Be innovative

Presidential address: XXII

Date: 03-May-2018.

“Be innovative”, is the mantra that we hear from different corners in our daily life.  In our aspirational journey to become better speakers and leaders, do we have to be innovative?

An effective communication has two parts, a technical part and obviously an “non-technical” part.  The tools and tips that we learn from Toastmasters will only cover the technical part of effective communication.  The “non-technical” part includes Individualized life experiences and its aftermath which cannot be domesticated and packaged as a framework.  To experiment with “non-technical” part of communication we have to experiment with our life.   The diverse experience that we have on a topic will make us better speakers on that area.  No one would like to hear the same ideas/approaches again and again.  An idea, which is new, effective and different from traditional approaches, is considered as innovative.   So, “be innovative” has a role in effective communication.  Now the question boils down to, how can we become innovative in our approaches?

Experts say, practicing a three step plan will inject the spirit of innovation in our blood.

  1. Do at least one new thing everyday.

We don’t have to aim for extraordinary efforts for doing something new everyday.  Something simple but new will do the trick.  Eg: Adjusting the CPU to get a more leg space or arranging the items on your table in a different manner or finding a new route to reach office from your stay will all introduce new energy into our daily life and promote us to be comfortable with experiments.

  1. Be imaginative

Analyse all situations or problems from different angles and find multiple solutions to a problem.   Identify best solution from the identified solutions.  Imagination is the beginning of a creation.

  1. Put constraints on yourself

Deliberately limit your time, budget, or resources.  Next time you encounter an innovation-crushing roadblock, allow yourself to feel the frustration and even a sense of resignation. But then challenge yourself to overcome it and to actually embrace its limitation. A ‘Beautiful Constraint’ may sound like an oxymoron, but therein lies its challenge and effectiveness.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Being innovative is a lifestyle.  It is an approach to our life.  We cannot be innovative only from 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM.  Let us try to be innovative approaches in our life and that will eventually give us enough uniqueness to become effective communicators and leaders.


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Core value system and growth

Presidential address: XXI

Date: 25-Apr-18.

India has won 26 gold, 20 silver, and 20 bronze medals in the recently held Commonwealth Games.  It was indeed a prestigious moment for all of us.  Weeks before the Commonwealth Games, we heard a breaking news, a few of the bank employees have accumulated diamonds illegally in another sort of ‘Common Wealth’ games.   Then there were series of news related to suspicious activities of top leaders from private and public sector banks on handling the ‘common wealth’.  What is wrong with those leaders?  Is the leadership we discuss and practice in Toastmasters anyway different from the leadership of those established leaders?

Core value system of leadership is same in all industries – Integrity, Respect, Service, and Excellence.  Once we grow in our career as a ladder, we tend to neglect the fundamentals and establish new equations for our own further growth.  Agreed, it is difficult to have a ceiling for our dreams.  But it is important that we should not allow our value system to degrade in pursuit of more money and more power.

Being a beginner, or an amateur; how can we practice leadership?  I believe, first step will be to visualize; our dream home, dream office, dream club, and/or dream society.  Discuss and debate with friends and colleagues about our dreams.  Different views on our dreams will help us to visualize better.  Once we have concrete dreams, start to take actions to fulfill the dream.  Be the change leader for the change that we are anticipating.  Always walk the talk.

In fact, club like Toastmasters is a safe platform to practice leadership.  Come up with your better version of Special Zone Toastmasters club.  Discuss about your ‘dream club’ thoughts with your fellow members.  Take baby steps to approach your dream.   Your selfless actions to make it a ‘dream club’ will help you to establish the needed credibility.  You may fail in between.  Believe in your dreams and realign your steps based on failures.   There may be easy steps to demonstrate convincing results of your immediate success.  But, deviating from core values will only manufacture another set of leaders who will shamelessly play with ‘common wealth’.

Leaders, now it is your turn to make Special Zone Toastmasters club as our dream club. Visualize, discuss, debate and act.  Stage is yours.

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Our tendency to overcome obstacles determine who we are

Presidential address: XX

Date: 11-Apr-18.

We all are different.  We are different in our likes, dislikes, ambitions, and in many other ways, which include, how do we overcome obstacles in life?   If we analyse lives of achievers, financially or socially, we could find something in common.  Achievers have a tendency to overcome obstacles with aplomb.  Let me narrate two scenarios.

The business magnet and investor, Jack Ma, in one of his interviews mentioned that he worked as a free tourist guide to improve his English speaking skills.  He used to travel from his village to nearby town and offered free service for tourists, which helped him to improve his conversational skills in English language.

The protagonist in second scenario is an orange seller from Karnataka, named Harekala Hajabba.  He is an illiterate. He found it difficult to communicate with foreigners while selling oranges.  He dreamed of educating young children in his village so that they will have better future.  How can he do that with his meagre daily savings which was difficult for him to make both ends meet?  With his determined efforts, he started a primary school in a room and that was a dream come true moment for him.

If we look at achievers, they are not different from us.  They too faced obstacles the same way that we faced.  But they didn’t discount dreams due to obstacles.   They coloured their dreams with vigour and found ways to overcome the obstacles.  We usually don’t do that.

Ladies and gentlemen, to fulfil our Toastmaster dreams, to become better speakers and leaders, let us find our own ways to overcome the obstacles.  Jack Ma and Karelaka Hajabba are just examples to remember before reiterating that ‘all the doors are closed for me’.   Let all of us have the courage to dream big and the ability to pursue dreams with determination.


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Humor as a Leadership tool

Presidential Address: XVIII

Date: 07-Feb-2018

We, Toastmasters, often consider humor as an essential ingredient in our speeches.  Have you ever thought about humor as a leadership tool? It will be interesting to analyse the humor sense of well-known leaders.  How effectively are they utilized humor to handle difficult situations?

