Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shyness is I-ness

What causes us to be shy in speaking? What causes us to be nervous before we give a talk? 

Mark Harrison shares the following idea:

Shyness is pride
Someone I respect a great deal once told me that ‘shyness is pride.’ What he meant was that shy people spend too much time worrying about themselves and how they look in the eyes of other people, when they should be focusing on what’s outside, trying to do a good job, trying to add value to the situation. This is brilliant advice – start thinking about others and less about yourself. In fact, everyone else is actually thinking about themselves, too. Nobody really cares about you. So stop being so self absorbed.

The idea is that we all have pride. The more we put ourselves outside our comfort zone, make mistakes in front of others, learn to take constructive feedback - the less ego we have. This resonates with a great deal that we have seen. Many times at the Mandir we will give constructive feedback to all age groups. We find the younger the age group the more apt they are to really receive this feedback and improve on it. When we talk with shishu aged kids, it is quite easy to work with them to be better presenters. Although they are getting feedback (or rules) all the time, it is amazing to see how readily they can internalize this feedback as long as it is explained to them so that they can digest it. The older we get and the older the speaker we talk to, feedback needs to become subtle as egos tend to get bruised more readily. Yogi Bapa showed a way around this by becoming a friend first (het karva shikvu), so giving this feedback takes time - maybe many years. 

Speaking is also a double edge sword. Shyness in speaking is due to pride, but a very good speaker can easily develop ego in their speaking skills. So as we all become better speakers it is a good idea to take a moment and realize that we are doing this for Maharaj and Swami, and it is really their krupa that enables us to become better. That grounding thought should overcome our shyness/pride in trying to speak and deter our arrogance/ego when we become a good speaker and enable life long feedback to become as easy as a shishu

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stop Reading

Seth Godin shares this insight in his blog. It is dead on when giving a talk. Last week we mentioned finding your voice by listening to great story tellers. Godin takes the counter example.

Your voice will give you away

It's extremely difficult to read a speech and sound as if you mean it.
For most of us, when reading, posture changes, the throat tightens and people can tell. Reading is different from speaking, and a different sort of attention is paid.
Before you give a speech, then, you must do one of two things if your goal is to persuade:
Learn to read the same way you speak (unlikely)
or, learn to speak without reading. Learn your message well enough that you can communicate it without reading it. We want your humanity.
If you can't do that, don't bother giving a speech. Just send everyone a memo and save time and stress for all concerned.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Case Study: 100-Year Thought Experiment

Last week, kishore/kishori mandal kicked off 2012 with their first priority sabha with the intent to practice preparing and planning for an excellent sabha, a model for the other sabhas throughout the rest of the year.

A fellow Sabhaologist sent us an example of one way in which they made their topic, “Analyzing their Relationship with the Satpurush,” resonate with the audience without using any of the activities. We have nothing against activities, but this example demonstrates merely how matter elevates a presentation from mundane to memorable.

The presenter started off with his shakeup: Intertwine your arms such that one hand rests on the other. Depending on your handedness (left vs. right), different outcomes were to be expected. The presenter then asked for everyone to switch hands much to the discomfort of the audience members.

"In the first orientation, our body was in sync whereas in the latter it was not."

Individual Protection

Then, he dropped his simple statement: We want to be in sync with the Satpurush.

Following up, he presented an example of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and his morning puja. He asked, “What does Swamishri do before his puja?”

One hand shot up: “He wishes everyone gathered with folded hands, 'Jai Swaminarayan.'"

Bingo: We notice such details when we are sync with the Satpurush.

Example #2: Nearly two centuries ago, cultural notions saw nothing evil with slavery, utilizing the labors of others without necessarily paying them. That same idea does not stand firm nearly two hundred years later, but a few days ago, one collector decided to auction off seemingly mundane items collected from the Titanic. The value pegged at these items numbered in the millions, but why?

Why do people value items from the Titanic?

And on each kishores’ face appeared the puzzled look reflective of deep thought – an indicator of a well-designed question.

