How To Become A High-Paid Speaker Leveraging Your Weaknesses With Dave Rendall

I first met Dave in 2010 when he came to speak at one of my bootcamps. His incredible stage presence and successful speaking business inspired me to reach out and have him share his pathway to wealth on the show.

Dave travels more than any other speaker I know, as he’s in demand across 6 continents every year. He also has an impressive story how he went from doing free talks to charging over $10,000 per speech.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • How Dave became a sought after speaker that charges $10,000 per speech
  • How to flip your weaknesses on their head to find your biggest strengths
  • Dave’s trick for finding the skills and traits you should focus on leveraging
  • The steps to building a successful speaking business from scratch

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Transcription:

Chris Dunn: Hey everybody, welcome back to another great episode of Pathways to Wealth. Today, I have a good friend of mine that I've known for probably 5 or 6 years, Dave Rendall. He is the author of a few books. I’ll let him tell you about that in a minute. He is an international speaker, has spoken to many Fortune 500 companies. He has a TED Talk, Doctor of Management Degree, and just an overall great guy.

Dave, thanks for being here.

Dave Rendall: Yeah, I'm excited about. Thanks for having me on.

Chris: Let’s go and just fill in any holes. What did I miss? What else would you like people to know about you?

Dave: Probably the newest stuff are not necessarily new but I'm working on an Iron Man, just half of the Iron Man and working an ultra marathon coming up here in a few weeks, so working on the endurance athlete side of things. Also, done a little stand-up comedy try to mix that in with the presentations. People like to be entertained while they are learning stuff so those are a couple of things maybe fill in the blanks.

Chris: Nice. And out of the speakers that I know, I would say, it seems this way that you travel more than anybody. How many trips have you taken, say, over the past 12 months and where have you spoken?

Dave: I don’t know. I think there are probably some people that do it more but I've done a pretty good year. I probably did about 200,000 miles, a couple of trips to Australia. I went over to the Middle East a couple of times. I spoke in Bahrain a few times, Canada, all over the world. I've spoken on every continent except for Antarctica in the last few years, so yeah, I've put in a lot of my miles, and one of my goals is to get all 50 states and I'm almost up to 40. I've spoken in a lot of Canadian provinces and almost every one of the Australian States just in the couple of their territories so I'm getting pretty close to checking some of those things off the list.

Chris: Nice. And whenever you speak, what do you speak about and who are you speaking to?

Dave: Good question. I speak to all sorts of people. I spoke to some kindergarteners a few weeks ago. I've spoken to some older folks, people in their 70s and 80s and I speak to people all the way in between. Probably my sweet spot is entrepreneurs, people who own their businesses and want to do a better job in managing those businesses. But they also maybe married, they’ve got kids, they want to have a better sort of all around life for themselves not just have a successful business, so part of what I talk about is strategies for running a better business but also having a better marriage, having a better relationship with your kids, having a happier, better life regardless of how much money you're making, so try to fill all those things in. Entrepreneurs are probably my sweet spot. I do a lot of work with entrepreneurs, organizations, they’ve got chapters all over the world and that’s a great way to connect with those folks.

Chris: Nice. So a lot of people might know you from, I think the seminar that you spoke at my event was 2010 or 2011, and that was around the time that The Freak Factor has blown up. Let’s just tell everybody what’s Freak Factor about.

Dave: The Freak Factor is based on something that it’s really just me. I spend my whole life getting in trouble because I couldn’t sit still, be quiet, and do what I was told and then at some point, as an adult, I realized I was getting paid to stand up and talk and run my own business, but the things that people spent their whole life telling me not to do, my parents used to call me motor mouth, was the thing I was getting paid for. It was the thing that I was doing really well, and so, I discovered my weaknesses were strengths. I started to wonder whether that may be true for other people. Developed this concept called The Freak Factor, developed an assessment, wrote a book, and started gathering stories about how seemingly obvious weaknesses like dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and even simpler things like messiness and disorganization and things like that seemed like weaknesses but they are also strengths and how the things that sometimes we’re fixing to get better, to get wealthier are actually the things we should be flaunting or amplifying or embracing, so kind of flipping the script on what people normally tell you to do on self-improvement and showing you that maybe sometimes when we’re trying to get better, we’re making ourselves worse in the process.

Chris: Nice. I really like the concept of looking at weaknesses and maybe what a lot of people feel guilty about and saying no. There’s actually a positive side to that and if you're just focused on your weaknesses, there’s probably a flipside that if you do the opposite, you're going to excel rather than just flounder and feel guilty, right?

