Toastmasters Project 5: Life lessons from my fitness journey

“An apple a day, keeps doctor away. Doing exercise every day, keeps Lord Yama away”

Good evening my beautiful friends,

Last week, my company invited Fitness First over to promote their membership services. Ironically, quite a fair bit of people enrolled and it just got me thinking about my exercise routine and how it has changed me over the years. Therefore, I would like to share with you the 2 most important lessons.

Lesson 1: What you do outside matters much more than what you do inside

Most people have goals such as to lose 25kg or to keep up with their kids. That’s a very good goal. But it’s also a generic goal. Have you thought about how you going to achieve it? Most of us, would have thought that exercise is enough. But the truth is, there are many factors that play a part.

For instance, your diet plays a major part. You can’t just exercise thrice a week and continue to booze, have sugar drinks and fast food etc while hoping that you will achieve your goals. It doesn’t work that way. What one should do is that, recognize his or her own vices say maybe booze. So on days or meals that you are not going to drink alcohol, opt for fresh or homemade juices instead. One technique that works for most of my friends, is that they detox their body for a month in a year. So basically, they don’t drink alcohol in one once or twice a year to detox.

Lastly, you need to have enough sleep and know the best hour to exercise. For some, its during lunch hour, for others it can be after work or before work. Recognizing the time, allows you to plan your day accordingly. After a few weeks, you realize that you have become more efficient because you have that fixed schedule to stick to.

Lesson 2: Build your wall brick by brick

When I first started out doing yoga two years ago, I was probably the slowest student in that class. But I kept going, I woke up at 5.30am every morning to practice, before my brain starts telling me what to do. After a month, some of the poses, got a little bit easier. I wouldn’t say perfect, but definitely, decent.

When you first embark on something new, it will be difficult. But one should create an anchor through rituals. I am not referring to something that is spiritual or sacred, but rather something that you do regularly.

The point is, nothing is easy. You have got to be patient. They also say patience is not necessarily the ability to wait, but rather the manner in which you wait. In this case, practice and consistency are the keys to success and that’s how you build your wall.

Conclusion

Dear friends, did you notice how my fitness journey resonate with our career journey and other aspects of our lives as well?

All of these provide a platform for us to train ourselves, to make the most out of you and make you discover your best.

Try out the two lessons:

  • What you do outside matters much more than what you do inside
  • Build your wall brick by brick

Combine with consistent action and intention, eventually the ritual will become a habit and guide you to reach your goals. So practice it, create your own anchor, get the support you need and celebrate it.

Review on Toastmasters Project 4: Swimming with the dolphins

I did my Toastmasters Project 4 (How to say it) on 6th Jan 2017. I must say this is tough as I am not used to giving or writing descriptive speeches.

  1. Was the speech topic appropriate for this particular assignment?
    • Excellent
  2. Did the speaker use simple, short and clear words?
    • Satisfactory
  3. Did the speaker use vivid, descriptive words that created mental images?
    • Satisfactory
  4. Did the speaker use words that had more than one meaning or were inaccurate?
    • Excellent
  5. Were the speaker’s sentences short, simple and understandable?
    • Satisfactory
  6. Did the speaker use rhetorical devices to enhance his or her ideas?
    • Excellent
  7. Did the speaker avoid jargon and unnecessary words?
    • Excellent
  8. Did the speaker use proper grammar and pronunciation?
    • Excellent
  9. Was the speech purpose clear?
    • Excellent
  10. Was the speech effectively organized?
    • Excellent
  11. What could the speaker have done differently to make the speech more effective?
    • Make a more sustained eye contact
    • Avoid too much movement
    • Improvise by speaking and practicing in front of a mirror
  12. What did you like about the speech?
    • It was an appropriate topic
    • Sentences were short and simple
    • Easy to follow. The evaluator liked how the connection to nature was described and how the encounter was a blessing in disguise and not did not happen by chance

Toastmasters Project 4: Swimming with the dolphins

 

December 2014 – a year that I started my pilgrimage. The word “pilgrimage” often brings to mind holy places such as Mecca or places of worships. But pilgrimage to me is connecting to the Divine through his unmuted creation; nature. What initially started as a trip to visit my friend in Australia later became a soul-searching trip of my life. The universe takes you by surprise that way doesn’t it? It was then that I realized my love for animals and that I connect best with the Divine through them. And since then, I make it a point to visit Australia every year – exploring nature at its best – at different states in Australia. Each allowing me to interact with the animals in their own natural habitat.

