I am an avid learner and one of the authors that I admire and respect is a best-selling author named James Altucher. He is the best selling author of one of my favourite books “Choose Yourself” and countless other novels and writes on a daily basis on some of the most interesting concepts — one of which I want to share my own perspective on today.

One concept that I recently shared at my Toastmaster club was the concept of plus, minus and equals and I talked about it in the context of my Toastmaster journey because I felt that it described my journey to Distinguished Toastmaster quite fittingly.

When I first joined Toastmasters, I had no idea what people were saying or doing. I joined as a guest and people were using a lot of different jargon like Competent Communicator or Competent Leader which is probably as confusing to you if you are not a Toastmaster as it was to me when I first heard these terms. I did what anybody in my situation would do — much like how you might go to a fancy restaurant and realize that there were multiple forks, spoons and knives to use: I looked around and tried to copy what other people were doing around the room. I mimicked greetings, I copied movements, but most importantly, I tried to identify who the best Toastmasters were and learn from them as much as I could. These are the ‘pluses’ — these are the best in their field and those that you may ask to mentor or coach you as you try to build your own skills and experience.

As you do more speeches and take on more leadership roles, you will start to be asked to inspire, lead and teach others. You will be asked to be a mentor or a coach to Toastmasters or clubs. You might think to yourself: “what do I have to teach others?” or “this is a waste of my time and my mentee’s time”. That would be wrong. Teaching someone is one of the best things you can do because 1. it pushes you out of your comfort zone and 2. it reinforces the things that you have learned. I’ve always heard and believed that if you can’t teach a concept, you don’t know it well enough and therefore, teaching someone else helps reinforce what you have learned. These students that you teach are the ‘minuses’ — this is not a negative term but more so to refer to the fact that these are people in your life that no a little bit less than you do and that can learn something from you.

Finally, no matter where you are in Toastmasters or your chosen field, there are inevitably people that you would call your peers — these are individuals that have an equivalent amount of experience as you and in Toastmasters, these are the individuals that motivate you, inspire you with their speeches, evaluate you to identify opportunities for improvement and I think, gauge your progress against as you progress through the Toastmasters program. This peer group are your ‘equals’.

No matter whether you are learning or trying to rise up in the world — these three types of support networks can be an accelerator for success. It certainly isn’t the only way to success, but I think you can see that it is a simple but powerful method (and in a way, mimicking Ryan Holiday’s Canvas Strategy). If it really is this simple and powerful, that begs the question, what are you trying to learn and what’s your plus, minus and equals?