Dave: Absolutely, absolutely. And it feels better. We feel good when we’re doing those things we naturally do and sometimes our weaknesses are those things that in the sense we can't stop doing, we can't keep from doing, and it takes a lot of energy and it’s really uncomfortable to try to change those things that sometimes people think, “Well, no pain, no gain” or whatever. I have a lot of gain without pain. It’s not that training for my Iron Man, for example, does it hurt sometimes but I also enjoy achieving. I enjoy being outside. I enjoy being active. I don’t train for an Iron Man because making myself miserable makes me better. I train for an Iron Man because I enjoy the things that go into that. I rode 60 miles yesterday and I like the feeling of movement. I like being on the bike. I like going faster. I like progress, so I think a lot of people have taught us that you get better by fighting yourself and I think that’s not necessarily true. I think all the times we can get better by going who we are and tapping into that and doing things that we actually enjoy and that we do naturally instead of trying to be someone else.

Chris: Nice. Is there a common theme that you see with entrepreneurs or investors in general that maybe it’s like a common weakness and I know not everybody is the same and not everybody has the same personality traits, but is there kind of like, maybe the 80/20 principle? Like, most entrepreneurs kind of have this weakness and here’s how you can get over it or flip it on its head.

Dave: Yeah. I think one of them that tend to come up a lot is sort of obsessive workaholic, that would be the criticism, and the upside of that is that a person is passionate and committed and intense. They are working really hard to make things happen, they're ambitious, would be a positive way of saying it. They're goal oriented. And so, I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel that pressure especially in their personal life to not be such a workaholic, to not be so obsessed of what they do but that’s precisely how they felt the business is, by being obsessive and being intense.

One piece of advice I gave there, one time, somebody from Russia actually asked me that question. He was younger entrepreneur and he said, “Hey, so if I'm an obsessive workaholic and that’s bothering my girlfriend, what are you saying that I'm supposed to do? If I get more obsessive and more workaholic, she’s just going to be more frustrated with me.” And I said, “Do you set goals in your business? Do you have targets you're trying to achieve in your business?” And he said, “Yeah,” And I said, “Are you doing that same thing with your relationship?” He said, “No.” And I said, “Right. Why don’t you be obsessive and workaholic but be consistent across the different areas of your life, right? Don’t be any less intense and don’t dream any smaller but actually dream bigger and say ‘I don’t want to just make a lot of money and have a successful business. I want to have a perfect all around life.’ Be idealistic and everything, be hardcore and everything and so add your relationships, add your girlfriend to that list, and be obsessive. Put her on the goals list. Put her on the tasks list and ask yourself, ‘What can I be doing every day to maximize that relationship’ and since you are that kind of person, if you make sure she’s on the list, you're probably going to improve your relationship right now. All you're doing right now is you're having a narrow version of being obsessive and workaholic or goal oriented or achievement oriented and since you probably value achievements, what if you designed your relationship with her in such a way that you could see the progress and see that same level of achievement and I bet you’d see a change in your relationship with her.”

Chris: Right. So, not that he needs to change what he’s doing, he just needs to include her in his process and that will, kind of, anything that’s important to him, just bring it back and stay on that path. Don’t try to just quit or slow down but make it all one, nice.

Dave: Instead of stop caring so much about his business, it’s actually the reverse. It’s asking what I've done in my business to be successful and how can I apply some of those same principles to my relationships.

Chris: Beautiful. What would you say to somebody who, and I get this email, in question, and comment quite a bit, Chris, I look at a lot of the people that you interview or look at you in your business and I see people that are so driven and that have high performance and have this always be hustling attitude but I don’t have that. I feel lazy. I feel unmotivated. What you say to somebody— is there a positive quality trait that somebody like that could flip on its head?

Dave: Oh absolutely. One of the things I developed was an assessment that shows people the upside that goes with the downside. And so, lazy is the flipside or relaxed and easygoing. Some people are happy with what they have. They're not super motivated to have more. They don’t have a huge Christmas list. They don’t want a bigger house. They don’t necessarily want a bigger car and even if they do, they don’t want it bad enough that they want to spend 80 hours a week trying to get it and those kinds of things. They don’t want to do an Iron Man. They don’t care about even doing a 5k or whatever. And so, yeah, I think that’s a huge one to tap into, “Hey, I'm relaxed and easygoing.” “Hey, I'm satisfied and I'm content with the life that I have.” That’s fine. That’s great. How can I build on that? How can I use that and how can I accept that and go, Hey, Chris is different and he’s achieving his goals. He’s moving in his direction just like we’d fear travel. Some people look at that and go “Wow. I wish I can travel as much as Chris” and other people are like, “I kind of like staying at home.

