This is the first reader question we have answered in the Five Friends blog. It seems many want to know how we all got started in this business and we are happy to share that with you.
Remember, if you have a question, be sure to let one of us know and we will consider it.
The back row of Loeb Playhouse at Purdue. I was just an 8th grader — listening to a speaker who moved me to think about my life and potential in a different manner than before. That’s where it started…
A student organization – FFA – gave me the opportunity to serve as a state and national officer. I dedicated two years to speak to students, parents, and professionals across the nation. By the age of 21, I had met with the President in the Oval Office, dined in the boardroom with the Chairman of GM, and chatted privately with Bob Hope.
Later, I worked as a fundraiser for my alma mater with an annual salary of $12,000. After gifts to the college almost doubled, they offered a raise – to $13,000. I decided that a career in higher education wasn’t my future.
My peers from college were earning exponentially higher salaries climbing the corporate ladder. I loaded my car with meager possessions and drove from speech to speech in a myriad of towns. I was paying my dues. I wanted to become excellent at my craft – believing that if I did, success would become inevitable.
That worked for me – just as it can for you.
Scott McKain teaches how organizations and individual professionals can create distinction in their marketplace, and deliver the “Ultimate Customer Experience®.” For more information, visit www.ScottMcKain.com.
In 1978 I moved across the country to go into the real estate business. Shortly after joining a small firm, I became the sales manager, then general manager. Part of my job was to lead a meeting of all of the agents every morning. What I liked about that was the challenge of coming up with ideas that could help all of those agents be more successful, as 100% of my pay was determined by their success.
After that job, I move back to Nashville, took that “help them succeed” experience and began offering workshops to businesses around town. After living on the edge of starvation and holding on by my fingernails for a couple of years, things started to catch on. Occasionally, someone would ask me to give a speech to their trade association or company meeting. From those jobs, little by little I learned how to do keynote speaking.
In 2004 my first book was published, and I have since developed a great enthusiasm for writing. I’d love to make a living 100% from writing, and if I can manage to make my next book good enough, maybe I’ll reach that goal.
Joe Calloway helps great companies get even better. www.JoeCalloway.com
My business went belly-up and I lost everything I had. I had a choice to make: get a job or figure out how to make a living doing what I love most: being the center of attention. My ego won out and I became a speaker. I started as a sales trainer, then became a motivational humorist and ended up The Pitbull Of Personal Development®.
From the beginning, I busted my ass to learn how to get really good at telling a story, communicate ideas and be entertaining. But just as important, was that I never forgot that speaking is a business. No room for passion, love or ego in my business plan: I ran my speaking career like a business. I had a product (me) and I learned how to sell it at a profit, bring great value to my audiences, how to become one-of-a-kind and exploit it all via speeches, books, audio and video. Later, I was able to add television to the mix because of the uniqueness of my style and the way I articulate my point of view. I have been fortunate, but I worked hard to become good enough to be where I am today.
Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development©, is a six-time NYT/WSJ bestselling author, social commentator and appears regularly on many national television news shows. To find out more, go to www.LarryWinget.com.
At the age of 10 I entered my first public speaking content. I did so badly and was so embarrassed that I committed myself to learning how to be an effective public speaker. I entered every youth competition I could find and practiced constantly. Because of my young age I got invited to speak to civic groups and even churches giving short messages about motivation and patriotism (at the time, mostly ideas I’d read from great book).
In high school I developed an interest in leadership. I was able to combine my speaking abilities with my leadership skills and get elected to state and national office in the FFA, an experience that further fueled my interests.
When I was 16, I drove 90 minutes to hear Og Mandino speak. That’s when I fully realized some people were able to make a living speaking and writing.
I have a passion for ideas and sharing them through the spoken and written word. Although my formal education is in economics, my life education has been in sharing ideas through speaking and writing. I’m blessed to have made my living for the past 29 years doing just that.
Mark Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker bestselling author of books including, The Fred Factor. For more information and free resources, visit www.marksanborn.com.
Looking back, much of my life was preparation for what I do today. I started playing in bands at 12 and ended up performing at Six Flags Over Texas. I wrote sports for the local newspaper in high school; learned how to hold a group’s attention as a Water Safety Instructor; and became fascinated with how organizations succeed in graduate school.
But, I had no idea that this could be a career until I read In Search of Excellence and saw Tom Peters present. I naively said, “I can do that.”
My first “paid gigs” were three years of management seminars for the local community college while I worked as an administrator at a child and adolescent psychiatric facility. Full-time consulting and training began when a boutique consulting firm convinced me that I could broaden my impact by joining them. Speaking and writing were a natural outgrowth.
I made partner and might still be there except for a philosophical disagreement with the majority partner. So you could say I was born to do this on my own or that I was pushed into it. Either way, I worked – and continue to work – my butt off to earn the right to be here.
Randy Pennington helps leaders deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To find out more, go to: www.PenningtonGroup.com.