I believe what makes us extraordinary, in whatever field we work in, is not the accolades, awards or achievements, but the character, the personality and the way we have coped with adversity in our unique ways.
It’s hosted by me and BBC tv and radio journalist Jeremy Nicholas with a different guest in each show.
It’s full of tips and advice from professional speakers to professional speakers but the anecdotes, stories and tips are relevant for anyone working in a entrepreneurial or expert based business.
I think the show is unique in this field due to its style of a group of speakers late at night in a hotel during a conference swapping stories of gigs around the world.
It’s full of funny, heartwarming and inspirational stories as well as the downright disasters. This is a warts and all look at the world of the speaker. You’ll learn lots and you’ll laugh even more.
One of the questions we posed in the first show was about firsts: What was the first album you bought with your own money?
I put it to you that the one you answer with is not the one you usually say. You usually bend the truth and give a better answer to make you look cool.
So it turns out there are two answers to the question: the one you say, and the real, probably embarrassing one.
It’s true when we ask each other, “how’s business?”. There’s the public relations answer and then there’s the truth.
This is our metaphor for the show. We want our guests to give us their real truth to our questions, not the usual self promotional answers which although may make the speaker appear ‘cool’ or successful, it doesn’t help the rest of us, or make for a good show.
We believe that it’s these answers that actually make us extraordinary, not the press release answers, not the one sheet descriptions, not the website copy, but the idiosyncrasies, the failures that led to the major rethinks, the real personality behind the Fonzy-like photo on the business card.
And that’s why I’m telling you that my first LP, spent with my own £2.50 (it was a double album) was well spent in 1976 on the Animal Kwackers.
What about you?
To listen to the show on iTunes click here. If you enjoy it, please do give us a rating.
Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.
“We are designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness” – Zig Ziglar
Zig Ziglar passed away this week. If you have no connection to self improvement, goal setting or sales, you may never have heard of him. And yet he touched millions of lives in an inspirational career spanning five decades.
And without knowing it, he save my life…
See You at the Top was his first and most famous book, first published in 1974*. It was initially called Biscuits, Fleas and Pump Handles – referring to three of his parable-like human interest stories he used in his talks on attitude and personal success.
I’m glad he changed the title. To me, See You at the Top was more than a title, it was some kind of invitation. Rather like John Lennon’s Imagine, with that line ‘I hope someday you’ll join us…’ Zig was suggesting to me personally that I join him, at the Top (whatever that was, but it sounded good). Just reading that title was motivational. It felt like an acknowledgment that I was somehow good enough to be there, with him, at the Top. To me, through that book, I came to think of the Top as being an abstract destination, a journey, not necessarily defined by financial wealth or fame and glory, but something more powerful…
There may well have been better written, better researched or cleverer books published since on self development and goal setting. But they’ll never be a better book for me than this, the original.
I first came upon Zig when a friend of mine lent me the book when we were at university. I swapped it for my copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
I was immediately impressed with the look of it. The bold, graphical cover of that big arrow and that great title. It was set in a block font called Eurostile, my favorite typeface (also used throughout the 1960s, in Vic Reeves Big Night Out and of course in my own logo).
The book was different. It looked different. It had graphics and cartoons in it. And jokes. It began with a graphical metaphor of a lift that was labeled as the lift that would take you to ‘the Top’. But a sign on the door said ‘Out of Order’. The implication was that you’d have to take the stairs, with each step a milestone on the way to becoming the type of person who belonged at the Top. The steps were: Self-image, Your relationship with others, Goals, Attitude, Work and Desire. The bannister was labelled ‘Character and Loyalty’.
The jokes were tame, but fun:
“An optimist, as you probably know, is a person who, when he wears out his shoes just figures he’s back on his feet.”
“We need a check up from the neck up”
“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
But there’s a phrase that permeates the book, and Zig’s work:
“You can get everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people what they want”
It put the book into a context. This was effectively a fifth Gospel. An allusion not lost on Zig, who, with his powerful faith, coming to Christ in 1972, pulled no punches in relating the concept of motivation to the message of Jesus. Zig’s catchphrase was just a contemporary way of saying the golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.
Then there was a further revelation for me. My friend Dommy also had a tape of Zig speaking. It was just thirty minutes, recorded at some business conference in the early 1980s. Having the messages (and jokes) of See You at the Top, spoken in that accent, and that voice, live, was like having a recording of the Sermon on the Mount. Impressive as the words were when written down, they were so much more powerful spoken in front of a live audience.
It inspired me to give my first professional motivational speech in 1994 at a training event for the Students’ Union at Oxford Brookes. I felt that Zig’s messages were all too good not to share so I paraphrased Zig’s messages. I didn’t do the accent though. OK, I did a bit in two places, on the drawl that he did at the end of “You can get everything in life you whaaant, if you just help enough other people get, what, they, whaaant” and “Positive thinking won’t let you do everything. But it WILL let you do everything, better, than, negative, thinking, wiiiiiiiillllll”.
