I Still Have Value In a Motivational Speaker Role
In January 2020 I took off being a motivational speaker so that I could focus on helping set up a training division in a professional speakers’ agency in Cape Town.
The rationale was that many professional speakers do more than just keynotes. In fact, there are few professional speakers that are solely keynoters.
– A motivational speaker has more arrows in her quiver including:
- a book
- and, of course keynote speaking
The idea was for us to empower motivational speakers to expand their offerings so that they could touch others positively in more ways than only through keynote speaking.
I lost my mojo
Another reason I decided to quit speaking for a time was because I’d lost my mojo in the motivational speaker arena. I was *uncomfortable, disappointed and disillusioned at the way my professional speaking business was going.
My motivational speaker career
In a career spanning nearly 22 years, I’ve been around the block when it comes to professional speaking and inspiring others.
I’ve done a bit of speaking internationally: Italy, Iran, Mauritius and Australia. But, not a hell of a lot to write home about. Of course, with the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s not likely to be much travelling in 2021.
I know some top motivational speakers who have keynoted and trained in more than 30 countries over all five continents. Some of them even speak to an audience of thousands. This is a big deal … this speaker deserves credit. Many of these speakers have Certified Speaking Professional™ (CSP®) which is the pinnacle designation to have in the speaking arena.
My experience as a speaker is has been smaller audiences. Typically, they range from 20 to 50. The biggest audience I’ve ever spoken in front of was probably in Teheran (200).
Being a speaker is a rush
One of the best perks for motivational speakers is the opportunity for us to travel. You of course know that this is, pre-Covid. I’m hoping motivational speakers, and everyone for than matter, will be able to travel freely from 2022 to 23. Only time will tell if they will find the audience that’s prepared to sit in a conference hall.
Incidentally, you may also know motivational speakers by their other moniker. They are known as:
- Inspirational speakers
- Business speakers
- Transformational speakers
- Conference speakers
Being a speaker is a rush. They get to the travel. They get praise. They get adulation. They get validation … all fuel for dopamine.
Do you know any motivational speakers? If so, you can ask them what gives them a rush. Most speakers will tell you it is awesome being known as a thought leader.
I felt manipulative and predatory
* I wasn’t uncomfortable, disappointed and disillusioned because my business wasn’t thriving (and, it wasn’t … it was keeping its head above water, but no great shakes), but because the direction I had taken.
I love speaking about marketing and sales and have always wanted to help people show up well here. I still do.
The disconnect for me was as a motivational speaker I was teaching people highly manipulative sales and marketing techniques.
How To Persuade Anybody To Do Almost Anything
In my speaking career, I even went so far as to run a public seminar called How To Persuade Anybody To Do Almost Anything. I got more than 5000 students on this seminar over the years. It pains me to think about it now because it was a Jordan Belfort, Wolf of Wall Street vibe based on hypnotic commands and the latest neuroscience influence and persuasion techniques.
The techniques were totally manipulative, predatory and monstrous. They were all about how the audience (typically sales people) could up their commission rate and increase the company profits. There wasn’t much space for the actual needs of the customer. One of the key drivers was to compete.
Today, my motivational speaker mojo is more Seth Godin than Belfort.
Great marketers don’t use consumers to solve their company’s problem; they use marketing to solve other people’s problems. Their tactics rely on empathy, connection, and emotional labour instead of attention-stealing ads and spammy email funnels. Seth Godin
Machiavelli is strong in me
However, the Machiavellian streak in the psyche called Jacques de Villiers is strong and it’s a struggle not to be predatory and competitive. As I said, I lost my mojo for this kind of thing … it was in 2016 when I ended up at a Sufi Retreat on and off for three years. This experience fundamentally changed my outlook on the world.
I realised that I’d been conducting myself and teaching my students to conduct themselves without courtesy to the other.
There are other ways to show up in the world. It was Etsko Schuitema (aka Sheikh Ebrahim) who introduced me to the Care & Growth Model™ which is a universal leadership and culture thematic that is based on the premise that we exist to serve the other and, in doing so, we actually serve the highest of our own self-interest.
