Category Archives: Public Speaking

50 Years Ago, in 1969, Vipassana—an Ancient Meditation Technique, Returned to India, the Land of its Origin

Thoughts, meanderings, projections, and hope; on the 50th anniversary of Vipassana’s 1969 return to India. An Essay by Rashid N. Kapadia

Introduction

1969. 50-years ago. What a year 1969 was!

  • Altamont. Murder amidst a rock-n-roll concert.
  • Chappaquiddick. A powerful family. An accident. An enduring tragedy.
  • Charles Manson. A cult. Madness. Multiple murders.
  • Chicago Eight Trial. Political trials.
  • Vietnam War Protests. An unpopular war. Gone on too long.
  • Woodstock. Iconic rock-n-roll music festival. Love. Sex. Drugs.

1969 also marked the culmination of three historic and gigantic scientific-engineering enterprises, each in the making for over a decade.

From Walter Isaacson’s marvelous book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution”:

QUOTE. 
It was thus that in the second half of 1969—amid the static of Woodstock, Chappaquiddick, Vietnam War protests, Charles Manson, The Chicago Eight trial, and Altamont—the culmination was reached for three historic enterprises, each in the making for over a decade.

  1. NASA was able to send a man to the moon.
  2. Engineers in Silicon Valley were able to devise a way to put a programmable computer on a chip called a microcomputer.
  3. ARPA created a network that could connect distant computers.

Only the first of these three—and perhaps the least historically significant—made headlines.
UNQUOTE.

It is worth reiterating, that the least reported, least appreciated, and least celebrated of these events, (inventions of the microcomputer and the network that would become the internet) were the events that would, 50 years, later prove to have had the most enduring impact.

What if we were to future-time-travel to the year 4469 AD, i.e. 2,500 years after 1969? What if we were asked in 4469, “Looking backwards 2,500 years, which event of 1969 had the most beneficial and lasting impact over the millennia?”

I believe that another unreported event might well have proved to be the most long-term significant event that occurred in 1969.

I believe that 2,500 years from now, the year 1969 may best be remembered for an event that occurred in Burma—India. 

The event I’m thinking about is the return of Vipassana mediation from Burma to India.

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Part 1 of 7: The Revival and Spread of Vipassana Meditation

If, in the future, you can find the time, please consider reading this April 3rd, 2019 New York Times article: 

Overlooked No More: S.N. Goenka, Who Brought Mindfulness to the West

He gave up life as a successful Burmese businessman to teach meditation in India, and played a significant role in the explosion of interest in meditation as we know it today.

Some background and details:

In 1955, S.N. Goenka, a young and successful Burmese business leader and industrialist of Indian origin, was experiencing excruciating migraine headaches. Medical experts around the world could not cure him. At the suggestion of a friend, he reached out to a meditation teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin.

Sayagyi U Ba Khin was then a highly respected senior civil servant. He was a leader in multiple central government departments. He was the first Accountant General of independent Burma. His passion however—his raison d’être—was teaching and spreading of the Vipassana meditation technique. To do this, he established the International Meditation Center (IMC) in Rangoon in the 1950s.

Sayagyi U Ba Khin ardently believed in an ancient prophecy. 

It prophesied that 2,500 years after the life of Buddha, the Vipassana technique and teachings would return from Burma/Myanmar to India. 

India was the land of its origin, but the technique had been completely lost there a very long time ago. 

Sayagyi U Ba Khin was further convinced that Vipassana would spread from India to every part of the world.

2,500 years had now passed. Sayagyi U Ba Khin was absolutely convinced that “The Clock of Vipassana Has Struck!

And he, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, would do his part to make that prophecy come true. 

For 14 years, from 1955 to 1969, S.N. Goenka studied and practiced with his revered teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Mr. Goenka was a model student, a disciplined and dedicated practitioner, and a volunteer at the Vipassana Mediation Center. He eventually became an assistant teacher. He reaped many benefits. His migraine headaches became a thing of the past.

In 1969, S.N. Goenka’s mother was in India, and was suffering from an illness. S.N. Goenka was convinced that a Vipassana course would help her. So he applied for permission from the Burmese government to travel to India. In those days it was very difficult to get such permission. Fortunately it was granted to him. 

On June 20th 1969 Sayagyi U Ba Khin appointed S.N. Goenka a Vipassana Teacher. And entrusted him with a great responsibility: “Return this priceless teaching to India. And then spread it throughout the world. For the benefit of all.

In June 1969 S.N. Goenka returned to India.

He conducted the first 10-day Vipassana meditation course in Panchayatwadi, Bombay / Mumbai. It started on July 3, 1969. 14 students, including both his parents, attended.

He conducted the second 10-day Vipassana meditation course in Madras / Chennai. It started on July 24, 1969. 15 students attended.

I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed that the moon landing on July 20, 1969, indeed the entire Apollo 11 mission—July 16 to July 24, 1969—occurred between these two courses.

The first English language 10-day course for foreign students was held in November 1970 in Dalhousie, India. 12 students attended.

S.N. Goenka was a superb teacher. A teacher extraordinaire.

The technique and teachings are free of dogma, rites and rituals. They have universal appeal and application. They are pragmatic. This is a technique. 

The teacher steers clear of high philosophy and high theory. Daily discourses provide proper understanding and prevent confusion. Students are required to work very hard. Very hard. From 4:30AM to 9:00PM. The teacher is compassionate, objective, equanimous, strict, persuasive, and inspiring. A very high level of discipline is maintained. The technique and the teachings are treasure. 

And … slowly but surely, the technique and teachings of Vipassana meditation spread across India … and then around the world. 

50 years later, we can say, “The prophecy came true.” A priceless teaching returned to India. It spread across India. And then it spread all around the world. For the benefit of all.

One S.N. Goenka speech must be mentioned here. In August 2000, over one thousand religious and spiritual leaders gathered at the United Nations to participate in the Millennium World Peace Summit. S.N. Goenka’s speech was particularly well received. It was an apt indication of how far and wide the Vipassana technique and teachings had spread.

Today there are over 184 centers, and 134 non-center courses teaching this technique. All teaching, accommodations, and meals are free. All funding is from donations by students who have completed at least one 10-day course. Volunteer assistant teachers, and volunteer servers conduct all courses. No one is paid. Put differently, the teachings, the coursework, the facilities, the meals, and the volunteer’s service are offered as gifts to students. Only on completion of a course can students can make donations. These donations become gifts to future students. 

https://www.vridhamma.org/Center-Search

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Part 2 of 7: Looking Forward 2,500 Years

Seeking refuge in Albert Einstein’s “Imagination is more important than knowledge” quote, let’s imagine that we have time-travelled to the year 4469, are looking back 2,500 years, to the year 1969, and trying to determine which event from 1969 had the most impact over the millennia.

To do this, we’ll have to assume that we Homo Sapiens are still around, are still a dominant species, and that our planet is still inhabitable. Odds are not good, but let’s assume that we’ve neither destroyed each other, nor our environment. And that we haven’t transformed our species so radically that we’re still Homo Sapiens, and not Homo Deus. Again, this is unlikely; nonetheless, let’s hope it happens. I’ll guesstimate the odds at 15% – 50%.

Homo Sapiens already came perilously close to annihilating our planet during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Experts suggest that our planet survived by dumb luck. And our current nuclear weapons and capabilities can certainly annihilate our planet—many times over. Here’s one way to think about this: If Homo Sapiens/humans don’t eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons will eventually eliminate Homo Sapiens/humans.

From the award winning documentary, “The Fog of War: 11 Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara”, QUOTE The major lesson of the Cuban Missile crisis is this: The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations. UNQUOTE

Today we can expand this thinking to, “The indefinite co-existence of (1) human fallibility plus human defilements (anger, revenge, jealousy, greed, cruelty, fear, pride, contempt, disgust, ignorance … and more) AND (2) the increasing knowledge of, and access to destructive (physical, chemical, biological and other technology-data based) weapons of annihilation will eventually destroy our species, and perhaps our planet.

It is highly unlikely that we will curtail the spread of knowledge over the next 2,500 years. So if we are to survive and thrive as Homo Sapiens on our small and precious planet for the next 2,500 years, we ought to focus on finding ways to eliminate the many human defilements. And these defilements are programmed deep into ALL OF US. Bequests of evolutionary biology. 

If humans can systematically, and on scale eliminate human defilements in a universal, non-sectarian, sensible, strategic, and scientific way, we may just make it to the year 4469.

I opine that a silent global revolution to eliminate these defilements began in July 1969 when the Vipassana meditation technique and teachings returned to India, the country of its origin, and began spreading around the world.

An important insight of this silent revolution is: “The survival and thriving of humans is rooted in our ability to cultivate and default to Inner Peace & Harmony, regardless of external circumstances and life’s vicissitudes.

I believe that in the 2020s and/or 2030s, there must be a change in the very foundations of global education. The new foundation of all education, and all curriculums, must include the teaching and learning of “How to cultivate and default to inner peace and harmony.” This must be a curriculum that will be universal and science based. It must be free of dogma, free of rites & rituals, free of religion, free of sectarianism, and very pragmatic.

Only after this new foundation is in place, must education proceed to the teaching of content; i.e. accounting, biology, chemistry, civics, coding, economics, finance, history, language, literature, mathematics, physics, etc.. Same approach must apply to college, corporate, and all other advanced training programs. Subject matter teaching must proceed only after all students are in a state of inner peace and harmony. A state of balance and equanimity. This state is also optimal for accelerated learning. A win-win situation.

One top outcome of this new educational program will be the increased hunger of humans to aspire and default to “The Greatest Welfare”. 

What is the greatest welfare?

  • When faced with all the ups and downs of life, still the mind remains unshaken, not lamenting, not generating defilement, and always feeling secure. This is the greatest welfare.
  • A mind that is unshaken by the vicissitudes of life. A mind that is secure, stainless, and sorrowless. This is the greatest welfare.

The “deliverables” of this educational foundation will be equanimity and objectivity. And detachment, better thought of as non-attachment.

To be objective, detached, and equanimous, we learn how to “Know Thyself” at a most fundamental level. At the level of our subtlest body sensations, and our breathing patterns. At a sub-atomic level. In an experiential and scientifically enlightened way.

The best educated, wisest, and most revered leaders and citizens will be those who can, in the face of life’s inevitable vicissitudes, default to Inner Peace and Harmony, and reap the rewards of “The Greatest Welfare”.

NOBILITY will be the key metric for leadership and citizenship. 

This NOBILITY has absolutely nothing to do with birth, pedigree, class, status, rank, race, tribe, country, profession, group, etc.

This NOBILITY is derived from the ancient teachings of the Buddha.

A noble person is anyone who creates peace and harmony, or contributes to peace and harmony. 

An ignoble person is anyone who contaminates peace and harmony.

By extension:

  • Any spoken word, any verbal action, any speech that creates peace and harmony, or contributes to peace and harmony is Noble Speech. 
  • Any spoken word, any verbal action, any speech that contaminates peace and harmony is Ignoble Speech.
  • Any action that creates peace and harmony, or contributes to peace and harmony is Noble Action. 
  • Any action that contaminates peace and harmony is Ignoble Action. 

To learn more, study the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path.

It is conceivable that in the year 4469, this could be a historical record of events:

  1. Revival and spread of Vipassana. 50 years. 1969 – 2019. 
  2. Students, citizens and leaders around the world, commit to a new curriculum in education. 50 years. 2019 – 2069. The foundation of this curriculum is the cultivation of nobility, peace, and harmony. Slowly but surely, nobility, peace, & harmony become a new normal. Equanimity, objectivity, and detachment will be completely normal. Systematically, scientifically, and on scale, human defilements are dissolved and eradicated. Suffering is reduced and eventually eliminated.
  3. An era of universal nobility. An era of global peace and harmony. With no parallel in human history. 2,400 years. 2069 – 4469.

I’ll give this scenario a 15% – 50% probability.

If this does not happen, then the indefinite coexistence of human defilements and increasingly ubiquitous annihilation weapons-technologies will result in the elimination of humans.

Back to our imaginations. We have time-traveled to the year 4469. We have been asked: 

Question

Looking back 2,500 years, which event from the year 1969 had the most beneficial and long-lasting impact?

My Answer

The return of Vipassana mediation technique and teachings from Burma to India.

The travel of Vipassana meditation teacher extraordinaire, messenger of inner peace, S.N. Goenka from Burma to India.

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Where did such ideas come from? When and where did all this start?

Part 3 of 7: The Story of Buddha

If, in the future, you can find the time, please consider watching the 2-hour documentary “The Buddha”. https://youtu.be/EDgd8LT9AL4 

History is history. Story is story. Here’s a combination of history and story. Please accept what you can. Please feel free to put aside the rest. Please be aware that there are very many versions of this history-story.