Travel isn’t valuable in and of itself. It’s valuable to you, it’s valuable to me, but it isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. It’s just a thing, right? And some people don’t aspire to that, so it’s not “I have a better life if I live more like Chris” it’s “Okay, what do I like? What do I care about?” And to be honest, especially for your personal happiness and fulfillment, being a person who is easygoing, a person who is relaxed, a person who isn’t super intense, there’s a lot of upside to that and it really helps with your relationships because you're not constantly running away from things. You're not constantly working on things. You're able to be more present and you're able to be more satisfied, that sometimes you and I, the downside of being so motivated sometimes is where we satisfied of the current state because we have vision of how it can be so much better.

So, absolutely, there’s an upside. It’s just not necessarily an upside in achieving certain things, and so, that’s the thing. If your style is to be relaxed and easygoing, then the question is, how do I build a life around that instead of constantly setting myself up to start feeling bad about the fact that this is my style. This is who I am.

Chris: I love that and it’s no true that there’s no right or wrong. A lot of times, I think, people have this sense of guilt, like “I should be a certain way. I need to change who I am” but like you said, I mean, if you just look at who you are naturally, there is a fit. There is a path to succeeding that way and I feel like a lot of people who try to change who they are, they're just setting themselves up for failure because they're going to try to fake and be somebody else and then ultimately just fall flat on their face and then be like “Oh man, I was never meant to do that” or “I was never meant to be an entrepreneur” but maybe you are, just, you got to go about it a different way.

Dave: Yeah, I think two parts. People think, “Can we change?” And I think the answer is, “Yes, we can change,” but in your words, we change by becoming more of who we are not by becoming someone else. Modeling our lives after other people’s lives isn’t necessarily the best thing. We need to start with “Who am I? What do I want? What do I care about?” And then start to ask those questions about “How do I get there?” But another part two that you were talking about is sometimes we set goals that don’t match who we are and I think that’s the next key.

We need to match where we want to be to who we are and if we have these goals that don’t really fit, instead of trying to change ourselves, which is really really difficult, what we need to do is potentially ask, “Should I change that?” Instead of saying “How do I run my own business like Chris and Dave, how do I travel all around the world and not live in one particular area like Chris does” It’s “Hey, I really like being settled in one place.” Hey, I really like being part of my local community.” “Hey, I really like kind of having a routine and doing the same thing on a daily basis.” That’s great. How can you tap into that? How can you go in deeper with the community that you have instead of like you and I do visiting so many other different places and so many other different people. How can you father instead of going wider? How can you go deeper instead of going wider? And so I think that‘s perfectly legitimate. I think the only problem is sometimes, like you said, we see things as good or bad as opposed to that’s one kind of good, that’s a different kind of good, but they're both good. We say, “Oh, this is up here. This is down here” and once we start making those judgments, it can cause us to start to be dissatisfied with who we are and feel like we should be someone else.

Chris: Great message. Let me ask you a little bit about your speaking business. Were you always a naturally gifted public speaker or is that something you have to work at?

Dave: I think there are two answers to that. I think I was always a natural communicator and I was always a natural entertainer. When I was a kid, I was always in trouble, like I said, for goofing around. I was making people laugh in class but one thing that people don’t understand about the class clown is they're not always the funniest person in the class. They're the person who is willing to say out loud what everyone is thinking but is afraid to say. Does that make sense? Sometimes your body whispers it, it’s hilarious but he’s not going to say out loud and then you blurt it out and then everybody laughs, “Oh, Dave’s hilarious” Well, Bill is actually hilarious. I just have the balls to say something that nobody else would say.

I was always a natural entertainer, but like you said, sometimes our environment can cause us to question ourselves and doubt ourselves. I grew up in a really strict family. I grew up in really strict religious schools, and so, I literally had it beaten out of me that you shouldn’t talk, you shouldn’t speak up, you shouldn’t be upfront, you shouldn’t be this way, so I spend a lot of my life trying to not be that way and so I think naturally I always had those gifts but sometimes it takes awhile to fight through some of that outside garbage and it’s also sometimes we don’t realize that what we already have translates to new situations.

Sometimes people say, “Oh, I'm not a good speaker,” and I'm like, “Well, how many words do you suppose you say in a day?” And they're like, “Oh, tens of thousands” And I'm like, “Right. So how is you talking to Chris over coffee any different from you speaking to an audience?” It really isn’t except we think it is, right? We say, I don’t have any experience public speaking when all of us speak in public every single day, right? As soon as started to see that, I started to see, well I've got something that most people don’t but the first time I did a presentation in college, I was so nervous because of what people tell you about those situations and because I lost my confidence or never even found confidence because of the way people communicated to me about who I was, that I was so nervous, my hand was shaking, so I grabbed my notes with my other hand and then both hands were shaking so bad I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see the notes anymore. It took a while to work through the specific skill of speaking in front of a group and I think every time you do it, the fear goes down.