The morning was simply magic that day. Contrary to the weather forecast, the sun blazed and the wind was simply in a playful mood; in the perfect mood to play the hair of those with touched. I woke up earlier than usual and made my way down to the harbor. As I walked towards the meeting point, I felt my heart in my throat – I was excited for this was my first attempt at interacting with animals in their natural habitat Right there, I saw a couple of crew members, marking attendance of myself and other excited travelers.

Waves of Adelaide’s seas were music to my ears – choppy yet calm, and I found myself getting lost in the rhythm of the sea.  The air reeked of sea salt as the wind blew stronger and stronger- and I felt myself relaxing a bit more. I thought that its not often to enjoy such a cold weather (10degrees). We waited enthusiastically for the call to jump into the water after putting on the diving suits. I was excited and looked out for the dolphins – as the time ticked, I found myself growing a bit impatient.

When the crew member sighted a few wild dolphins in the turquoise waters, we orderly slipped into the waters, hanging on closely to the rope, attached to the boat. Surprisingly, the water was in fact, not that cold. I started to see a pod of dolphins approaching our direction.

I struggled to stay afloat in the open water and trying to adjust to all new sensations within me. Yet, these God’s creation made me feel familiar.  One of them, made an eye contact with me, pinging me with her sonar. Her large eyes stared into mine. It felt like time has stalled, stopped to let me enjoy the magnificent moment. I sensed that these grey creatures are slowly checking me out, but I had no time to wonder what they thought of me. As a couple of them swam passed me, I felt their souls – friendly, patient, altruistic. Most importantly, I felt connected to our forgotten roots in this earthly life.

When I emerged from the sea, dragged myself back aboard the boat, trying to get a grip on reality. I was humbled and amazed at how powerful animals are and how different their world is from ours. It was like I had forgotten my whole life and found myself again.

Personally, I return and explore the animal- human journeys quite regularly ever since. I find it an essential requirement for living my life fully. It keeps the earthly cobwebs clear, and ignites the passions within me. It reminds me how beautiful Earth is, of the vastness of The Universe, how to celebrate life, success and failures.

 

Review on Toastmasters Project 3: The lie we live and the way forward

I did my Toastmasters Project 3 (Get to the point) on 18th Nov 2016 and here are the feedback given.

  1. The general purpose of the speech was clear.
    • Above average for the speaker’s experience level
    • Yes. Listening to the problem
  2. The specific purpose of the speech was clear. 
    • Above average for the speaker’s experience level
    • How to acknowledge the problem (3 stages)
    • Agree that not everything will happen according to plan
  3. The speech organization supported the speech’s specific purpose.
    • Above average for the speaker’s experience level
  4. The main points and supporting material contributed to the speech’s specific purpose.
    • Above average for the speaker’s experience level
  5. The beginning, body and conclusion reinforced the specific purpose.
    • Above average for the speaker’s experience level
    • Beginning: Problem statement
    • Body: Acknowledging the problem
    • Closing: Embrace the problem
  6. The speaker achieved the specific purpose.
    • Above average for the speaker’s experience level
  7. The speaker appeared confident and sincere, with minimal nervousness.
    • Above average for the speaker’s experience level
    • Pose and speaks with confidence
    • Without notes
  8. The speaker did not rely on notes throughout the speech.
    • Excellent
  9. What could the speaker have done differently to make the speech more effective?
    • Closing with a call to action will be great
  10. What did you like about the presentation?
    • Very clear presentation and give a good summary of problem and flow on how to manage it

Toastmasters Project 3: The lie we live and the way forward

Nov 8. The date we watched with hopeful heart and strong belief as the most powerful nation on earth elected their new leader, with the impact felt across the globe. As we all know, the campaign leading up to this election was contentious and divisive, with name-calling and significant differences of opinion on almost every issue that matters.