This is a story of a prince who became Buddha. He is sometimes spoken of as “The Super Scientist of Inner Peace” or “The Super Scientist of Spirituality”

About two thousand five hundred years ago a child was born to a ruler of a minor kingdom in what is now the border of India and Nepal. 

It was prophesied that this child, Siddhartha Gotama, would either become a great conqueror and the ruler of a vast empire, or that this child would become a spiritual seeker and an enlightened being. 

The king preferred his son to become a conqueror and ruler of empire. The prince was shielded from any and all influences that might nudge him towards spiritual seeking. 

For nearly 30 years Siddhartha Gotama lived a princely life of privilege and plenty, his every need and wish granted. He was a good student and a good person. Confined, provided for, and secure, he was not exposed to suffering, old age, sickness, or death. He was unaware these realities. He was ignorant of life’s many harsh realities.

At the age of twenty-nine, four encounters were to change the trajectory of this prince’s life. In the first three encounters, the prince saw an old person, a sick person, and a corpse. The suffering accompanying old age, sickness, and death moved him greatly.

Why, he wondered, is there so much suffering accompanying old age (change), sickness, and death (impermanence), when these are life’s inevitabilities?

How, he wondered, can we eliminate the suffering that accompanies inevitable aging, inevitable sickness, and inevitable death?

How, he wondered, can we be “all-right” with life’s unavoidable vicissitudes?

His fourth encounter was with a saintly person, a spiritual seeker who was dwelling on similar questions. A person who was trying to liberate himself from the suffering that the prince had newly discovered.

Prince Siddhartha Gotama decided to follow this route to find answers to his questions. So left his kingdom and walked away from a life of family, privilege, and power to become a spiritual seeker.

He was seeking answers to questions like this, “How can we eliminate suffering associated with life’s inevitabilities—change, sickness, impermanence?

He became a renunciate. He studied with the most advanced teachers, gurus and saints. He was a superb student. He was disciplined. He had strong determination. Yet after learning all that he could from his teachers, from the best of the best, from the cutting edge of knowledge, he still had no satisfactory answers to questions like, “How can we eliminate suffering associated with life’s vicissitudes?”

He left his teachers and continued with renunciation and extreme deprivation. One morsel of food a day. He subjected his body to pain and tremendous physical hardship. The belief then was that punishing the body could help reduce its control over the mind, which could help to free the mind. And this freer mind would provide wisdom and serenity. Still he found no answers.

Six years passed. Still no answers. Siddhartha Gotama was now 35 years old. He was emaciated. His body was wasting away. He was at the doorstep of death.

He thought to himself; I’ve lived a life of great power, wealth, pleasure, and privilege. I lived a life of the highest scholarship. I lived a life of renunciation and extreme deprivation. And I still haven’t found answers to questions like, “How can we eliminate suffering associated with life’s vicissitudes?” What should I do now?

He decided to settle for a “middle path”. After a very long time, he had a normal regular meal. And he decided that going forward, he would live a balanced life. And he decided that he would henceforth trust himself, and look within himself for his answers.

And then, in one of history’s more famous stories, he said to himself, “I am now going to sit under this tree, will meditate deeply on all I’ve learned and experienced, will think for myself. And I will not move from this spot until I have found my answers. It doesn’t matter if my skin, my blood, my flesh and my bones turn to dust, I will not move until I have found my answers.”

And he found answers deep within himself. He found a solution based on deep thinking, deep concentration, deep insight, deep connection to his own experiences, his knowledge of himself, and his expanded awareness. 

He would later say to his followers, “The world is full of pain and sorrow. But I have found serenity that you can find too.”

Today we would think of him as a scientist, for this approach and achievement. Indeed this argument is made by Rick Hanson in his book “Buddha’s Brain”.  QUOTE To solve problems, we need to understand causes. Great physicians, psychologists, and spiritual teaches are master diagnosticians. For example, in his Four Noble Truths, the Buddha identified an ailment (suffering), diagnosed its cause (craving: a compelling sense of need for something), specified its cure (freedom from craving), and prescribed a treatment (Eightfold Path) UNQUOTE

Siddhartha Gotama became known as the Buddha. Today he is remembered as being one of history’s foremost enlightened and liberated beings.

People noticed a change in him. He was radiant, calm, and compassionate. Free from suffering.

People asked him, “How?”

And over the next forty-five years, till the age of eighty, he taught, and he travelled, and he taught, and he travelled, and he taught, and he travelled. The Buddha is frequently and reverently referred to as the greatest teacher in world history.

He taught a morality-concentration-wisdom technique

His teachings and schools were open to all. Open to all castes and all societal segments. Including women. This was radical and revolutionary for those rigid times. 

And above all, his teaching were “For the benefit of all”.

He repeatedly told his students, “You are your own master. You must do the work. You must experience who you really are at the deepest level. You must acquire concentration and wisdom through your own effort, discipline, and experience. I can only show you the path, the highway.”

In the documentary “The Buddha”, the Dalai Lama points out that Buddha encouraged his followers, his students, to debate and argue. He said to his followers, “You should not accept my teaching out of admiration, blind faith, or devotion; but rather your own experiment. Hard work is required. Investigate based on reason. If my teachings contradict something from your experience, you have the right to reject it.”

The same documentary reports that as Buddha lay on his deathbed, his last words to his followers were, “It may be that after I’m gone some of you will think you have no teacher. That is not how you should see it. Let the Dhamma and the discipline that I have taught you be your teacher. All individual things pass away. Strive on. Untiringly.

Students of the Vipassana technique discover for themselves that all suffering originates from within. Suffering is an inside job. And the technique provides a way to eliminate suffering at its deepest internal source.

The teachings and technique are built on a foundation of “Four Noble Truths” and a “Noble Eightfold Path”.

In the decades and centuries that followed Buddha’s awakening to his true nature, his liberation from suffering, the technique, the teachings, nobility, peace and harmony spread across India. About 300 years after Buddha, an Indian emperor, Ashoka, made the dissemination of this universal technique and teachings a central feature of his rule. For the benefit of all. And then the teachings spread to neighboring countries, and around the world. For the benefit of all. Relics and inscriptions from that era can still be seen across India and around the world today.

It was an era—perhaps even a golden age—of about 500 years across India and its neighboring countries.

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Part 4 of 7: What is Vipassana?

If, in the future, you can find the time, please consider watching the ~55-minute documentary “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana”. https://youtu.be/WkxSyv5R1sg 

Vipassana is a journey of discovery, taken with closed eyes. The goal is not simply to satisfy the traveller’s curiosity, but to get transformed by the journey.

Continuous awareness of physical sensations, without reacting, is the core of the Vipassana practice. 

Description of Vipassana:

  • Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique. The word Vipassana means seeing things as they really are.
  • It is the process of self-purification by self-observation.
  • One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind.
  • With a sharpened awareness one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness.
  • This truth-realization by direct experience is the process of purification.
  • It can be freely practiced by everyone, at any time, in any place, and will prove beneficial to one and all.

What Vipassana is not:

  • It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
  • It is neither an intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
  • It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
  • It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

What Vipassana is:

  • It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.
  • It is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.
  • It is a simple, practical way to achieve real peace of mind, and to lead a happy, useful life.
  • It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.

What’s in it for students?

Students learn how to observe objectively, all the sensations in their bodies, whatever they may be, without reacting to them. They watch emotions come and go. They watch pain come and go. They watch pleasure come and go. And they realize, not intellectually, but through their own experience, that nothing is permanent. Hatred, passion, greed, are not abstract anymore.

Through Vipassana, student’s realize that their own attitudes and addictions, suffering and happiness, are not caused by the outside world. It is the reactions to pleasant or unpleasant sensations the world evokes within the body, that dictate one’s actions, and conditions the mind.

By watching the physical sensations accompanying these emotions, and by understanding their impermanent nature, students can actually start changing the habit of blind reaction. 

Between the two poles of expression and suppression, lies a third option, mere observation. 

Disclosure: All the above “What is Vipassana?” text is taken directly from (1) the documentary “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana”, and (2) from a pamphlet about Vipassana Meditation, that I picked up when I attended my first Vipassana course.

If, in the future, you can find the time, please consider reading these books:

The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S.N. Goenka. by William Hart, with S.N. Goenka

Meditation Now: Inner Peace through Inner Wisdom. by S.N. Goenka

Our Vipassana Meditation Teacher: Commemoration of the first anniversary of his passing. By Pariyatti Publishing

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Part 5 of 7: Comments on the Scientific Revolution

Seeking refuge in imagination again, if Vipassana had been discovered today, or alternately, if we were to discover another technique-teaching to “come-out-of-suffering” today, we would certainly think of it as a wellness program, or a suffering reduction program, derived from a scientific mindset and process.

Today we are living in the scientific-industrial age, which, interesting to note, also happens to be about 500 years old. 

In his superb book “Sapiens”, historian Yuval Noah Harari argues that the scientific revolution came about because of “The Discovery of Ignorance”. Indeed he devotes an entire chapter to making the case, and he does it compellingly. He writes:

QUOTE

  • Modern science differs from all previous traditions of knowledge in three ways. (1)The willingness to admit ignorance. (2)The centrality of observation and mathematics. (3)The acquisition of new powers.
  • The scientific revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge. It has been above all a revolution of ignorance.
  • Modern-day science is a unique tradition of knowledge, inasmuch as it openly admits collective ignorance regarding the most important questions.
  • Modern culture has been willing to embrace ignorance to a much greater degree than any other previous culture.

UNQUOTE

Another statement about science that I’ve been hearing with increasing frequency goes something like this. “For most of the scientific revolution we have focused on the understanding and gaining knowledge and control over the world of matter.” We have greatly expanded our knowledge and control over physical things. 

But now another scientific revolution seems to be underway. A greater understanding and knowledge and control of the world of mind is beginning to unfold.

While humans have made mind-boggling advances in our control over physical things, we do not know whether we suffer any less than our ancestors who lived before the scientific revolution. This is, to say the least, a strange situation. As a result of all the awesome advances brought about by the scientific and industrial revolutions, we absolutely and 100% ought to suffer less, i.e. be happier. But we have no idea if this is so.

I believe we are at an inflection point. At another discovery of ignorance. Let’s call it “The Discovery of Ignorance. Version 2”. We can now more easily admit to ourselves that we do not have accurate ideas and narratives of why we suffer and react the way we do. And we are willing to look, in a scientifically disciplined and enlightened way, for new answers. Using the best practices, discipline, and rigor of the scientific process.

In his book “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True” author Richard Dawkins explains how the world really works. It is an introduction to a scientific world-view aimed at younger readers. The chapters have titles like, “Who was the first person?”, “Why are there so many different kinds of animals?”, “What are things made of?”, “What is the Sun?” What I found very interesting is the way he opens each chapter. He recalls myths and stories from the past, and then proceeds to give the more modern and scientific understanding.

For example, before answering the question “What is the Sun?”, he describes the beliefs – explanations of the Tiv tribe of Nigeria, the Barotse tribe of south-east Africa, the Japanese Shinto religion, various civilizations of South and Central America, the ancient Egyptian civilization, the ancient Greeks, the Norsemen, and the Hebrew tribe. As you can guess, all these explanations are fantastic myths. He then provides the scientific explanation that the sun is a star, no different from lots of other stars.

I feel, when it comes to knowing what’s really true about suffering, we are all partially in the non-scientific myths and story phase. We firmly believe that our suffering is caused by external events, external stories, external narratives, and various inter-subjective realities. We are unaware, even deeply ignorant of what is happening inside ourselves, inside our minds and bodies. And how the internal systems and processes within our bodies are actually generating our suffering.

Here’s a visual way to think about this. 

  1. Draw a square. Imagine everything inside the square represents “Me”. My body, my mind, etc.. Anything that happens inside of “Me” happens inside this square. Anything that happens because of “I Am”, “I Exist” happens inside this square.
  2. On the left side of the square, imagine six arrows pointing inside. Let’s call these arrows “inputs”. Let the first five arrows represent sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Let the sixth arrow represent “all-other-inputs”, whatever they may be. Including thoughts & emotions, to the extent these are inputs. Including anything else from the environment, that has the potential to influence anything that happens inside the square.
  3. On the right side of the square, imagine two arrows pointing outwards. Let these arrows represent “outputs”. Vocal Action. Physical Action.

