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?