Speakers, Back Away From the Pedestal

Oops!!You know that term, the bigger they are, the harder they fall? Of course, no one knows more about that this week than Tiger Woods. So a billionaire sports figure was cheating on his wife. Duh, big shocker!

In the speaking industry, one wouldn’t expect the fall to be quite as far. But, is it?

About 10 years ago, I was working with Vince (most of you know his story) and we got a multiple booking engagement with a public seminar company. He was going to be sharing the stage with some very big speakers and celebs.

Mr. X (who shall remain nameless out of respect for his near retirement status) was someone I was excited for Vince to meet. Rookie meets famous speaking veteran. I envisioned Mr. X becoming a friend and maybe even a mentor since he was well known for his ideas around helping others getting what they want.

Mr. X fell from my pedestal so fast!!

Upon meeting, he was rude, obnoxious and even went out of his way to ‘dis’ Vince in front of other people. He seemed threatened. Big disappointment.

Fast forward to 2009 NSA convention. A colleague was all excited because her hero (a well known author in her field) had agreed to meet her for coffee. When I ran into my colleague later at the airport, she had been completely bummed out that the guy blew her off – and was a jerk on top of it.

So what can we learn about pedestals?

1. Don’t allow yourself to be put up on one.

You put your pants on one leg at a time, same as everybody else. When getting on that plane heading to the next speaking gig, check your ego at the gate. When people line up for hours to talk to you and get your book, don’t buy into the hype. Keep it real, stay humble.

No one got this lesson more than James Ray this year. James was at the center of the sweat lodge incident which resulted in people dying. Now, I won’t speculate about where his ego may have been during this event, but this tragedy is a fall from grace that will no doubt weigh heavily on his heart forever.

2. Find your grounding. Speakers with small children know that you can easily go from a 1000 person standing ovation to changing a poopy diaper the minute you get home. Treasure the diaper!

3. Don’t place others up on a pedestal. I’ll say it again, we all put our pants on one leg at a time. Some people are just waiting to catch someone slipping up.

An old friend in Dallas was a Delta Airlines gate agent. He and I both followed spiritual author Wayne Dyer who flew through DFW a lot.

My friend told me that Wayne always stopped and had a kind and thoughtful conversation with him. In Wayne’s words though ‘it’s a short distance from enlightened to a**hole’. Mr. Dyer held up to the pedestal test that time, but many people do not.

So what’s the point? Sure we need heroes, but pedestals don’t serve a purpose. Meet people where they are. If they are good, acknowledge it, but don’t give them some God like status that they can never live up to.

PS: Feel free to comment, below!

  • Great comment. Thanks!

  • Jane,
    Great article and reflection on humility. I always tell my audiences that none of us has gotten where we are in life on our own. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. The key question is: are your shoulders strong enough for the next generation?

  • Great article.

    When people put me on a pedestal, I tell them, “Either I will live up to the super-human status you give me, in which case you can never be my equal and we cannot relate or I will not live up to the status in which case I will disappoint you. Either way is a non-productive result. Please see me as your equal: no more, no less.”

  • Jane:

    Thanks for writing this article! It is a great reminder for us whether we’re on a pedestal or whether we put someone on one. For the last four years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing authors, speakers and other newsmakers daily. You are so right about those that walk their talk. I’m glad to say that of those I met, most professional speakers, especially members of NSA, were authentic. A couple of others who were delightfully real were best-selling author Max Lucado and Orlando Magic’s Pat Williams.

  • Thanks for the down-to-earth reminder of how we are all tiny people on a very small planet hanging in the vast and infinite universe. This is in keeping with the quote, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. What good is it to have epiphanys, revelations, training and considerably more expertise in an area than many, only to share it out of a pompous heart? A heart of gratefulness and humility are treasures of exceeding value.

  • Pingback: PowerPhrase: Dangerous pedestals | A PowerPhrase a Week()

  • Loved this blog and wanted to share that since getting into this business I’ve heard over and over again how awesome a speaker Joe Calloway is. I FINALLY had an opportunity to hear him locally and jumped on it. He’s fantastic! I thought, I may never have this chance again, so I introduced myself and explained I was new to the business etc. He OFFERED to meet with me and I thougth Yeah, yeah, we’ll see if he really follows through or if that’s just a really nice thing to say. The very next week he willingly met with me for an hour and was so completely humble about everything including where he is now in his career. It was such a delight. Kudos to Joe for backing away from the pedestal and to you, Jane, for writing this blog.