According the to literature of Vipassana that I have studied, and as per my understanding, this is what happens inside of us. Any input initiates a sequence of events: 

  1. Consciousness. Cognition. Information that senses are activated. Signals are received.
  2. Recognition. Evaluation. Pattern recognition. The fresh input is compared with stored memories, and basis pattern recognition, is recognized and evaluated. These evaluations are frequently “a towards evaluation” (I like this. This is good) or “an away evaluation” (I don’t like this. This is not good).
  3. Internal systems decide some action is required and initiate a response. They allocate attention, resources, and energy to taking action. This very basic decision occurs at a bio-chemical level. It generates sensations, both pleasant (I like this. This is good) sensations, and unpleasant (I don’t like this. This is not good) sensations. These sensations can be sensed by a trained, focused, and present mind. Mostly of us are unaware of these sensations.
  4. These sensations then drive (mostly subconsciously) our default / automatic / blind reactions. This is our mental-conditioning.

With my engineering background, I’m drawn to, and attracted by this kind of systems thinking.

Now let’s imagine a real life situation. Let’s imagine that someone angers me by either disrespecting someone I respect, or deprecating or something I value. I get angry. When I get angry, I usually respond with aggression. My “habit-pattern”. My “blind-reaction”. My “default-program-response”. At this point, I will automatically respond with vocal and / or physical action. This is my mental-conditioning. If you were to ask me why I responded with aggression, I would blame the person who was disrespectful or deprecating. I am assigning cause of my actions to an external source. I am assigning the cause of my outputs to my inputs, and not to my internal systems.

If I am willing to review the situation in the light of “The Discovery of Ignorance. Version 2”, then I may recognize that the disrespectful & deprecating person merely provided inputs, (left side inward pointing arrows) which triggered-initiated a sequence of events inside of me. It was the combination of my internal memories and response systems that generated my unique response. I don’t like this. This is not good. Systems and processes inside the square generated my response. I reacted with aggression. Vocal action and physical action. Right side outward pointing arrows. 

If I am ignorant of the inner workings within the square, then I assign blame (assign causality) to the inputs for my outputs.

This thinking also explains why different people have different outputs to identical inputs.

Vipassana mediation is a training for getting to know ourselves, and our internal habit patterns at the sensation level. Once we know this from our direct experience, it becomes abundantly clear to us that we are 100% responsible for generating our outputs. I’ll repeat, our internal systems are 100% responsible for generating our outputs.

To reiterate an earlier segment:

Students learn how to observe objectively, all the sensations in their bodies, whatever they may be, without reacting to them. They watch emotions come and go. They watch pain come and go. They watch pleasure come and go. And they realize, not intellectually, but through their own experience, that nothing is permanent. Hatred, passion, greed, are not abstract anymore.

Through Vipassana student’s realize that their own attitudes and addictions, suffering and happiness, are not caused by the outside world. It is the reactions to pleasant or unpleasant sensations the world evokes within the body, that dictate one’s actions, and conditions the mind.

By watching the physical sensations accompanying these emotions, and by understanding their impermanent nature, students can actually start changing the habit of blind reaction

I believe that this combination of “Discovery of Ignorance. Version 2”, with scientific investigation into the world of mind, and existing knowledge from the world of meditation will result in revolutionary way of knowing and understanding our minds, our bodies, and our blind reactions. And will give us new capabilities, new insights and new tools to eliminate human defilements and suffering.

If we can combine the best practices of 500 years of Buddha’s teachings, with the best practices of 500 years of the scientific revolution, with “Discovery of Ignorance. Version 2”, we may well be initiating a 2,500 year era of nobility, peace, harmony, equanimity and objectivity, with no parallel in human history.

If, in the future, you can find the time, please consider reading these three (Science & Meditation) books:

  1. Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. by Daniel Goleman & Richard J. Davidson
  2. Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. by Robert Wright
  3. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom. by Rick Hanson PH.D. with Richard Mendius, MD

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Part 6 of 7: International Day of (Inner) Peace

Basis my current understanding and experience, inner peace always precedes outer peace. Peace is first created inside of ourselves, the square, and only then expressed as peaceful vocal action and/or peaceful physical action, the right side outward pointing arrows. As surely as suffering is primarily an inside job, so too is peace primarily an inside job. 

It is interesting to know that there is an International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) which is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace. https://internationaldayofpeace.org/ 

I think a time will soon come, when the combination of unfolding science-of-mind, increasing knowledge of meditation, and Discovery of Ignorance, Ver 2, will make it abundantly clear that there can be no real outer peace, without preceding inner peace.

Perhaps the time has come for another unanimous United Nations resolution to designate another day as International Day of Inner Peace (“Inner Peace Day”). A day on which all of us as individuals commit anew to taking responsibility for our own individual inner peace. And then building a global culture of peace and harmony on this necessary foundation.

For me, the choice of the date is obvious. It should be June 20th, the date on which Sayagyi U Ba Khin appointed S.N. Goenka a Vipassana Teacher. And entrusted him with the great responsibility of returning a priceless teaching to India. And then spreading it throughout the world. For the benefit of all.

In August 2000, over one thousand religious and spiritual leaders gathered at the United Nations to participate in the Millennium World Peace Summit. S.N. Goenka’s speech was particularly well received. https://youtu.be/Ty6QdT71R78. Here’s a small excerpt from the speech: To think of peace in the human society, we cannot ignore individuals. If there is no peace in the mind of the individual, I cannot understand how there can be real peace in the human world.

The ideas and language of the speech should form the bulk of the UN resolution.

Victor Hugo’s quote—Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come—comes to mind. Individual inner peace is the only sure foundation of world peace. This is an idea whose time has come. May this idea be expressed with power and precision in a UN Resolution that establishes an International Day of Inner Peace (“Inner Peace Day”). Preferably on June 20th.

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Part 7 of 7: My Vipassana Voyage

This segment will be of very minor interest to most readers, specially readers who have not completed a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. So if you prefer, please feel absolutely free to proceed directly to the last section, “Summary, Tie Up, Connecting Some Dots, and Closing”

My Vipassana voyage began in January 2018. At the age of 58.

First, a little bit about me. I’m Rashid N. Kapadia, a fortunate man. I grew up in India in the 1960s and 1970s in a home full of love and contentment. My parents, who gave me a very good life, always set stellar standards, and they were sterling role models. I was fortunate to go to a historic boarding school steeped in rich historic traditions. High commitment to education, rationality, extra-curricular activities, scholarship, excellence, and discipline were demanded and expected. My environment and surroundings were primarily secular. Religion and spirituality were distant backgrounds awarenesses. Nothing more. These were the forces that shaped my life. I started out professionally as a marine engineering apprentice. I progressed from junior-engineer to chief-engineer. I moved to the US as a graduate student when I was in my mid-30s. I went on to become a manager and a project manager, and then branched into public speaking, even wrote a book on public speaking for engineers and project managers. I’m based in Houston TX. That’s me. 

Back to my Vipassana voyage, which you will recall began in January 2018. At the age of 58.

I was familiar with, “Vipassana”, “SN Goenka”, “10-day silent meditation retreat” etc. for decades, because my mother had been attending 10-day Vipassana courses regularly from 1982. She always spoke glowingly about her experiences, and about the people she met.

I’d read a few books about mindfulness and meditation over the last 7 – 10 years and was increasingly convinced that indeed, “mindfulness is the new jogging”. The book that most influenced and persuaded me was  written by a Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan called “Search Inside Yourself”.

Still, I had no serious interest, or real intention of taking up meditation. It just wasn’t something I saw as necessary, valuable, or worthwhile. I’d loosely tagged meditation as something I might experiment with in the future.

In 2015 I read Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and was deeply influenced by it. It reshaped my thinking and worldview considerably. I judged Harari to be the most clear-thinking, most rational, least biased, least dogmatic thinker and writer I’d ever encountered.

In 2017 I got his next book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow”. I was astonished to read the dedication; “To my teacher, S. N. Goenka (1924 – 2013) who lovingly taught me important things.” And I was puzzled.

I just couldn’t make a connection. A ultra-educated historian, an ultra-rational thinker-writer, and a thought leader, seemed to have no connection to meditation in my mind.

I called my mother and told her that one of my favorite authors was a Vipassana student too. I asked her to tell me more about Vipassana. I also began researching it online. 

I was especially interested in learning why Harari had dedicated his second book to his teacher. I listened to a few YouTube clips. I heard Yuval Noah Harari saying:

  • I completed my first 10-day Vipassana course when I was a PhD student at Oxford university. Since then, for the last 18 years, I’ve meditated one hour every morning, and one hour every evening. And I try and complete a 30 or 60 day meditation retreat every year.
  • I don’t think I could have written my books without (1) the focus and (2) the discipline and (3) ability to separate fact and story, had I not taken up Vipassana meditation.
  • Vipassana meditation is the least dogmatic thing I ever encountered in life.

You can watch a ~10-minute interview segment of Yuval Noah Harari discussing his Vipassana connection here: https://youtu.be/i1_YhlXiuxE 

This aroused my curiosity greatly.

I began to watch YouTube clips from other students who’d completed these courses. They were from all over the globe. Some of the clips had tens of thousands of views. Most of the speakers on the clips spoke appreciatively, even glowingly of their experiences. And about feeling fundamentally changed. And about these ten days representing a unique accomplishment. There were a few negative reviews too.

I experimented with some meditation on my own. It was not easy, but not that hard either. 

I decided to apply for a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. I was accepted. I completed the course. I knew that I would continue. I had inadvertently discovered a precious gem, a treasure.

My top three takeaways from my first 10-day course:

  1. This is really hard work. Oh dear me … this is really hard work. It is my duty, my responsibility, to work really hard for all ten days. To be grateful for this gift that has been given to me by past and unknown students. And to take advantage of every minute that has been granted to me. Every minute. No slacking off. No shirking. No excuses.
  2. I had no idea that my mind wandered so continuously, so rapidly, and so relentlessly. Or that I had so little control over it. I felt a bit like a tourist visiting the control room that  was responsible for regulating my life. Oh dear me … so this is what is happening. I have plenty of long-term work to do to remedy this!
  3. Indeed, all my suffering, anger, resentment, etc., is an inside job. 100% inside job. And I now have an option, a technique, to dissolve these defilements. I can actually sense, inside my body, the onset/initiation of these defilements. These sensations, both pleasant and unpleasant, are like an early warning system. And by calmly (and curiously) observing these sensations with equanimity, objectivity and detachment, I can free myself of my blind/automatic/default reactions. I have options. This is good!

Where am I now?

  • I try to meditate between 1 – 2 hours daily. 
  • I try and attend weekly “1-hour group sittings”. 
  • I try and attend monthly “1-day courses”. 
  • I plan to take a 10-day course annually. 
  • I plan to serve (volunteer) a 10-day course once every 3 years.
  • I’ve created and maintained a “Vipassana Voyage Video Log” to track my progress and insights. The plan is to make one video every 3 -6 months. And to occasionally write essays like this one.
  • I plan to reread 3 or more Vipassana (& other meditation) books every year.
  • I plan to listen to all 11 Discourses regularly.
  • I am aware that I’ve discovered a precious gem. A treasure.

I consider myself a novice. I am aware that my mind wanders continuously, rapidly, and relentlessly. This seems like an endless internal battle. This is a long-term endeavor. But I am making progress. I’ve completed my second ten day course as a student, and I’ve also served a ten day course. I can now, only occasionally, complete one hour sittings without moving at all, or opening my eyes. There is plenty of room for progress and improvement. And all too often, 1-hour meditation sittings are still too hard.

Why am I continuing? What’s in it for me?

Given that it takes so much effort and time, why have I decided to long-term commit to doing Vipassana meditation?

For the same reasons I try to:

  • Get optimal rest. Sleep sensibly and responsibly.
  • Exercise. Adequately and regularly. Avoid injury.
  • Eat sensibly. Small portions. Healthy foods only. Avoid excess sugars, salts, fats. Avoid processed foods.
  • Have excellent relationships. With everyone.

Clearly, every one, including me, is better off by committing to the above list of best-practices. Even though we are seldom optimally successful.

I now see meditation as a form of “exercise” and “training”—for the mind. It is a foundational part of “good-habits-for-life”. It is “healthy and nourishing mind food”. It also helps cleanse the mind of impurities and defilements on a daily basis. There is no magic here. It is simply another internal process, one that we will better understand as scientific investigation advances and unfolds.

My two favorite definitions of meditation both come from Harari:

  • Meditation is any method for the direct observation of one’s own mind.
  • Meditation is a training for people to observe their own minds systematically.

And I found this from Harari to be particularly helpful; QUOTE. Though many religions have made extensive use of various meditation techniques, this doesn’t mean that meditation is necessarily religious. Many religions have also made extensive use of books, yet that doesn’t mean that reading books is religious practice. UNQUOTE

Benefits I seek:

The primary benefit I seek is “The Greatest Welfare”.

  • When I’m faced faced with all the ups and downs of life, still my mind remains unshaken, not lamenting, not generating defilement, and always feeling secure.
  • A mind that is unshaken by the vicissitudes of life. A mind that is secure, stainless, and sorrowless.