Every time you do it, if it goes well, your confidence goes up and your fear starts to disappear whereas now it’s just like most people sitting down and turning on their computer in the morning, they don’t get nervous because this is what they do every day, so when it’s my turn to go up and speak, I eat the same thing I would eat on a normal day, I do all the same things, I never once go, “Oh, I got to get ready ‘cuz I'm about to do this super intense thing.” It’s just part of who I am now and I think it always was but there is a point in which, again, we can become more of who we are. We can become better at what we’re naturally good at and I think that’s what happened with me. I was naturally good at it and then I found a way to go pro at it which requires some effort, requires some time, requires some skill, but I think the seeds were always there and they’ve been covered up though sometimes, but I think sometimes we have uncovered those and kind of start over with it.

Chris: For me, public speaking is a skill, I think that’s what you're alluding to. It’s like, The first time you do it, it can be scary as hell but the more you do it the more easy it becomes and for me I remember the first time I spoke in front of people, I think it was like 20 or 30 people in the room, and like you, I was petrified and then recently in Las Vegas, I had 500 people at a seminar and I got up stage and I'm like, “Wow.” Thinking back, I wasn’t nervous at all. I'm like, how did I get there and it wasn’t because I'm a great speaker because I'm really not, it was just because I've done it and gotten in a repetition and now it’s just routine. I think for a lot of people that want to become speakers, the fear—isn’t there a stat that says people are more afraid of dying than public speaking?

Dave: Yeah, people fear of public speaking more than pretty much everything else, spiders, airplanes, elevators, and death. I think there are two pieces to that though. I think it’s right that everyone can fear public speaking less but I think we have to be careful that we don’t tell everybody they can be a great public speaker. If I'm 5-foot tall, I'm probably never going to be in the NBA, and if I'm 7 feet tall, I'm probably never going to be jockey. There are some things we can get over the fear and there are some things that we can develop the skill but if our skill level is starting really really low and to your point you said you wanted to get better at public speaking, if that isn’t really our thing but we feel like I should be better at that because professional people can do that or successful people do that, I think that’s really a wrong place to start.

And so, I think some people who are behind the scenes people and who are quiet to themselves people, who are detailed people that are operational people sometimes feel like the “Well, the superstars are all upfront, so I should be upfront too” and that’s not going to be their thing and even though they might be able to get better at it and get to the point where they're not afraid, they're still not going to be greatest. They're not going to be the best. Does that make sense? And so I think you would have to ask, where do I already have some seeds that I can grow? Not how do I start from zero. If you think about things on a scale of 0-10 in 10 being the highest level of ability and 0 being the lowest, I think we want to ask, where was I born a 7 or an 8? What have I always been doing? What have I always been good at? What do people always praise me for? What do I always seem to have a headstart on and then how do I build on that? Not how do I go back here and start at zero on some things because they are good things to have or good skills to have so I'm trying to be well-balanced and well-rounded.

Chris: Yeah and there’s this test called the wealth dynamics profile test and it talks about, there are 8 different ways to build a business or be wealthy and one of them is the star, one is the supporter, one is the mechanic, one is trader. Like you said, I think people are born with a set of skill and if you're born a star, like you, you're born loud and you're the class clown and always getting in trouble, you're probably going to go much further than somebody who is meant to be a supporter or behind the scenes supporting the star or a mechanic, somebody who is really detail oriented and maybe mathematical and process oriented.

Dave: Right. And that’s the problem, when we start to say that the star, for example, is better than the supporter, I mean, there are people out there who built multimillion dollar businesses by your point, being mechanics or being really good supporters or things like that, but we tend to think sometimes like, “Oh, I wish I could be like that” but guess what, sometimes I wish I was more organized. Sometimes I wish I was more detail oriented. Sometimes I wish I was more like you and I was more consistent and I ran podcasts, TV shows, and I handled those details and those kind of things. But what I've come to grips with is that it’s not me, that’s not where I'm going to be the most successful, and that’s good but it’s good for someone else. And so even though some people, it’s easy to think that what somebody else has is perfect having that, I know it’s not. I know there are all sorts of deficits that I have that sometimes I wish I didn’t have and then I wish I had more of some of those other kinds of skills but that’s not where the value is going to come from and every year I get paid more and more and more to be who I am and it becomes less and less important that I'm not all those other things.

