Back due to popular demand! Here is the transcript from the speech I gave at my Toastmasters Club this week. We held an “Evaluation Contest” for which I was the “Test Speaker.” Although it was my fifth speech since I joined the association, I tackled Project 4: “Say it” from the “Competent Communication” manual.
The aim of Project 4 is to be as succinct as possible, eliminate all jargon, and not to use words which could be taken different ways.
For those of you who read my post, The Number One Tip that might Save Your Life, the two personal stories therein are repeated in this speech, just so you know! However, I guess this will demonstrate the difference between writing a blog post and writing a speech. Admittedly, at first, I thought I could cheat and just use my post as my speech. Yet, when I recorded myself giving the talk, I could hear all the ways in which it just didn’t work. The ideas just don’t translate in some areas. But it’s a fine-tuned balance that needs to be acquired. It takes endless editing. Which makes writing a speech exactly like writing a story!
Fear is a Gift!
Contest Chair, contestants, fellow Toastmasters,
Around the world attacks on women are on the rise.
In one day in America, 400 people will be injured with guns; in one hour 75 women will be raped.
According to the latest crime statistics for NZ, there were 2,277 acts intended to cause injury, 180 sexual assaults, and 633 acts of abduction, harassment and other offences recorded in the month of October alone. Frightening isn’t it?
Yet, according to self defence expert, Gavin de Becker, in his book, The Gift of Fear, we can use fear to spot signs of danger, to save ourselves, before it’s too late.
I saw Gavin interviewed on the Oprah show many years ago. Oprah called him, “the nation’s leading expert on violent behaviour.” His message was, Learn to listen to your gut instinct, and act on it.
Listen and act. Easy to say. Hard to do. How do you listen to your instincts? When I first watched that show on Oprah, I took the message in, but I didn’t know how to “listen.”
In my early 30’s, I lived in a flat on the beach. A trail ran down the garden, through native forest, and an avenue of Pohutakawas onto the sand. I swam every day, at the same time of day, for a whole year.
Halfway through that year, however, as I walked down the track in my swimsuit to take my daily swim, I got a “funny feeling,” a sort of a sinking sensation in my gullet. But, it was “nothing,” I told myself, and I ignored it.
I carried on with my daily swims, for a further six months, all the time with this funny little feeling every time I went up and down the track.
One day, I got off work early and I went for a swim earlier than usual. I was floating in the waves, and caught a glimpse of a guy tearing down the beach. I looked again and the man had disappeared. Poof! He was gone. That’s strange, I thought.
But, I ignored it. I carried on with my swim. Half an hour later, I walked back up the shore. As I neared the path, I thought, is that man who was running, still around here somewhere? To put my suspicions at rest, I decided to check out the track from the safety of the bushes. I clambered up the bank and peered through the branches. Then, I realised, I wasn’t alone. There was someone behind me.
I swung around. The man who had been tearing down the beach was lying sprawled on his side in the grass, where he could overlook the track without being seen.
That was when I discovered that all those stories are true. When you’re in danger, in real danger, the adrenalin that takes off within you temporarily makes you superhuman.
Charged with these super powers, I crouched all the way down, like a cat does, when it’s preparing to jump. Then, I sprang with great force, clear over the top of these bushes, dropping probably a couple of metres onto the sand below. Without a pause in my stride, I sprinted for home around the roadway.
The message I had taken away from watching Gavin de Becker, was that your first instinct of fear is the most important. I realized that life had given me a lesson in just how important. I had put myself in harm’s way because I’d been ignoring what my gut had been trying to tell me for six months.
I decided that from then on, I’d try harder in future to pay attention to my body’s wisdom.
These days, I am a student of a Hawaiian art called Ka ‘alele au. Ka ‘alele au is a dynamic moving meditation like a martial art. The Hawaiians call the gut, the ‘pono.’ They believe the pono gives a very deep real truth. In the Maori culture, ‘pono’ is the word for truth!
The second time I was in a situation in my life where I experienced that tensing of the pono, the first warning sign of danger, happened only a month ago.
I went out a little earlier than usual for my run, at 7 a.m. There was no traffic, no other runners around; the entire neighbourhood was still asleep. I jogged down the left hand side of a dead-end street with my headphones on.
I noticed the car because it drove on the wrong side of the road and swerved around the dead end. The large car stopped, facing me on the other side of the road, where I was heading, with the engine going. I glimpsed the dented sides of the car and the blacked-out windows. My pono grabbed. The first warning sign.
I spun on my heel and jogged back the way I had come, quickly taking the plugs out of my ears.
The strange car started moving, approaching directly behind me on the wrong side of the road! My pono tightened further.
So, I made a sharp right and ripped up the next driveway.
By this time my heart was thumping, my ears were ringing with sirens, I was so terrified.
The strange car stopped at the letterbox, engine idling.
But the driveway was short and I was met by a locked garden gate and closed garage doors. I ducked under the shallow awning to the front door of the house. I knocked, and knocked. But, no one answered. I was trapped.
Stuck there with my back to the door, I listened to the engine rumbling, with only a meter and a half at most between myself and the strange car, and nowhere else to run.
For a full five minutes I waited, not knowing what would happen next. Then, the car finally moved up the road. I crept out of the driveway an inch at a time until I could see the street really was clear. When I sprinted for home like I’d never run before.
Certainly, there’s no doubt in my mind that the people in that car wished to do me harm. If I hadn’t heard that important message on Oprah all those years ago, I might not have learned how vital it is to pay attention to the pono. I might not have listened to my first gut instinct the way I did that morning. I may not have reacted as quickly. And, I might not have been here, today, to tell you this story.
A New York Times reviewer said of Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, ‘The ability to predict and protect oneself from violent behaviour, largely through one’s own intuition, is the central premise of Becker’s book – thus, fear is a gift.’
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share this message with your loved ones. This is something I intend teaching to my children. Be safe, be well.
Yvette K. Carol
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”–Dr. Seuss
You can view my speech here: https://youtu.be/0Cv0J60qdaE