Do you know why dolphins toss themselves up in the air during a storm? When their bodies hit back into the water, they create vibrations to help their fellow dolphins find their way out of the storm.
Contest Chair, fellow human dolphins, we also create vibrations to help our fellow beings weather the storms of life. When we share our life stories, we create waves of hope where there is doubt, courage where there is fear & inspiration where there is despair. Sharing our stories means sharing a piece of our heart, our truth and yes, vulnerability. The problem is many of us are afraid to share our stories, perhaps due to so social evaluation, having low level of self-confidence or we simply don't believe in it. What if we could find the courage and confidence to share our stories? What if our stories could inspire our family, friends and the people around us? What if our stories could change the world? Well, we & our stories can!
As Author Lisa Nichols reminds us: Sharing our stories helps us realize that we are not alone in this journey. It was year 2000. Manila High School Extemporaneous Speaking Contest. The topic given to me was “What is the meaning of life?” At 15, all I knew about life was school, food & Power Rangers. Still, I grabbed the microphone. “The meaning of life is… uhm…to.” I panicked. My knees trembled & beads of tears surfaced my eyes. “Sorry”, then I left the stage crying& frustrated. As I was being buffeted by the billowing waves of embarrassment, a strong vibration suddenly pushed me away from the storm. The vibration was brought forth by my English teacher, Ms. Kaye, as she recounted her story: "It's okay, Joseph. It could be worse. Once I fainted in front of an audience. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from that experience, it is this: “Champions fall, but when they fall, they fall forward."
Stories create vibrations that guide us in this ocean of life. FALL FORWARD gave me the courage to face my fears. I participated in various speech contests, from the Philippines to Qatar. I lost & fell in almost half of this journey, but I fell forward. I rose beyond boundaries (theme of DTAC20). I studied hard, graduated and joined a Public Speaking club called Toastmasters International. In 2016, I stood up on this stage for the same contest and lo and behold emerged as a Finalist! But the most precious prize I received then was when someone from the audience approached & hugged me for inspiring her on how I’ve pursued my passion. Her name is Kynah. She became a good friend and my mentee in Public Speaking. Kynah had a lot of inspiring stories, but didn't have the courage to share them. Last year, inspired by my story, she joined at a club level speaking contest. She did share her story and she did win & did she ever win in the Regional Level in Bahrain. Kynah inspired many people on how she overcame the pain of her stillborn baby named Amaranth. Seeing how Kynah turned into a confident speaker that she is now, I know I have found my life’s meaning.
All of us yearn for meaning. We desire to make our lives count. Social Science points out that sharing our stories is the simplest but greatest way to connect and contribute to something beyond ourselves. I know of a man. He was a dreamer, just like all of us. One day, his friend was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. With passion for equality inspired by his father who was a preacher, this noble man led a protest. It was so intense that resulted in his house being bombed. But this didn’t stop him. He helped organize a march and it was on this march where he shared his famous story that created an impactful vibration, so strong that it changed the world forever. The march was a success & equality prevailed but soon the hero was assassinated. Martin Luther King Jr. may be gone, but his story "I have a dream" remains with us even today.
Ladies and gentlemen, each one of you has a story that matters. And your story belongs to others, more than to you. Just like how I fell forward that inspired Kynah, how Martin Luther King's I have a dream changed the world, (how previous contestants' stories) touched our hearts, you too have stories that can create waves of hope, courage and inspiration. You may have ordinary day jobs but it doesn’t mean your story won’t matter. An accountant can have a hidden adventure story that can excite others. A stay at home mom may have stories of struggle out of her seemingly nonchalant life as well. Each one of you, toastmaster or non-toastmaster, is a story waiting to unfold, each with the opportunity to touch other people's lives. Share your story, have a meaning and together, like dolphins, let’s create the great vibration of life.