Secondary benefits I seek are:

  • The kind of focus and discipline that Yuval Noah Harari talks about.
  • The ability, like Yuval Noah Harari’s, to separate fact and story.
  • More equanimity.
  • More objectivity.
  • More detachment. More non-attachment. Also referred to as “Sacred Indifference” or “Holy Indifference”.
  • More serenity. 

Finally, from the Vipassana literature and pamphlets I’ve picked up: 

QUOTE 

Equanimity gives rise to four qualities of a pure mind:

  • Goodwill.
  • Love that seeks the benefit of others, without expecting anything in return.
  • Compassion for others in their failings and sufferings.
  • Sympathetic (genuine) joy in the success and good fortune of others.

UNQUOTE

I absolutely & 100% would like to default more and more to these four qualities.

I am very grateful that I stumbled across and have taken up Vipassana meditation. I wish I had started much earlier in life.

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Summary, Tie Up, Connecting Some Dots, and Closing

We have painted over a wide canvas. We have travelled across 5,000 years. Time to summarize, connect some dots, tie up some loose ends, and close.

Around 2,500 years ago a remarkable young man, born into highest privilege, decided to investigate the cause of suffering, even though it would cost him everything. It led to an arduous six year journey. He prevailed. He discovered a cause and prescribed a remedy. The Four Noble Truths, and Noble Eightfold Path. He came to be known as the Buddha. He was an outstanding teacher. Buddha spent 45 years traveling and teaching others how to come out of suffering. 

The technique and the teachings spread far and wide. 

Approximately three hundred years after the Buddha, Emperor Ashoka decreed that the teachings and technique, also referred to as “Universal Law”, or “Dhamma”, be made a central pillar of his rule. He had teachers trained, and sent them far and wide. All over India. And then across the world. For the benefit of all. 

It was an era—perhaps even a golden age—of about 500 years across India and its neighboring countries.

Over time, the teachings and the technique got altered and changed, even corrupted. They lost some of their efficacy. They became a religion. They became rites and rituals. They became sectarian. They lost some of their non-sectarian, no-rites-no-rituals, for-the-good-of-all, core characteristics.

However, in one place, Burma, the technique and teachings were maintained in pristine purity for around 2,000 years. Why? Because of a belief in a prophecy that Burma, then known as Suvarṇabhūmi (Golden Land) would be responsible for preserving the technique and teachings, in pristine purity. And … the prophecy continued …  even if the teachings and technique were lost everywhere in the world, they would not be lost in Burma. And that Burma would, 2,500 years after the Buddha, return the technique and teachings to India, the land of its origin. From where they would spread throughout the world.

Two thousand five hundred years passed. The Clock Of Vipassana Struck! A leading Vipassana teacher in Burma, Sayagyi U Ba Khin ardently believed that the time had come to return the technique and teaching to India. His student, another young leader in Burmese society S.N. Goenka was returning to India. Sayagyi U Ba Khin promoted S. N. Goenka to a Vipassana Meditation Teacher and  entrusted him with a great responsibility: “Return this priceless teaching to India. And then spread it throughout the world. For the benefit of all”.

In June 1969 S.N. Goenka returned to India. He conducted the first 10-day Vipassana meditation course in Bombay on July 3, 1969. S.N. Goenka was a teacher, organizer, and leader extraordinaire. And … slowly but surely, the technique and teachings of Vipassana meditation spread across India … and then around the world. For the benefit of all. The prophecy came true.

Around 500 years ago our species, Homo Sapiens, started a scientific and industrial revolution that would transform the planet on a scale and at a speed never seen before in history. It was initiated by “The Discovery of Ignorance.” In 1945 with the creation of the first atomic bomb, humans acquired the ability to destroy themselves and their planet. We came perilously close to thermonuclear annihilation during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. People who lived through the crisis remember it as being a time of unprecedented global anxiety. 

The indefinite coexistence of human defilements AND increasingly ubiquitous knowledge to create annihilation weapons will result in the elimination of Homo Sapiens. 

Something will have to change if our species is to live and thrive for the coming 2,500 years. If humans can systematically, and on scale, eliminate human defilements in a universal, non-sectarian, sensible, strategic, and scientific way, we may just make it to the year 4469. 

I believe that a silent global revolution to eliminate these defilements began in July 1969 when the Vipassana meditation technique and teachings returned to India.

If as humans, we neither destroy ourselves, nor our environment, and make it to the year 4469, we may look back 2,500 years and identify the return of Vipassana from Burma to India, as the most impactful historical event of the year 1969.

By combining the best practices of 500 years of the Buddha’s teachings, with the best practices of 500 years of the scientific revolution, with the Discovery of Ignorance, Ver 2, we may well be initiating a 2,500 year era of nobility, peace, harmony, equanimity, balance, and objectivity, with no parallel in human history.

Around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, musician and song writer—now Nobel Laurette—Bob Dylan released a song called “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. It is a 7-minute episodic masterpiece, with apocalyptic imagery that captured the anxiety and dark mood of those dangerous times. And it reminds me of the devastation that human defilements can inflict on the human race. Here, as a sample, are few lines from that song:

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?

I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it.

I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it.

I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken

I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children

Dylan folklore tells us that he initially wrote the fourth line as “I saw a highway of golden with nobody on it”.

A line that, for me, captures perfectly of the role that Vipassana meditation can play in our times.

Vipassana meditation—the teachings and the technique—is a highway of golden; with more and more and more people all around the world a-steppin onto it. A highway that Buddha pointed out to his followers millennia ago. A highway that was preserved in Suvarṇabhūmi, “Golden Land” for over two thousand years. A highway that returned to its country of origin in 1969. A highway that has now spread throughout the world. For the benefit of all.

I stepped onto this “Highway of Golden” in January 2018. 

I invite you step on it too. Consider completing a 10-day Vipassana training course. It may or may not be optimal for you. But, if you decide to do it, please, give it a full and fair trial. It may change you, and help you live with a little more balance, and a little more equanimity. And with a little less suffering. Imagine Buddha saying these words directly to you, “The world is full of pain and sorrow. But I have found serenity that you can find too.” And here’s fair warning. It is hard work. It is really and truly hard work … So what? … Well over a million students have completed the training … So can you … Be willing to be guided by Buddha’s last words, “Strive on. Untiringly.”

Final reminder:

  • Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique. The word Vipassana means seeing things as they really are. 
  • It is the process of self- purification by self-observation. 
  • It can be freely practiced by everyone, at any time, in any place, and will prove beneficial to one and all.

Vipassana is not:

  • It is not a rite or ritual based on blind faith.
  • It is neither an intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
  • It is not a rest cure, a holiday, or an opportunity for socializing.
  • It is not an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

Vipassana is:

  • It is a technique that will eradicate suffering.
  • It is a method of mental purification which allows one to face life’s tensions and problems in a calm, balanced way.
  • It is a simple, practical way to achieve real peace of mind, and to lead a happy, useful life.
  • It is an art of living that one can use to make positive contributions to society.

We have come to the close of a long and meandering essay.  Let me leave you now, my fellow citizens—all of us Homo Sapiens, sharing a small and precious planet—with some words and ideas of then president elect John F. Kennedy (from his January 9, 1961 “The City Upon a Hill” speech delivered to the Massachusetts State House) as he prepared for his ascendency to the presidency: Significantly modified by yours truly, to suit our topic, and our times.

For of those to whom much is given, much is required. 

And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us—recording whether in our brief spans we fulfilled our responsibilities to each other, our success or failure will be measured by our answer to this question: Were we citizens who committed to nobility, and who contributed to peace and harmony? 

Nobility, peace, harmony, equanimity, balance, objectivity. These are the qualities which are “the-need-of-our-times”. And these are the qualities we hope will characterize human conduct in the decades, centuries, and millennia that lie ahead. The qualities that will allow each and every one of us to do our part in building “A Highway of Golden” for all future generations.

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ADDENDUM: References and Recommended Resources

Referenced & Recommended books

  1. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. by Walter Isaacson
  2. The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S.N. Goenka. by William Hart, with S.N. Goenka
  3. Meditation Now: Inner Peace through Inner Wisdom. by S.N. Goenka
  4. Our Vipassana Meditation Teacher: Commemoration of the first anniversary of his passing. By Pariyatti Publishing
  5. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humans. Yuval Noah Harari
  6. The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. by Richard Dawkins
  7. Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. by Daniel Goleman & Richard J. Davidson
  8. Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. by Robert Wright
  9. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom. by Rick Hanson PH.D. with Richard Mendius, MD
  10. Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace). by Chade-Meng Tan

Referenced & Recommended Documentaries & Videos

  1. The Fog of War: 11 Lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara. http://freedocumentaries.org/documentary/the-fog-of-war#watch-film 
  2. The Buddha https://youtu.be/EDgd8LT9AL4 
  3. Doing Time, Doing Vipassana https://youtu.be/WkxSyv5R1sg 
  4. 10-minute interview segment of Yuval Noah Harari discussing his Vipassana connection https://youtu.be/i1_YhlXiuxE 

Referenced & Recommended Article, Speeches and Song

  1. Overlooked No More: S.N. Goenka, Who Brought Mindfulness to the West https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/obituaries/sn-goenka-overlooked.html 
  2. S.N. Goenka UN speech. August 2000. Millennium World Peace Summit. https://youtu.be/Ty6QdT71R78
  3. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. Bob Dylan. http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/hard-rains-gonna-fall/.   https://youtu.be/T5al0HmR4to
  4. The City Upon a Hill. John F. Kennedy. https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/historic-speeches/the-city-upon-a-hill-speech

Two Vipassana related TED Talks 

  1. Vipassana Meditation and Body Sensation. Eilona Ariel. TEDxJaffa 2013. https://youtu.be/ixu4Kd5R1DI 
  2. The Only Way Out is In. Jenny Phillips. TEDxBoston. 2011. https://youtu.be/150cqgYh8sQ 

Some Other Videos

  1. Experiences of (European) Vipassana Meditators. https://youtu.be/OT1_29yHH5E 
  2. My “Vipassana Voyage Videos” can be viewed on this playlist. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_xUb-mxY20FO7E0mBGANzNdGbAbZXQdM 

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#Vipassana #VipassanaMeditation #Goenka #SNGoenka #SayagyiUBaKhin #Burma #India #SpreadOfVipassanaMeditation #TheBuddha #Buddha #SiddharthaGotama #Suffering #Liberation #Enlightenment #Nobility #TheGreatestWelfare #Peace #Harmony #Equanimity #Balance #Objectivity #Serenity #Morality #Concentration #Wisdom #Sila #Samadhi #Panna #SilaSamadhiPanna #YuvalNoahHarari #Sapiens #HomoDeus #1969 #1969FiftyYearsLater #Prophecy #AncientProphecy #CubanMissileCrisis #FogOfWar #RobertMcNamara #RobertSMcNamara #BobDylan #HardRainAGonnaFall #JFK #JohnFKennedy #CityUponAHill #CityUponAHillSpeech 

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Key Phrase “You Must Make A Contribution”—The HP Way

Wishing you the very best for 2018
May we be gifted—even blessed— with an immense pressure to make a contribution.

The thing that I fell in love with was that there was an immense pressure to make a contribution. That was the key phrase. You have to make a contribution.—The HP Way

In 2015 I read a book called Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations. The authors claimed that:

Hewlett-Packard Co. in the 1950s and 1960s is sometimes described as the greatest corporation of all time. It offered more progressive employee programs than any company before or since, and—not surprisingly—it set records for employee happiness and morale that have never again been matched by a large corporation.

I was intrigued. My initial intuition was to dismiss some of the statement, especially—it set records … that have never again been matched by a large corporation—as hyperbole. I checked out both the authors Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone and discovered impeccable credentials. I was intrigued. I doubted that both authors would have agreed to include such a declarative statement without being sure. This was worth looking into.

I found a documentary on YouTube called “HP Origins”. Within this movie I discovered a gem of an insight, absolute treasure, perhaps the very source code for enduring success. Here is a clip of this insight

The purpose of a company is not to make money. It makes money in order to do be able to do what it’s really all about and in our case that is to make a contribution.

We are here to create things that if we didn’t create them, the world would be worse off, and if you don’t understand that you don’t understand the HP way.

The thing that I fell in love with was that there was an immense pressure to make a contribution. That was the key phrase. You have to make a contribution.

You didn’t just bring out a product because you thought you could make money on it. You brought out a product because you thought it was … some dimension in which it was significantly better.  What this really means, in this sense, is not to be a “me too” … not to enter an area unless you feel you have something really to contribute because if we just try and follow someone … you’re always going to be at the tail end.

I posted a blog article on October 24, 2015 evangelizing this approach in public speaking.