Road To Damascus
The Care & Growth Model™ and my experience at the Sufi Retreat was my damascene experience. It changed my world view forever. It put my focus on the other and not on me.
It made me question everything about the way I’d conducted my life up until that moment.
I questioned the value I brought as an inspirational speaker to my audience and in the world.
Teaching people to be concerned with their own self-interest – using manipulative tactics didn’t sit well with my new view of the world. It showed … my speaker my bookings trickled into a fraction of their former selves. I couldn’t find an audience for love or money. For a time, my income looked anorexic. You can imagine how I felt – close on broke – unsure of my place in the grand scheme of things.
Writing as healing
As a consequence, I threw myself into writing to heal what ailed me:
What started out as a healing exercise became a 62000-word essay comprising 117 vignettes which I turned into the book called, What If Hollywood Doesn’t Call? A Fractured Monk’s Guide To Enlightenment.
The book is a commentary on what goes on inside me and my view of the human endeavour. I think it’s a piece of instructive and worthwhile text that is full of humanity, pathos and insight.
As a consequence, my heart and hand turned to writing and turned away from my role as motivational speaker.
The result was that I’ve managed to help other people write to heal their pain; predominantly in the form of memoir.
I still write a lot to find some kind of inner peace and to find that wellspring of power that I know lies deep in me. If you’re like me, you can feel it in your bones and in your heart that you also have so much power to give.
Standing up, standing out and standing in (my power)
It’s now 2021; I get the sense that I’ve been called to pick up the mantle of a motivational speaker again. It feels right this time to be a motivational speaker with something to say. I feel I can step up on stage in good conscience with other motivational speakers to deliver a message for the age.
In my speaker role I want to help others navigate this human experience elegantly, eloquently and courteously.
The motivational message I’ve crafted is aimed at helping others stand up, stand out and stand in their power. It is directed to help all of us navigate the four pillars of motivation:
- Stand up: Claim our place in this world. Take your talents and go from being a social media trawling couch potato who treats this life as something arbitrary to becoming something quite exceptional … a beautiful work of art. Isn’t it your destiny to create something great, to deliver a magnum opus and leave an enduring positive legacy?
- Stand out: If you are useful in and to the world and have something to benefit humanity, surely it’s your responsibility to share it so that your tribes can benefit? We need to learn to share our gifts without a conditional motive so that we can move humanity forward. Thus, it is important to embrace marketing and selling. But, with new eyes:
– Eyes that are more concerned with how to benefit the other and set her up for success.
– Eyes that are more concerned with benevolence, kindness and care so that the other can stand up and claim his space.
- Stand in: I would be happy knowing I have made a small impact if the audience I speak to starts an inward journey to discovery and fulfilment. I hope the inward journey would help them manifest their deepest desires.
Perhaps I can pull it off
I think I can pull it off too. I can become more than a motivational speaker. Perhaps I can transition from motivational speaker to being an inspirational speaker. I’ve been crafting, and can tap into some really stunning pieces of process to help us all answer some of the most pressing questions when it comes to meaning, purpose, fulfilment and happiness.
I think I may be one of the few motivational speakers in South Africa who have had such an existential crisis of confidence. For the most part, it appears that motivational speakers have their act together and are confident in their message and their ability to deliver it. If envy was in my lexicon, I may feel it towards these motivational speakers. But I don’t. I’m grateful for his journey and my experience of it.
I may be wrong, but I think it is a good process for your mental and spiritual health to go through some kind of ‘dark night of the soul’ experience. In this experience you can really come to grips with the value you give to humanity. It’s all part of the experience for your growth as a motivational speaker. It will help you to motivate others in the future.
- Photo Credit: All the photos in this post have been purchased from Get Stencil.
- No motivational speakers were hurt in the process of writing this piece of text.
- Always remember, “You’re the Job!”