Chris: Nice and that’s a great segway. I want to talk a little bit about the speaking business itself. How did you get started speaking as a business and charging for it and what does that look like? How do you go about marketing and what does a typical deal look like? How do you get set up? What’s your audience size? Stuff like that.

Dave: That’s a good question and I probably have answers that won't be super helpful to people but in a sense they are—they may not be encouraging maybe but I think they're helpful and they're realistic. I used to work at non-profit management, helping people with disabilities and I would help out my local community by being up in chamber of commerce board and stuff like that and I also needed to sell what we were doing. I had to convince people to hire people with disabilities which isn’t number one on their list. They're trying to find the most talented qualified person or in their mind often times the most normal person and I'm trying to say, “Hey, hire this person with an obvious disability.” So I do a lot of community relations types of things and stuff like that.

I was working on my masters. I was working on my doctorate and so I joined the local community leadership program and went through the program, then I got on the board, then I started doing leadership training for them. I started teaching part time in colleges and so I was out there doing this on a free basis but I was getting good practice and people seemed to like it and I realized I was liking it and people seem to volunteer— when we were in groups, they’d volunteer me to be the guy who goes upfront because they didn’t want to do it. They saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Pretty soon, offers to speak that were free started to be offered to speak for 200 bucks, for 500 bucks. I remember the first one I got for a conference was $900 for an hour and a half for a talk I had already done. They’ll pay all my expenses, fly me to Atlanta and I just started as a college professor 12 years ago and they apologized because they could only pay me $900 for an hour and a half of my time but $600 an hour isn’t really a bad wage, right? And so I thought, oh, wow they're apologizing. There’s got to be more money here if they are apologizing for paying me $600 an hour and that’s how my whole business has been built. I've done free talks to help people out because I'm a generous helpful person and I like to share what I believe and try to help people and my first full time clients or my first business client doing strategic planning came from a free talk I did for the alumni board at the college.

I did a talk for ASTD Group, American Society of Training and Development, terrible acronym, ASTD, and I met somebody from a huge mining company and I've probably done more than a million dollars of work for them for the last 10 years training all their managers and supervisors and doing coaching.

For me, I speak and then people like it enough to have me back or they tell somebody else about it, and then when I do that one, people like it enough to have me back or they tell somebody else about it, so this snowball has just been getting bigger and bigger and bigger over the course of 10 years to the point where I quit my job as a college professor and did it full time because already 80% of my income was coming from my business but all of my sales and all of my marketing to this point— I will share a new thing in a minute— but all of my sales and all of my marketing to this point has been 100% word of mouth, people telling people who tell people.

Chris: Really, so this has all been organic, so you show them off with free talks then you had some lower-paid speaking gigs and the word spread over years of hustling.

Dave: Yeah. Like one example is I spoke in Australia in 2005. They guy really couldn’t pay me, couldn’t even really cover my expenses but I said, hey, why don’t you find somebody who can pay me, and he did, so I spoke at two conferences and that conference had me back, the one that could pay me, had me back four years in a row. And then the people who were attending that conference started hiring me to come speak to their businesses and then even like the vendors, the people at the trade show booths some of them came in, saw me speak, and then said, “Hey, we sponsor this conference in a totally different industry, you should talk to the event coordinator for that.” Then they started bringing me over. I've been to Australia every year since 2005. One time I even did up with a three-week tour for the government. They hired me to travel around and talk to all of their youth workers all over the country for three weeks, and so that’s one other piece.

If there’s going to be worth of mouth, the Australian government said we need that guy to do the Freak Factor. They didn’t say we need a leadership speaker, they have those in Australia. They didn’t say we need a guy to talk about young people or education there are people like that in Australia. They heard a specific concept that was unique enough, that was original enough, that was interesting enough, that was useful enough that they said we need that guy and in their mind there was no other person.

Chris: You branded yourself as the Freak Factor guy which was completely different than just cookie cutter leadership stuff.

Dave: That’s right, that’s right. And that was a development. My first book was the Four Factors of Effective Leadership. I was a leadership professor. I just got my doctor of management in leadership. It seemed to make sense to buy the leadership book and I did but that wasn’t getting me all over the world. That wasn’t unique enough and it was still helpful and it was a basis for the business, but at some point, people don’t talk about that the same way as, oh my gosh, this guy just told me that the worse things about me are the best things about me and all the things that I've been trying to fix are actually the things I should going pro with. You’ve got to hear this guy and oh by the way he’s funny and he wears pink pants and is hilarious and he talks about autistic people and people with dyslexia and billionaire and arm wrestlers from Germany, it’s unusual enough, it’s unique enough that people want to talk about it and that they want to share it.

