Sunday, June 22, 2008

Everything happens for the good

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AC - Story Telling (Project II)
Lets get personal
June 20, 2008

Do you believe that everything in the world happens for the good?

Do you remember that long weekend drive? You were driving a rental vehicle. No matter how hard you press the gas pedal, the speedometer doesn't cross the 65 mph mark. A dude in his early 20s, zooms in front of you in his convertible and vanishes from your eyes, in no time. You feel bad about your inability to drive fast. You cross a few miles. You see the same convertible pulled over to the roadside. There is also a cop vehicle with glazing lights standing next to the convertible. Yes. The dude got a speeding ticket. You are happy that you weren't able to drive fast.

Think about the people who survived on 9/11 because they missed their flights by a few minutes, which later crashed into the Twin Towers.

We get frustrated when things do not happen the way we expect. We loose hope. But, everything in this world happens for the good. Today, I'm going to share a story from my personal life.

It was 1998 - the last year of my under graduate program. Like most of you, I had a dream company in my mind, to work for, after my studies. My close friends were also interested to get a job offer from this company. We were eagerly waiting for this company to show up for campus recruitment. We had always dreamed about getting a job in this company, going to BANGALORE, renting a house and starting our new life. The company is WIPRO TECHNOLOGIES. WIPRO is one of the top 3 software companies in India.

It was the 21st of April 1998. My friends & I were eagerly waiting for this day for almost 4 years. We were so excited to hear that WIPRO is in our campus. We worked hard and prepared well, to get into WIPRO. We dressed up well - wearing neatly ironed formal pant & shirt. I was wearing a light blue shirt, a dark blue pant and a red tie.

I was waiting outside the interview hall for my turn to be called. I was carrying a file in my hand with my resume, mark sheets and other certificates. I prayed to God several times while waiting outside the interview hall. There are two rounds of interviews - technical round & a HR round. I was short listed to take the HR interview first. My name was called. I entered the interview room.

It was a small room. The room was air-conditioned. It had an oval table and a few chairs. I could smell the fragrance of the lavender air freshener inside the room.

The HR person in his mid 40s, welcomed me. He resembled Cliff to some extent. He was tall and fair. He was wearing a black coat and a yellow tie. He appeared to be a tough person.

He asked a few questions like what my strengths are, what I want to be in the next 5 years etc., We both talked for about 1/2 hour. He concluded the interview and thanked me for my time. Somehow, I felt that the HR person wasn't very happy with my interview performance. I had a technical interview after that and I extremely did well.

My friends also had completed their interviews by that time. We were all eagerly waiting for the results of the interview. The HR person came out of the interview hall with a list in his hand. He started reading the names of the people who got selected. The student crowd cheered-up after each name was read. I eagerly waited for my name to be announced. The HR person read about 20 names and said that is the end of the list. All my friends' names were there. But my name was not there in the list. I was very disappointed. I was hoping that the HR person would say "Sorry! I missed out one person's name. It is Saro Velrajan". But the HR person didn't do that. I was glad that my friends got their dream job, but sad that I didn't get mine.

I didn't know what to do. All along, I hadn't thought about joining a different company than WIPRO. My dream was shattered into pieces, like a beautiful teapot dropped from the mountain top. I don't know how to fix the pieces together. I didn't sleep throughout that night, thinking about my failure.

Months ran. We finished our studies. My friends went to BANGALORE and joined WIPRO. As we had planned earlier, they rented a home and stayed together.

I moved to my hometown. I got a job from another software company that was close to my home. I missed my friends. But I didn't loose hope. I continued to work hard and started liking my new company. A year later, my company announced that they are going for IPO (Initial Public Offering). For those who are not familiar, they were preparing to go take the company public. I was given some stock option papers at the time of joining the company. I didn't know what stock options were, at that time. But my colleagues said, when the company goes IPO you can make a lot of money from the stock options. The company's IPO was very successful. I made lots of money in just 3 years of joining the company.

My friends who joined WIPRO weren't happy with their salaries and moved to other companies in 2 years. I was happy that I wasn't selected by WIPRO in campus recruitment. Had I joined WIPRO, I would've missed this "once in a lifetime" opportunity. If I think about it now, I feel that it was good that I didn't perform well in the HR interview in 1998. I now believe "Everything happened for the good".

So, Ladies & Gentlemen,

The next time you miss a flight, the next time you loose a job - Remember, "Everything happens for the good".
Quite often you may face tough times in life. You may hate yourself and the world around you. Be patient and don't loose your hope. There is something better that waits for you in the future. "Everything happens for the good".

