Sunday, January 7, 2018

CC Project #10 - Inspire your Audience - You are an Inspiration

The place was GCT, Coimbatore. The occasion was the reunion of all of our classmates, after a gap of nearly 20 years. 

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests.

Imagine how exciting it would be to meet all of your friends under one roof, after a long gap. The untold theme of that day was Nostalgia. Some of them had put on weight… some of them had lost weight… some of them looked old, some of them still looked young, some of them had lost some hair, one of them had lost ALL the hair….

The first session was an Ice Breaker session. 

I was called first to the stage. I went to the stage with an inflated chest and head held high. I boasted about my improved communication skills, as a result of joining Toastmasters. I boasted about my success in career and my role as a Delivery Head in a leading MNC. I boasted about achieving financial freedom. After talking on the stage for a few minutes, I came back to my seat with lots of pride. I thought I’m the most successful and I’m going to be an inspiration, for all. My ego got inflated like a helium balloon and started going up and up, crossing the moon… the stars and inching closer to the sky. 

[Names of characters changed to ensure privacy]

Next, they called Naren to the stage. As Naren was walking to the stage, I was tracing back my old memories… the flash back unfolded in black ’n white. 

    • Naren used to be very short, like the millimetre boy in Nanban movie. He hardly combed or oiled his hair. His teeth used to be stained. He used to wear bathroom slippers for classes.
    • Naren is from a village near Salem. His village didn’t even have electricity during those days. He was the first graduate from his village. The first time he saw a Television was after he joined the college. The first time he saw a computer was after he joined the college. Until +2, he studied in Tamil medium. So, he found it extremely difficult to cope up with the studies in college. 
    • He used to be a lone wolf at the college
    • I remembered an incident from the final year. Naren was asked to take a seminar on “Computer Hardware”, his hands were shivering and he was sweating in an Air Conditioned hall. His English was so poor that nobody could understand what he was trying to say.  The entire class pitied for him. 
    • Naren studied very very hard, but despite the hard work, he had many arrears… because, his hand writing used to be like Doctor’s prescription. 
    • During the final semester, while many of us came out with a handful of offers, Naren came out with a handful of arrears. We graduated in the year 1998 and I lost touch with Naren after that. 
“Hello Friends”… When Naren started to speak on the stage, I switched from the black ’n white to the colour  mode. Naren was in proper formals and wearing leather shoes. He had grown up a little bit, too. The millimetre boy has now become a centimetre boy. He was well groomed. Those stains in his teeth had vanished. Naren continued his speech with a lot of enthusiasm and in a simple English. “Friends… Happy to see all of you here. I work for the prestigious Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as a Technical Engineer. I take care of the maintenance of all the fighter planes that India produces. I know you may be shocked. Yes… I went through a very hard time immediately after we left college. I went back to my village. I didn’t know what to do. But, I didn’t lose my hope.  I studied hard and cleared all of my arrears in a year. Later, one of my relatives asked me to sign up for a Apprentice program at HAL. Thankfully, my application got selected. I worked in HAL as an Apprentice for a couple of years. My supervisor got impressed by my performance and gave me a full time job there. I have been working there for the last 18 years. Outside work, I love doing Yoga. I’m a certified Yoga instructor. I help a number of people in my community to improve their wellness through Yoga. I change their lives. I’m married to a beautiful wife and I have 2 young kids. Starting from a village that didn’t have electricity to graduating in GCT with arrears to maintaining Fighter planes and changing the lives of people around me, my journey was exciting”.  When he stopped speaking, there was a pin drop silence in the hall. We were amazed by the progress and transformation in Naren’s life. All of us gave a thundering applause to him. My hologram image stood up and gave a standing ovation to Naren. My inflated ego got pierced, lost some gas and came down to the moon, from the sky.

Then, Suresh was called to the stage… a back bencher from the college days. He told that he is currently an entrepreneur giving jobs to 25 youngsters and delivering software to multi-national clients. Then, Vinod was called to the stage… Vinod was just an ordinary student during college days. He said “He works in US currently, for the IT department of Blue Cross. His hobby is to do counselling for a number of alcohol addicts and he has helped several dozens of people to recover from their addiction”. One after the other, all the batchmates were called to the stage. When all of them finished speaking, my ego, the inflated helium balloon was punctured left, right and centre and was lying dead on the ground. I realised that “Everyone’s life is inspirational” in their own way.

