Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Choice - Toastmasters Speech #6

A brilliant American writer, David Foster Wallace once said, "It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out." He was recently found dead by a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests.

I've read a lot of books. Books on business, books on philosophy, and even self help books. There are all kinds of ideas out there about how to live your life, what is important in life and what is the meaning of life. A lot of them are different but there does seem to be a common thread to it all.

Everyday you have a choice.
You have a choice as to the life you live.

I use to roll my eyes when I heard people say this. I'd think, "Yes, of course. I can choose to be happy. Everything is just that simple." Then I'd move on, planning out my day and what I had left to get through, drifting through it till the end. It never really registered in my reality as something more than just words. All those nuggets of wisdom are like that, just clever sayings until you have an experience that clarifies it all for you, makes it sink in, makes it click, makes it real.

That happened for me with this just recently. I decided to pick up a part time job working at GameStop in the mall. This is an odd choice, and a lot of people gave me puzzled looks when I told them I was thinking about it. The first reaction always seemed to be, why?

Before I get to that, let me tell you about this job. You spend hours alphabetizing shelves of games, just to turn around and see some kids start mixing it up right after you finish. Sometimes people come in and scream at you or at their kids right in front of you and everyone else in the store because they are having a bad day. And if you've ever worked a job where you stand on your feet for hours straight, then you know how painful it can be.

So now you’re probably thinking why as well. The answer to why and the beauty of the job is in the choice. I work there because I want to. I enjoy every shift because I want to be there. It is my choice. And I choose to work there because the environment is great, the coworkers are friendly and I love to talk to and help people.

How many times in your day are you given an opportunity to help someone?
To put a smile on their face?
To make them feel special?
At GameStop there is always a new customer coming in who you can help. A new chance to have an impact on someone else, even if it’s just that one pleasant encounter.

The other key element for me is the people. There are a lot of jobs out there that are hard labor. Sitting in a cubicle or an office all day working on a computer is not one of those jobs. It comes with its own price, but it is easy to lose sight of how nice it is when you always focus on how much better it could be. I've found that the people who do some of the hardest jobs are some of the best people I've ever met.
I have my theories about why this is. Maybe it takes a selfless person to do a thankless job. Maybe there is a Zen quality to the hard, repetitive manual labor. Maybe they're just nuts!

But the people you surround yourself with are a key part of that choice, because they are making the choice too. If you surround yourself with people who choose to find happiness even in the toughest times, then they are a beacon of inspiration to you and everyone else around them.
There are a lot of things in life that we wish we could control. Many of us have been through hard times that we had no say in – things like a divorce, a freak accident, or a loss of a loved one. These are just a few of the examples of the challenges that weigh on our spirits, that make it hard to make positive choices. They make the world look ugly and gray and feel cold and lonely. These are the hardest times to make a positive choice. Hardest, but also the most important.
In the end, remember this. Even though it is unimaginably hard to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out, you have the power to make that choice. That choice determines everything else.

Make the right one.

Madam Toastmaster.

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