Chris: So it seems like the theme is, if you want to get into the speaking business or be an author, stand out and do somethine new?

Dave: Yeah. Well, stand up and do something new and do something that isn’t the same. One ways that we try to get into businesses is exactly like the conversation we’re having as what did Dave do and how should I do something like that? But if we’re not careful, then we start doing things exactly like everybody else does it and then there’s no reason to work with us, right?

Chris: Yeah. There’s a lot of “me too” marketers right? A lot of people they just kind of copy that, but a lot of times, my philosophy is, look at what everybody’s doing and figure out why that’s probably wrong because the [unintelligible 00:27:18] is usually wrong, which sounds like is what you did. You looked at all the leadership speakers and said, well, I'm going to […] and be crazy and start wearing pink pants and talk about freaks, right?

Dave: Yeah and some of that is like an evolution. I was even afraid to call it The Freak Factor at the beginning because I didn’t know if that would turn people off and I called it other things, and when I finally had the courage to just be who I was, so that was an evolution too. I didn’t start by wearing pink pants and a pink shirt and pink shoes. I started by wearing a shirt and a tie and dress pants and dress shoes because I wanted people to take me seriously and think I was an adult. And so, I think it’s hard sometimes to go against the grain of what everybody else does and I think it’s hard sometimes to be ourselves because we wonder if people are going to like it, and so, I think we have to have the courage to try that and see what happens to learn those lessons for ourselves, and so, yeah, I think a lot of people they say they want to a speaker and an author but you say what do you have worth sharing and they're like, “I don’t know.” So it’s not about manufacturing something. I think it’s about discovering something. Part of the reason I have something to share is because I'm living my life. Part of the reason I have something to share though is because I also read probably 70, 80, 90 books a year. Part of the reason I have something to share is because I travel. Part of the reason I have something to share is because I interact with other people who are achieving and who are changing their lives and who are improving and I've learned lessons from that.

So I think part of what we need to do is ask, why would anybody listen to me? Why would anybody read what I have to write? And what is personal to me? I don’t think we need to manufacture uniqueness. I think we need to discover it. What is already unique about me? What is already special about e? What are lessons I've already learned from living my life not from someone else somewhere else that I'm trying to rehash or give people what they want. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says “I need the Freak Factor.” People wake up and say “I need to be better at sales” “I'm unhappy” “I wish I had more energy” “I have unproductive people” but nobody wakes up in the morning with a Freak Factor problem. I'm presenting something that isn’t “Oh, I knew everybody was going to want this, and love this, and need this” It isn’t until after that that happens and I think sometimes we have to have the willingness to take chances on that instead of saying, people make a lot of money when they talk about how to do X so I'm going to do that.

Chris: You discovered your message through being authentic and crafting something unique, not just saying “I want to be a speaker and I want to write a book.” It was. “I have this unique message and I know it can solve a problem that a lot of people have and they don’t know what the solution yet is, so I'm going to deliver that and package it to them in this Freak Factor persona.

Dave: Yeah. In a sense, I'm doing for other people what I wish somebody had done for me. It took until I was in my mid-30s to where I figured out that my weaknesses were strengths and that the things that was I trying to change about myself or what I should use to be successful— my success, my income, my happiness have gone like this over the last, probably 7, 8, 9 years since I discovered that. I wish somebody would’ve told me when I was five. […] things I did so many people’s response to my speech was “Oh, I've got this kid who’s got ADHD” “I've got this kid who’s got dyslexia” so I wrote a book called the Freak Factor for Kids.

That’s how I've started speaking to younger kids because I wish somebody would’ve told me. In a sense I'm traveling around the world trying to tell people what I wish somebody would’ve told me at a younger age and it’s amazing the degree to which people need to hear it. People need to hear that they're marriage could be better if they stop seeing everything that was wrong with the other person and start seeing what’s right. They need to see that they need to stop trying to change their kid and turn them into something else, and instead, adjust to who they are and show their child how valuable that is. They need to stop trying to change their employees and try to turn them into somebody else. They need to find the right people who are the right match for the right thing and put those people in motion, that they need to accept that maybe they're the entrepreneur who starts things but they're not a professional manager who is going to carry it on for the next 20 years and that’s okay. Sell your business, start working in your business, hire the right people in your business, and then go start again or whatever it happens to be.

