In 2014 I’d decided I wanted to be a professional speaker. I’d done all these YouTube videos, had plenty to say, and I had the credibility – via my pro athlete background and personal brand – to be taken seriously.
Challenge was, I didn’t know anyone who was doing it who could tell me the first step to becoming one. But I did think of one person who might know.
This woman named Michelle Villalobos had presented at Social Media Day Miami (a free one-day event convering all things social media; an event that still won’t return my messages) the year before and I had sat in on her session. Michelle had talked about personal branding that day and not blown me away with the info, but I did catch that she herself was a speaker and that she was local to Miami.
So I looked up and called Michelle.
We set up a call for a week or two later and I told Michelle my plan was to become a speaker. Without asking further questions, Michelle told me my timing was perfect: she was hosting a 3-day event for speakers about 6 weeks later in Miami. I signed up for the event.
I won’t get into specifics of the event here, I’ll get to the climax: on the final day of the event (which had about 100 attendees, many of whom were Michelle Fanatics), Michelle and I had our first face-to-face conversation. She was going from seat to seat and making sure each person had a clear plan for what to do next after the event. Michelle asked me what my aim in coming to the event was. I told her I was there to learn to become a speaker.
Her face dropped and she looked at me as if I’d said I was going to change my name to Michelle.
“You haven’t spoken all weekend.”
(Read: “Dre, you haven’t raised your hand to ask or answer a question all weekend.” There was no “speaking practice” session.)
Well, factually she was right: I didn’t participate in the question-asking, with good reason: there wasn’t much content about the speaking business. It was mostly personal branding, on a basic just-getting-started level. Thus, nothing for me to say.
Michelle’s response was her way of telling that professional speaking wasn’t in the cards for me since I didn’t ask a question at her event. Ridiculous on many levels which I won’t detail now, but I think that question has been answered.
Sometimes the people telling you that you can’t are respected authorities who have achieved what you aim to achieve. And they’ll tell you right to your face that you can’t do the exact thing they’ve done. Two things to take from this —
- Any secure, worth-their-weight successful person would never tell you that you can’t do as well or better than they did. At worst, they’ll ask the tough questions you need to ask yourself about how you’ll do it. But they would never discourage you from doing it.
- You don’t have to listen. No matter what anyone says, you always have the final say in what you can or cannot do.