One of the many things I love about my Toastmasters club is hearing stories from fellow Toastmasters; seemingly ordinary people often with extraordinary life stories. Maurice grew up as a poor child in Sri Lanka. He worried about accumulating things as these would inevitably be stolen from him. So he spent his money accumulating knowledge through eduction. This allowed him to eventually migrate to Australia.
I recently completed the first main Toastmaster’s club achievement and my final assignment was to deliver an inspirational speech aimed at an appropriate event. I choose a graduation speech which I would deliver to a graduating class of 2018.
Good evening graduates of the class of 2018. Tonight you graduate, you finish, but tonight isn’t just about finishing: it’s about new beginnings too. Tonight you begin the rest of your life.
If I rewind my life by 16 years and I imagine myself sitting just like you in the audience here tonight, I realise I’ve learned so many things in that time. Tonight I’ll share some of those things with you.
The comedian Wil Anderson says you either spend your life running from things, or running to things. Up until I graduated I spent my days running away from my childhood. Since then I’ve spent my time running towards a better life, for myself and my wife and three children.
There’s an old saying “no grit; no pearl”. It’s a perfectly succinct way of stating the benefits of adversity. You will all suffer in various ways, the key is to use your suffering to your advantage.
They say life is like trying to swim down the middle of a river – there are two riverbanks: on one side is the riverbank that represents chaos – this will pull you in at various times of your life, like for example when you have young children. The other riverbank represents rigidity. It’s almost too tempting to swim to that riverbank, especially when you’re on the chaos side, but rigidity can be just as bad for you as chaos can be. Your goal in life is to not get drawn in to either side of the river: go with the flow and float down the river, otherwise you’ll spend your time fighting against the currents pulling you to either side.
During the times of your life that will be chaotic you will have a great deal of stress. Don’t avoid stress, deal with it and use it to your advantage. William James once said “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another”.
There’s also a good chance you’ll get addicted to things, if you’re not already. This may be something as simple as Instagram or Caramello Koalas. Addiction isn’t a disease: it’s not something you can recover from. To overcome your addictions you’ll need to develop through them by changing your desires and establishing human connection.
Someone one said that to be successful in life you need three distinct hobbies: one to make you money as we all need that to live. Another hobby to keep you active and fit, as that’s a really important part of health, and finally a hobby to express your creativity that we often bottle up inside us.
To be successful in your hobbies and life focus on systems not goals. Examples of goals are to lose weight or get a promotion. An example of a system is establishing a regime where you’re active everyday and you crave healthy fresh foods. Another system is making yourself so valuable to your employer they have no choice but to keep you around.
When you’re successful you’ll become passionate about something. That’s right, passion comes from success, success doesn’t come from being passionate about something! There are plenty of passionate people who are unemployed, on the dole, or have started failed businesses and are bankrupt.
When you are successful, resist the urge to outsource your life and hard work. We alienate ourselves from our true lives when we do this. Sweat pays us back with meaning.
You’ll have days when you’re so anxious you don’t want to do anything or even leave your house. During these times you need to ask yourself whether you would rather die doing something you love, or lead a comfortable risk-free life that you hate?
You don’t need to be happy all the time. Happiness is a fleeting state and that only happens sometimes! Aim to be emotionally healthy instead of always being happy.
In the end a great life is just a series of great days, so ask yourself what will make today great?
Some of the oldest teachings in the world focus on the theme of personality reactivity. No matter what happens in life, no matter what is thrown at you, no matter how much chaos or uncertainty there is, the only thing you can fully and always control is your reaction. Choose your reactions.
I’ll leave you tonight with a story.
Once there was a farmer who had a beautiful horse. One day the horse ran away. The farmer’s neighbours leant over the fence and said to the farmer: “oh, that’s very unlucky” to which the farmer responded “maybe”.
The next day the farmer’s horse returned to the farm and it bought with it three of the most beautiful wild horses one has ever seen. With the horses on the farm the neighbours visited and said “you now have four beautiful horses, that’s very lucky’ to which the farmer said “maybe”.
The next day the farmer’s adult son was taming one of the wild horses when the horse bucked him violently across the paddock where the son landed on his leg and shattered it to pieces. At the hospital the doctors told the farmer his son would never walk straight again. When the neighbours heard about this they said “oh, that’s very unlucky” to which the farmer replied “maybe”.
A few months later the army was coming through town conscripting all the young adults to serve in war. They had a look at the farmers son and said he couldn’t possibly serve in war as he walked with a permanent limp. The neighbours overheard and they said “oh, that’s very lucky about your son” to which the farmer answered “maybe”.
Congratulations on your graduation and all the best in your lives ahead!
This is an account of a talk I gave at my local Toastmasters club last night. The intention of the talk was to incorporate facts and research.
Thank you Mr Toastmaster. Good evening Toastmasters and special guests.
I’d like to you raise your hand if typically sleep less than 6 hours per night (a few people raise their hand). Raise your hand if you sleep six to less than eight hours per night (almost all of the audience raises their hand), finally if you sleep eight or more hours per night (one person raises their hand sheepishly – there are a few giggles and looks).
