One World…

This post is a bit different. It is not as much about leadership but about the social responsibility of us living in relative wealth. It is a transcript of my 10th basic project speech at Toastmasters. Since it was written to be performed on stage I have included parts in CAPITAL letters where I wanted to put some emphasis by modulation of voice. The dots “…” mean a pause to again give emphasis on a particular thought. [The brackets] indicate a section in the structure of the speech.

One World

[Opening]

[Capture the attention]

Planet Earth. EVERY SINGLE YEAR there are 800 million PEOPLE suffering of malnutrition. EVERY SINGLE YEAR there are 1.5 million children dying from hunger. EVERY SINGLE YEAR there are 1.4 million children dying from lack of access to safe drinking water

ONE… TWO… THREE… EVERY 3.5 second there is a person dying of hunger.

And every single year there is 1/3 of all food produced (1.3 billion tons) thrown away in so called developed countries

[Lead to the main topic]

What is WRONG with the World? Does it feel right? Does this feel like one planet? Does this feel like people really care for one another?

[Body]

[Life if Europe]

I spent most of my life in the heart of Europe and even though I regularly complained about how miserable everything is I was at the end of the day pretty happy. I lived in a very safe environment, had a good education, free healthcare, had lots of food, fresh water and would get regularly mad at my parents for buying me the wrong toy.

And then I grew up and started to travel outside of my country. My first trip was to Australia. Beautiful beaches, smiling people, clean and busy cities. Everything seemed hundred times better. I felt like Europe is the worst place to live… and then I went to Africa.

Child in Tanzania

[Life in Africa]

I spent a month traveling around East Africa. I visited the vast savannas of Kenya, the beautiful national parks of Tanzania and the pristine nature of mountains in Uganda.

I stood in the middle of dessert seeing women walking hours with canisters to the nearest fresh water well, saw small children sitting in the dirt suffering from hunger and diseases.

I visited the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, the cradle of humanity and saw the kids in local school. Small, unhealthy kids who had to travel each day many kilometers through wild dessert to the school as it was their only chance for better future. I came to them and offered something sweet. And do you know what their teacher said? “Please, don’t give them sweets, they don’t have enough food and this will just make it worse.”

I went to Uganda walking in the mountains through villages that don’t see many tourists. And small kids would be curiously running around me, touching my white skin and giggling like they never saw such a strange individual with huge backpack. I have never seen such a joy in a kid. So I stopped and offered them something sweet. And the guide turned to me and said: “Please, don’t give them sweets, they don’t know what to do with it and they will never have it again.”

A year later I went to Indonesia, to Papua. Trekking in the wilderness and visiting some of the indigenous tribes. I was invited to tribe ritual where they slaughtered a small pig and had a feast. I got some meat and when saw the sad child sitting next to me I offered it a bite. And the guide said: “Please, don’t give the meat to the girl. She would get spoiled and she will never taste it again as meat is precious and only for men. Women and kids eat just vegetables.”

[Conclusion]

[Review and summary]

And then I came back to Europe and saw my niece who will never know what hunger or thirst means, who will never need to be worried about safety or unhealthy living conditions and who will have sweets and fresh water anytime she wants without even appreciating the gift of life she is receiving. And once again I need to ask “Do we live on the same planet?”

It is a responsibility of us who live in a relative wealth to share and care. And it is not just about money, it is about social responsibility and it is about the bigger responsibility towards the poor, the Mother Nature and the future generations.

[Call to action]

This is not the planet I want to live on

I WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD where all the kids have enough food and water

I WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD where all the kids can go to school and have all the sweets they desire

And I want to live in a world where everyone really really cares and that my fellow toastmasters needs to start with EVERY AND EACH OF US

Twitter type summary: “It is a responsibility of every and each of us to be socially responsible and care about those among us who need our help.”

Do you have an eye opening experience when travelling the world? Have it happened to you that you came from such a trip a different person?

Want to be a better leader? Travel!

If you want to be a really great leader it is important to see things in perspective. And to see things in perspective you need to be able to see the big picture and compare. And to compare you need to have something to compare your current reality with. One of the tools that will help you with that is travelling.

You should travel to see new things, meet new people, hear new perspectives and to learn how life looks like in other parts of the world. Always try to pick destinations that can bring you new perspective on life. And when you are on the trip, fully concentrate on your surroundings and let go of your life back home, your email, your blackberry and your problems.

  • Listen – listen to the world around you. Listen to the sounds, to the language, to the way people treat each other.
  • Watch – watch the environment and the people. Look at adults as well as children, what do they do? How do they look? Look at their faces and into their eyes. How do they approach their work and their lives?
  • Experience – experience some life. Don’t stay locked in a gilded cage of a five star hotel. Spend some quality time in the real world. Try new things, new activities, taste new food and meet new people.
  • Understand – try your best to understand the things you see around yourself. Why are the things the way they are? Why do people in this country or culture behave this way? What does it mean? Never assume anything. Ask, research, and then understand. You are a tourist so don’t be afraid to be a bit nosy. But keep an open mind and don’t judge.
  • Compare – compare how does this world differs from yours? What are the similarities, what are the things that are different and why? But again, don’t judge. Only because someone lives his life differently it doesn’t mean that it is better or worse, it is just different.
  • Learn – what did you learn from this experience and the comparison that you can take with you back home? How does it changes your perspective on things?
  • Implement – and don’t stay just with learning. Implement the new thoughts and observations in your own behavior. From each trip you take you should return a bit different and hopefully a bit better.

Let me give you example from my life. I love travelling. I usually go to places that are as much exotic for me as possible. I want to see something really new, experience things I couldn’t experience at home and meet people who are really different and live their lives in ways I couldn’t imagine. The part of the world that left the biggest impact on me was without doubt East Africa. Being a person from the heart of Europe with all the technology and consumerist style of life I was really surprised by what I have seen. I spent a month in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, travelled to bigger cities, climbed mountains, went to a low budget safari and saw people in the villages living their daily lives. It was amazing.

I walked through some of the small and poor villages, I saw people going an hour for drinkable water, living of the dry land, not having much but still have smile on their faces, joy in their lives. I saw people who welcome visitors with curiosity and open hands. Seeing this had a really profound impact on me as I realized that there are other ways to be happy than just pursuing wealth and fame in fast-paced societies like in the western cultures. In the western culture we take too many things for granted, but seeing the real happiness of small kids in the heart of Uganda who could spend half a day around you just out of curiosity and would get ecstatic for a small gift or a from you really changed the way how I look at the world and at myself. You learn to appreciate small things and that makes you resistant to stress. You learn to understand diversity and that makes you a better people manager and a leader.

When I came back several people told me that I changed. And I felt the change myself. I started to be a bit more attentive to the small daily wins, appreciate bit more what I have and also created a rather low patience with people who complain about their material well-being while living in consumerist society and enjoy richness way above what most of the people in the World can even imagine. It allowed me to help other people around me to see these small daily wins, to focus their attention to the good in their lives, and complain less about things they cannot influence. I strongly believe this single trip made me a little bit better leader and in fact a little bit better person.

Twitter type summary: “When travelling, listen, watch, experience, understand, compare, learn and implement to become a better person and a better leader.”

Have you every traveled to a place that had an impact on your life? Have some experience during your travels changed the way you see the world?