Everybody doesn’t have to move through every stage, but often times, we’ve been taught you got to be an adult, it’s time to be a professional, it’s time to grow up, your business is changing you have to change with it. No you don’t. You can hand it off. You can leave. You can sell. You can do all sorts of things. You can choose a very narrow role that fits the thing that you enjoy the most. You could become the chief sales person at your business and let qualified people run all the other different parts. You don’t have to become someone else just because the external situation has changed and if that’s where you're going to be the best and have the most value go with that. Don’t try to be somebody else.

Chris: Yeah and that resonates with me what you said about wishing that I heard this message earlier because in high school, I felt like a failure. I felt like something was wrong with me and I felt guilty for not wanting to go to college or I would sit in class and just fall asleep or be in a different world and if I just realized that it was because I was an entrepreneur and learning about some theory that I was never going to use wasn’t interesting, if I knew that that wasn’t a bad thing, that I could just move on and build a business. That would’ve saved me a lot of self beat downs because I was really hard on myself and grew up in a conservative military family and I'm like, “Man, I am a failure.” And that’s part of the reason why I'm doing this podcast and the show and why I'm so thankful and grateful for you to share this message is because there are a lot of people out there that are trying to be something that they're not, that if they would just realize that their weaknesses are their strengths and flip it on its head, their life would be so much easier.

Dave: George Elliott said, “We begin to believe what the world believes about us.” And so you’ve given yourself the beat down but before that happened, other people were giving you the beat down, and at some point, you started to believe they must be right because they are adults, they are the teachers, they are the managers, they are the successful people, at least as far as you know as a child, right? And so they're right, I'm wrong. They're good, I'm bad. And then we start to internalize that stuff. What I'm saying is that they had it wrong, you had it right, and one of the strength/weakness combinations is exactly what you're talking about and it’s what we get a lot of kids in trouble for at school, distractible and unfocused, right? And the upside of that is those people are curious and exploring, and look at your life, new country freaking every single day of the week. Traveling around the world, not staying at one spot, starting one business, adapting it into something else, going into bitcoin, and then adapting it into what you're doing right now, traveling around but then decided you want to settle down for a little while and then maybe moving onto something else. You are a curious and exploring person. You're a person who loves to learn, you're a person who loves to go out there literally to all the corners of the world and that people were trying to say, here’s how I can prepare you to sit in a cubicle for the rest of your life and you weren’t down for that. But you weren’t distractible and unfocused, you were curious and exploring and so you’ve built a life that rewards you, you’ve gone pro. You’re like, “You think I'm distractible now. Wait ‘till you see what I'm about to do next.” One year of your life packs in more experiences than most people have in a lifetime, and so that’s a huge strength and then you're sharing that with other people and showing other people that’s possible so that they can get out of that narrow view that they’ve been sold that you can't be about this and about this. You have to just be about this and you're changing that for people, but you're right, it was easy for people to define that as a negative when fact they were tremendous positives and the beauty of your story is you’ve been able to tap into that and that’s what I want to help other people do as well.

Chris: Awesome, awesome. Okay, now it’s time for five to thrive. I've got five quick questions for you.

Dave: Alright.

Chris: What’s one piece of advice you’d give somebody that wanted to follow in your footsteps or write a book, be a speaker, if they feel like they have a message that’s worth sharing, what's one piece of advice you’d give somebody starting out?

Dave: Speak to anyone anywhere every time you can. Go to the rotary but dirty little secret is, there are meetings going on every single day of the week in every community where the person who ask to find the speaker is so upset that they have to find a speaker, like, “Oh it’s my turn to find somebody for our meeting this month.” This is not a competition. It is not hard to find opportunities to speak and the only way to become a professional speaker is to be an amateur speaker and to get out there and try it. Gladwell says we need 10,000 hours of practice to be the best at something. I got good at speaking because I’d speak all day in training sessions for corporations, then I’d speak all night speaking to graduate students or non-traditional students at the college. Sometimes I’d speak 12 hours a day and then I’d speak 6 hours the next day and then 4 hours the next day.

There were weeks when I speak more in probably a week than some people even Keynote speakers who speak in a year because you're speaking one hour a time as a Keynote speaker. So go to the rotary, go to the Chamber of Commerce. Speak at the local church, the local community center, offer to speak for free to companies that you know locally that are having meetings. The only way to get good is to do it and if you're not doing it you just think somehow you're going to walk out there, you're going to get this big opportunity that’s going to pay you a lot of money and you're going to nail it the first time, it’s not true at all.

Chris: Speak as much as you can.

