Today I delivered my Ice Breaker speech at my local Toastmasters club. This is the first of the 10 speeches that comprise the Competent Communicator track. I took 6:03 minutes to complete my speech. I had some trouble uttering my first word but after that it took off pretty well. My legs started trembling midway through my speech and I tried to remedy that by moving around the podium. I spoke too fast. But overall, the speech was well received. The evaluator made special note of the unconventional approach taken to describe my life.
Below is the speech's transcript:
Madam/Mister Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters and Honored Guests, My name is Bobby and I welcome you to my IceBreaker.It is a common practice for the speaker to talk about his life during the Icebreaker. But I am going to flout convention here and instead talk about something more morbid - I am going to speak about Death!. I was one of those kids who was mortally afraid of Death. When I say afraid, it was more like terrified.. I used to get panic attacks thinking about my death. I was even afraid to sleep at night because no one could guarantee that I would wake up the next day safe and sound. Then one day my grandmother had a talk with me and kind of convinced me that I will stick around for some time. After all, she had been around for 65 years and there didn't seem to be any problems with her sleep. I have since outgrown that fear. Now looking back it seems kind of funny. But this Icebreaker was an opportunity for me to reflect on my life and I am still amazed at my fear of Death.So what is it that makes Death so terrifying? I think there are a couple of reasons - one is the fear of the unknown.. here we are enjoying our life, being close to our loved ones and then boom! - it's all snatched away from you. What happens to us when we die? Are we reborn or do we go to heaven or hell? Religion tries to provide some answers but these look increasingly insufficient in today's world. The other emotion when thinking about Death is regret. We all live our lives while fighting the nagging feeling that we could have been better - that we are not living life to its fullest. One way to fight the fear of Death is to take charge of this feeling of regret and use it for good. Death then becomes a giant lens that can focus our chaotic life and bring it together for a coherent purpose. How would you live your life today if I told you that you were going to die tomorrow? Suddenly the fog is lifted and life starts to acquire a whole new meaning.It is this clarity of purpose that was missing in my formative years. I was a bright student but without focus. In my high school, I studied to get admission to both medical and engineering schools. At the last moment, I chose engineering school. In my four years of undergrad, I studied a lot but learned very little. I remember the vague feeling of unease when I graduated. Although I had a job lined up, I wasn't sure that I had learned anything useful. I was kind of enamored by an optimization course I took during my final year. On a whim, I decided to pursue my graduate education in optimization.So there I was enrolled in the PhD program at NC State. Graduate school wasn't what I expected it to be. It was really tough and refreshing at the same time. Pretty soon I realized that a doctorate is very open ended - it's a bit like Hotel California - you can check in anytime you want but you can never leave. So I decided to grit my teeth and focus - I made a promise to myself that I will get my degree at 25. So 4.5 years after my bachelors, I became Dr. Bobby. I got a job at OPNET's R&D lab in Cary. I have spent the last 5 years designing algorithms to make the Internet faster and more efficient. I absolutely love what I do.I have not forgotten my fear of Death yet. I still die a little every week and every day. I call these mini-deaths.. deadlines :) So here I am standing in front of you - my voice is shaking, my legs are wobbling and I am nervous as hell. But I have made a promise to myself that I will finish all my 10 speeches before September 1, 2011. For that is the day I plan to leave U.S and return home to India.So remember - One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it is worth watching.