Sleep deprivation is defined as anything less than seven hours of sleep per night1.
Research by the WHO has shown typically sleeping less than 7 hours per night is as bad as smoking2.
The AAA has found that driving a car on less than 4 hours of sleep means you’re eleven and a half times more likely to have a crash. 3
An adult sleeping only six hours and forty-five minutes a night would only be predicted to live to their early sixties without medical intervention. 1
It wasn’t until I had kids that I realised the importance of sleep. Suddenly I became fascinated with it.
Both from the kids point of view: they don’t sleep and they’re so grumpy. And from the parent’s point of view: they don’t sleep and we’re so grumpy.
Why are we grumpy when we don’t sleep? Brain scans have shown a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala1 which is the part of your brain which causes the fight or flight response. So we’re more angry, anxious and stressed when we don’t sleep.
But why don’t we respect sleep? Kids are so cute when they’re sleepy. You can’t not smile looking at a cute little sleeping child. But if an adult is sleepy, or sleeps a lot, we look at them like they’re a sloth. They’re lazy. Hero’s don’t sleep. The CEOs of multinational organisations are applauded as heroes who survive on a few hours of sleep a night.
And we don’t sleep. In 1942, less than 8% of the US population survived on 6 or less hours of sleep per night, now it’s one in two. 1
It’s a huge economic problem too. Sleep Scientist Matthew Walker at the University of California has showed sleep deprivation costs the UK economy alone 30 billion pounds per annum, 2% of the GDP of the United Kingdom.1
So why don’t we sleep like we used to. There’s a number of reasons. The most obvious is electrification of the night: 24×7 electricity has made the world less dark, and we need darkness to sleep well. Also work. The grey lines between work and home, for example, I work at home, mean we’re working more and working more in our homes: checking emails on our phones all night. Not only that, we desire larger more expensive houses with longer commutes which means we have less hours to do other things. And we all suffer the modern phenomenon known as FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. We’d rather miss out on sleep than anything else.
This talk has been pretty bleak and depressing so far. So what can you do?
The first thing you can do to improve your sleep is sleep more. Try to stick to regular sleeping hours every night. We set alarms to wake up: why not set one to go to bed so you know you can sleep for eight hours that night? Every iPhone in the world has this feature built in.
Avoid sleeping pills, they delete your memory.1 Limit alcohol and caffeine – they are enemies of sleep, much like light. And do things like reading (paper) books at bedtime, or take a hot bath which helps you get to sleep1.
On sleep, Heroclitus said “Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world.”
President Donald Trump proudly declares he has 3 hours of sleep a night4, which raises the question: do you really want to be like Donald Trump?
audience erupts in loud and sustained 👏
Presented at my local Toastmasters Club 7 August 2017
See Australia is our family theme for the next few years as a recent family event has put a constraint on family overseas travel. This has made me realise that I’ve actually visited more cities and places abroad than in Australia even though I was born and raised here. I am embarrassed to admit that, despite living for over 20 years in Queensland, the furthest North I have ventured is Noosa.
It’s all good and well to plan holidays and See Australia but this requires two things: time off work and money. A family of five with a sole income may not have a lot of either! This is where Day Trips come in.
Day Trips are the perfect solution to our mundane nine-to-five existence. They require little upfront planning to arrange, need not be convoluted, are low-cost and allow us to see our own backyards that we so often overlook.
There’s no costs for accommodation during a day trip, and no sleeping in uncomfortable tents.
Sometimes you feel like you’re stressed and you need a holiday but choosing and planning a holiday is stressful in itself! You get into a never-ending cycle of stress: “I’m so stressed I need a holiday, taking a holiday is so stressful!”
Earlier this year I felt a little bit ‘meh‘ so I decided to take a last-minute day trip to Toowoomba: a wonderful Queensland city that sits on the Great Dividing Range West of Brisbane and Ipswich. I started at the crack of dawn and arrived into Toowoomba early enough to climb up and see the sun rising over Table Top Mountain. I saw some world class street art which is created every year as part of the First Coat Street Art Festival. I also ate some delicious street food from Toowoomba’s thriving hip cafe scene. I finished the day descending into the Lockyer Valley where I purchased some locally grown road-side produce.
I had an amazing day trip to Toowoomba and the best part was that I was home in time to cook dinner (with my sourced produce) and sleep comfortably and soundly in my own bed.
There are some downsides to Day Trips. There can be lots of driving for one day, but you can overcome this by sharing the driving with a family member or friend. Day Trips also typically require a car which makes it hard if you don’t own one, but there are plenty around South East Queensland that don’t require a car: you can catch a train/bus to the Gold Coast or Noosa, or a train and ferry to the beautiful North Stradbroke Island. There are also lots of car sharing schemes you could utilise.
The latin phrase Carpe Diem translates into English as Seize The Day. It is one of the oldest philosophical mottos of the Western World. My own personal motto is Carpe Diem Trinus or Seize The Day Trip.