Friday, January 28, 2011

My 'Ice-breaker' speech at toastmasters club

I finally took the plunge of joining a toastmasters club. After being encouraged by couple of friend cum colleagues, David Johnson and Jayesh Mittal, I joined Portland State University's PSU toastmaster club. Intent of joining the club was multi-fold. Meet people from different walks of life, hone my communication, presentation & soft skills and improve the ability to think and speak on your feet (Table Topics).
So this week I gave my ice breaker speech. Theme of my speech was 'Stories that influenced my life". There are three stories that have a profound influence on me. Let me take this opportunity to share them with you. First story was told to me by my best & greatest teacher, my mum.

Story#1 (Old man, son & donkey)

Once upon a time there was an old man, his son and their donkey. One day they all were traveling from one place to another. While embarking on their journey, they came across few passer-bys, who passed comments that how cruel the father is to make his young son walk in this hot son. Hearing the comments, the old man made his young son sit on the back of their donkey and continued with their journey. After some distance, they came across some other passer-bys, who passed comments that how cruel the son is to make his old man walk in this hot son. Hearing the comments, the young boy got down and made his old man sit on the back of their donkey. They continued with their journey and across some more passer-bys, who passed comments
that how cruel the father is to make his young son walk in this hot son. Hearing the comments, old man asked his young son to join him on the back of the donkey and they moved on. After covering some distance, they came across another set of passer-bys, who passed comments that how cruel the father-son are to make their donkey work so hard carrying them both in this hot son. Hearing the comments, father & son got down and tied the donkey's legs to a pole and started carrying the donkey on their shoulders. After covering some distance, they came across a river. While crossing the river, father's feet slipped and donkey fell into the river and drowned. So the moral of the story is "You cannot satisfy everybody. So live your life the way you would like to."

Story#2 (Adi Shankaracharya)

The second story is about the evil called 'caste system' prevalent in our society. With the changing times, its hopefully getting eliminated with every new generation. So this story dates back to the time when society was more caste based, in which upper caste people never used to allow lower caste people into their homes or place of worship. They did not even used to tolerate the lower caste people crossing their paths or even their shadows to fall on them.
Adi Shankaracharya,
famous philosopher who restored the Vedic Dharma and did the
reinterpretations of Hindu scriptures, especially on Upanishads or Vedanta and who had a profound influence on the growth of Hinduism, was born in an upper caste family. One day he embarked on the journey to seek God. While traveling he came across a shepherd, belonging to a lower caste. Seeing him, Adi Shankaracharya said 'move aside, move aside'. Thats when the shepherd said, "My noble lord, whom are you asking to move aside? Are you asking my body to move aside or you are asking the God within me to move aside?".Thats when Adi Shankaracharya realized that there is a God within all of us and fell down on the feet of the shepherd. The shepherd was none other than Lord Shiva, God of destroyer who had taken the form of shepherd to help enlighten Adi Shankaracharya that there is God within all of us. One should treat all human beings equally and nothing can be more divine than this.

Story#3 (Swami Vivekananda)

Swami Vivekananda was an inspiring spiritual man, who wooed the world and especially Americans when he
gave an inspiring speech beginning by addressing the audience as "Sisters and Brothers of America"
. One day he was walking in the streets of London. From the opposite direction there was this person coming, who was formally dressed in a suite and hat. Looking at Swami Vivekananda's attire with saffron robe and turban, the person started laughing. Swami Vivekananda asked him, "My dear friend what makes you laugh?". Hearing this, the man was taken aback and said, "You know how to speak english? But you do not look like a gentleman". Thats when Swami Vivekananda said "My dear friend, in your country a tailor makes a gentleman but in my country, character makes one"
I appreciate all the feedback I got after the speech from my speech evaluator and fellow toastmasters. Feedback was very helpful for me to know where I am doing well and where not so well. Before joining
toastmasters club, I was asking myself whether I need to improve my skills especially since I get to hone them in the profile I have. I anyway get to talk in public, meetings, with different groups, across time zones and with people in person or virtually. But after attending toastmasters club, I realized this is one of the best decisions I have taken and its time well invested. I am getting an opportunity to talk in front of audience with whom I do not have any business or personal strings attached and who in all their wisdom and experience, are going to give me the best feedback to improve.