Toastmasters Project #3: Get to the Point

Title: Bound to Be Free

Thesis: Limitation Liberates

After my speech, the audience will learn that it is important to have self-imposed constraints in their work to be more effective

Whenever I go to the bookstore Barnes & Noble, I see all of these amazing titles and stories just piling the shelves, and if you’re like me, your mouth starts to salivate at the grandeur of the facility. “I feel like I could spend the rest of my life in this place!” I think to myself, “just reading… and learning… and reading….” Anything I could possibly want: fiction, nonfiction, young adult’s, adults, mystery, biography, action/adventure, drama, horror; it’s all here!

I walk around the place looking for something that would really attract me, even though every book in the store is vying for my attention. I finally settle on one, let’s say it’s a self-help book, and I start to take a look at the summary and praise sections, when out of the corner of my eye, I see the latest bestseller on display. I immediately drop the book I’m holding and I walk to the new book. Once again, I try to get the general gist of the new book, when I notice an entire section dedicated to coding. ‘Man, I really need to brush up on my programming skills!’ I think to myself. The previous book is already long gone from my mind and from my life. By the time this vicious cycle repeats over ten times, I have a massive headache and my book tally is absolute zero. In a place one would imagine to be a treasure trove of knowledge and experience, I couldn’t even dig below the surface. What just happened to me?

“Official Dogma” -> more choice is better

What is the “official dogma”?

To maximize welfare is to maximize freedom

To maximize freedom is to maximize choice

Here in America, we have a governing principle that goes somewhat like this: If we want to raise the well-being of the people, individual freedom must be maximized. If you haven’t been living under a rock your whole life, you’ll know that freedom is a rather prevalent theme in this country’s history and even today. The more freedom we have, the more decisions we can make on our own. To maximize individual freedom is to maximize choice. It seems second nature that the more choices we have, the better off we are. That’s why we all love giant buffets and wholesale stores and massive book collections. How could we be satisfied in any other way?

Result of too much choice: paralysis of choice and less satisfaction

What most people don’t realize yet is that too much choice is actually detrimental rather than helpful. All of this decision-making power has two negative effects on people: paralysis of choice and overall lower satisfaction.

Paralysis of choice

Return to example of Barnes & Noble

What most people don’t realize yet is that too much choice is actually detrimental rather than helpful. All of this decision-making power has two negative effects on people: paralysis of choice and overall lower satisfaction.

Going back to my example of my time in Barnes & Noble, this scenario that I’ve painted for you is a perfect example of paralysis of choice. When faced with too many options, all of them equally viable, we find that it’s too difficult to make the decision, so we just put them off until later, and thus, nothing ever happens. Our brains, just like our muscles, eventually get tired from being exerted constantly, and when our brain gets tired, it becomes harder and harder to make the right choice, leaving us “paralyzed” in our decisions.

Less satisfaction

Provide example

I guarantee that all of you have had this experience. Also, not only are we frozen in our decisions, but when we finally get ourselves to make a choice, most of the time we are dissatisfied with the result because it’s easy to believe that we could’ve picked a better alternative. It’s like choosing a club in Rutgers. There are so many organizations to choose from that it just leaves people frozen solid, and when they finally choose one, or five, they won’t be satisfied because they know they could’ve have chosen to go to Toastmasters, and they didn’t, so they will be forever unhappy.

Transition: Embracing constraints

What I’m trying to develop

Laser-sharp focus

This idea that too much choice is actually constraining leads to an interesting concept: what if being constrained and limited can make us feel more free? I personally have been trying to develop a laser-sharp focus because I’m a control freak, so I hate clutter and uncontrolled chaos. But where did this motivation to cut away at the extraneous come from?

Example of constraint: how can you sum up this speech in just two words?

Steve Jobs -> power of focus

What is focus according to Jobs?

Steve Jobs. Jobs is such a role model to me in not only his amazing achievements, but also the philosophies and mental models he used to succeed. One of which is focus. Jobs says that “focus is about saying no”. Think about that for a moment.

How did Jobs use this focus to resurrect Apple?

Jobs says that only with a laser-sharp focus can one create products that are greater than the sum of their parts. Jobs was a genius at knowing what was important and what needed to be killed off, and that’s how he managed to resurrect Apple starting from 1997, making it the most valuable company in the world, by stopping Apple from going in 18 different directions, and making it the best in a few things.

How to take advantage of the power of constraints

What does all of this mean to us? Why does it matter?

Okay, so Steve Jobs was able to use focus to turn around Apple, but what does this have to do with us? Why does it matter? Since basically all of us here are in college or graduate school or working, we are all not strangers to tough, thought-intensive work. What if there was a way to cut through all the clutter and get more done in less time? We need to be sharp as a needle in our focus!

Tip #1: Use time constraints (Pomodoro technique)

Here are a few basic principles that will perform wonders for your productivity. Number one, use time constraints. Instead of plowing through your work hours at a time, try using the Pomodoro technique. 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5 minute break, and repeat.

Tip #2: Tiny Habits

Number two, embrace tiny habits. Instead of trying to go cold-turkey in improving yourself, take it baby step at a time, so that motivation no longer becomes a factor. You will find that those steps add up rather quickly!

Tip #3: Stop multi-tasking!

Number three, stop multi-tasking. Like I mentioned before, the ability to focus all of your attention on one thing at a time will make it much easier to make full use of your time and energy.

Tip #4: Set your own deadlines

Number four, set your own deadlines. For all those procrastinators at there, I know your excuse. You say that you don’t have the motivation to start an assignment until a deadline is looming. If that’s the case, set your own deadlines that will motivate you to finish your work earlier. You’ll thank me later for the reduction in stress and gain of sleep.

Tip #5: Don’t start with a blank slate

Finally, number five, don’t start with a blank slate. Instead of staring at a blank sheet of paper and expecting words to come, start with an already existing idea that you can springboard off of. It’s not plagiarism to use someone else’s ideas as reference, so as long as you be sure to be original!

Conclusion: Hemingway poem

Culmination of everything above

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I know I gave you all a lot to chew on. But let me leave you one lasting impression that will be the coup de grâce.

Ernest Hemingway once made a bet that he could write an entire story in just six words, and here it is: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” [big pause] That’s powerful, isn’t it? That’s the power of brevity.

So, to follow Hemingway’s pattern, let me just end by summing up this speech in just two words: Limitation Liberates.