Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sochi 2014 - Oh Canada!

That's it, 25 medals in 2 weeks.
Today was the last day of the winter olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It was with a lot of emotions that I have watched the olympics religiously over the last 15 days, from 7pm to 11pm.

The whole gamut of emotions included nostalgia of the last olympics in Vancouver and my time there; the excitement of hearing 'Oh Canada' and the feeling of kinship when the Canadian gold medallists cried watching the Canadian flag being hoisted and sadness when the Canadian athletes did not make it through to the podium.

Of course, in a country where hockey is almost a religion, that sport was the main focus for most Canadians. I, however, was more elated by the double Gold we won in curling than the double Gold in hockey. I got hooked watching curling in Vancouver. Although I never followed through to watch it outside of the olympics, when the Canadian curlers hit the ice this time around, I was hooked again. I spent more late nights watching curling than watching hockey. I know more about the curlers than any of the hockey players. In fact, I did not even wake up early this morning to watch the gold medal game for the men, against Sweden.
Errrr, can they revoke my citizenship if I admit this online? I hope not.

As for any olympics, the media brings you focus to specific athletes and sports. Here in Canada, hockey always steals the spotlight. The women's curling finals were overshadowed by the women's hockey team winning gold. Just like the men's curling team's win was overshadowed by the semifinals between the USA and Canada for men's hockey. Because the men's hockey final game is on the last day of the Olympics, that is what the media is talking about today and will continue to talk about when they talk of the Sochi games. What about curling though? The women's curling team was undefeated throughout these games! The men's curling was defending the gold Canada won in Vancouver. What about the double gold in moguls in the first few days of the games? This is unfair! The world must perceive us as a nation of moguls, curling AND hockey. At least until the next Olympics.

"We're sorry. The country you are trying to reach is not available at the moment because of Hockey, Curling OR moguls. Please try again later."

Retrospective on 2013

Two months into 2014 already.
At the beginning of the year, I thought of doing a recap of 2013. Of course, I didn't get to it until now.
So here it goes...

2013 was the year of Toastmasters for me, starting with my icebreaker speech in January and delivering a speech almost every month. I did not get to do my CC10 until this month but the bulk of the heavy lifting was done in 2013, and I even became VP Education for Supreme TD Toastmasters in July.

There were quite a few 'firsts' in 2013.
First time I tried pole dancing, first time I went sugar-off in Quebec, first time camping in Tobermory, first time scubadiving (in Tobermory), first time skydiving in Niagara Falls and first time attending a Zoroastrian wedding.

Then of course the travels: Boston in May, San Francisco in June, Atwater/Yosemite in June, Washington DC in September, Rochester in November and Singapore in November/December. I loved Singapore because I got to spend time with Keira. At 17 months, she did not talk much, but she loved to play and she allowed me to hold and play with her when she was in a good mood. She unfortunately had to go to the hospital on the last Thursday I was there, so I spent the last few days in the hospital as well. It was heart-wrenching. On my way back home, I had a stop-over in Narita airport in Japan. That was probably the best stop-over experience EVER! 8 hrs of freebies!

As for running, I did a MEC run in the snow in January, then the Harry Spring Run-off, the Sporting Life 10K and finally the Scotiabank Waterfront half marathon with the exact same time as last year. I could have improved my time if I wasn't nursing a stomachache from the day before.

I did not have any life events, but my cousin Eric got married and my parents came to surprise him at his wedding in June. Then while I was in Singapore enjoying 2 weeks with Keira, Gabriel was born at almost 10lbs.

Apart from the ballet, I attended La Boheme at the opera, went to Kelly Clarkson's concert which also featured Maroon 5 and went to two musicals: Wizard of Oz and Cats.

I ended the year with a pot luck among friends at my place as per last year and we had a game of 'Cards against Humanity'.

All in all, 2013 was a great year, with lots of new experiences and travels.
2014 promises to be more hectic, with big changes looming for me and my parents.
The first 2 months of the year have already set the pace....

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I am now competent....