Gandhiji, father of our nation, is known as a strict disciplinarian.   It will be surprising to know how effectively Gandhiji utilized humor.  Once a journalist asked him, why do you always choose to travel by third class in a train?, his answer was, “it is only because there is no fourth class yet”.  Once he even called himself a ‘commander of a non-violent army’, imagine a man who stood for ‘ahimsa’ all his life, using a war metaphor to describe his philosophy.

Abraham Lincoln famously poked fun at his own odd-looking features.  Once in a debate, Lincoln’s opponent accused him of being two-faced.  Lincoln replied, “honestly, if I were two-faced, would I be showing you this one”?

These leaders used humor as a tool to create trust, humor as a great precursor to serious issues, humor as a medium to spread the message.

Our office environment is often a serious place – big decisions, lots of responsibilities, and highly intense.    In our journey towards great speakers and leaders; let us utilize the platform of Toastmasters to widen our sense of humor and to use humor as an effective leadership tool.

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Why am I always being poor?

Presidential Address: XVII

Date: 31-Jan-2018

A tired young man approached a guru in that region and asked impatiently.  Guru, I’m a poor person throughout my life.  I don’t have a home.  I don’t have good cloths.  I didn’t have food for last two days.  Why am I always remained as poor in life?  What can I do for a better life?

Guru, patiently listed the question, looked at young man with a smile.  “I think, you became poor because you never gave anything for others.”

Young man got annoyed.  I don’t have anything.  I’m poorest of the poor.  What can I offer for others?

“You have beautiful lips; you can provide a sweet smile to those who are around you.  You have the ability to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.  You have beautiful eyes; provide a compassionate look for those around you.  You have ability to speak; talk gentle words to those around you.  You are healthier than you think.  Use your body to perform some acts of kindness.  You have enough resources to give for others but you never gave anything.  Once you started to give for others, you will become rich.  A gentle word, a kind look, and a good-natured smile can work wonders and can accomplish miracles.”

A gentle word, a kind look and a good-natured smile mentioned by guru are reflections of our emotions.  Our emotions are nothing but reflections of our thoughts.  Our thoughts reflect our inner-peace.  We can get demotivated by stating; we don’t have an air-conditioned room, good interiors, cushioned seats, microphone sets etc… At the same, we can be happy by considering the fact that our strength is our togetherness. Our fervid approach to become better speakers and leaders will help us to forget our limitations and to concentrate on impact of Toastmasters program in our lives as well as others life.

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Presidential Address: XVI

Date: 24-Jan-2018

Theme: Mindset

What is mind?  Is it an organ in our body?  If mind is an organ, where is it located in our body?  Along with brain which controls our nervous system or in our chest, which is considered as symbolic repository of emotions.  I’m not a qualified professional to comment on that.   What I understood was, a person’s way of thinking and their opinions, belief system, rights and wrongs constitutes mind-set; theme of today’s meeting.

Does mind-set remain constant throughout our life?

Let me tell you a story that I heard in childhood.  Hero of the story is from a well-to-do family.  He was excellent in his studies.  His academic excellence helped him to grab special privileges from his master.  But other students were jealous of him and succeeded in poisoning master’s mind against him.  As part of guru-dakshina, master asked him an impossible honorarium – a thousand right-hand human fingers.  Master thought, his young student will run away without fulfilling the task.  But the student took task seriously.  Within few days, he realized, no one will give their right-hand finger.  So he started killing people to cut their fingers.  To keep fingers in safe custody and for ease of counting, he made a garland of fingers and strings it along his neck.  That gave him nickname, Angulimala.

He collected 999 fingers and waited for the 1000th.  That was the time; Buddha heard about Angulimala and went to meet him.  Angulimala was struck by Buddha’s words.  He threw away his weapons and followed Buddha.  By persistent effort, Angulimala changed his mind-set and he became a monk.  He started visiting villagers to share Buddha’s words and wisdom which are powerful tools to eliminate cruelty, anxiety, jealousy and other ill effects from mind.   But villagers recognized him; ‘he is the old Angulimala’, who killed our father, sister, mother, son… They started throwing stones at him.  At this juncture, Angulimala was not reacted; he learned how to master his emotions.  He smiled at them while they were throwing stones at him.  Blood started to flow from all parts of his body.  He remained in front of them with a smile filled with compassion, care and forgiveness.

This story depicts, mind-set is not constant.  If we allow ourselves to new experiences, we will get opportunity to purify our mind-set.  We all can develop ability to control our emotions.   As enthusiastic speakers, we have to observe our mind-set objectively.  Our words and actions reflect our mind-set.  Let us aim to keep a calm, pleasant and humble mind-set to become motivational and inspirational to others.



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Presidential Address: XV

Date: 17-Jan-2018

Theme: Courage

What is courage?  Could you think about the most courageous act performed in your life?  Punching on opponent’s face?  Defeating someone to attain glory?  Or decision to join a Toastmasters club?

May be, it will be difficult to identify the most courageous act.

The stories we heard during childhood and movies we watched had created an impression that courageous acts should perform physically.  Since there is no device to measure courage, we are depended on qualitative methods to compare courageous acts.   Definition of courage varies from individual to individual.  Let me try to talk about my version of courage.

A step taken by an individual to reach a state of high Emotional Intelligence is one of the most courageous acts.  It is an ability to understand and manage our emotions and behaviors as well as others.  To reach such a stage, an individual requires Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills.  An individual has to invest in oneself.

Emotional intelligence

Our speeches are nothing but our thoughts.  Once we have reasonable emotional intelligence, our thoughts and words will get purified.  It will magnify impact of our speeches.  As a Toastmaster, one of the courageous acts we can perform is to gain Emotional Intelligence.



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