This was my final Toastmasters speech for the year and my 10th, which I passed. It is also the final speech in the first level: Competent Communicator:

Madam Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen…

For the longest time I did not understand the difference between motivation and inspiration. However, as I kept studying and learning I believe the key difference is that motivation is when some external force is required to move you forward, while in inspiration, there is an inner force that directs you. And so if you consider for a moment how much of your ambitions, dreams or goals never materialise its likely due to the fact that you lost motivation or lost steam along the way. This is the opposite of what I want to share with you tonight.

Tonight I will share 3 principles with you by which I live my life:

Principle 1: Empty Your Mind

Now I’m sure you have all heard the old clich?d question: Is your glass half full or half empty? This is a common expression, used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism (half full), pessimism (half empty) or as a general litmus test to simply determine if an individual is an optimist or a pessimist.

A Zen master received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. The Master served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” the Master said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

How is this relevant to Toastmasters? It’s simply: If you do not empty your mind before coming to a Toastmasters meeting you will not learn anything. What is clear to me is that most people attending Toastmasters meeting indeed follow this way of thinking.

Principle 2: Letting Go (Accept Things As They Are)

Again you may be familiar with the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, ?God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can;and the wisdom to know the difference.?

I grew up without my dad and only got to know later in life. For years I felt various levels of anger and resentment toward them. I sometimes felt my mother could have pushed me to work harder at school so I could have achieved better marks. Perhaps my father should have been there to give me a good spanking on my ass when I was out of line. This resentment became a form of sadism toward myself. I never experimented with drugs or alcohol to much but what I did do was torture myself psychologically. This eventually led to two severe bouts of depression in 1999 and once again in 2002. The first one was particularly bad because my career was taking off but my relationships were a mess. I moved to Cape Town. Even after therapy, I still felt a great deal of inner resentment and anger. I continued to experience loneliness and depression, as a consequence thereof. I concealed this well by always being busy. When I started my own business in 2004, I had to take the time, to make the effort, to really get to know myself. I persisted, and I persevered. I surrounded myself with mentors. The biggest lesson I learned was to accept things as they are. And trust, that this is, the divine nature of the universe. And once I let go I was able to move forward.

Principle 3: Be Like Water

I have been student of Tai Chi, an ancient martial art originating in China about 600 years ago, for several years. The Chinese perform Tai Chi for improved health, self defence and spiritual growth. And it’s this element of practical spiritual growth which appeals to me. The philosopher Alan Watts described the Tao as the Watercourse way.

So for example you can say to that to have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. Water nourishes all things but does not claim credit. It can be soft and gentle like a stream or it can crash like the tsunami demonstrated. When you are like water you are flexible, adaptable. No matter how big the rock or the mountain, you keep flowing and eventually you will erode it so that nothing remains.

And this is the message I would like to leave you with is that you do not have to DO anything but rather that you have to BE. This is why we are called human-BEINGS after all.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.” Bruce Lee