  • Thanks Jane for a great article. Even those of us who have succeeded on a much smaller scale than Mr.Pocente or Mr. Calloway can still fall into the trap of believing our own press and letting audiences’ genuine appreciation go to our heads.

    Thank you for the reminder that our job is about SERVICE and our desired reward is making a difference, not attention and accolades!

  • Great article, Jane! We need a reminder every so often that we are all equal and that not one person is better than another because of fame, financial status, etc. When I was in 6th grade I had an opportunity to meet Penny Marshall. This was back when Laverne and Shirley was a huge hit and, suffice it to say, she broke my heart. I was a little girl completely excited that I was about to meet “Laverne” and she was sooooo rude to me. I was devastated. It was at that point that I concluded that noone is better than me just because they are more well known than I am or have more money than I do. Its what’s in our hearts that separate us. All of us struggle with life in our own unique ways and its important to stay grounded and connected to who we really are deep down inside, without the ego.

  • A man’s pride brings him low,
    but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. Proverbs 29:23

    People tend to put us on a pedestal just because we are at the front of the room. I called my organization “Learning Together”, because I am always learning, and I am happy to help others learn.

    I speak about family, at churches and schools mostly. My husband recently had a prideful downfall that has destroyed our family. I have shared stories of our family life with thousands of people over the years. I always emphasized that I was nothing special, and in fact, more challenged than most. Now, through no fault of my own – or was I prideful too? – I have lost half of my speaking business.

    We should especially watch out when we are trying to do good and make a difference.

    Jane, thanks for this important topic.

  • Hi Jane,

    This article could be published in any industry as the advice is frank and sage. Everyone who serves and serves in their flow is going to get praise and if you are not already full in your heart and spirit, you become unbalanced in your own perspective, you cannot see yourself exactly as you are, you inflate your strengths and minimize your faults. Humility cannot live in that environment. Service out of humility and gratitude is a wonderful thing, it helps when you get back to the hotel room and no one else is around, to just basque in gratitude and not feel like anything is missing.

    Your gift of insight and honesty is greatly appreciated. Thanks Jane.

    Warmth and wellth,

  • I absolutely love this post. Very well stated and excellent advice. It is a great disappointment to meet people who have achieved a certain level of success only to find out that their heads are bigger than the room. Well done!

  • Great article Jane. I try to say to all my clients, I know for you – it’s speaking to a room full of faces but to the audience you are connecting with each one of them on a personal level. If they approach you afterwards take the time to talk to them, or personally answer an email. Nothing will turn an audience off more (and therefore your word of mouth referrals) than an ego – checking it in at the door is a fantastic comment!!!!

  • Great post. I agree with you that many people (not only speakers) forget where they came from. Although I think it is terrific to be successful, that success allows you to help others along the way. Thank goodness I had a mom and a husband who kept be humble. Although they are both gone now, I never forget their words. And it is so true about the dirty diapers. I remember after winning a very prestigious award, I came home with the tropy and no one was there. I proceeded to put it on the table in the hall and go grocery shopping wondering if anyone knew a “celebrity” was in their midst. And of course they didn’t and couldn’t have cared less. We all need that!

  • Great message Jane!

    As speakers we can make a difference, but the great change must begin inside us.

    Happy Holidays!

  • I agree with many of the comments above — this could apply lots fields and not just speakers. In my experience I find that many of those who are the most uneasy are those who want to be on the pedestal and see everyone’s talent as a threat to their position. Their desire to maintain their lofty position causes the behaviors that pull them down. I try to take joy in the accomplishments of others and hope to never see the great speaking/consulting…etc. of my colleagues as a threat to me.

  • Great post, Jane. I’ve enjoyed all of your posts… without letting you know–until now. Keep up your wonderful work! ~ gb

  • This is a wonderful message! I’ve had mentors that I’ve admired greatly in the past only to later learn that they didn’t practice what they preached; this is especially true of many so-called motivational speakers. They are great performers. They know the material and can deliver it beautifully, but they lack authenticity when they don’t live by their own words.

    What I’ve learned, however, is that it doesn’t matter! If I learn from them, implement their ideas in my life and they work, I have grown and benefitted from that. If they don’t live their own material, that is their loss and it has nothing to do with me, nor should it change the value of what they’ve given me.

    By the way, your Wealthy Speaker program is outstanding. You’ve helped me tremendously. And I have a hunch that you practice what you preach.