Have you ever struggled with finishing a project? Have you started something, but given up later? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. I too have been there, but I”ve managed to escape.
I share the story of my escape and the story of my tattoo – two integral parts of my growth journey. This was also my CC10 speech at Toastmasters, though delivered in a different setting.
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Here is a truth: Many of us lead lives of quiet desperation. Trapped in our own personal hells, we fight against ourselves in a desperate bid to escape. But, with each fight, our hopes of escape shrink. With each fight, our spirit weakens, becoming more and more temporary.
I was like that too, but I found the solution to this problem in something more permanent.
TM Pannag, fellow toastmasters and dear guests! Here’s a question for you: How many of you have a permanent tattoo?
Now now. Dont be shy.
Great. I have several.
When you get a tattoo, a needle punctures your skin about a 300 times a second. With each prick, a stab of pain goes up your body, a bit of ink marks your skin and a drop of blood squirts out. Bit by bit, drop by drop, stab by stab, your tattoo comes to life on your skin.
For those of you who don’t know, a small tattoo, about this small, takes about an hour. I have a tattoo that starts from here… and goes all the way till here.
I’ve had a few tattoos before, so I thought I was ready and I could handle it. But, about two hours into the tattoo session, with two artists working on my hand simultaneously, I was ready to give up because of the pain.
Now, I am a pretty tough guy. I’ve been in fights. I drive in Bangalore. I’ve even taken my wife shopping.
But this tattoo? The pain was nothing like what I’ve felt before.
I begged the two artists to stop, but they didn’t. They took a small break and continued.
After another hour, every tiny pinprick from the tattoo artists felt like a stab of a knife. I felt as if I was a haunch of meat under the butcher’s knife instead.
I started crying openly.
I begged the artists to stop. They started getting irritated and asked me to shut up and lie down.
I obeyed and they continued.
In no time, the stabs of the knife became the vicious bites of a rabid dog, tearing off chunks of my flesh bit by bit.
Once again, I begged them to stop.
Both the artists stopped their machines, turned to me and said: look. the tattoo is halfway there. The outline is done, but it still needs to be filled in. Without the rest of the work, your hand would be a horrible, scarred mess and you may end up needing medical attention.
With that, I had no choice.
There was no turning back.
I had to go on and finish.
17 hours later, I was standing in the middle of a dimly lit, underground tattoo parlour, between two exhausted artists, looking through a smoky haze at the beautiful work of art on my arm.
Looking back, I often wondered how I managed to spend 21 hours getting a tattoo.
It could not have been my toughness. That cracked early on.
It could not have been the expectation of having a beautiful tattoo or the fear of losing the money I had paid. The pain was too much for those things to matter.
It was something else.
I saw it like this. On one side, I had my old world – one where I didn’t have a tattoo – or any pain. On the other, my new world – one where I had a beautiful tattoo. When I was getting a tattoo, I was on a bridge walking from my old world to my new one.
But, when I wanted to give up, I was trying to turn around and go back. Each time I tried, the tattoo artists stopped me and kept me going forward.
While I was lying in the tattoo artists chair, crying, they had finished the outline. They had carried me over from the old world into the new.
And when they explained the problems of not finishing the tattoo, they burned that bridge.
At that point, I found myself on the other side with no way of going back. I couldn’t do anything but move forward and finish getting that tattoo.
Burn that bridge.
That’s an effective way to make sure that we keep moving forward, but it’s not easy. Let me show you.
Let’s have another show of hands:
How many of you have tried to change yourself for the better? Pick up a good habit? Let go of a bad one? Tried something different so that you could have a better life?
Good. Good. Look around you. And keep your hands up.
Now, drop your hands if you were always successful.
Look around you again.
Don’t worry. You’re not alone.
You see, here, we have our old world – the world where we have a problem, and here we have our new world – a world where the problem is fixed. And they’re both connected by this bridge.
To go from the old world to the new world is hard.
It requires effort. It requires persistence. It requires change, commitment, patience, dedication, wisdom, insight and sacrifice.
To go from the old world to the new world is scary.
We have to go against years of training and conditioning. We have to go against what seems to be right. We have to go where we have never gone before.
To go from the old world to the new world is complicated.
And that’s why we keep running back and forth, back and forth, back and forth like a headless chicken, unable to stay in our new world and unhappy with our old one.
There’s only one way to stay in the new world: Burn that bridge.
Want to quit smoking? Don’t buy cigarettes and burn that bridge.
Want to lose some weight? Don’t eat junk food and burn that bridge.
Want to start a business? Quit your job and burn that bridge.
Whatever you want in life…
Peace, love, happiness, money, fame, power, success or even a hot breakfast…
All you gotta do is take the first step and?
Over to you, Toastmaster