One day he intends to climb to the summit of Mount Everest. However, the figurative mountain he has climbed in his lifetime is much higher.
As Darin talks about his early school years, he shakes his head. At the vital age of six or seven, his teachers established that he was a “slow learner.” On the advice of the education system he was placed into a special-needs class called the “Opportunity Program,” though for Darin, it was anything but that. Ultimately, his education became stalled by the belief that he could not learn.
Darin struggled through his formidable years, ending up at the LY Cairns Vocational School. He took welding and metals with the hope that these would lead to a job in the trades. However, Darin had an unfortunate mishap with a grinder on the second last day of school, suffering a serious hand injury, which required several months of recovery.
During this time, Darin discovered that his newly acquired skills were not enough to guarantee him entry into the job market. Academically, he had less than a Grade 10 education and this reality was severely limiting. Discouraged, but by no means defeated, Darin changed his focus to finding a job – any job. He began bussing tables at a local restaurant in Sherwood Park and held this position for almost 13 years.
During his employment with the restaurant, Darin made several starts to improve his education. Realizing that he wouldn’t get anywhere without a diploma, he finished his grade 12 through the Alberta Vocational (Norquest) College. He then went on to take courses through the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), but every career path seemed to lead Darin to a dead end.
His work at the restaurant paid for his education, but he still felt that he was going nowhere. A turning point for Darin was reflecting on the self-fulfilling messages that were circling inside his head. He remembered the words of his school guidance counselor when he told her that one day he wanted to be an accountant. She told him that he was reaching for the stars with his lack of education and learning disability.
Darin knows that he bought in to this dismal assessment of his abilities. He needed to learn how to believe in himself. Forming a new belief system was crucial for Darin not only to establish his career path, but also to rebuild his self-esteem.
His grandmother helped Darin on his way by paying for him to take a Dale Carnegie course. This was a great start, however, Darin realized that he must build on what he had learned, because there is no follow-up after this course.
Through his own efforts, Darin discovered Toastmasters and the Speaking and Leadership program. In October 1992, he signed up for Speechcraft with the Bowmen Toastmasters club. Upon completion of the eight-week session, Darin knew that he still needed more training so he became a regular member with the Bowmen. Nine years later, with only a couple of brief hiatuses, Darin successfully completed the Competent Toastmaster designation in 2000/2001.
Reforming his view of himself as a learner has been crucial to pursuing his career goals. In June 2001, Darin graduated from NAIT with a Bachelors degree in Applied Information Systems Technology specializing in Network Management.
This time he decided that he wasn’t going to rely on his schooling to simply get him a job. His new view of himself has shown that he has it in him to be his own boss. Through the guidance of the YMCA Entrepreneur Program, Darin has launched Anders Techno Consulting Inc. In his consulting practice, Darin offers technical support for home computer users and small businesses.
Toastmasters has also ignited Darin’s search for self-development on a more personal level. Within the last year, Darin finished the 200-hour Personal Best Seminars and has learned that his own message of triumph could help other people trying to succeed. He wishes to give back to the Toastmasters community by improving his skills as a speaker so that he may spread his message of hope.
I asked Darin, who, if anyone, has been his source of inspiration over the years. Darin grins as he tells me about watching a PBS program featuring the motivational speaker, Les Brown. In 1993, Darin wrote to Les Brown expressing how he connected with the speaker and his story. Darin was surprised to receive a letter back with a very personal message for Darin to persevere. This was no form letter. Les Brown’s message acted as an affirmation for Darin in the following years, as he struggled to gain a sense of self.
Darin flashes a conspiratory look as he asks me if I know what Les Brown suggests people do to help realize their potential. When I say I don’t, Darin reveals that Les Brown tells his audiences to join Toastmasters. It is the only organization that provides the kind of long-term support that a person needs to recreate him or herself.
Darin finishes by saying that a long time ago he thought he was limited. He then believed that the sky was the limit. But even that had its constraints. Now, he says, there are no limits!