When you sit and listen to a well-known expert at a conference or chapter meeting, what do you think of them? Are you impressed by their skills or expertise? Do you really know their whole story? Do you secretly dream of having the life they have?
Be careful! It is true that we can learn lots from experts. Their expertise, however, is only one facet of what we see. We often forget that every person has many facets, some brighter than others. Some facets may sparkle, where others may be dark. When they are on stage, we only see a quick glimpse of one facet.
When I first began my career in Toastmasters and the National Speakers Association back in the mid 1990s, I was young, eager and a complete sponge. I have to admit I was starry-eyed and in awe of being in the same room as my speaking heroes like Zig Ziglar. I honestly thought I was the only one at the National Convention who wasn’t actually a paid professional. I compared myself to them and put them on a pedestal. I was content being the only wannabe in the crowd. It took me years to discover many of the people were still figuring out the business like I was. It is true that some speakers are mega-successes, while some tend to exaggerate their success and only tell you part of their story. Why? Ego. I’ve been guilty of that myself at times.
Do you compare yourself to experts? Be careful! It is dangerous, especially when you are only hearing about one facet. That expert may be booked 100 times for free. They may generate a million dollars of business from Facebook ads, but they had spent 1.5 million dollars on the ads. We have to be careful and do our due diligence when we choose an expert to model. They could be booked constantly at high fees, but their home life is a mess because they live out of integrity. You don’t know. You are the CEO of your own life, before you are the presenter. Don’t compare your whole life to their one facet.
One of the biggest problems is when some tell their mega-success stories and leave out some crucial details that are important for us as listeners. Or we see them at a gala event dressed in diamonds and we think, “They must have it altogether in their business, and I don’t. What’s wrong with me? “We may not know that their speaking career is flailing and their spouse’s success is the real reason for their super-rich, outward appearance. Please be careful. Be inspired and learn, but don’t compare yourself or your journey to theirs.
I have been cautioned by some not to tell you what I am about to, but I will not heed that advice. Over two decades later, I made the mistake again. As I struggled in 2018, I thought everyone else had it all together; and I didn’t. A couple of experts I knew confided in me that 2018 was a tough year for them too. It was my worst year in business since I went full-time back in 2001. It was embarrassing when I had to sit my own staff down and say,“I do not know if we will be able to cover the next payroll.”
The big mistake I made was not stepping back and looking at what was happening in my business. I was working hard with a blindfold on. Because I may have developed some skills to a high level does not mean I am good at navigating the ever-changing marketing world. I did not change as marketing did. It was an expensive lesson to learn. This business can be challenging. It is funny because some speakers with no staff dream of having staff; and during turbulent times, some speakers with staff are jealous of those who do not. It is the circle of,“Oh crap, this is real business.”It has ups and downs.
I am 52 years-old and love what I get to do for a living. I do not love all the aspects of business; but without doing most of them, I do not get to be on stage. Like you, I have made choices, some good and some bad. Some choices of mine were really bad. I made my career my focus, which I do not regret and never got married. So, there was a downside to my path, I will never hear a child say to me, “I love you, daddy.” Do not feel bad for me. I love inspiring people, and maybe God knew I was not cut out to be a good dad. I live with my choices and try to make better ones as I go.
It is easy to think some of the experts we see on stage have it altogether. Chances are good, you have some aspects of your life more together than they do. Lean in and learn, but do not put them above you. As I have been speaking at several N.S.A. chapters around the country lately, I have committed myself to tell the real deal, downside of my story too. The reaction has been refreshingly shocking. When I get real and tell the truth I can see and feel the change in the room. It is powerful. Many think they are the only one struggling. In fact, at one chapter, a woman asked to speak with me privately in the hallway before I left. When everyone was away from us, tears welled up in her eyes; and all she said was, “Thank you.” That is all she said; but the way she said it, I knew exactly what she meant. I will never forget that moment.