Gratitude


AC - Story Telling (Project I)
The Folk Tale
May 9, 2008

Introduction

How many people do you "Thank" every day? How often do you say the words "Thank you"? When was the last time you told your spouse - "Honey ... I thank you for being with me during my good and bad times" When was the last time you told your sub-ordinate "I am so thankful to you for all the good work you've been doing"?

Fellow toastmasters and dear guests, today, I'm going to share with you, a Buddhist Tale that illustrates the importance of "showing gratitude".

The Elephant

Once upon a time there lived an elephant in the Himalayan jungles. He was the king of all the elephants in the forest. The elephant was beautiful white in color, glowing like polished silver. He had two glossy tusks that looked like giant hockey sticks. His mouth was as red as the most elegant red carpet. His eyes were like precious jewels, sparkling in four different colors - blue, yellow, red, and white.

The Forester

One day a forester from Benares city traveled into the Himalayan foothills. He was in his mid thirties with a long moustache and was wearing a brown hat. He was wearing a pair of old torn soiled shoes. He was searching for things of value that he could sell back in Benares. He lost his route and ran back and forth trying to find his way out of the forest. He soon became exhausted and was scared to death! He began trembling and crying out loud from fear.

Elephant comes for the rescue

The Elephant heard the sound of the poor forester and walked through the forest towards him. The Elephant saw the man, approached him, and asked, "My human friend, why are you crying?"

"Oh lord" said the man, "I lost all sense of direction, became hopelessly lost, and was afraid I would die!"

The Elephant said "My friend, don't be afraid. I will take you to the land where people live. Sit on my back". While riding comfortably on this glorious being, the man took notes of all the landmarks. The Elephant took the forester out of the jungle and left him on the road to Benares.

Forester becomes greedy

The forester safely reached his hometown. But, thoughts of the beautiful Elephant tusks made the forester very greedy. He wanted to make money by selling the Elephant's tusks. He decided to go to the forest again. Caring only for money, and without any gratitude towards the one who had saved his life - the man took a sharp saw with him, and set out towards the home of Elephant.

Generous Elephant

The man reached the place in the forest where the Elephant lived. On seeing the man, the Elephant asked, "Oh my dear human friend, what brings you back again?" Ma up a story, the greedy man said, "My lord elephant, I am a poor man. Times are very difficult for me. I have come to beg from you just a little piece of the tusk. If you can give it to me, I will take it home and sell it. I'll then be able to use that money to lead a happy life"

Pitying the man, the Elephant said, "Of course my friend, I will give you a big piece of tusk! Did you happen to bring a saw with you?" "Yes lord," said the forester, "I did bring a saw." "All right then," said the generous Elephant, "cut from both my tusks!"

As he said this, the elephant bent down on his knees and offered up his spectacular silvery-white tusks. Without the slightest regret, the man sawed off big pieces of ivory from both tusks and took them home. He didn't even bother to thank the Elephant.

Forester becomes greedier

The man went home and sold both pieces of ivory. But it didn’t take long for him to spend all the money. So again he returned to the Elephant. He begged him, "My lord, the money I got by selling your ivory was only enough to pay off my debts. I am still a poor man. Times are still hard in Benares, so please give me the rest of your tusks!"

Perfect generosity holds nothing back. So once again the elephant bent down on his knees and offered what was left of his tusks. The ungrateful betrayer did not care at all for the elephant. He stepped over the magnificent trunk and started to cut the roots of the trunk - tearing away the tender flesh from the stumps of the once-beautiful tusks. The man cut off all that he could see of them, right down to the sockets in the elephant’s skull! The elephant felt tremendous amount of pain, but it didn't cry because it wants to help the forester.

The forester saw the Elephant suffering in pain, but didn't even care to say "Sorry". The wonderful kind elephant meant no more to him than a bank account! He didn’t bother to show any sign of gratitude or respect.

End of the Forester

The man started to trace his way back home. When he crossed a few miles, a huge lion showed up smelling the blood dropping from the ivory stumps. The majestic old lion was fierce with sharp teeth and a long mane. Hunger was seen on its eyes. The lion showed no mercy ... tore the forester into pieces and started to eat him alive. The forester cried in pain. He realized how painful it would have been to the Elephant when he cut the tusks. He felt bad about not being grateful to the Elephant. But it was too late for him to undo his mistake. The greedy forester who didn't even have the smallest gratitude in the world had to meet his end this way.

Conclusion

This Buddhist tale provides a valuable lesson to every one of us - "Don't forget to show your gratitude". It may be too late by the time you realize it.

Let us not waste one more minute. Let us start showing your gratitude, right away... right in this meeting... to all the fellow toastmasters who helped us to become what we are today... Now, look at the toastmaster sitting in front of you, extend your hand, shake their hand firmly and say "Thank You" with a smile.

