What do you think a recently graduated, yet twice-sacked-from-job, unemployed fresher should do? I would say, keep going. That’s what I did. In 2001, I was fired from my second job in the garment industry. Reason – “demotivating colleagues” at workplace. And that demotivation would be – my fundas to my colleagues and seniors. My employers thought my “gyaan” would increase the attrition rate in their organizations 🙂 … I knew then, that I could become a motivational speaker.
Only 12 months back I had finished my Post Graduate degree from NIFT, New Delhi. Unfortunately, my dreams had found a severe displacement in the garb of ‘campus placement’. As an unemployed fresher, I made ends meet by singing songs every Saturday evening at Rodeos, Connaught Place, New Delhi. I had hit my rock bottom at that age, and it was time to build a solid foundation on it.
Between that mike at Connaught Place and the mikes at the large auditoriums or boardrooms across the world today—life has been kind to me. Between then and now, a lot has changed, including me and my long, flowing, unmanageable hair and self! The denim and leather jacket clad casual guy had to pave way for a more suited up, serious person. I had to go with ‘how formal people wanted to see me’. Quite to my distaste; I had to adopt a suited up image so that I could project a ‘successful professional’ image to the world. Being a motivational speaker has been a transformational, sometimes exasperating and a completely inspiring experience. Below are some of my inside scoops & realizations (confessions of a Motivational Speaker) :). Some of them might just be quite contrarian to how you thought this profession to be like.
People don’t like to change
The most important outcome of being a motivational speaker – bringing change in people, is the most difficult one too. I have realised that no matter how inspired people are to change, it is not enough. They won’t change if they have better alternatives. They will only change when something valuable of theirs gets threatened. I’d say that’s the most profound observation about people I’ve made in my entire career as a coach. People may listen to motivational speakers or read inspiring books, but they change only when it is the only option left. Not many people believe in “a stitch in time saves nine” to be honest. I realised that my role as a success coach is to help them figure out the right direction of their life and to give them incentive to stay on their true paths.
This is my yardstick for measuring an effective motivational speaker: If in an audience of a 100 people, two or three people report a lasting change after a few months, you are an awesome motivational speaker.
Sadly, the success rate in my industry is that low! I can only help someone change an aspect of their life if they really desire the change. You can send a person to rehab as many times as you want. But whether it is their last trip or not, is in their hands only. Same for life.
Silence is good
Let me make a big confession. I am Punjabi and a speaker which means I am supposed to be an extrovert. But that’s just not true! If anything, in this last decade, I have learned that to be a good speaker—the kind that not only talks well but also talks sense and relevance – you need to be an introvert. 95% of the content in my events is obtained from observation. And that requires some serious off-the-stage-keeping-quiet skills. If you are busy talking, when will you listen? The depth of understanding about people and their ways comes from solitude. Behind that entire glamour is quietude and solitude. And to be honest, it feels good to be quiet after you have spoken for 4 hours straight! Being a speaker does not mean you have to be noisy.
Coaching is funny business
Humour and sarcasm has always been my style. And here I think I got lucky. My friends and classmates always regarded me as a funny person. I confess that this quality gives me an advantage in the world of motivational speaking. Anyone can do a session with a bunch of linguistically perfect sentences and parroted clichéd lines from self-help books. However, the impact of such a session is lost the moment the audience leaves the auditorium. The key to having an impressive lecture is to marry content with your own unique style of presentation. And every speaker needs that style, that unique selling point. In coaching as in elsewhere, being funny is serious business.
I found my style in humour and sarcasm. Being Punjabi helps too 🙂 … I have often found it easier to press upon some really big issues in life in a much simpler and hard hitting manner using this approach. I like to think I am comedian too!
Get used to criticism
The other thing that being a speaker has taught me is—you cannot make everyone happy! For every five “Thank you” messages that I receive, there is one person who writes to me saying that I am cheap and indecent [not everyone can take humour]. I have learned to look beyond those 500 criticizers towards the 7,00,000+ believers who have benefited out of my words in some small way. That’s the only gratification I am looking for.
Besides, if everyone is pleased, there is something wrong. I would say – it is not good to always operate with the law of averages in your mind. I have never averaged my performance out so that some ‘serious’ people don’t get offended. That’s how I have been able to resonate with hundreds of others who don’t take life so seriously.
Patience is a virtue
From the outside, the world of motivational speaking may look glamorous. However, the reality, as my fellow speakers would know, is different. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. It takes hard work and perseverance to build credibility. You reap your rewards gradually, not immediately. I took more than 10 years to become slightly known! Recognition comes after years of working on your website, your elite client list, your videos, your images, and your media presence. If the total units of effort in a motivational speaker’s life are 100 then the first 50 units are onerous and uphill, whereas the remaining 50 are zippy and fun. In the last half of this profession’s lifespan people make heroes out of you and celebrate you and this validates the first half of donkey work.
There are no overnight successes in any business. And those who are, usually then spend a lifetime trying to replicate that one night. You may be able to fix a broken machine by one hit of a hammer. But knowing where and how to hit that hammer takes a lifetime. I have invested in that lifetime.
Cons of success
In my experience, these are the two main occupational hazards of being a motivational speaker:
- You will be literally living out of your suitcase, and after some 15–20 days of travel your family might allow you entry into your own home after showing some proof of identification 🙂
- You will get so much attention from the opposite gender that, if you fail to practise what you preach or do not handle a situation with grace, you will ruin your personal life, reputation and career.
It’s all worth it
Sometimes when I wake up, I have to shake myself and take 2 minutes to realize which city I am waking up in. And more often than not, I sleep in one and wake up in another! However, I don’t have any regrets. In the end, the overall positives of being a motivational speaker outweigh the relatively few negatives. And nothing compares to the joy of realising that I have brought about a change in the way someone looks at life with my humour and words. When people come up to me and say, “You have changed my life today,” every pain becomes worth it. It’s the best feeling ever. Every bone in my body then wants to do more and more of what I have been doing all these years.
I strongly believe that ‘The best is yet to come’.
This post was originally published at ‘Complete Wellbeing’.