Speakers, Back Away From the Pedestal

By Jane Atkinson

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!