I knew nothing about the self development industry or the speaking business. I had no idea that Zig was still active or that other motivational speakers were also working in businesses around the world. All I wanted to do was to motivate and inspire people as Zig had done for me so I just hunted down any opportunity to speak. Knowing nothing about business, the only places I actually found were comedy clubs.
So for a time I became a motivational stand up comedian. You can see clips on YouTube, notice the Zig quote at the start and end, inviting the audience to join the Smile and Compliment Club.
But none of that was the moment that Zig saved my life.
That came when, after discovering that my (then) wife had had a string of affairs throughout our time together. She revealed that news, and then walked out, never to return. I had a nervous breakdown.
I could have gone way down. I could, so easily, have reached for the wrong thing. But instead I found a tape called ‘How to Be a Winner’. It was a live talk by Zig. I played it constantly until it wore out. For day after day I lay there, unable to function, just able to listen. It was then that I found Zig’s website and that he was still performing and still writing. I got his CD set and listened to that over and over again. I knew the material so well I could have delivered it verbatim – including the Southern accent.
But instead I got up and started living again.
I never met Zig in person. But I did write him a version of the above story as an entry in his 80th birthday testimonial book, organised by his son Tom.
Today I deliver my own material, and not as a comedy motivational speaker, but hopefully as some kind of genuine one. I know that the chances that I have anywhere near as big an impact as Zig, who touched and improved millions of lives over five decades, is remote.
But on the day of his passing, I had another thought, inspired by his life. As one of the first ever motivational speakers who defined the concept and the author of numerous best-selling books that spanned decades, there was little or no coverage of his passing in mainstream media.
If the great Zig remained niche, known only to the few, we are but mayflies with our influence. It was a lesson in my own relative importance. A useful footnote in how I measure my own success.
And yet I feel he would somehow have wanted it that way. Zig was a great salesman, one of the original and best and yet he didn’t ‘play the game’ that so many of his weaker successors do in using emotional blackmail, hypnosis techniques and snake oil tricks to sell his books, speeches and programmes. He didn’t play on the desperate, needy and vulnerable with ‘get rich quick’ schemes; his material and methods were honest, honorable and transparent.
I’ve seen too many so-called ‘thought leaders’ and motivational experts who claim the ability to change the world and/or make us all rich. Zig gave us clear, tested and testable suggestions to improve our outlook, attitude and therefore our lives.
Can anyone change the world (for the better) anyway? A few perhaps, but it’s so unlikely. But more importantly we’re not here to change the world, if we think that, it’s our ego talking. But we all can inspire individuals, even if it is just one soul at a time.
Zig didn’t invent goal setting or positive thinking, but he made them relevant and practical. He presented them as tools we can all use to improve our lives. There was no magic and no mystical invoking of a universal power of attraction required. Just simple, honest human truths told in a way that you could remember and use.
I never met Zig, but he did ‘save my life’, even though he may never have known it. We can and should, always, and only, do our very best, with integrity, for everyone we meet, our clients, our relationships, the audience on the day. That’s what Zig personified for me.
And he did it with style. And he did it with humility. And he did it with humour.
A genuine hero.
Zig Ziglar in 1978. Click on the photo to read Zig’s obituary in the Washington Post
We’d all been locked in the hotel together, around 100 professional speakers, since Friday morning, having seen nine speakers present from the main stage, attended 6 workshops, had two dinners, lunches and breakfasts, three hour panel session, lots of networking coffee breaks, a multitude of catch up chats, numerous laughs and far too many late night/early hours of the morning ridiculously silly joint ventures planned. So for it all to come to what seems like an abrupt end come Sunday lunchtime is a jolt to the system.
The cure for that deflated feeling is what I’ve been doing now. Getting out my notes and once again getting excited about what I’ve seen, heard and learnt and most importantly what I’m going to do differently to benefit my own business. The main part of my review of being at such an event is to look at who I’m now going to contact and connect with, to thank them, to further some conversations and to discuss ideas with.
Is it a bit flippant to say it was the best PSA Convention I’ve been to? (I’ve been to the last 6). Objectively I think perhaps it was as the best. All the speakers were powerfully enlightening, entertaining and at the top of their game. Subjectively it certainly was, and I’m not just saying that because they gave me an award.
It was the first time I was actually embarrassed going on stage since I was awarded my 2 metres swimming certificate and sew-on patch for my trunks… aged 14 (my primary school had lost it, then later found it and forwarded it on to my subsequent school.) So on Saturday night after the awards were given out for speaker excellence to the great and the good I would have kindly refused had it not been such a nice piece of etched glass with the words ‘The presidents award for outstanding contribution’ on it. My thanks to Peter Roper and the board. Better than a badge with a fish on it. But I won’t sew it onto my trucks, might cause me to sink.
