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Happiness: My Quest for it

Happiness: My Quest for it

“When I was young, I admired old people.
Now that I’m old, I admire wise people.
When I was a youth, I admired strong people.
Now that I’m old, I admire meek people.
When I was an adult, I admired wealthy people.
Now that I’m old, I admire happy people.”
  ~Matshona Dhliwayo

Since the beginning of time, humans across the globe have been pursuing singular goals: first it was sex, then it was money, now it is happiness. From the executive on Wall Street, to the sheepherder on the rural plains of Kenya, to the stay-at-home mother in China, all of us have been driven by the ceaseless desire to be happy.

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What we eat, wear, and do are all expressions of our pursuit of happiness. So are the books we buy, the shows we watch, and the relationships we pursue. But, if humanity has searched for it since the beginning, how come happiness has been elusive? Should we not have found it? After all, we have gone to the moon, cured fatal diseases, and made countless discoveries in every field you can think of. Knowledge undeniably has increased, but the reality is that happiness has not.

This inspired my long, uncertain journey to find out the secrets to happiness. Day after day, month after month, I sat before scientists, saints, and sages – intellectual and spiritual heavyweights, ancient and contemporary.

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Scientists said pleasure was the key, sages said relationships, while saints said work and a few said self-denial. While I found truth in many of their points, after much contemplation, I remembered the story of King Solomon, who according to the Bible was the wisest and richest man in history. He had all of the above, but he despaired in the end: “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” His pursuit of happiness ended miserably, as he was focused on his mind and body but at times forgot to nurture his soul. I came to the conclusion that, as humans being composed of mind, body, and soul, we must nurture all three to achieve our highest happiness.

Mind – You cannot live a happy life with sad thoughts. Timeless wisdom states that we become what we think. It therefore goes without saying that happy thoughts contribute to creating a happy life.

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Body – Research has shown that the brain produces serotonin, a chemical contributing to our happiness and wellbeing. When we exercise, our bodies also produce endorphins, chemicals that reduce stress and diminish our perception of pain. Clearly, when we take good care of our bodies, our bodies take good care of us.

Soul – Researchers have been dumbfounded after finding that there is a relationship between healing and having a higher power. Duke University’s Harold G. Koenig, M.D, said: “Studies have shown prayer can prevent people from getting sick – and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster.”  The soul is the highest part of us, and if it’s nurtured, everything else – happiness, fulfillment and lasting joy – falls into place.

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To help you on your happiness journey, below are ten insights I conjured up. Enjoy!

  1. What you seek for others you find for yourself.
  2. A heart full of joy is better than a hand full of coins.
  3. Pebbles that bring you joy are better than diamonds that bring you sorrow.
  4. When bad things happen to you, become wiser, not bitter.
  5. The beauty that is in you is greater than the ugliness that is around you.
  6. If you go to bed angry, you have robbed yourself of a chance to wake up happy.
  7. Letting go of sorrow gives you enough strength to carry happiness.
    Letting go of anger gives you enough strength to carry kindness.
    Letting go of fear gives you enough strength to carry hopefulness.
    Letting go of resentment gives you enough strength to carry gratefulness.
    Letting go of disappointment gives you enough strength to carry joyfulness.
    Letting go of avarice gives you enough strength to carry contentedness.
  8. Love subtracts sorrow, divides trouble, adds blessings, and multiplies joy.
  9. Happiness cannot be bought by money, cannot be acquired by degrees, cannot be realized by power, and cannot be earned by honor; but it can be won by kindness, gained by charity, attained by goodness, and achieved by love.
  10. Pleasure will make you happy for days. Wealth will make you happy for weeks. Honor will make you happy for years. Love will make you happy for a lifetime.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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