I think that people on both sides of this election need to trust that many, probably most people on the other side are operating not out of callousness, bad faith, or hate, but out of a strange mixture of fear and hope. Half of us are thrilled by the outcome of the election and half of us are crushed. But all of us have healing to do – of ourselves, and of all the people around us. And healing starts with listening.

Listen to the shrinking voice of a silent majority that revealed a troubling undercurrent of racism, Islamophobia and unaffordable healthcare that have run deeper and grow contagiously across the globe. Have we ever thought about where do these problems stem from? Most of the root causes lie inter-connectedly with levels of education, ethnic bias and other cultural biases. By far, we acknowledge them, but we never really talked about them openly.

Today we may have more information than any other generation. But what good are answers if we never begin to ask the right questions. So ladies and gentlemen, the question we have to ask ourselves is did we just accept the world as it or did we lose curiosity over the world?

We all have been living life by default, dictated by life’s expectations, guilt and reinventing slavery. This comes from within us. Let’s all break free and not settle for mediocre. Let’s not keep doing the same thing and expect the same results.

So the first step, is to resonate with the story or situation. We need to understand that societies and cultures are complex. Its not logical like programming languages. These are human beings and its messy. And our job as a global citizen and human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness, respect and understanding.  I personally struggled with this because I am blunt and I tend to speak my mind. Some people may like it, others not really.

Secondly, we have to map our journey and paint the vision. Keep learning but not to be a subject matter expert. Learn to increase awareness to enable greater innovation.

Lastly, we have to make contracts with ourselves. We have to note it down in black and white, the way we sign our bills. I think we call it resolutions in January. I have to be honest that I only have goals every now and then, whenever I feel like it. So I am trying to. I am trying to teach people how to treat me right and appreciate the values that I hang on to. I wont deny that I used to put myself last. Now, I am trying to put myself on the same level as the rest. Not higher, certainly not lower. You should too. Let’s transform our lives to be change catalysts and live life by desire.

I just given you insights on the lie that we live and the tricks to get away from them. But honestly, that’s only half of the puzzle. The second half is acknowledging the fact what we do may not work and that’s ok. Its ok because we are a lot more than what we do. And that helps us grasp the differences between states and feelings. We can feel disappointed because of a failure and yet be content, happy even. We might feel the joy of a victory, but, yet, enjoy the equanimity.

My dear friends, let’s all embrace the hero in us, empower the purpose and engage the future while reminding ourselves, we are “One People” sharing the hope of a better tomorrow.

Thank you.

Review on Toastmasters Project (2): How to find your passion

I did my Toastmasters Project 2 (Organize your speech) for CC on 1st Nov 2016 and here are the feedback given.

Speech Value:

5/5: Relevant and meaningful

Preparations:

4/5: Relevant quotations and rhetorical questions used

Organization:

Clear opening, body and conclusion

Opening:

4/5

Body:

4/5

Conclusion:

4/5

Transitions:

3/5: Transitions are not clearly evident

What could the speaker have done differently to make the speech more effective?

  • Reorganize the content and end it with a call for action
  • Reduce body language/movement: pacing up and down

What did you like about the presentation?

It is an authentic, personal and inspiring speech. Great!

Toastmasters Project 2: How to find your passion

Good evening fellow toastmasters…

Make the most of yourself, for that’s all there is of you by Ralp Waldon Emerson.

