have to be perfect- then it will be fun.” But…perfect – fun. Perfect- fun… Incompatible.

The last thought I have as my name is called is “just have fun.”

The Toastmaster was Mike Zakis, a longtime dedicated Toastmaster in Arizona. I confess to you Mike sometimes drove me crazy. Don’t worry he knows this and he understands. His style of life seemed to be to “wing it.” I prepare. I plan. I have a folder or list for everything. Well, maybe not everything. Many of you have experienced my planning lists for events. But I digress.

Mike was right. Just have fun worked. I dropped the need for perfection. I enjoyed myself. I also refrained from doing my usual post-speech perfection checklist.

I do like to have fun, really I do. And it’s smart to plan for things. It’s the over-planning and over-prep that has needed to be 86ed in my life. It’s linked to the Protestant work ethic. An old and revered package of “work first, then play.” Over the years I added to it: “planning takes priority” and “perfection is paramount.”

Carrying that package is fatiguing and often cut down on energy I had left over to have fun.

So I’ve revised my package. I invite you to consider these ideas for yourself. Perfection is out. I’m allowed to plan, sometimes even overplan, because I do get a kick out of it. The Mike Zakis fun clause is in. Plan & then – Stop. Be in the moment. Keep your head where feet are. Look and listen to people. Look and listen to what’s around you.

Be amazed. Be delighted. Trust that it is all right. Dance. Laugh. Hug. Kick back and enjoy. Just have fun.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.