Be More YOU
I bombed. I thought I would never make it as a professional speaker. Heck, I didn’t think I ever wanted to get in the front of a room again to speak, train or anything. It was 2005, and my dream was crushed. But instead, that disastrous moment motivated me to pursue professional speaking full time. I’ve been a front-of-the-room guy my whole life.
I’ve been performing other people’s work in front of people for as long as I can remember. I thought that’s what a professional speaker did. At the time, I was a vice president of information technology at a regional financial services company, and I had never met anyone who had written a book, let alone a speaker. So I took to the Internet to find someone who had. For a full year, I studied professional speakers and authors. I watched what they spoke about, how they spoke, and even how they moved. I researched online and offline. I put together my first program, titled Make It Great! — offering all the smart stuff I had learned.
During my first program, I told the starfish story and had quotes from lots of famous dead people. A couple years later, I had lunch with my buddy Steve Farber, one of my speaker heroes. He’s written some great books, and is an amazing and inspiring speaker. Steve heard me do a program a few months earlier, and I asked him what he thought. “You were in the zone for the first 10 minutes, and then you lost us.
What was different about those first 10 minutes?” I thought about it, and I realized it was me. I was telling my stories in the first 10 minutes, and then I moved to the advice of other people—people I felt were smarter than me, more successful than me, better than me in some way.
I asked Steve how I could one day “be like him.” You know a successful bestselling author and speaker. He leaned in close to me, and in a whisper, he shared the words that changed my business and my life forever: “Be. More. You.” I whispered back, in a tone that probably wasn’t very whisper-like: “What? Be more you? What the heck does that mean, Steve? Be more me? Who wants that?” “Be. More. You. That’s all we want. We want your stories. Your experiences. Your expertise. Be more you. That is the secret to a successful business and a successful life.” “How can I do that, Steve? How can I be more me?” I begged for the answer. I needed the answer.
And with that, I got three more brilliant words of advice from Steve: “Practice. Practice. Practice.” I took my bomb moment from a few years earlier, and I knew what I had to do. I had to get on stage and do MY stuff, only my stuff. A year later, I gave corporate America my two-year notice. And in 2010, I left corporate America to pursue my dream full time. Be. More. You. It really was that simple.