This is the first quote that I swear by daily, given to me by one of my lecturers before I graduate. Its been eight years now yet I have not gathered enough courage to ask her why she gave me this. But my guess is this. She probably thinks that I am a lifelong pusher. This used to be very true. I struggled with myself. I used to simply do things for the sake of it, without asking myself if I enjoy it. It took me four years after I got the card to realize that I was doing was wrong.

Have anyone of you felt the same way as me before? Raise of hands if anyone in this room has felt any of the following:

  1. Life promotes unrealistic physical expectations : rat race, expectations from family etc
  2. Not enough time for everything
  3. Used to not give yourself enough care

So I spoke to some friends about it. One of my good friends told me that I needed help. Instead of dragging me to a psychologist’s office, she recommended a few self help books and a couple of videos on TedTV. I starting reading and watching them. Somehow, writing comes naturally and I will explain later on how it happened.

I write because I am confused. I am lost as to how to approach life and to move forward. Picture this. We are all in the train sandwiched with one another and yet we can hear the SMRT staff saying ‘Please move in’ multiple times. I do not understand neither the commuters nor the staff. I try to understand their situation and perhaps write about them. I may be wrong, but it does help me to understand people better.

Lastly, I write because it lets me be naked, unmasked by all the criteria that life expects. Writing allows me to feel good about where we’re at and what we’ve done. When we honor ourselves, we don’t need to push quite as hard, because we’re motivated less by dissatisfaction and more by a deep self-love that reminds us just how much is possible.

Fellow toastmasters, finding passion is not easy. Some of us are lucky enough to discover them young, some of them naturally enjoys what they do and are good at it. But for the rest of us. It requires some effort. I urge each one of you to watch Sir Ken Robinson on Tedtv. He has written a few books and spoke a few times on TedTv on passion, public education and self-discovery. And I would like to share with you the important conditions to take in order to find ourselves and the element where your natural talent meets your personal passion.

  1. Diversity of Intelligence: (Feel)
    1. IQ
    2. EQ:
      • Area that is not fully understood
      • Capacity to recognize our own feelings, and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions in ourselves and in our relationships
  2. Ignite our passion and inspire the best in us
    1. Allow us to be self aware about what is happening around us and how to respond to situations
  1. Power of imagination: (Believe)
    1. Imagining the endpoint before reaching it
    2. Sportspeople are trained to imagine their timings, goals before their competition starts (That’s how I manage to finish my 10km in 70mins)
      • Joseph Schooling imagined his timing before his race too
  1. Creativity: Doing something about it rather than lying around thinking about it
    1. Admit that you don’t know and Ask the experts
    2. Make mistakes, learn from them and start all over
    3. Ask why and be in the moment
    4. Believe that everything happens for a reason, opportunities lead to where you are and respond to them
      • You take them more willingly if they respond to your own aptitudes and responsibilities.
      • You are what you choose to become, not your past, not your current situation, be the change you want to see 
  1. Commitment to finding our own capabilities:
    1. Strong sense of perseverance
    2. Run towards it with faith
      • If others tell you ‘No’, you cannot achieve this
      • Then you get yourself to somewhere quiet and meditate (Not in lotus position)
      • Speak to yourself and connect and be honest with yourself and seek the truth
      • Find the one reason why you can do it. Doesn’t matter if it makes no sense to anyone else.
      • Confront yourself, make the right decision and do it

Now, I urge all of you, when you get home, while you are showering or before you get to bed, be grateful for what life has offered and find your passion, if you have yet to find it. Life is your talents discovered. Find them and work towards it. Don’t worry about the financial returns. Just do it to lead a fulfilling life because the most magical thing you can do for our world is to make the most of yourself.

Go and live the life you’ve imagined.

Thank you and back to you Mr Toastsmasters.

Review on Toastmasters Project 1: Life is an enduring marathon

I did my first project for Toastmasters (The Ice Breaker) for Competent Communicator (CC) on 21st Oct 2016 and here are the feedback I got.

What strong points does the speaker already have?

She was a confident speaker, and did not show nervousness when speaking.

How well did the audience get to know the speaker?