The thing that I fell in love with was that there was an immense pressure to make a contribution. That was the key phrase. You have to make a contribution.

Wishing you the very best for 2018—May you be gifted—even blessed— with an immense pressure to make a contribution.


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Every engineer can be a better engineer
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every professional can be a better professional
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every citizen can be a better citizen
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

I help citizens, professionals, and engineers become better public speakers and storytellerswww.NecessaryBridges.com

Book Description
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers & Engineers

Every engineer & STEM professional can articulate an engineering & STEM challenge as eloquently and inspirationally as the speaker does in the audio of this clip. At the very least, every engineer and STEM professional can aspire to do so.

STEM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Audio = JFK/moon speech segment/Rice University Sept 12, 1962

Leading a Team? Preparing a Presentation? Think Different. Think “Memory Palace”

A trained memory is a gift you can give yourself, your teams, and your audiences.

Learn the Gettysburg Address in 1-hour! using the Memory Palace Technique.

Few years ago I attended a memory training breakout session. The instructor challenged the attendees to remember a random list of 15 items. He asked for a volunteer to recall the list aloud. I volunteered to try. To my utter shockand I am being neither modest nor gracious—I remembered every item correctly, in correct order. The whole room started clapping—implying that I was very smart. I certainly am not very smart. I certainly do not have a special or trained memory. This was an eye-opener for me. I do not remember remembering a 15-item list from memory ever. Yet, when I tried I could!

What I did was place each item systematically in a location of my childhood home, and create a strong visual with each item. The instructor asked how I remembered the list. I mentioned reading the book “Moonwalking with Einstein” recently, and trying out the memory palace technique by creating a route and placing images on that route. He was familiar with the book and concurred that most memory training is based on this fundamental approach.


Learn the Gettysburg Address in 1-hour! using the Memory Palace Technique.

Summary of steps

  1. Read the Gettysburg address repeatedly. (4 minutes)
  2. Watch the video 3 times. (6 minutes)
  3. Associate each phrase with a speaker. (10 minutes)
  4. Place images of speaker on an intimately familiar route. (10 minutes)
  5. Walk around the route, visualizing each speaker and additional associations. (20 minutes)
  6. Read again. Watch the video again. (5 minutes)
  7. Walk around the route again reciting the lines out loud from memory. (5 minutes)

By the end of this one hour, you should know the Gettysburg Address quite well and will be able to remember it for a longer time.

GOOD LUCK!


Steps in DETAIL:

Step 0:
Do the needful to bring your body & mind to a state that is “relaxed & alert”, “calm & curious” and in a zone that is “between boredom & anxiety”. Don’t bypass this step.


Step 1minutes 0 – 4
Read the address repeatedly. Don’t try to memorize or analyze. Just read to comprehend and familiarize. It takes me about 1 minute to read it each time.

Gettysburg Address—POTUS Abraham Lincoln—November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Step 2minutes 4 – 10
Watch this 1:45 minutes video 3 times
First time focus on visuals (images) while recognizing the words.
Second time focus on subtitles and the way the speaker sounds and speaks.
Third time focus on your feelings/emotions/body sensations as the lines are being delivered.

We are creating images and maximizing associational hooks.


Step 3minutes 10 – 20
Strongly associate each phrase of the address with the speaker. Additionally associate each phrase with the way the speaker sounds, the way the subtitles look, and the way you feel when listening to the phrase—i.e. maximize associational hooks to trigger memory. Images below will help you:


Step 4minutes 20 – 30 
Select a route you are intimately familiar with. (It could be a running or walking path. It could be you walking through your childhood home and using objects in each room, or the walls, or the corners of each room. This is the part I can least help you with. For this speech, which I know by heart, I’ve used memories of my boarding school, i.e. my childhood hauntsPlace each person/image systematically on that route. Do this systematically and thoroughly.


Step 5minutes 30 – 50
Walk around the route, visualizing each speaker and additional associations—and say the correlating phrases out loud. Return to earlier steps if needed.


Step 6minutes 50 – 55
Read the address again. Watch the video again


Step 7minutes 55 – 60
Walk around the route again—reciting the speech from memory.


Final Step: On completion, take a break, and do something completely different. Enjoy yourself. Next, hours later, or even days later, in your mind:

  • Walk around your memory palace.
  • Reflect on all you studied.
  • Ask your self “Mission accomplished?”
  • When the answer is yes, celebrate the small victory.
  • Teaching the Gettysburg Address to it to someone else; even if only an imaginary person.

Don’t bypass this step.

GOOD LUCK!


APPENDIX: Additional Resources

A TED talk and 2 books


For more on Memorizing, Listening and Connecting, read Chapter 15 of my book
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking and Storytelling for Project Managers and Engineers.

Click here for a gift pdf version of Chapter 15.

to Review or Purchase ($9.99)
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers and Engineers


Rashid N. Kapadia: Awards, Testimonials, & Talks

www.NecessaryBridges.com


 

 

A Talk Renaissance

Eleven years ago, to the day, on June 22, 2006, as an experiment, 6 talk-videos were posted on a website. At that time ted.com was getting about a thousand visits per day. TED hoped that these online-video-talks would lead to about two million views per year. What happened next changed the world. The first day there were ten thousand views. As of late 2015 TED talks are viewed 100 million times a month—1.2 billion times a year. An entirely new way of spreading ideas and knowledge went mainstream and viral.

In his book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Chris Anderson, the leader of TED refers to this as a

In the (highly unlikely) event you are not familiar with TED talks, check out this Playlist – 25 most viewed TED talks. A vast display of expertise and thought-diversity: generously gifted by TED to all humanity.

The original Renaissance (14th century to the 17th century) was a bridge between the middle ages  and the modern world. Prior this Renaissance,  knowledge was the preserve of only a few privileged and powerful people. Gutenberg’s printing press (early 1440s) changed that, and the spread of knowledge exploded at a pace never seen before in human history.

Chris Anderson argues, and I agree, that something similar is underway right now. A Talk Renaissance is underway right now. It is the combination of skillful speaking in a theatre setting … and viral online video. New knowledge and ideas are spreading at a pace never seen before in human history. Exhibit A for this argument is Ken Robinson’s Talk, one of the 6 posted 11 years ago, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?“. His core message is “creativity today is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” This talk was originally viewed by a live audience of about 800 people. Today it is viewed more than 800 times every hour! Today it has over 45.7M views.

There are more than 3000 TED / TED Global / TEDx events every year, about 8 – 10 everyday.

For some more context, TED was started in 1984 to bring thought-leaders in Technology, Entertainment and Design together. It was a very successful conference for 22 years, but a niche one, and not a global game changer. TED’s transition to global game changer began on June 22, 2006, when ideas worth spreading, well delivered, were disseminated by online video.

Chris Anderson states, “I wish to persuade you of something: That however much public speaking skills matter today, they’re going to matter even more in the future.” I agree fully. If you speak or present today, you will likely end up being compared with a TED speaker. Presentation illiteracy will become less and less acceptable. Today presentation illiteracy is still more the norm than the exception.

I, Rashid N. Kapadia submit to you that today, eloquence  is as important as thoughtfulness, judgement and intelligence and it should be elevated to the same status.

I wish to persuade you that however important you think that eloquence is today, it will be more important tomorrow. I wish to persuade you to elevate eloquence to the same status as thoughtfulness, judgement, and intelligence.

This book is highly recommended for those who do not wish to be left behind in the Talk Renaissance. See Appendix  for my detailed book review.

I’ll close with two statements from the book.

  1. Today in the connected era, we should resurrect the noble art and make it education’s fourth R: reading, ’riting, ’rithmetic … and rhetoric.
  2. The revolution in public speaking is something everyone can be a part of. If we can find a way to truly listen tone another, and learn from each other, the future glitters with promise.

GOOD LUCK!


______________________________________________________________________

www.NecessaryBridges.com

Every engineer can be a better engineer
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every professional can be a better professional
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every citizen can be a better citizen
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

I help citizens, professionals, and engineers become better public speakers and storytellers.
www.NecessaryBridges.com

Book Description
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers & Engineers

Every engineer & STEM professional can articulate an engineering & STEM challenge as eloquently and inspirationally as the speaker does in the audio of this clip. At the very least, every engineer and STEM professional can aspire to do so.

STEM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Audio = JFK/moon speech segment/Rice University Sept 12, 1962

______________________________________________________________________


Appendix

My May 6, 2016 Amazon book review of posted TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking

TED Talks are a unique and marvelous gift to the world. They have transformed the public speaking landscape; they have certainly upgraded my world-view.

It is therefore easy to predict that a book authored by the most visible face of, and the driving force behind TED Talks is destined to become a ubiquitous guide book—perhaps eventually become a classic.

I have studied many books on public speaking. I pre-ordered this one the moment I heard of it. It has been one of the most satisfying reads on the subject yet. I recommend that if you get only one book on public speaking, let it be this one. I further recommend that no matter how many other books you have on public speaking, if you are a serious student of this engaging art, then get this book.

The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking is beautifully and thoughtfully put together. It is detailed and thorough, yet not difficult or dry. It has five sections (Foundation, Talk Tools, Preparation Process, On Stage, & Reflection). It is simultaneously pragmatic and inspiring—can’t put it down. I badly want to highlight, make notes, visit links etc., & yet I don’t because I can’t get myself to stop reading—even though very little is new to me! For sure, I will have to read this book repeatedly!

The first four sections are excellent, but it is the last section, “Reflections” that takes the book to another level. Here the author exquisitely shares his stories; how he first got exposed to TED, and his subsequent voyage to the present. It is a magical TED Talk like experience. It is the best part of the book. Only after completing this section did I get a fuller understanding of why TED has become the phenomenon it has.

If you are already knowledgeable about public speaking, I recommend you start out by reading this section first. Here are some of my highlights:

  • I wish to persuade you of something: That however much public speaking skills matter today, they’re going to matter even more in the future.
  • There was an exhilaration in learning how many different types of expertise there were in the world.
  • On day three, something really strange happened. My overstimulated brain began sparking like a lightning storm. Every time a new speaker got up and spoke, it felt like a new thunderbolt of wisdom. Ideas from one talk would connect in a thrilling way with something shared by others two days earlier.
  • For my entire entrepreneurial life, my mantra has been to follow the passion. Not my passion—other people’s.
  • Passion was a proxy for potential.
  • We must distinguish knowledge from understanding. The key to understanding anything was to understand the context in which it sat … It is only by looking at that larger pattern that you gain actual understanding.
  • So actually what made TED work was not really just the synergy between technology, entertainment, and design. It was actually the connectedness of all knowledge.
  • In the years since then, I’ve become evermore convinced of the significance of the connectedness of knowledge.
  • A deeper understanding of our own humanity comes not from listening to your parents or your friends, nor to psychologists, neuroscientists, historians, evolutionary biologists, anthropologists, or spiritual teachers. It comes from listening to all of them.
  • We’re entering an era where we all need to spend a lot more time learning from each other.
  • The revolution in public speaking is something everyone can be part of. If we can find a way to truly listen to each other, to learn from each other, the future glitters with promise.

In the first 4 sections, (Foundation, Talk Tools, Preparation Process, & On Stage) the author treats the material with even-handed erudition. He discusses common traps. His explanation and evangelization of “the throughline” is excellent, and solidified with examples from TED talks. He conveys the idea of a talk being a journey compellingly. He provides a checklist. He discusses five core tools—connection, narration, explanation, persuasion, and revelation—very well.

The author shines through as wise, thorough, and helpful; committed to sharing everything without holding back, without taking sides, or being preachy or superior.

I will cover one chapter in detail to show that this is so. Chapter 11 discusses scripting vs. not scripting, and memorizing vs. reading. Here the author shares lessons learned from the past and how they found it best not to be too rigid in rules on talk delivery, even though the rules generally make sense. He talks about a phase in preparation called the “Uncanny Valley” where everything is super-close to seeming real but is not quite there. Here are some of my highlights:

  • There are many ways to prepare for and deliver a TED talk, and it’s important to find the one that’s right for you.
  • More than anything else, what matters is that speakers are comfortable and confident, giving the talk in a way that best allows them to focus on what they’re passionate about.
  • Today we don’t have set rules. We just have suggestions for helping speakers find the mode of delivery that will be most powerful for them.
  • So what I’d say to speakers planning to memorize their talks is this: “That’s great. You’re giving yourself the best chance for a huge hit. But it is absolutely essential to take yourself through the Uncanny Valley and don’t get stuck there. If you’re not willing to commit to do that, do not memorize!”
  • There’s a lot to be said for going unscripted. It can sound fresh, alive, real, like your thinking out loud … But it is important to distinguish between unscripted and unprepared. In an important talk there’s no excuse for the latter.
  • Frankly the old-fashioned method of a set of punchy notes handwritten on cards is still a decent way to keep yourself on track.
  • TED speakers have widely different opinions, by the way, on whether a memorized script or a prepared talk-in-the-moment is the better way to go.
  • Dan Gilbert—A great talk is both scripted and improvisational. It is precisely like a great jazz performance.
  • Rehearse your impromptu remarks … If everything in a talk leads in perfect lockstep fashion towards its conclusion, it wins points for logic but can leave the audience feeling as though they have been on a forced march rather than a pleasant, companionable walk.
  • The majority of TED speakers do in fact script their whole talk and memorize it, and do their best to avoid letting it sound memorized.

