Motivational Speakers Get Knocked Down, Too

It’s a little scary to write what I’m about to write. But I have to write it (for myself, and for someone else–which I’ll explain in a moment).

Working in the “motivational speaker” space since 1999–and I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best in the business–I’ve always had this feeling that I couldn’t share what was really going on in my world. There was always this feeling that you have to have it “all together.”

Because, you know, “motivational speakers” are all about goals and achievements and success and strengths. They’re like, superhuman or something.

Have you ever been in the audience, listening to an amazing presentation, and at one point looked at the speaker on stage and thought, “Yeah, easy for you to say, but try applying that to my life!”? Or, “Wow, maybe I’ll get it ‘all together’ like that one day!” I know I have.

Now, it sounds silly to write this, because… SPOILER ALERT: No one has it “all together”!

But it’s easy to feel like they do. Unless that’s just me.

In this post, though, can I pull back the curtain for a moment? Can I give you a glimpse into a “motivational speaker’s” life in 2017 (mine)?

(I’m going to stop putting “motivational speaker” in quotes, but I do it only because I don’t really like that label. It just happens to be the label that is most frequently used to describe people who get on stage to share some kind of uplifting, empowering message.)

Okay, here goes…

This is where I found myself in 2017:

40 years old.
Single dad.
Struggling business.
Deep in debt.

Wow, that really blew the “he’s got it all together” idea to smithereens, didn’t it?!

Needless to say, that was not the script I had in mind.

“I shouldn’t be here.”

Those are the words I wrote in my journal at one point.

After all, I played by the rules. I got good grades. I was nice. (Mostly.) I tried to be helpful. I did what I was told. You know, everything they tell you to do to be “successful.”

Yet, like it or not, “here” I was.

To say the circumstances were difficult–and had been for some years–would be an understatement. To find yourself in those circumstances and be in the “high performance” world, though… that’s humiliating. Like that dream where you show up to school in your underwear.

But if it’s humiliating, why am I sharing it and “exposing myself” even more?

Well, for one thing, I just want to be real. I’m so thankful for the work of people like Brené Brown, and I want to follow her example of vulnerability, because vulnerability is power.

I want to show that motivational speakers are people, too. We don’t have it “all together.” (And anyone who says he or she does is lying.) We go through the same line to collect our standard-issue trials, tribulations, and embarrassments as every other human being. None of us are immune.

And that’s what this is really all about:

What really gives me the courage to say this is the simple fact that I know I’m not the only one with an “ugly” story. If I were, then I don’t think I would be doing this.

But speaking from experience, when I’m struggling, I find it very refreshing and comforting to read that someone else is going through some “stuff,” too. That, maybe, someone else has a hint of what I’m going through.

Is it possible that, when I share a glimpse of my circumstances, and my feeling that “I shouldn’t be here,” that you’re also seeing your story? Different details, of course, but the same feeling. Maybe?

If so, then the first thing I want to do is give you a virtual hug. (And, a real one if we cross paths.)

And then, once we take a breath and stabilize, I would ask you this:

Are you ready for a turnaround?

Because here’s what makes a great motivational speaker, if you ask me:

He (or she) is honest, vulnerable, and realistic about the current circumstances…

But he (or she) won’t let you stay there.

Circumstances are what they are. But the stories we tell ourselves? Those are often…


Like, that thought that “I shouldn’t be here”?

I allowed some time to feel sorry for myself, but then I had to have a little conversation with myself. And it went a little something like this:

What do you mean you shouldn’t be here?

You think you’re too good for this?

Where is that kind of thinking going to get you?

Here’s the truth:

You are here. And here is exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Every choice you’ve ever made has brought you to this place.

And everything you’ve been through has made you who you are.

Sure, you’ve been wounded. You’ve got some scars. But do you also have some wisdom that you didn’t have before? A perspective that you didn’t have before? Skills that you didn’t have before? Strength that you didn’t have before?

Good. You’re going to need that where you’re going.

Everything you’ve been through has prepared you for what’s coming next.

Everything you’ve been through has prepared you to get to where you want to go.

You may feel that nothing has gone according to plan, but what if it’s ALL gone according to plan?

It’s time to leave this thinking that “I shouldn’t be here” behind.

You are here. But you’re not supposed to stay here. This is not the end.

You see, motivational speakers aren’t superhuman. They don’t have it “all together.” They haven’t figured out all of life’s secrets.

All a motivational speaker is, is someone who’s been through some stuff, who got knocked down…

But decided not to stay there.

So let me ask you again, are you ready for a turnaround? Are you ready to move forward?

I know you’ve been through some tough stuff. Maybe you’re right in the middle of it. And it might be painful. You might be angry. But you don’t have to stay here. Your story is incomplete.

The past is the past. This moment is new. And this moment is yours. It’s time to…


You are greater than your circumstances. Of course that boulder looks intimidating when you’re standing under it, but climb on top of it and check out the view. The same power that created the universe is within you. Tap into it. Own it. Rise up.


You know who you are. Now, be who you are. You know what you’re created for. Plant your feet. Shoulders back. Chest out. YOU are the superhero in this story. Stand strong.


Yes, there are challenges ahead. And you’re right, no one has done what you’re about to do. No one has been this way before.

That’s because there is only one you. No one has lived your life, with your unique blend of strengths and weaknesses, facing these circumstances. That’s why this story will be amazing!

Side note: Most people do not have a “defy the odds” mentality, so keep that in mind as you share your vision with others. Four out of five people will tell you you’re crazy. They’ll tell you someone else has already done it, even better. They’ll tell you that you don’t have it in you. They’ll tell you you’ve got the wrong vision. But what else could they say, after all? They don’t know who you really are. Your vision is your vision. It has been given to you and you alone. And if you ask me, it has been handed down to you from a Higher Place. So of course it sounds crazy to most everyone else. Surround yourself with people who get it, who will support you.


The life you envision–the work, business, relationship, whatever it is–is yours to create. There is something coming that is beyond your imagination. There is something brewing that is better than anything you could dream up. But it all starts right here.


Rise Up and Roar - Motivation and Inspiration

I’ve been repeating these words to myself almost daily, and maybe you’d like to do the same:

I WILL RISE UP, because no circumstances can hold me down.

I WILL STAND STRONG, and be who I am created to be.

I WILL DEFY THE ODDS, and do what only I can do.

I WILL BREAK THROUGH to the [life, work, business, relationship, __________] I envision.


Let me be clear: I’m not writing to you from the top of the mountain.

I haven’t overcome all of those circumstances I wrote about earlier.

I can’t say, “Look, I’ve made it, and you can, too!”

But I can say, “Watch me climb!”

And better than that, I want to invite you: “Won’t you climb with me?!”

You and I are no different. We’re human. I just happen to have the keyboard at the moment, and occasionally, the microphone. But that doesn’t make me “special.” I’m just a friend on the journey.

Let’s do this together. What do you say?

This is your year. This is your moment.

2018, we’re coming for you!


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