4/5. She has shared us her passion for running and certain experiences and the reason why she likes it.

Did the speaker reflect adequate preparation?

Yes.

Did the speaker talk clearly and audibly?

Yes.

Did the speech have a definite opening, body and conclusion?

Her speech has a clear structure.

Please comment on the speaker’s use of notes.

She did not use any notes for the speech

What could the speaker have done differently that would have improved the speech?

Incorporate more body language, as she spoke about her jogging experience, it would be better if she could express it more with body language.

What did you like about the presentation?

I like the way she opens her speech saying that people can easily look up someone’s basic profile online, but not one’s passion. She brilliantly ends her speech with an invitation to the guests to share about their own passions.

Toastmasters Project 1: Life is an enduring marathon

Hello everyone.

I’m Farah and I am a BI analyst.

I was born and raised as a local Singaporean. As I attempt my first project, I find it hard to talk about my background, career and family as all that can be done via namecards and social media platforms. So I thought, it will be nice to know someone when they truly introduce themselves to you. Therefore tonight, I would like to share one of the most important part of my life.

Every first Sunday of Dec, I wake up at 4.30am. Other than during the fasting month, that’s the only day I wake up at that ungodly hour. I would calmly get up, shower and make my way to downtown of Singapore. Before you let your imagination run wild, let me share with you what I do on that day. Every year, I make it a point to run 10km at the Standard Chartered Marathon and ensure that I finish it within an hour and ten minutes. I no longer can make it in less than an hour so I have got to be realistic.

You may wonder why I love running despite the hot weather. To me, it is my passion. It is something that I cannot do without. No rain or sunshine has stopped me. It’s a part of me, part of my identity.

When I run, I feel connected to my soul. I feel a sense of inner peace that makes me beam with energy and openness with the universe.

When I run, I think, I reflect, I make decisions, most importantly. I let go. I let go of the things that I cannot control. It feels like every problem is a drop of sweat and I feel it slowly going away from my skin. I feel reborn and once again, comes to face life with much optimism and courage.

That’s the thing about running. It does reflect our life without us realizing it. Your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. Our greatest successes in life are often found in helping others succeed. Our lasting and fulfilling achievements are often earned by helping others fulfill theirs. In fact, another success in another’s life can actually be mine if I had the opportunity to enable, encourage and promote them along the way!

When I run, I see the world I live in and I know I want to make it a better place. I see the work that I do in technology and I believe that technology makes us more human, one step, one person at a time. And our lives are going to find a lasting significance in how we choose to live them and how we enable others to live theirs.

When I run, I discover myself. And that’s what leads me to this club. Now that I have begun taking myself more seriously, I want to have a more serious approach to my career. I hope to add a renewed courage and boldness that will allow me to feel comfortable communicating in front of the most intimidating audiences.

To sum up, nothing in life is easy. I truly believe that every run we have in life will somehow end up being for our own benefit. I believe in giving and turning a blind eye to competitions.

As much as I love to run and celebrate it with good company and mocktails, I would love to know though, what inspires you?

Review on Humans Are underrated by Geoff Colvin

Humans are not all alike. We each have our own unique genetic makeup, as well as our own experiences and cultures. Understanding this is useful to managers because it provides a framework for appreciating why people behave in a certain manner under organisational settings. Some behaviour are positive, others are not. Humans’ strength comes from the mind. The thoughts and emotions are enveloped in their psyches and have always determined their behaviours today.

In an unpredictable world, those who thrived have always relied on their instincts. Although, most companies are in favour of logical softwares and tools instead of emotions, the latter can never be fully eliminated. The need to feel is the most basic human requirement and one of the central human acts of inhabiting of connecting ourselves on this planet which belongs to us and to which we belong. So is being optimistic, empathetic and kind enough to swim through the waves? Often enough, we wish people are more rational but we can never run away from our emotions. If we can no longer keep up with computers, how else can we contribute to the working society?

