Choosing a club to join is much like choosing friend. Personality, goals, and things in common all come into play.

If I could offer some advice to those looking to join clubs in general… before officially joining, go to a few meetings, get to know the people a little and see if your personality meshes well with those around you. See if you have common goals dependent and independent of the club you are thinking about joining. You will be happier with the club you join in the long run if you do a little research before you join.

I offer this advice because I was first introduced to an organization called Toastmasters a couple years ago.

The first Toastmasters club I joined was a joy to attend. After a few meetings, I continued to feel welcome and decided to join. Every one was wonderful. During my time there, I earned a communication award, and I took on leadership positions of Club President and VP of Membership (please see my other post for details). There were a few not so good days, but everyone has those – it is human nature. I enjoyed my 1 1/2 years I was there – I left due to an employment change.

With the second club I joined, the story was a bit different. There was no club local to my area so some out-of-the-area Toastmasters members got together with some interested locals and helped to form 2 clubs in our area. I helped in forming the club that was a little closer to me. From the beginning, there was tension with one of the other founding members (and I feel like I can get along with most people out there), but I thought in time things would change for the better. Things really didn’t get any better but they weren’t getting any worse, so I stuck with it.

One day I heard that the other club was having an Open House. So, I thought that would be a great time to visit them and see what their meetings were like. They were great! Organized, efficient, and welcoming. Everything I knew from my first club. I had thoughts of jumping ship from one club to another but it just didn’t feel right leaving the club that I helped form especially so early in their life-cycle. I thought about joining and attending both, but the cost and thought of spending more time away from home felt undesirable to me.

So, I decided to stay with my current club (despite my uneasy feelings) and give them my full and complete attention. The second club seemed to get better. I earned more awards and I was even elected to be President.

But then suddenly, it blew up between me and the person I had some opposition with. Rather than dread going to meetings as the Club President, I resigned after 11 days in office and I just left the club even though most of the members wanted me to stay. There was no club reason that I had to leave, actually had a pursued what caused the blow up between me and the other member and filed a complaint with Toastmasters, the outcome would have been much different. But, I just didn’t want to cause waves and cause the club as a whole heart ache, so I thought it best to remove myself from the situation and let others choose their path. It is unfortunate how one toxic personality can ruin a whole group. I just did not want to go to a learning environment where I didn’t feel comfortable. It was supposed to be fun and it just wasn’t fun anymore.

I did hear that others left and joined the other club nearby shortly after I left. Sometimes I wish things would have been different and had joined the other club. Maybe one day I will visit them and see how they are doing. For now though, I am happy having more free time and using what I have learned from this difficult but rewarding learning experience.