Every chapter is equally strong. I repeat, this is a book absolutely worth owning. It is an excellent Go-To Guide book and a source of inspiration.

The author is also refreshingly blunt on occasion:

  • If you’ve picked up this book because you love the idea of strutting the stage and being a TED Talk star, inspiring audiences with your charisma, please, put it down right now … Style without substance is awful.
  • If you have dreams of being a rock-star public speaker, pumping your audience as you stride the stage and proclaim your brilliance, I beg you to reconsider … Inspiration can’t be performed. It’s an audience response to authenticity, courage, selfless work and genuine wisdom.

On occasion the author passes the baton to an expert colleague—to cover a subject—and then takes it back and continues. It’s a nice touch.

  • Tom Rielly tells us, in his own words, about visuals and graphics—in all its technical glory.
  • Kelly Stoetzel tells us, in her own words, on how to handle wardrobe stress—the last thing we need.

These lines jumped out and stuck with me:

  • Done right, a talk is more powerful then anything in written form.
  • Today in the connected era, we should resurrect the noble art and make it education’s fourth R: reading, ’riting, ’rithmetic … and rhetoric.
  • Once people have been primed, it’s much easier to make your main argument. And how do you do that? By using the most noble tool of them all, a tool that can wield the most impact over the very long term. And its named using an old-fashioned philosophical word that I love: Reason.
  • Most people are capable of being convinced by logic, but they aren’t always energized by it. And without being energized, they may quickly forget the argument and move on.
  • Not every talk that is reason based will see immediate success. These talks are generally harder to process than some others, and they may not be the most popular. But I believe they are amongst the most important talks on our site, because reason is the best way of building wisdom for the long term.
  • The Pinker/Goldstein dialogue may be the single most important argument contained in a TED talk, yet as of 2015 it has fewer than 1 million views. Reason is not a fast-growing weed but a slow-growing oak tree.
  • At TED, most of our talks are told in more conversational language. But the ability to paint a compelling picture of the future is truly one of the greatest gifts a speaker can bring.
  • Having no slides at all is better than bad slides.
  • We’re planning to introduce more debate to future TED events.

On one occasion I found myself disagreeing a bit with the author. Given that Mr. Chris Anderson is the world’s foremost subject matter expert, I’m probably wrong, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. The author appears to be more accepting of the use of notes than he is of teleprompters or confidence monitors. I find this a little puzzling because the same principle should apply for all three. The golden rule when using notes is “Don’t read and speak at the same time.” I struggle to see why this cannot be applied to confidence monitors and teleprompters too.

What has alternately been called “power reading / see-stop-say technique / Churchill-Roosevelt-Reagan method” goes like this:

  1. Look at the line you are about to read (from notes, computer monitor, confidence monitor or teleprompter) and take an imaginary snapshot of them.
  2. Bring your head up and/or face the audience
  3. Pause.
  4. Look at an audience member, establish connection, and conversationally deliver the words, as if speaking to only one person.
  5. Look down at the next chunk of words and take the next snapshot
  6. Repeat

There is no fake eye contact or inauthenticity if this is done well. It also requires that reading notes be made differently. The main idea is “never let words come out of your mouth when your eyes are on your notes, or the teleprompter, or the computer/confidence monitor.” If interested, more details can be seen in chapter 12 of the James Humes’ book Speak Like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. I am certain that you can get as much value from it as I did. I thank the author for giving yet another gift to the world.

Leading a Team? Preparing a Presentation? Think Different. Think “Speechwriting”.

Superb Speechwriting = Precision + Power + Poetry

Question: Why should you consider doing some speechwriting?

Answer: Because speechwriting forces clarity and brevity. Because speechwriting forces clear thinking. Speechwriting is both a foundation and a construct of clear thinking. Clear thinking is a catalyst for success. Speechwriting is a good way to force and habitualize clarity and brevity into your day-to-day communication. And when done well, speechwriting combines precision, power and poetry in a way that is magical. I encourage you to try it. GOOD LUCK!

Having written well over 100 speeches in Toastmasters and over 10 (keynote / break-outs) 60-minutes speeches, I have a genuine appreciation of the profound power and extreme difficulty of this form of writing.

I’ve wondered what I would do if I were tasked with writing a major speech for a world leader. I’ve often wondered how presidential speechwriters feel when they are tasked with writing a major speech. I can’t imagine a more consequential and stressful writing assignment.

So I was delighted to stumble on a talk yesterday – Jon Favreau @ Oxford Union: Life as Obama’s Speechwriter. Full Address and Q&A, where he discusses just these matters. It has wonderful insights. The segment where Favreau discusses his telephone conversation with 106 year old Ann Nixon Cooper (minute 14:15 to 16:45) is particularly powerful.

I have long recognized the closing Ann Nixon Cooper story of Obama’s President-Elect, 2008 Victory Speech, as masterful–and a reminder that simplicity is indeed the ultimate sophistication. Lot’s of ideas and imagery can indeed be communicated with few words.

There is no reason why anyone of us cannot aim to write as well. There is no reason why anyone of us cannot aim to communicate as eloquently.

Here’s a video, and the text, with analysis of a powerful speech closing (President-Elect Victory Speech delivered 4 November 2008) with the Ann Nixon Cooper story. Hope it stirs your imagination and prompts to to at least give speechwriting a try. If you do, it will serve you well. Feel free to step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. If you do, it will serve you well

The speechwriter beautifully and seamlessly integrates multiple themes into one effortless narrative.

  • Thematic message = Yes We Can.
  • Ann Nixon Cooper story.
  • Reminding Americans of our history.
  • Stitching America’s history into Ann Nixon Cooper’s life story.
  • Reminding Americans that we are constantly changing.
  • We can change – through the best of times and darkest of hours.
  • Staying on message with “Yes We Can”.

_____________________________________________________

Italics in green = my (Rashid N. Kapadia) comments

Transitioning to “strong-close” and setting up the story
… a story that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: surprise twist, attention grabber, Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. appreciative audience response 

moving Ann Nixon Cooper story forward
She was born just a generation past slavery;
reminding Americans of our history
a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons: because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

moving Ann Nixon Cooper story forward
And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress;
staying on message with “Yes We Can”
the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

stitching America’s history into Ann Nixon Cooper’s life story
At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot:
staying on message
Yes we can. slight audience chant – yes we can

stitching America’s history into Ann Nixon Cooper’s life story
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose:
staying on message
Yes we can. stronger audience chant – yes we can

stitching America’s history into Ann Nixon Cooper’s life story
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved:
staying on message
Yes we can. even stronger audience chant – yes we can

stitching America’s history into Ann Nixon Cooper’s life story
She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “we shall overcome”:
staying on message
Yes we can. very strong audience chant – yes we can

reminding Americans of our history
A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

closing Ann Nixon Cooper story
And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change: Yes we can. this is core message + strong audience chant

transitioning to “Call To Action”
America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves —

projecting past successes into the future’s challenges
if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made? open ended questions

Call To Action
This is our chance to answer that call.
This is our moment.
This is our time,
to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids;
to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace;
to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth,
that, out of many, we are one;
that while we breathe, we hope.
And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can’t,
we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:
concluding on message
Yes, we can.

_____________________________________________________

Writing like this is really hard—and really worthwhile.

Question: Why should you consider doing some speechwriting?

Answer:
Because great speechwriting speechwriting combines precision, power and poetry in a way that is magical.
Because speechwriting forces clarity and brevity.
Because speechwriting forces clear thinking.
Speechwriting is both a foundation and a construct of clear thinking.
Clear thinking is a catalyst for success.
Speechwriting is a good way to force and habitualize clarity and brevity into your day-to-day communication.

GOOD LUCK!

_____________________________________________________

 

Ann Nixon Cooper,
January 9, 1902 – December 21, 2009
 noted member of the Atlanta African-American community & civil rights activist 

 


APPENDIX

In the rarified world of presidential speech writers, Ted Sorenson (John F. Kennedy) and Peggy Noonan (Ronald Reagan) have an elevated status. Some day Jon Favreau (Barack Obama) may be elevated to a similar status. Only time will tell.

______________________________________________________________________

Every engineer can be a better engineer
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every professional can be a better professional
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every citizen can be a better citizen
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

I help citizens, professionals, and engineers become better public speakers and storytellers.
www.NecessaryBridges.com

Book Description
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers & Engineers

Every engineer & STEM professional can articulate an engineering & STEM challenge as eloquently and inspirationally as the speaker does in the audio of this clip. At the very least, every engineer and STEM professional can aspire to do so.

STEM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Audio = JFK/moon speech segment/Rice University Sept 12, 1962

______________________________________________________________________

Leading a Team? Preparing a Presentation? Think Different. Think Antimetabole + Contrast

First—3 examples of Antimetabole:

  1. Let us never negotiate of out fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
  2. Mankind must put an end to war/nuclear weapons. Or war/nuclear weapons will put an end to mankind.
  3. Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

Next—3 examples of Contrast:

  1. That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.
  2. Dignity consists not in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.
  3. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

There is precision, power, and poetry in all these examples. Yet they are merely rhetorical devices. Every leader and presenter can harness the power of these rhetorical tools.

Whether you are a presenter or a team leader, clear communication is expected from you. Clear communication is effective and appreciated. It is 100% your obligation and opportunity to be an effective communicator.

Clear communication follows clear thinking. I’m surprised how few people recognize this simple fact. Without clear thinking, there can be no clear communication. See Appendix 1 for more.

After, and only after there is thought clarity, comes the task of delivering the message as effectively as possible. Clarity and brevity are cornerstones of effective communication.

In order to get to clarity and brevity, I have found Antimetabole and Contrast to be super-effective rhetorical devices.

Antimetabole. A word derived from Greek. The repetition of words in transposed order. Antimetabole can be used to rhetorically express irony, complexity, and make a 2-sided argument concisely, with precision and a poetic type of beauty. (pronunciation)

Contrast. An effective technique. Well known to classical writers on rhetoric. Also referred to as antithesis, enantiosis and antitheton.

In his book Lend Me Your Ears: All You Need to Know About Making Speeches & Presentations, author Max Atkinson writes, From research based on videotapes of more than 500 political speeches, we know that the contrast has lost none of its force, and is responsible for prompting a large proportion of applause. These lines strike such an immediate chord, that they stand a better chance of surviving beyond the moment. This increases their chance of being remembered, reproduced in newspapers, radio and television. And in some cases being preserved as quotations. So, for at least 2,000 years, many of the quotations that have survived have involved the use of contrast. Examples:

  1. It is more blessed to give than to receive. The Bible
  2. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. Julius Caesar
  3. Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count votes decide everything. Joseph Stalin

As a presenter or team leader, you want your messages to be memorable and repeatable. For memorability and repeatability use Antimetabole and Contrast. They work!

There are many variants on contrast. To learn more I highly recommend Max Atkinson’s book. Here is a flavor:

  1. Contradictions—not this but that. Example: The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of change and controversy. Martin Luther King
  2. Comparisons—more this than that. Example: For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer. Marriage vows
  3. Opposites—black or white.
    Example 1: The evil that men do lives after them. The good is of interred with their bones. Mark Anthony (Julius Caesar-Shakespeare).
    Example 2: The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. Winston Churchill

 

 


There is a precision, conciseness, and beauty in these rhetorical devices that remind me of the precision, conciseness and beauty of formulas in engineering, mathematics and physics. I think many in engineering, math and physics will specially appreciate this.

And a couple of cautions:

  1. Use literary devices to reinforce memorability, not confuse, impress or distract.
  2. Employ elevated but not grandiose language.

Example of skilled use of Antimetabole and Contrast (spoken word)

In my opinion, the John F Kennedy-Ted Sorensen leadership-speechwriting duo is one of the greatest ever. They used both Antimetabole and Contrast a lot. And they were able to convey many memorable and repeatable ideas with power and poetry.

Let’s take an in-depth look at JFK’s Jan 20, 1961 Inaugural address. American Rhetoric, rates this as the 2nd top speech from its top 100 speeches of the last century.

JFK’s complete Inaugural Address can be seen in Appendix 3.

