I delivered this speech for my “Advance Communication” Toastmasters project, speech #2 of the Specialty Speech manual, “Uplift the Spirit” project. Here it goes:
I can still remember everything, as if it only happened yesterday. I was 12 years old, in 6th grade. My friend and I skipped school one sunny day and went to a pond. I was so naive, I jumped into the pond without checking it first. It was 8 feet deep, and I barely knew how to swim. Then, my foot got stuck in the mud at the bottom. I panicked! I was drowning! I thought I was going to die that day. Then suddenly I felt my friend pull me out to safety.
Fellow Toastmasters and most welcomed guests, did you also have a near death experience? Did it change your perspective in life?
Recently, I was reminded again that life can be short. I was driving late one evening after attending a conference in Cambridge. I was so tired that night. The road is not my normal route and at an intersection in Leicester on my way home, I did not stop at a stop sign. I only realized it after I crossed the intersection. And I exclaimed, “What just happened?” Then, I checked my rear view mirror, I saw a large trailer truck crossed the intersection. What if I was 3 seconds late? I could have been hit by the truck.
Life can be short. We should make the most of it.
So how do we live life to the fullest. Well, let’s learn from the people in their deathbeds. Research shows that there are 3 common deathbed regrets. I’ll talk about these three common regrets. My nurse friend who worked at a hospice confirmed these to me.
The first one is, I wish I had pursued my dreams.
I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
We should pursue our own dreams — not what our parents, friends, or other people told us to pursue. If you want to be a musician – go for it while there is still time. Climb Mt. Everest. Take that job at a non-profit charitable organization. Don’t mind what others think about it.
When I was a kid growing up in the Philippines, I would dream of coming to America. America as I’ve read in books and watched in movies is nice and prosperous. So I pursued this dream. I took a computer engineering course which I thought would be in demand in America. After college, I worked in the Philippines for 3 years to gain experience, and I relentlessly pursued technology companies in the US. With perseverance and a little bit of luck, I was hired by a telecommunications company in New Jersey, and I realized my dream of coming to America.
I have other dreams such as to travel around the world and experience other cultures, and I’m working towards these dreams.
What about you? What are your dreams? Are you pursuing them?
The second common deathbed regret is, I wish I hadn’t work so hard.
I wish I had spent more time with family and friends than at work. People in their deathbeds do not cherish the long hours in the office . Instead they remember the time they spent with their families and friends.
The other day, after getting home very tired from work, my daughter Justine approached me, “Dad, can you help me with my homework?” I snapped at her, “Can’t you see I’m so tired from work, and I still have to mow the lawn?” She meekly said, “Ok Dad, maybe later.” But then I realized, I just told my daughter that she is not my priority. I thought hard about it, and I realized that I had my priorities wrong – my work is my first priority, then household chores, then my daughter/family. It should be the other way around!
People in deathbeds also wished they had stayed in touch with their friends.
I always planned to call my friends, but because of work, and other responsibilities, I always put it in the back burner and never really got the chance to call them. I will often say, “I’ll call them tomorrow, they will still be there anyway.” Well, I think I should be getting in touch with them before it’s too late.
The lesson here is to reach out to friends. Have a long chat over a glass of wine (or beer). Call them If they live very far away.
Fortunately, it’s now easy more than ever to stay in touch with friends, via Facebook. So if you haven’t been using Facebook yet, sign up and reconnect with your old friends.
The third common deathbed regret is, I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Too often we postpone happiness. I remember when I was in high school, I would often say, “I’ll be happy when I get to college.” When I was in college, I would often say, “I’ll be happy when I get a job.” Now that I have a a job, I would often say, “I’ll be happy when I retire.” “I’ll be happy if I win the lottery.” When my day gets challenging, I would often say, “I’ll be happy when this day is over.”
Then I realized that I will never be happy if I keep on postponing it. The present is all we’ve got. Today! Now! Be happy now, because tomorrow may never come.
So, open that expensive wine. Eat that delicious chocolate cake. Play ball with your son, or play pretend tea party with your daughter. Book that European vacation you’ve been longing for. Move to Florida if you love warm weather — although we’ll really miss you if you move out of Massachusetts. Buy yourself a kindle and read; whatever it is, be good to yourself. Also, be good to others, because making others happy makes us happy too.
It is hard to prioritize and do the important things in life. We always get caught up with daily activities – work, household chores, interruptions.
But I think, for me, that near-death drowning experience when I was a kid taught me a lesson – never skip school to go to the pond. But seriously, recalling that story every time reminds me to put my life in perspective and do the important things in life. Life is short, make the most of it.