Project 3 - The Winning Proposal - Wanna be a REAL Competent Communicator?


AC - Persuasive Speaking (Project 3)
The Winning Proposal
May 16, 2008

-->How many of you want to be better public speakers? How many of you think that you have a long way to go to reach the excellence in public speaking?

Do you think attending toastmasters meetings for an hour every week can make you a good public speaker? NO. Do you think participating in a 2 minutes table topics session every week can make you a good impromptu speaker? NO.

Improving communication skills is like fighting against a huge DINASAUR. But, what do we have in our hands to fight against this DINASAUR - tiny little chopsticks.

Ladies & gentlemen, today I'm going to share with you a proposal to improve your communication & public speaking skills.... to give you more ammunition to fight against this huge DINASOUR.

Vocabulary

Norman Lewis, the author of "Word Power Made Easy" says, an average child learns several hundred words every year. However, an average adult learns only 25 - 50 words every year. This is very surprising. We adults literally stop learning new words.

The first and foremost step you should take to become a good communicator is to improve your vocabulary. A person with a good vocabulary can grasp more information & can convey information very effectively. Learn new words. Get comfortable with the word by pronouncing it loudly.

Watch News & Read Novels

Watching News has two fold advantages. You can understand how the anchors pronounce words, how they ask questions, how they narrate stories, how they use vocal variety, etc.,

You can also get to know about the current events, which will help you to participate in conversations and in socializing with people.

Reading novels or storybooks is also a good idea. When selecting novels, select the ones that involve lots of conversations. Try to read some of the conversations very loudly. Try to imitate the characters yourself and see you how are speaking. Reading novels and storybooks will help you to improve your vocabulary also.

SPEAK ... SPEAK... SPEAK...

Is there one magic pill that you can swallow before going to bed and wake up the next day as a good public speaker? I would be surprised if there is one. Otherwise, many in this world would be already effective communicators. Then, how can you become a good communicator? Well, the best way to become a good speaker is by SPEAKing.

Talk ... talk ... talk... tell your spouse and other friends that you are trying to improve your communication skills. Ask them to throw you with challenging situations or questions (like the Table Topics that we do in Toastmasters). Try to give one or two minutes of impromptu speech.

Volunteer for speaking opportunities in your communities or in your work environment. Sign-up for teaching basic courses in schools during your spare time.

You don't even need to get help from others. You can subscribe to websites that send daily Table Topics. Get an audio recorder or a PC and start to record your impromptu speeches. Play them back and see how you can improve.

Proposal

Let me give you a simple plan that you can follow every day. Spend about an hour every day to improve your public speaking skills.

Learn at least one new word every day. In a year, you would've learned 360 new words. Try to use the word throughout the day in all your conversations. You can be your own word master and keep counting your usage :)

Watch news for 30 minutes every day. Keep in mind that you are watching news to improve your communication & speaking skills - NOT just to listen to the news.

Practice table topics.

The next time, you hear someone asking for volunteers to speak. Lift your HANDS... both of THEM!!

Conclusion

Improving your communication & public speaking skills is like really fighting against a huge DINASAUR. But, what would the poor Dinosaur do if you really hit it hard from all the sides using powerful & sharp weapons.

Think of communication as a golden ornament. Attending TOASTMASTERS is like polishing it to look at its best. However, you need to have the jewel with you in the first place.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Are you a sales person, professional trainer, fund raiser or a public speaker? Do you find it difficult to plant your ideas in people's mind? Are you looking for effective ways to share your thoughts with others? This is the book to read.

The book explains 6 principles that make ideas to stick - Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Credibility, Concreteness, Emotions & Stories (SUCCESs).

When reading this book, you'll feel many a times "Ahaa... this is what I've been missing all these days". If you review some of the memorable speeches you've heard, you'll realize that these STICKY factors are present in them.

This book gives you techniques that you can use in your next speech or presentation.


Author's website: http://heathbrothers.com/

How to Work a Room: The Ultimate Guide to Savvy Socializing in Person and Online

Do you hesitate to approach strangers in a social gathering? Do you wonder how some people have good contacts and a solid network? Are you looking for tips to hone your networking skills? Susan's "How to work a room" capsule is the right medicine for your phobia.

If this is your first book on "networking", you'll be able to appreciate the contents in its entirety. The book also highlights some techniques to adopt in the online/virtual world. If you've already read books or materials on this subject, you'll feel that portions of the book is boring. The book also gives some tips for public speakers to work the audience.

This book is worth a quick read.

Author's website: http://www.susanroane.com/