Thurston Clarke, author of Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech that Changed America, breaks down the speech into (1) Prologue = 5 paragraphs, (2) Pledges & “Let Us” litanies = 14 paragraphs & (3) Conclusion = 8 paragraphs

The use of Antimetabole and Contrast (& other rhetoric devices) elevated this speech to immortality.

  1. not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom
  2. symbolizing an end as well as a beginning
  3. signifying renewal as well as change
  4. the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God
  5. to friend and foe alike
  6. whether it wishes us well or ill
  7. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do
  8. not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.
  9. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
  10. this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers.
  11. the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace
  12. we offer not a pledge but a request
  13. civility is not a sign of weakness
  14. sincerity is always subject to proof.
  15. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
  16. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us
  17. bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations
  18. invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors.
  19. beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion
  20. not a new balance of power, but a new world of law
  21. All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.
  22. In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine
  23. not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need
  24. not as a call to battle, though embattled we are
  25. rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation
  26. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.
  27. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Another example of Antimetabole and Contrast (written word)

Author Og Mandino uses rhetoric devices with great skill too.

I ask not for gold or garments or even opportunity equal to my ability; Instead guide me so that I may acquire ability equal to my opportunities.

Help me to remain humble through obstacles and failures; yet hide not from mine eyes the prize that will come with victory.

Assign me tasks to which others have failed; yet guide me to pluck the seeds of success from their failures.

Confront me with fears that will temper my spirit; yet endow me with courage to laugh at my misgivings.

Spare me sufficient days to reach my goals; yet help me to live this day as though it be my last.

Guide me in my words that they may bear fruit; yet silence me from gossip that none may be maligned.

Discipline me in the habit of trying and trying again; yet show me a way to make use of the law of averages.

Favor me with alertness to recognize opportunity; yet endow me with patience which will concentrate my strength.

Bathe me in good habits that the bad ones may drown; yet grant me compassion for weakness in others.

Suffer me to know that all things shall pass; yet help me count my blessings of today.

Expose me to hate so it be not a stranger; yet fill my cup with love to turn strangers into friends.


Take-Away Action Item
Rhetorical devices—including Antimetabole and Contrast—as instruments of persuasion are under-appreciated and under-utilized by many leaders and presenters. Give yourself an easily obtainable advantage. Add Antimetabole and Contrast to your thinking, speaking, and writing.

GOOD LUCK!

______________________________________________________________________

Every engineer can be a better engineer
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every professional can be a better professional
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every citizen can be a better citizen
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

I help citizens, professionals, and engineers become better public speakers and storytellers. www.NecessaryBridges.com

Book Description
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers & Engineers

Every engineer & STEM professional can articulate an engineering & STEM challenge as eloquently and inspirationally as the speaker does in the audio of this clip. At the very least, every engineer and STEM professional can aspire to do so.

STEM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Audio = JFK/moon speech segment/Rice University Sept 12, 1962

______________________________________________________________________

APPENDIX 1

QUORA question and answer (with >14.5k views): How can I improve my ability to explain things?

Clear writing, clear speaking and clear explaining are a direct result of clear thinking.

Clear communication is a result of clear thinking.

Focus on making your thinking (about whatever you want to explain) very clear.

If you try and write down what you want to explain, you may well discover that your thinking is not clear. Use the best practices of business writing. Keep it short, to the point, and get to the core message / issue as quickly as possible.

Once you have thinking clarity on a subject matter, explanation will flow naturally.

Good communication rests on 4 pillars: clarity, brevity, levity, charity.

Another useful guideline / checklist for effective communication is: connection, narration, explanation, persuasion, and revelation.

While explaining, pay attention to the facial expressions of the person you are talking to. You will receive invaluable feedback on whether they are following or not. Use this feedback to modify your explaining. Don’t go on endlessly if you sense you have lost the listener.

Anyone can do this. It is a learnable skill. You can do this. GOOD LUCK!

______________________________________________________________________

APPENDIX 2: Sources of quotes and examples

  1. Let us never negotiate of out fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. John F. Kennedy
  2. Mankind must put an end to war. Or war will put an end to mankind. John F. Kennedy
  3. Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country. John F. Kennedy
  4. That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind. Neil Armstrong
  5. Dignity consists not is possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them. Aristotle
  6. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. Franklin D. Roosevelt

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APPENDIX 3: JFK Inaugural:
President John F. Kennedy’s January 20, 1961 Inaugural Address

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, Reverend Clergy, fellow citizens:

Paragraph 1
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago.

Paragraph 2
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

Paragraph 3
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Paragraph 4
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Paragraph 5
This much we pledge–and more.

Paragraph 6
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

Paragraph 7

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom–and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

Paragraph 8
To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Paragraph 9
To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge–to convert our good words into good deeds–in a new alliance for progress–to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

Paragraph 10
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support–to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective–to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak–and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Paragraph 11
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

Paragraph 12
We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

Paragraph 13
But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course–both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.

Paragraph 14
So let us begin anew–remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Paragraph 15
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Paragraph 16
Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms–and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Paragraph 17
Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.

Paragraph 18
Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.”

Paragraph 19
And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

Paragraph 20
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

Paragraph 21
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Paragraph 22
Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are– but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

Paragraph 23
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

Paragraph 24
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

Paragraph 25
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.

Paragraph 26
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Paragraph 27
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.


Seven sentences from this speech have been chiseled into granite at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. Viewed by over 150 million visitors.

 

 

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

Leading a team? Preparing a presentation? Think different. Think DIAPHRAGM

  1. May you be blessed with contagious confidence … uncorrupted by the sin of pride.
  2. May you have a charismatic confidence … utterly devoid of superiority or contempt.
  3. May you deliberately develop a vast confidence in yourself, and a frank confidence in others … a combination than can make you both irresistible and disarming.

According to John Carlin, author of “Invictus”, this coupling of (1) vast confidence in oneself, AND (2) frank confidence in others was Nelson Mandela’s secret leadership weapon. It made him irresistible and disarming. It was a weapon so powerful that it brought about a new kind of revolution.

Normally one thinks of confidence as a primarily mental feature. Now we are learning that the Diaphragm is the King Of Confidence. By exercising our diaphragms, we can build our confidence. Core principal: move the diaphragm a lot, and move large volumes of air. Singing and laughter are examples that do this by default.

Diaphragm is the King of Confidence
Diaphragmatic breathing (breathe LOW & SLOW) is a key to confidence.

In this TEDx talk, “The surprising secret to speaking with confidence”, Caroline Goyder says, “We can find confidence within, if we know where to look.”

She makes three insightful points:

  1. Think of your voice as an instrument. A combination of strings (vocal cords) & air. Practice optimizing this instrument. Simplest way to exercise this instrument is to sing. Singing = Practicing = Exercising.
  2. The person with the most inner confidence—with the most power—is the person with the most relaxed breathing patterns. The person most able to be still and relaxed has the most inner confidence. The diaphragm is the king of confidence—the center of expression. Confidence resides in “Diaphragmatic Breathing”. The skill is to breathe low and slow.
  3. The big takeaway: In-breath is thought and emotion. Out-breath is expression. In Latin, inspiration and respiration have the same roots. Breath is thought. Controlling emotion and thought (confidence, for example) during in-breath, leads to an experience and expression of confidence on out-breath.

It is a superb talk. Hope you find it as valuable and enjoyable as I did.

Another way to exercise your diaphragm and move large amounts of air is laughter. Even though this TED talk, “Why we laugh”, by neuroscientist Sophie Scott is not about confidence, I couldn’t help but notice that laughter, specially real & involuntary (as opposed to posed & voluntary) laughter involves large movements of air and diaphragm.

So planned and deliberate laughter sessions, may also contribute to increased confidence.

Being part of a laughing group—yes they really exist—can yield benefits beyond stress relief and enhanced social bonding. They also serve as opportunities to exercise the diaphragm and grow your confidence.

In today’s increasingly fractious and divisive political world, it becomes our opportunity, our responsibility, and even our duty to learn how to develop vast confidence in ourselves AND frank confidence in others. Who would have thought that by exercising our diaphragms, we could acquire confidence, and simultaneously contribute to making this a better world?

My wishes for you:

  1. May you be blessed with contagious confidence … uncorrupted by the sin of pride.
  2. May you have a charismatic confidence … utterly devoid of superiority or contempt.
  3. May you deliberately develop a vast confidence in yourself, and a frank confidence in others … a combination than can make you both irresistible and disarming.

GOOD LUCK!

______________________________________________________________________

APPENDIX:
John Carlin writing about Nelson Mandela in his book INVICTUS

Did Nelson Mandela have any flaws? Walter Sisulu knew Mandela better than anyone. His answer was that his old friend had a tendency to trust people too much, to take their good intentions to quickly at face value. “He develops too much confidence in a person sometimes. When he trusts, he goes all out.” But then Sisulu thought for a moment about what he had said and added, “But perhaps it is not a failing … Because the truth is that he has not let us down on account of the confidence he has in people.”

Mandela’s weakness was his greatest strength. He succeeded because he chose to see good in people who ninety-nine people out of a hundred would have judged to be beyond redemption. If the United Nations deemed apartheid to be a crime against humanity, then what greater criminals were there than apartheid’s minister of justice, apartheid’s chief of intelligence, apartheid’s top military commander, apartheid’s head of state? Yet, Mandela found a way to zero in on that hidden kernel where their better angles lurked and drew out the goodness that is in all people. Not only Coetsee, Barnard, Viljoen, and P.W. Botha, but apartheid’s ignorant henchmen, the prison guards, and its heedless accomplices. By appealing to and eliciting what was best in them, and in every single white South African watching the rugby game that day, he offered them the priceless gift of making feel like better people, in some cases transforming them into heroes.

His secret weapon was that he assumed not only that he would like the people he met; he assumed also that they would like him. That vast self-confidence of his coupled with that frank confidence he had in others made for a combination that was as irresistible as it was disarming.

It was a weapon so powerful that it brought about a new kind of revolution. Instead of eliminating the enemy and starting from zero, the enemy was incorporated into a new order deliberately built on the foundations of the old. Conceiving of his revolution not primarily as the destruction of apartheid but, more enduringly, as the reunification of all South Africans, Mandela broke the historic mold.

______________________________________________________________________

Every engineer can be a better engineer
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every professional can be a better professional
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every citizen can be a better citizen
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

I help citizens, professionals, and engineers become better public speakers and storytellers. www.NecessaryBridges.com

Book Description
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers & Engineers

Every engineer & STEM professional can articulate an engineering & STEM challenge as eloquently and inspirationally as the speaker does in the audio of this clip. At the very least, every engineer and STEM professional can aspire to do so.

STEM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Audio = JFK/moon speech segment/Rice University Sept 12, 1962

______________________________________________________________________

Leading a team? Preparing a presentation? Think different. Think SUSAN ANTHONY

Few women in history have done more than Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) to uplift other women politically. Her pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement is well known. She found her calling early in life. “I must concentrate all of my energies on the enfranchisement of my own sex!

SusanB

When recently rereading about her, this Churchill thought crossed my mind: Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. Yes, gender inequality—as does all inequality—certainly qualifies as human conflict.

In his excellent book, Great Work of Your Life, author Stephen Cope writes: Women were in insidious bondage, with no escape from a social and political imprisonment. They had only two choices: marriage or spinsterhood. Even though Susan B. Anthony was born into this world, she was also born into a Quaker family that believed in the absolute equality of the sexes. By the age of twenty-five she rejected both choices—get married or become an old maid—and made a conscious choice to remain single. The routine wife beatings she observed in her small community infuriated her and she became involved in the Women’s Temperance Movement.

It was at this time that she found her Mission, her Life-Purpose, her Life-Calling, her Raison D’être; what author Stephen Cope (& yoga traditions) call her Dharma. “I must concentrate all of my energies on the enfranchisement of my own sex!”

Here Cope makes an intriguing connection:
If you bring forth what is within you, then what you bring forth will save you.
If you don’t bring forth what is within you, then what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.

As soon as Susan Anthony began her life of action, she was presented with a challenge. How to bring forth what was within her? How to marshal all of her life energy in support of her calling? How to win this battle? One thing was perfectly clear: in order to fulfill her dharma, she would have to master the art of public speaking. She would have to learn how to unleash her power in full view of halls of angry men and skeptical women. This was a daunting challenge. It was almost unheard of for women to speak in public. It was considered an act of defiance—an unseemly betrayal of women’s proper role.

After a few successful acts of public defiance, Susan B. Anthony decided that she could not be content to be a good-enough public speaker. She would have to be a great public speaker. Nothing else would fulfill her dharma. She took on a coach and a partner, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was also a masterful speechwriter. Together they became a team, a force to be reckoned with … and together they made history.

