Toastmasters speech #8 emphasizes the use of visual aids for communication. I decided to follow the Presentation Zen approach by having 5 slides with only pictures and no dreaded bullets. This speech was inspired by Betrand Russel's essay of the same name.
Let me start by transporting you back in time. The date is 326 BC and Alexander the Great has reached the banks of river Sindhu as part of his conquests. On the banks of the river, Alexander comes across a gymnosophist, a naked yogi who is sitting on a rock and meditating. Alexander's curiosity is piqued and he asks the gymnosophist - "What are you doing?" and he replies "I am doing nothing". The gymnosophist then asks Alexander - "What are you doing?" and Alexander replies "I am busy conquering the world!" They both laugh thinking "What a waste of life!"
I am sure that many of us here can sympathize with Alexander. America was built by pioneers who were energized by the Protestant work ethic. Work was indeed considered virtuous. We even have proverbs for it - "Work is Worship", "An Idle Mind is the Devil's Workshop". Even today, America has the shortest vacation in the world. And every year, Americans end up working more and taking lesser vacations.
When I was young, I used to think that all the busy people were important people. After all, why else would they be busy? This even leads a lot of people to feign busyness. Soon you find yourself invited to attend hundreds of inane meetings where one talking head goes blah, blah, blah. But are we really achieving anything here? I would say being busy does not mean being important. Instead it means being time poor. How would you feel if a beggar accosted you on the road asking for a dollar. You will have pity towards him.. After all he is lacking money. But Time is the most precious resource of them all. If you lose it, you can never get it back. Shouldn't you then be feeling sorry for all the busy people, frittering their lives in countless meetings?
And that brings us to the fundamental question - Why do we work? Let me throw some numbers here. In the 19th century, people in Victorian England used to work about 15 hours per day. You couldn't blame them. Ever since the dawn of civilization, everyone in the family had to work all their waking hours to bring food to the table. But since the Industrial Revolution, science and technology has revolutionized how we do agriculture. We can now produce food cheaper and in much larger quantities than was ever possible in modern history. In today's world, an average family should be able to work just 4 hours per day to bring food on the table. But look around.. how many people do you see working 4 hour days? That is because we have invented a whole array of things to spend our money on besides basic necessities.
Idleness is thus being time rich. You could be rich in time by being more effective. Maybe you are a master at delegating, delaying or even deleting work. Or maybe you have mastered the art of saying No to each and every opportunity that comes your way. However you do it, at the end of the day you have time for taking long walks in the park or hours reading the Sunday newspaper. It is at these times when you truly unwind, does your creative juices flow. We live in a world where being creative and having ideas is the single most important skill that you can possess. Menial labor can be automated or outsourced. But there still isn't a smart computer program to come up with breakthrough ideas.
Remember Alexander and the gymnosophist? A year after their meeting, Alexander's army mutinied against him and in three years he was dead. The gymnosophist laughed at Alexander because he thought the entire world conquest idea was pointless. Today, no traces of Alexander's vast empire remain. But the ideas of the gymnosophist on yoga and ephemeral world continue to influence humans everywhere. It seems the lazy gymnosophist had the last laugh.