And anyway, it’s not about me, it’s ‘all about you’ as new PSA president @grahamjones has put it. Every year the PSA has a ‘theme’ to focus the mind for the year ahead and to have something different to put on the marketing materials. The new theme for the year is @. Can you see what he’s done there? It means it’s all about connections, because it is. Whether that’s online connections using technology or just by keeping in touch over the phone or having meetings. It’s about external and internal connections, just like how our brains work by neurons connecting together to fire new combinations of ideas.
Having a new theme doesn’t mean the old ones don’t still apply, and their have been some good ones, which apply to whatever business you’re in, whether you’re a ‘speaker’ or not. We should all be there to ‘enlighten and entertain’, we should still have ‘astronomical aspirations’ and we should all be embracing the ‘Spirit’ of creating a sharing community.
This new theme is no different. It should apply to us all. We all need to enhance the connections we make. But I’d like to squeeze a few bonus meanings out of Graham’s ‘@’ theme. As well as being the symbol for email and twitter, meaning ‘at’, it’s also shorthand for ‘and’. I’m taking that as an extra cue for the year: AND: what else can I do to be better? AND: what else can I do to connect with more people, AND: what else can I do to help?
The PSA @ logo for #psa11
AND there’s a third significance for the symbol ‘@’. It’s a mnemonic, which is a device used to simplify a complex process. For example computer ‘machine code’ is actually an endless stream of binary 0s and 1s, but few people can program a computer and get it to do anything useful using binary. It would just be too complicated and take too long. So binary processes are group together and simplified by being given a mnemonic, a name that we can understand and relate to that represents the complex process.
This year, whenever you see the @ symbol, let’s all realise that WE are mnemonics with our businesses. We are all here to make complex processes easier to understand so that our clients, customers, audiences or whoever we serve, can take action, make changes and improve their lives in some way. WE are the connectors. We ARE the @.
I received some great testimonials from my talks last week that I’d like to share here.
John Sherry runs The Inspiration Club, a monthly networking meeting in Coventry. It has more of an uplifting, personal development mission than most groups so you’re guaranteed to feel inspired- as well as getting some great takeaway value that you can put to use. I did a 90mins creativity session including the emotional analogue drawings exercise that people are finding so powerful.
“I booked Ayd for The Inspiration Club as it has been steadily growing and I want to out source memorable and unique speakers. Ayd certainly comes into both those categories. Some nights take time to get going but not this one! He had the audience soon very engaged and on their feet and everyone was amazed at his capacity to understand and harness our creative self. I’m still getting calls about it every day! He is a best kept secret in some ways but I’m sure that is about to change. If you want to be entertained, opened up and increase your self understanding with energy, enthusiasm and an injection of humour then give Ayd a call immediately!” – John Sherry, Founder of The Inspiration Club
Julie French and Tony Burgess run Aha! – The Academy of High Achievers specialising in breakthrough coaching as NLP experts and speakers (they can train you to be an NLP master practitioner too, see below). They also run Stafford Ecademy, a networking group based in Stone, Stafford with two expert business or development speakers every month. I gave my keynote on creative thinking in business – why it’s important and how to get rid of blocks that stop us from realising our true creative potential.
“Ayd Instone is a real one-off in the speaking world. His unique blend of entertainment, interaction and information keep an audience fully engaged throughout! His questions and practical ‘discovery’ exercises really get people realizing how much more of their potential there is available to be teased out – and he is the perfect guy to help them to tap into more of the creative genius within them. What we particularly love about Ayd’s presentations is the fact that there is a clear link made throughout about how the topic of creativity relates to success in business and Ayd provides useful ‘takeaway’ ideas that can be put into practice straight away. We had lots of positive comments from our attendees at the event where he presented and one of our ‘regulars’ enthusiastically told us that it was by far the best presentation he had seen in a long time. That kind of feedback prompts us to wholeheartedly recommend Ayd Instone as a professional speaker and presenter for meetings and conferences (large or small) and workshops.” – Tony Burgess, Director, The Academy of High Achievers ltd
I also received this testimonial, posted on the ecademy website that night:
“Went to see Ayd speak tonight in Stone. So it was Ayd Instone in Stone. A great presentation, show whatever you want to call it. I’d recommend everyone to see Ayd speak or to arrange for him to talk at your next event. He has great things to share and puts his ideas over in a fun and entertaining way. Thanks Ayd” – Steve Halls, healthly living expert (click here).
Both of these events are looking for more great speakers. Why not contact them, go along and see what it’s all about.