Last Thursday, I gave the speech that would give me Competent Communicator status.
After 9 speeches, the tenth one was to inspire my audience. I have selected the imaginary situation where I appointed to join and lead a kindness committee at my company. The title of the speech: One coffee at a time. Having only finished the speech the night before, I was nervous for not learning the speech by heart. I faltered a couple of times and glanced at my notes, but it went relatively well. Here's the speech:

Have you ever wanted to scream at a coworker in the course of the day? Or fought the urge to throw something at them? This happens to me way more often than I would like to admit. Sometimes I snap at them or I let out exasperated sighs. Then I feel guilty about not being patient and kind. This is what motivated me to join and lead the Kindness committee.

Fellow employees, in a world where bullying is a reality for one in every 3 students, in a world where the news reports show more atrocities around the world than good being done, in a world where kindness is almost a novelty; where are we, as a society, heading? Do you hold the door to the person behind you or do you let it flatten their nose? Do you give your seat to someone in need or feign sleep? Do you try to help your coworker out when he has a deadline or just go about completing your own tasks? If we do not practice being kind to each other, could we survive as a community? More importantly, will the next generation know what kindness is? When I asked myself these questions, I made an astounding discovery. People, like you and I, may not be intrinsically kind, but they can work at it and inspire others to do the same. How do we become kinder and make the world around us kinder?

There are 2 ways we could do this. The first one, which I have seen a friend advertise on Facebook, is to follow the Pay-it-forward formula. The first step is to commit to be kind to a number of people, say 3, and that in turn, instead of repaying you for the kindness, they would pay the kindness forward to someone else. What if I turn back and hold the door for the person behind me ? Wouldn’t that person also hold the door for the person behind him? What if I pay for the next one in line when I get my coffee tomorrow morning?  Would that person also pay for the 3rd person in line? That’s exactly what someone did at a Tim Hortons drive-thru in Winnipeg and the pay-it-forward chain lasted for 3 hours and 28 minutes, until someone refused to pay for the next customer in line. That person was depicted as ‘The Grinch’. I’m sure there was more than just one Grinch in that line, but nobody before him, wanted to be the one to stop the chain. Most people find it far worse to be labeled as a jerk than to pay for the next order. Nonetheless, it lasted a few hours and it all started with ONE individual doing ONE simple gesture of kindness. A gesture that both you and I could do.

A second way of infusing more kindness in the world is to go BIG, like, really big. Have you heard of the young man in Edmonton who bought himself a donut and a coffee and then paid for the next 500 large coffees? He was talked about in the news, without being on the news. Nobody knows why he did it, he just walked in, ordered his breakfast and paid $859 on his debit card. And then he left. He stays anonymous, but I’m sure the satisfaction he must have had of making 500 coffee lovers happy is exhilarating. A week later, another Tim Hortons customer did the same thing in another city. Now, a year later, I still remember the news segment on that story. Not only are these big random acts of kindness, as they call it, likely to have a ripple effect, but they have a greater impact on us. We talk about it for DAYS, even more so if we are one of the 500, or if we know someone these 500 customers.

Imagine how you would feel if when you are about to pay the cashier for your coffee, she says that it has already been taken care of. Wouldn’t that make your day? Wouldn’t you want to share your joy around? ‘You know what happened to me today? Someone paid for my coffee!’ At a minimum, it makes one person happy. In reality, it makes at least 2 people happy. I remember the Friends episode where Joey tells Phoebe that no act of charity or kindness is selfless, because the person doing the good deed feels good about making someone else’s life better. If you do not care about saving society from a lack of kindness, or about setting an example for the next generation, then at least do it to feel good about yourself and encourage others to do the same.

If you were here last week, you would have heard Wendy, our area governor talk about ‘heroes-in-waiting’ in her speech. Ordinary people who have the potential to be heroes. We do not all have to be heroes, we can improve the world one coffee at a time. Both examples I gave today, the pay it forward chain at the drive thru in Winnipeg and the guy who paid for 500 coffees in Edmonton , happened at Tim Hortons. Most of us get a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, so these are both things we could do without straying too far from our daily routine. Whether we choose to start small and just pay for a friend’s coffee or we want to make a big splash and touch as many people as possible, it only needs one person to start a chain reaction. To improve ourselves and paint a kinder picture around us, it has to start with nobody else but US! Let’s stop being spectators to the disintegration of kindness around us and commit to just ONE act of kindness TODAY. I assure you that it will not be wasted. It will be one additional day where kindness prevails.  In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.’