Coming from a computing background, I kind of mentally prepare myself that I will always be on the move, always will have to pick up new technical skills along my career journey. From project management skills, IT security, SQL to big data and excel. It’s easy to be focused, do what you need to do and ignore those around you. In my book, it’s the next easiest thing after running. While it’s good to try to improve, we forget that sometimes, what matters is the depth not the width. Being in- depth, does not just means being good at what you are doing but also, being your humane self, always in search of a deeper purpose, while continually look at life and situations in an obscure way to discover what’s beyond the surface.

So, how do we get out of the mundane repetitive world that some of us are in and move to a much deeper level? In our daily lives, we all form relationships despite doing transactional tasks. For instance, when one drops by a coffee house and place an order. The barista listens and tries to interact. He might even remember what your favourite order is, asks about your well-being and share things. Notice the valuable traits – good listener, we know they are people who always got our backs, which means that they are trustworthy, sincere, caring and committed to you apart from doing what they need to do. There are many benefits of being a trusted person. You get access to information faster, referrals as well as people tend to be helpful and forgiving. The key thing is, people need to know that you care about them more than yourself. So ask for their opinion, tell them your standpoint and be open about the outcome.

Geoff Colvin mentioned about the power or storytelling. Humans are created to form interpersonal connections, create ideas from personal contact rather than from hard data. Hence the reason why it’s easier to improve or create new processes from stories than facts. Most big organisations work in a counter-intuitive and data driven approach. Perhaps what we need to remember is that people with their own talents and aspirations make up organisations and they create processes that best represent the organisation’s mission and goals. Then, use the shared mission to drive the strategy and act aggressively.

The difference between a story and a narrative is that a story is forgotten over time while a narrative is open-ended (determine a powerful beginning, middle and end) and invites participation while maintaining the purpose of the ambition. That is how the audience come together and expand the horizons of human knowledge in peace and tranquility and eventually lead to innovations that change the course of human lives.  Use a story as an event and as a part of a larger narrative, it provides the core of a mission where everyone can contribute.

We all agree that we can no longer compete with computers. So here are the three skills that Geoff Colvin mentioned that will be essential for one to survive in the industry.

  1. Humans will remain in charge
    • Humans will make important decisions
    • Human nature to listen to leaders not machines
    • Humans will need to be held accountable for important decisions
    • Social necessity to have leaders at every level in an organisation
    • Every single interaction involves influencing and persuading others to get what we want
    • Give credit to others when things go well and take responsibility when they don’t
  2. Humans must work together to set collective goals
    • Teamwork is important to define the problems in an organisation and how to solve them
    • Keep the focus on the other person. Keep your stories short and complaints shorter. This will leave the other person wanting more. Let them share more about themselves. That’s when they start to trust you.
    • Groups can solve problems faster than individuals
  3. Only humans can satisfy deep interpersonal needs
    • Human beings evolve for interaction with one another
    • Personal relationships equates survival
      • Great work ethic while having the ability to have relatable, effective and influential relationships
    • Possess most deeply human abilities
      • Empathy above all, social sensitivity, storytelling, collaborating, solving problems together, building relationships
      • Great leaders are expert networkers
      • Have a small group of people whom you trust to confide into, That’s how you remain calm under pressure

In conclusion, right brain skills of social interactions are as important as left brain logical skills. In fact, due to the rapidly changing economy, empathy is the key to high value work, not just to be productive, but also to negotiate and resolve conflicts in the most effective way. The next question is, what do you do if your efforts backfired? That happens, especially when you exceed expectations. One will get unpopular. But at the end of the day, you will need to remind yourself that you are not hired to please everyone, but rather improve the organisation as a whole. Great leaders understand the positive energy and try to increase these activities. They  recognize what drains their energy and minimize those interactions and replace with something that inspires them.

To put things in perspective, being a great performer is becoming less about what you know, but more about what you are like. For that, make the most out of you, for is what there is of you. With that, have a positive 2016!

Humans are Underrated by Geoff Colvin