She so totally mastered the art of public speaking, that even those who opposed her were moved. One detractor went on to write; While we differ widely with Miss Anthony, both as regards the propriety of the calling she has assumed, and the notions of which she is advocate, we cheerfully accord to her credit, as a public speaker, much above mediocrity, expressing herself with clearness and many times with elegance and force.

jgf_womens_history_month_susan_b__anthony_poster_by_kimberly_at_jgf-d8jshcy

I have to wonder—and so should you—had Susan Anthony not made a commitment to acquiring expertise in public speaking, to getting a coach; would the world be a different place today? Would our world be a less equal place today? Susan Anthony, after submitting to her dharma, harnessed the formidable power of oratory and took it to battle. Oratory was the enabler.

Dear Reader, this story is common. On any number of occasions when reading about successful leaders, I come across a similar story. Indeed in my book Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking and Storytelling for Project Managers and Engineers, I devote an entire chapter to similar observations. Please accept a gift pdf version of this chapter.

If you are amongst the more fortunate, and have discovered your mission, your raison d’être, your dharma, then committing anew to becoming a superb speaker has to be one of the best decisions you will ever make. It will enable you to bring forth what is within you. A reminder: If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you. If you don’t bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.

If you are amongst the less fortunate, and have yet to discover your mission, your dharma, then it may be worth reflecting on statements like these:
If you don’t know where you’re going—all roads lead there.
or
If you don’t know where you’re going—you’re already there.

As we come to the end of 2015 and the time to make resolutions is upon us again, consider committing anew to acquiring world-class expertise in oratory. It may well be the tonic to bring forth the very best within you. This may be your opportunity to harness the formidable power of oratory and take it to the battles that surely await you. Good Luck!

As a speaker with an engineering background, I observe that both very good speeches, and engineering formulas are characterized by clarity and brevity. So here is my message to you expressed as a formula:

M + (e1 + e2 + e3 + …) + (bp1 + bp2 + bp3 +…) = MA

Where
M = mission = life-purpose = life-calling = raison d’être = dharma etc.
e1 = enabler 1 = domain expertise (both knowledge & skill)
e2 = enabler 2 = relationships expertise
e3 = enabler 3 = PS&ST = Public Speaking & Storytelling expertise
bp1 = best practice 1 = regular exercising and sound sleeping habits
bp2 = best practice 2 = healthy diet and excellent eating habits
bp3 = best practice 3 = singular focus to your dharma
MA = Mission Accomplished

Ignore the best practices component of this formula at your own peril. Here is coach Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s early advice to Susan Anthony:
Susan, take a great deal of exercise, be particular about your diet, and sleep sound enough. The body has a great effect on the mind.

I’ll close out by strongly recommending Stephen Cope’s book The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling. It is a marvelous book!

With best wishes and warm regards for the New Year.
May 2016 be the year in which you discover or rediscover your own dharma,
and you commit or recommit to it once more.

the-great-work-of-your-lifeFootnote

A biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton says that during the early years of their relationship,

  • Stanton provided the ideas, rhetoric, and strategy;
  • Anthony delivered the speeches, circulated petitions, and rented the halls.
  • Anthony prodded and Stanton produced.
  • Stanton’s husband said, “Susan stirred the puddings, Elizabeth stirred up Susan, and then Susan stirs up the world!
  • Stanton herself said, “I forged the thunderbolts, she fired them.”

By 1854, Anthony and Stanton “had perfected a collaboration that made the New York State movement the most sophisticated in the country”, according to Ann D. Gordon, a professor of women’s history.

______________________________________________________________________

Every engineer can be a better engineer
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every professional can be a better professional
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every citizen can be a better citizen
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

I help citizens, professionals, and engineers become better public speakers and storytellers. www.NecessaryBridges.com

Book Description
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers & Engineers

Every engineer & STEM professional can articulate an engineering & STEM challenge as eloquently and inspirationally as the speaker does in the audio of this clip. At the very least, every engineer and STEM professional can aspire to do so.

STEM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Audio = JFK/moon speech segment/Rice University Sept 12, 1962

______________________________________________________________________

Leading a team? Preparing a presentation? Think different. Think AMBITION

If you read only one business book, let it be Good to Great.

The author, Jim Collins discovered that a special type of leader was at the helm when companies transitioned from good to great. He labeled them level 5 leaders and described them as individuals who blend extreme personal humility with intense professional will.

Let’s listen in for a minute:

The leadership is not about personality. Some of the greatest leaders had a charisma bypass. We should never confuse charisma with leadership. The key to the great leaders that we studied was their humility. It was humility of a very special type. It wasn’t humility in a weak sense. It was just the opposite. It was, what I would describe, as an absolute obsessed burning compulsive ambition … that wasn’t about them. It was an absolute burning compulsive ambition for cause, for company, for the work … for a set of values … not themselves.

This strikes me as a potential thought model for creating presentations too. A captivating presentation or speech is one which combines a special humility with an absolute burning compulsive ambition for cause, for the work, or for a set of values.

Do you agree that this kind of speech would be great to listen to? Or to give? And if you do get around to scripting and delivering such a presentation, then it could well be your magnum opus. It could well be the speech of yours that does the most or best work to improve the world.

the-greater-danger

Yes, this may come across as a tall order, but I believe every serious speaker should set a target of creating and delivering at least one speech—in this lifetime—which combines an intense humility with an absolute burning compulsive ambition for a better world, or for a set of values.

To ensure this approach is not just about pipe dreams, it is necessary to reconcile this ambitious thinking with another mindset. First Principles. Every ambitious speech must be hard grounded not only in humility, but equally important, in first principles.

Larry Page, one of Google’s founders, is on record with this: When I was younger and first started thinking about my future, I decided to either become a professor or start a company. I felt that either option would give me a lot of autonomy—the freedom to think from first principles and real-world physics rather than having to accept the prevailing “wisdom.

I see no reason why we cannot incorporate this hunger for autonomy, and the freedom to think from first principles into speech scripting.

Now a great presentation or speech becomes one, which combines special humility with compulsive ambition for cause, for the world, or for a set of values—and is simultaneously grounded in first principles. Much better!

I would however like to add yet another dimension to this mix. I would like to include moonshot scripting and speaking to speeches that already have humility, ambition and first principles.

Let’s listen in for another minute:

People can set their minds to magical, seemingly impossible ideas and then through science and technology bring them to reality.
Many years ago …
There are so many challenges in the world, and you can feel daunted and oppressed by that …  or you can say “How might we think differently about this?”

You don’t spend your time being bothered that you cannot teleport from here to Japan because there’s a part of you that thinks it’s impossible.
Moonshot thinking is choosing to be bothered by that.

We choose to go …
I think our ambitions are a glass ceiling for what we can accomplish.
When you find your passion, your unstoppable. You can make amazing things happen.
It’s been true through all of history
.

To check out some inspiring examples of speeches which masterfully blend all of these elements—humility, ambition, first principles, and moonshot thinking—check out the website American Rhetoric, top 100 speeches.

All these ideas may be visualized using a tree model; with the roots being humility & first principles; and the trunk, branches & leaves being ambition & moonshot thinking.

Tree Model for Humility & Ambition

We all probably have some sort of pre-presentation checklist; even if is only an amorphous mental one. I suggest these checklists ought to be headed by one or more of these questions:
Am I being both humble and ambitious?
Is my presentation firmly rooted in first principles?
Do I have the courage to attempt a moonshot? Yes there are so many challenges in the world, that I can feel daunted and oppressed. Nonetheless, am I asking “How might I think differently about this?”

This is not about being nice. This is a warning sign. When these questions are left unasked, the danger is that the speech or presentation that follows will, at best, be soon forgotten, at worst, be mainly irrelevant.

I wish you all success in all your future presentations. I predict that the more you combine humility with ambition, and first principles with moonshot thinking, the more memorable and successful you will be.  Please … think hard about this.

Leading a team? Preparing a presentation? Think different: Think “What I love about leading and speaking, is that it puts an immense pressure on me to remain rooted in humility & first principles, while still retaining an absolute burning ambition, not for myself, but for the world, for a set of values, and for moonshot thinking.

I’ll close out by recommending a book that deeply studies the creation of one of the most important speeches of the last century. This speech, A Strategy for Peace, also known as American University Speech, contains all the elements discussed above. It is a marvelous book!

To Move the World

______________________________________________________________________

Every engineer can be a better engineer
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every professional can be a better professional
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every citizen can be a better citizen
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

I help citizens, professionals, and engineers become better public speakers and storytellers. www.NecessaryBridges.com

Book Description
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers & Engineers

Every engineer & STEM professional can articulate an engineering & STEM challenge as eloquently and inspirationally as the speaker does in the audio of this clip. At the very least, every engineer and STEM professional can aspire to do so.

STEM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Audio = JFK/moon speech segment/Rice University Sept 12, 1962

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Here is the compete video Jim Collins

 

Here is the compete video Moonshot Thinking

Leading a team? Preparing a presentation? Think different. Think CONTRIBUTION

I was intrigued. I recently read this—bold & declarative—statement in a book named Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations. Hewlett-Packard Co. in the 1950s and 1960s is sometimes described as the greatest corporation of all time. It offered more progressive employee programs than any company before or since, and—not surprisingly—it set records for employee happiness and morale that have never again been matched by a large corporation.

My initial intuition was to dismiss some of the statement, especially—it set records … that have never again been matched by a large corporation—as hyperbole. I checked out both the authors Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone and discovered impeccable credentials. I was intrigued. I doubted that both authors would have agreed to include such a declarative statement without being sure. This was worth looking into.

I found a documentary on YouTube called “HP Origins”. Within this movie I discovered a gem of an insight, absolute treasure, perhaps the very source code for enduring success—one that has paradigm shifting potential for public speaking. Here is a clip of this insight

The purpose of a company is not to make money
It makes money in order to do be able to do what it’s really all about
and in our case that is to make a contribution
We are here to create things that if we didn’t create them,
the world would be worse off,
and if you don’t understand that
you don’t understand the HP way.

The thing that I fell in love with was that there was an immense pressure to make a contribution. That was the key phrase. You have to make a contribution.
You didn’t just bring out a product because you thought you could make money on it.
You brought out a product because you thought it was … some dimension in which it was significantly better.

 What this really means, in this sense,
is not to be a “me too” …
not to enter an area unless you feel you have something really to contribute
because if we just try and follow someone …
you’re always going to be at the tail end.

Parallels to public speaking and presenting immediately surface.
Parallel #1: Joel Birnbaum’s description in this video is perfect. “What I love about public speaking and storytelling is that it puts an immense pressure on me to make a contribution.” This is the key phrase. This is the core concept.

Parallel # 2: “What this really means, in this sense, is that I must not create a “me too” speech or presentation. I should not enter an area unless I feel I have really got something to contribute … because if I just try and follow someone … I’m always going to be at the tail end.

Parallel # 3: I must put pressure on myself, relentless pressure if need be, to keep thinking: “I am here to write a speech … if I didn’t create this speech, the world would be worse off.”

We all probably have some sort of pre-presentation check-list, even if is only an amorphous mental one. I suggest these checklists ought to be headed by one or more of these questions:
Am I contributing?
Why am I contributing?
How am I contributing?
What am I contributing?

This is not about being nice. This is a warning sign. When this question—contributing?—is left unanswered, the danger is that the speech or presentation that follows will, at best, be soon forgotten, at worst, be mainly irrelevant.

I wish you all success in all your future presentations. I predict that the more you intend to contribute, the more memorable and successful you will be. Put differently, I predict that intention to contribute correlates more highly to speaking success than anything else—content, delivery, setting etc. Intention—above all else—to contribute will inexorably inspire more focus and effort on improved content, delivery, setting etc. In this way, self-generated, relentless pressure to contribute becomes a catalyst.  Isn’t this the essence of the HP Way? Isn’t this the source code of the world’s most successful and remembered speeches? Please … think hard about this.

Leading a team? Preparing a presentation? Think different: Think “What I love about leading and speaking, is that it puts an immense pressure on me to make a CONTRIBUTION.

I’ll close out with a video of leaders who have made immense contributions and—most likely—put immense pressure on themselves to make these contributions.

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Every engineer can be a better engineer
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every professional can be a better professional
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

Every citizen can be a better citizen
by being a better pubic speaker and storyteller

I help citizens, professionals, and engineers become better public speakers and storytellers. www.NecessaryBridges.com

Book Description
Necessary Bridges: Public Speaking & Storytelling for Project Managers & Engineers

Every engineer & STEM professional can articulate an engineering & STEM challenge as eloquently and inspirationally as the speaker does in the audio of this clip. At the very least, every engineer and STEM professional can aspire to do so.

STEM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
Audio = JFK/moon speech segment/Rice University Sept 12, 1962

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Here is HP Origins (complete)