  1. One kishore ventured to answer, “Well, the Titanic was seemingly unsinkable, but it still sunk.”
  2. Another responded, “Anything historical sells.”
  3. A third chimed, “It’s history, so yeah, it’s worth a lot.”

The first kishore hit the mark, but now the presenter threw the mother of all monkey wrenches:

"Even though we look back 200 years ago and wonder how and why people can profit of others’ misfortune with slavery, here we are in 2012 doing the very same thing."

"Perhaps items from the Titanic may be of value even if had not sunk, but the fact that it did sink made it a legend and an object worthy of study in the century following its demise."

But the greatest strategy of the presenter was where he went from this point by helping the hero.

“Now, let’s turn our attention to 100 years into the future – 2112. What new cultural thought will shift? Will it be a constitutional amendment outlawing eating meat? Perhaps society will see the harm of consuming onion and garlic? It can be any one of the other niyams prescribed by Shriji Maharaj in the Shikshapatri, but it’s also where we enter the picture.”

“Let’s think about it. There are 20-25 kishores in this sabha, and with about 50 other mandals in North America, we can estimate total 1,000 kishores who are hearing this message today. Of course, if each of us talks to even 5 people during the week about our beliefs, we hit 5,000, and when we factor in the 8 years we are in kishore mandal, the math really takes off. “

“Shaping cultural acceptance is not as far-fetched as we think, and we can achieve it when we strive to be in sync with our guru. How cool would it to be a part of a movement that has an impact long after our lives? It's all possible when we are in sync with the Satpurush.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Your Own Voice

Telling a great story is one clear way to keep your sabha engaged. There is something that happens when you tell a story live (and without notes) that if done correctly can capture an audience (or put them to sleep if done not so correctly). One of the best ways to tell a better story is to simply listen to as many good stories and story tellers as you can. 

At the (newly redesigned) BAPS website there are many recording of P. Santo telling stories. "Wait this is katha!" you might say. Yes but at the heart of katha is a series of stories. Here are some examples:
One key to telling a great story is to tell your story. Repeating something we heard in katha is great, but when we say it in our own voice, with our own observations - that story then comes to life. Below are a few story telling podcasts that can give examples of exactly that. Many of these are done very well, while others can be hit or miss. However they give a different way of telling a story which we can use when telling our story. So try listening to katha and using some of the techniques you enjoy in the podcasts below and telling the story in your own voice.
  • This American Life. Everyday stories told with a definite cadence. These are very sticky stories. Even when you seem to not care about the topic, they find a way to get you interested. Many sticky techniques on display.
  • Radiolab. Where life meets science meets audio. While the audio plays a major part in this podcast. Telling science stories from the view of a person who does not understand science works really well for telling prasangs to Bal/Balika/Kishore/Kishori mandal.
  • The Moth. True stories told live on stage without notes. We love the Moth. To understand why google Moth Adam Gopnik LOL and have a listen. These stories range all over the place and are not always amazing. But still there is something to learn (and be entertained) in nearly every episode.
  • The Story Collider. Similar to The Moth but the stories are about science. This is a recent find and the stories have been consistently good. 
  • Freakonomics. The hidden side of everything. This podcast is interesting because the story telling revolves around economics in everyday life. This really helps with making prasangs concrete.
  • Intelligence Squared. Debates. These are rebroadcasts of live debates where there are winner and losers. The audience is polled before and after and the side the changes the most votes wins. This really highlights how to give a convincing talk, how to frame your ideas. 
  • Planet Money. Similar to Freakonomics, more like reporting than storytelling.
  • Snap Judgement. Urban story telling. A great deal of international stories as well. Good place to pick up idea on how music, cadence can add to story telling. 
  • 99% Invisible. The story telling of design. We find this podcast is great at taking mundane objects and ideas (things we tend to overlook) and see them in another point of view. Can give good ideas on how to make prasangs and satsang concepts relevant.
  • Transom. This is a new one we are listening to. A few of these stories made it to This American Life.
  • Third Coast International Audio Festival. Similar to Transom.
Update from fellow Sabha.ologists
  • The Monti. Unscripted and Real. Some of these are better than The Moth. 
This list is by no means complete. We would really like to know your recommendations.