When you sit and listen to a well-known expert at a conference or chapter meeting, remember: despite outward appearances, most people don’t have it altogether. Or if they do, it is temporary. What am I really saying? Do not let someone else’s success story cause you to doubt your own potential. Someone needs to hear your authentic, real deal.
What do you take from this?
I was touched by your honesty and openness. Thank you for being real and not one of the superslick speakers I sometimes meet who just want to sell you, not help you.
Thank you Darren. For everything you put online. It is all insightful.
Great post Darren! I applaud that you are living and speaking in integrity with your authentic self! Awesome! That’s why I am always touched when I hear you speak!
Great reminder to me to always be authentic and come from the heart.
Thank you Darren. No other speakers I’ve come across are willing to lift the veil. It tells me that the business comes first and that it’s a really good idea to have multiple streams of income, because you can’t assume who will hire you or when or for what and for how much…
In life and business most of us experience ups and downs. Health, Financial, etc. It is critical to have faith in yourself and ride bad times out.
Hole in one, Coach! Thank you for being so real!
I have heard it said, “A setback is a set-up for a breakthrough” and I like that a lot. Think about it, most of the best stories are the ones that include failures.
That was a very helpful reality check! Thank you, Darren, for your honesty and always speaking from the heart. I appreciate you more than I can say.
It is always good to hear and see people that “keep it real” in this predominantly superficial world. I remember hearing people say, too often, “fake it till you make it.” I asked myself, “why” should I fake “it”- “what am I faking?” “What determines when I’ve made it?” I am just so, so thankful I know the Lord and He has given us his word to be the standard and not others, or oneself. I decided to be me and cultivate the “me” He desires me to be. Appreciate ya man. Take care
Love your comments. Thanks.
Thank you for your generosity and for putting yourself on the line. Your story is encouraging for me to keep on the path before me, however, from time to time take assessments on what could be my blind spots. Ever since I’ve heard you say, “Never miss a speaking opportunity,” I’ve been following your advice and enjoying the journey since then.
In every adversity there lies a seed of equilavent or greater benefit. – Napolean Hill. Sometimes we can’t see it right away. It is so refreshing to see you, Darren, share your journey. I always say, knock on any door in America and you’ll find a struggle. God bless. Enjoying taking your online courses and enjoying hearing from you.
Thank you for leading by example on the “real authentic, tell it like it is”. I was in the room at your STU Live event when you talked about payroll in 2018. It did make me think twice about if I would be able to “make it” as a professional speaker one day. Your point about giving up family (marriage, children) is also very poignant. My take is that at 52 you are prime age to meet that young widow or divorcee and that you’re way to young to be shutting down that possibility. Be open as you never know what God has in His master plan. Just saying, early 50’s is prime time age for 2nd chapters!
Way to Darren. I agree with you. I believe any story you tell or speech you give should have some of you in it. I find especially when I do comedy using myself as the focal point by far gets the most laughs.
All the Best, Lyndon
Thank you for your transparency. Not everyone is willing to be seen as “human”. You are truly an inspiration!!!
I watched a movie once and the line I remember was:
“Don’t compare your inside to somebody else’s outside.”
That thought has got me through some terrible bouts of envy.
Thanks for the post.
Look at the ” content” and absorb.
Don’t allow to be absorbed by the ” context that you see”. More to it to be understood.
Thanks Mr. Darren
I am inspired by your authenticity and candidness about yourself – just as you are. By the way, 50 is still considered a young & tender age for a man to get married. Only God knows what else is ahead ….
May God bless & guide you always …. just as you do for all of us.
I am in awe of your raw honesty. Your story — actually — all your stories affect me. Food for thought and I am hungry. Thank you for you.
WOW!!! This blog post really hit home with me, man. It gave me some much-needed perspective. I’m glad we share the same first name (though spelled differently). 🙂
Darryn “Dutch” Martin
P.S. You’re 52??? You don’t look a day over 25!!!
I love, love, LOVE your transparency, Darren. It makes you REAL. I’m so hard on myself—often for no good reason. Your message tells me I’m not alone in this. Thank you.