Fellow Toastmasters, look around you, there is so much of inspiration in this place. Our past Presidents Shriram and Siddharth, reviving a struggling club and bringing its membership back to 40 plus are an inspiration … Our own DTM Gautam Sharma quitting his high paying job at TCS to pursue entrepreneurship and training youngsters is an inspiration. Our current President Pravin, who rolled up his sleeves … helping the club during the last term, without looking for a credit, when we lost our then VP Education is an inspiration. You can be an inspiration too… When you have the courage to face adversities head-on, when you come out of your comfort zone and take risks, and most importantly, when you help others selflessly”… someday … someone will pop-up in front of you and say “Hey! You are an inspiration”.

CC Project #9 - Persuade with Power - Tick... Tick... Tick...

This is the last and final boarding call for passenger Shankar R travelling by Spicejet SG831 to Hyderabad. Please proceed to gate 3 immediately. Thank You.

Good morning Toastmasters and Guests,

The place was Chennai Domestic Airport. The time was 5.30 in the morning. I was traveling to Hyderabad for an office work and my flight was at 7.45 am. The security queue was too long that if you look at it from the top, it will look like an Anaconda. 

The moment this announcement was made… I saw a man in his 30s with a shiny bald head and a pot belly, popping out  from the end of the long security queue and jumping up like our Alaypayuthey Madhavan… for the “Sagiyea….” song. He immediately starts rushing to the front of the queue by telling everyone “Sir! My name is getting called. My name is getting called”. I immediately thought “Dude! They are not calling you to give Nobel Peace Prize. You are late … and it is a shame on you to jump the queue like this. Why can’t you come here 2 hours before your flight starts”.

Dear friends… I see people showing up late not only in the airports… but in office, in birthday parties, in weddings, in schools, in colleges and even in Toastmasters meetings. We, the Indians, have proudly created a new definition for “Indian Standard Time”.. which is an hour later than the promised time. 

The man that I admire for punctuality is my Dad. I still remember my childhood days. If we have to catch a train at 6 pm, my Dad will ensure that all of us leave home by 3 pm itself. Those days, we relied on public transport heavily. So, my Dad didn’t want to take a chance. Most of the times, we’ll end up reaching the station 2 hours in advance. It is not only during travel… he does that for movies, weddings and other family functions. Many times, we’ll be there at the venue even before the hosts…. And welcoming the hosts !

Why is Punctuality important? 

Let us try to understand the importance of Punctuality from the context of a Toastmasters meeting. 

    • Being punctual doesn’t mean that you are jobless, it means that you value others’ time as priceless. Lets take for example a Toastmasters meeting. When a few role players come late, they waste the precious time of other 15 odd people who might’ve come ontime.
    • Research shows that 110 million people die every year as a direct result of stress. That is 7 people every 2 seconds. You know what? “Being punctual reduces stress levels”. Not only that, being punctual helps you to manage complex tasks and work twice as better as compared to being late. If you show up early for a Toastmasters meeting, it helps you to prepare well for your role and also to minimise nervousness on the stage. 
    • Showing up early, helps you to network and socialise with people.. which you would otherwise miss if you are showing up at the last minute. In Toastmasters, it helps you to develop your interpersonal skills. 
    • If you want to know the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. 
    • If you want to know the value of ten minutes, see the movie Mersal. 
    • If you want to know the value of one second, ask the Toastmaster who lost in the speech contest. 

If you feel that you are going to waste time by showing up early, always carry a book along with you. You can use the waiting time to read.

So, how can you be more Punctual?

Start doing backward planning. For example, this is what I do. If I have to be in a Toastmasters meeting by 9.45 am… I have to start from my home by 9.15 am. If I have to start from home by 9.15, I should’ve had my bath and finished breakfast by 9 am. If I have to be ready by 9 am, I should’ve got up an hour early, at least by 8 am. Also, if my commute time is just 15 mins, I give some extra 15 minutes buffer time for unusually heavy traffic. The buffer time is dependant on the distance that I travel for the meeting. The longer the distance, the higher the buffer time. 


Dear friends… Punctuality is all about planning, prioritising and preparing. 

Marvin Ashton, a famous politician said “Punctuality or the lack there of, is the only introduction that you will ever have to new groups and friends”. Punctuality is the most admired quality. Let us take a resolution today… to be on-time, all the time… throughout our lifetime. Will you?