Toastmasters: How to Live Like an Emperor in the Age of Coronavirus

I shared this story as my first Toastmasters speech on May 18th, 2020. This is a speech based on my article Carpe Diem! How to Live Like an Emperor.

Today I wanted to share a story about one of the ways I’m dealing with this pandemic by finding joy in the little things in life.

I’ve spent so much time stuck in a room during the coronavirus. I’m getting pretty antsy. I think about all of the things I want to do. All of the places I haven’t been and adventures I haven’t been able to undertake. I just want to just do do do all of these things. And these days I can’t do any of them.

Then I realized that these experiences wouldn’t necessarily make me happy. It’s more about being in the moment and finding that happiness.

I remember being in Japan at a work conference. I had some time to explore Tokyo one afternoon and ended up at the Imperial Palace, The Emperor’s residence. I wasn’t coming back to Japan for a long time so I wanted to dig deep and experience the Emperor’s Palace.

I went to see the Palace Gardens. As I walked through the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, things seemed beautiful yet familiar. It kind of looks like Central Park. I was annoyed at first thinking “What’s up with this. I’ve come halfway around the world to see this Imperial Garden and it’s not any better than the park down the street.” Then I realized that I can’t compare them. Even though the Imperial Garden isn’t that different from Central Park, it doesn’t make it any less wonderful.

Then I took a step back. The Emperor of Japan opened up his garden so everyone could take advantage of it. Well, except for Mondays and Fridays when he wanted to walk around and have some privacy. I realized that I had the opportunity to live like an Emperor, but I wasn’t taking advantage of it.

When I raced around looking at all of the historical buildings, it got to see some awesome things, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. Then I thought about what the Emperor actually does in his garden. He doesn’t look at the tourist attractions. He casually walks around the garden appreciating his beautiful irises. When I took a step back to savor the moment, and really acted like an Emperor for an hour, that filled me with joy.

With the Irises in the Imperial Palace

I think of that lesson whenever I’m down these days and locked away. I remember to savor the little things in life. I spent a week waiting for some nice new slippers. They make me smile every time I put them on. I did a home improvement project and now we have WiFi that works all through the house! I even figured out how to have a board game parties online! Yes, they’re little victories but they make me happy. And that’s what’s important.

In this time of Coronavirus, I’ve found it hard to just happy. I don’t have these external distractions to keep me happy and need to dig deep inside to find happiness. My friend, Steven Singleton, is a minister and he told me, likes to call out the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness (from the root “hap” meaning lucky) is what happens to you vs. joy is something that comes from inside you. So these days I focus on joy, because that’s all I can do.

So focus on the little moments–like Gwendolyn Brooks says in this poem.