Stage Time: “Are They Watching You?”


If you had a chance to meet a favorite celebrity who would it be? What would you ask them? If you had dinner with them would you be paying attention to more than just their words? I know I would.

Last weekend while speaking at a conference in Canada I heard a story that still amazes me. It makes perfect sense, but I realized so much more about responsibility. The keynote speaker on Saturday, Omar Rivas, spoke about the little moments that to some us seem inconsequential, while invaluable to others. He mentioned a simple statement that I said to him that morning, “Hi buddy!” He was right, I was just being me and I didn’t think of much of it, I had just remembered him from a speech contest and said hello.

Omar had been a finalist in the World Championship of Public Speaking. I had heard that Jamie McDonald, also a finalist, tell a story about what happened once at an international convention just after the winner was announced. They told me the story as if it was yesterday. In their mind it was that vivid.

In August 2010 just after they announced the World Champion and the crowd went wild and the audience rushed to congratulate the top three winners. Jamie witnessed the past World Champions, who were seated in the second row, all stand up walk to the end of the isle and purposefully walk to talk to the contestants that did not win. He even reminded what I said to him that day, “Thirty-five thousand people wish they were you.” Meaning that as disappointed as he may have felt at that moment, there were thirty-five thousand people who competed in the speech contest that year who would have gladly traded spots with them having an opportunity to be on the big stage.

Now this may sound like I’m bragging. It makes two very important points. First, I had no idea how much that small act meant to people. Second, I learned how to be a Champion off stage by listening to and observing David Brooks and Mark Brown. The listening to my mentors was important, but actually seeing how Mark and David conducted themselves off stage was what I needed. I watch watching. Even though my mom and dad may have raised me right, handling this responsibility and spotlight was something I needed to learn.

I remember in my early days of stand-up comedy in the 90’s I used to have a few jokes in my act about a famous Olympic ice skater. While she was at her Disney Land Victory parade she said some very ungrateful comments not realizing the microphone was still on. Your microphone is always on. It amplifies not only your word, but everyone is watching, even if you don’t think they are.

We see some celebrity who earn millions and get reluctantly thrown into the “role model” position and don’t want it. It comes with the millions. We are all role models whether we like it or not. Fame or celebrity only multiplies it.

On or off stage people are watching. Your kids are watching. Saying one thing and doing another says a great deal. Often people think nothing of saving their whole lives to send their kids to college so they can get a good education, and yet they stop learning themselves. They stop investing in learning that could help them accomplish another goal or be “the best” in their industry. Or they stop making themselves uncomfortable reaching for a new goal. When did college become the end of learning in some people’s eyes? My dad went to college and got braces when he was fifty-two. That’s inspiring.

I listened to what David and Mark told me. I saw what they did and how they did it. They were great role models. I’m far from perfect, but found one question that helps me when I’m facing a difficult challenge or a contemplation of a new direction in my life I ask myself, “What example would this be to my nephews if they were watching?” It helps. I’ve made some choices that I’m glad they didn’t see, but I’ve made much more better choices and decisions because of that question. It didn’t matter that anyone was watching. Asking the question brings me awareness and reminds me the microphone is always on and people are always watching.

While working my back of the room product table a couple weeks ago at one of my boot camps we accidentally put out an incorrect price sign on one of our big packages. Two people were standing there making purchases. I could have easily justified explaining the mistake. The customers got $1000 package for $500. At the end of the boot camp one of the customers came up to me and said, “I admire what you did. You didn’t even hesitate you just did the right thing. That told me a lot about who you are.” Wow, that was worth a great deal more to me than the $500. The rapport I built with that person was priceless.

So, are they watching you? Yes they are. Just like people are “celebrities to you, you are a celebrity in other people’s minds. Thank you dad. Thank you David. Thank you Mark. You inspired me by example. The more “famous” you get in your world, the more people are watching you. You are a role model… people are watching, kids are watching. Right now, the way you are living your life and make your decisions are you worth modeling? You may be surprised who is modeling your actions. What kind of example are you?


11 Responses to “Stage Time: “Are They Watching You?””
  1. Abel says:

    Great article, Darren. Thanks!

  2. Michelle K. Smith says:


    Thank for you this wonderful article! It came at the perfect time! I really enjoyed your presentation recently at Florida Blue!

    Your Fan,

  3. Oliver Kelly says:

    Amen Darren! I only recently signed up to your articles and I find them excellent and inspiring. I recently started to improve my health and also have gained the confidence as a public speaker to start imparting some speaking and health tips to others. The more I give the more I receive myself. Keep up your good work.


  4. John Steinbach says:

    As you’ve said on one of your tapes, Darren, “It’s not about you.” In this case, it’s about how others perceive you and model you. Thanks for the great message!

  5. Joyce Teal says:

    Great piece! Whenever we are in position of teaching (which is whenever we open our mouths or do anything or post something online,) we show the world who we are. I always remember the old proverb,
    “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

  6. “We are all role models whether we like it or not.” Oh, so true. And the microphones and video cameras are ALWAYS on and around you and it can make you the best person you can be all the time.

  7. Michelle Bullas says:

    Well said, Darren – and from what I’ve observed you live it.

  8. Great blog, Darren! As a coach, I would add that sometimes the most important person watching us is ourselves. Nevermind our kids or our nephews or people who look up to us……if we were outside ourselves watching us, would we be proud? That’s the acid test! Keep up the great work you do!

  9. Laura LeDoux says:

    Great article! My motto is “integrity is how you act when NOBODY is watching.”

  10. Carol Carter says:

    I’m reminded of the quote from JFK “From those to whom much has been given, much is expected.” Very, very true. Thanks. I’ve heard Jamie tell that story before – about the winners of the World Championships congratulating the … non-winners, who needed those words most in that moment. Toastmasters is a truly leadership focused group.

  11. Fred Jones says:

    Excellent article, Darren. I attended the conference in Canada and recall both Omar and Jamie`s comments. You remind us all that we are being watched and are actions say so much more than what we say. Thank you for this very important reminder and message.
    Also, thank you for the many important messages you shared with us at the recent conference in Canada.