Dave: And speak about anything. The other thing I think people try to do too early is they try to narrow it down. Okay, what’s my Freak Factor message? What’s my ultimate story? You don’t know. The only way to know how people are going to react to something at what’s going to helpful is to do it and when somebody says “Can you talk about stress management?” the answer is yes. If you want to be a speaker, figure it out. Go online, research stress management, go and talk about stress management. Sometimes we have to talk about whatever we can get hired to talk about or whatever book to talk about before we discover what's our unique message, what's our unique story. I don’t think you can have the whole thing packaged and ready to deliver to the world when you’ve never delivered anything to the world before.

Chris: That’s really powerful. I bet I can see a lot of people that would get into the paralysis by analysis. Like, I have to figure out my entire message before I speak to anybody, otherwise, I'm going to get laughed at. What you're saying is the opposite. Just go out there and start doing this with your mouth and then you’ll kind of figure it out later.

Dave: Yeah, I mean, I wrote the kid’s book, right? I wrote the Freak Factor for Kids because when I did the Freak Factor talk, people are like, “That would be really helpful for my kids.” This new Freak Factor book, I revised it after 5 years because the first one was all about career, but then, I started seeing how this applies to business strategy, this applies to marriage, this applies to parenting, this applies to managing people, but I never could’ve discovered that and I never could’ve seen those connections if I wasn’t talking about it, right? I wasn’t sharing it.

So I think it’s kind of like, a new software comes out and they put it out in beta, then they see what people do with it and they make changes to it. If your speech is never in beta, you're never going to make it perfect and you're never going to become the best at something. Think about how much professional athletes practice versus how much they perform, and in speaking, the way the practice is only to do the real thing. I'm not talking about standing in front of your bathroom mirror. I think that the stupidest advice anybody ever gives.

You need to be in front of real people in real life and see what kind of real reaction to get what kind of questions do people ask. What are the parts that people seem to be paying attention? When did they laugh? When did they smile? When did they nod? What's working? What’s making sense to people and what isn’t? What is the people’s biggest concern? The reason I created the assessment that shows people the connection between their strength and weakness is because the number one question early on with the Freak Factor was at the end, “Okay Dave, that sounds awesome. What’s good about this bad thing about me?” And all I was doing was answering those on an individual basis and I could. But I thought what if I could put together an assessment that would answer that question for everybody during the session and then people can learn these lessons along the way. So I think a lot of it is an evolution but you can't start the evolution unless you start the process, start the steps and you can't do that unless you get in front of people.

Chris: Nice. Love it. Dave, are you in the camp that says you should focus all your attention on one source of income or diversify and have multiple sources of income?

Dave: That’s a good question. One of the reasons I have a business even is because I had it on the side while I was also teaching part time on the side while I had a full time job. I've been working since I was 12 years old doing the paper out and that’s because we didn’t have any money and that’s because my dad got laid off. When he get laid off […] one source of income, right? So I think even having a business diversifies your income because since I get paid on Keynote speeches, even if one person cancels the Keynote speech, first of all, I have a deposit, so I don’t even lose everything in that situation. I haven’t even done anything yet but even if one cancels or even if two cancels, I've got 50 other speeches. I've got 50 other clients, but especially early on, I taught full time. I taught part time at two different places and I have my business and I did some consulting and I did some training and I did some Keynotes.

I don’t think you want to diversify just to diversify but you need to ask yourself what are some other ways to create value for what I do and is there a way to benefit from the things that I'm doing in ways that are additional that protect me as you're probably thinking a little bit from everything falling apart, from everything imploding. If bitcoin totally disappears and if the laws change and no one can use it or it just crashes or everybody loses trust in it and that’s what you built everything on, then you're out of business. […] built on maximizing Twitter and Twitter changes everything about the way that they operate, then you're out of business.

So I think that’s one of the things that you can even do even in your business by, for example, going international. I can do speeches in Bahrain and speeches in Australia during holiday times and summer times in the US where I would never get business in US because everybody’s on vacation, companies aren’t booking stuff for that time, nobody’s having a conference on Christmas but in Bahrain they are because it’s the Middle East and people are Muslims and they don’t necessarily care that much about Christmas. They might have a general societal level generation but people are still operating their businesses during that time of year. In Australia, they don’t have the same holiday schedule. In fact, their seasons are completely flipped and so you can do some things at different times.

You can also be, I found that during 2008 when the US economy crashed and even though they called it a global financial crisis, I was diversified in a sense because I was doing things in Australia. They were doing great when everybody was doing poorly. So I think, yeah, looking for diversification, again, not in a unnatural way, not “Oh, the expert say to be doing 10 different things” I don’t blog. I don’t have a lot of backend stuff. I don’t have an online program system and all that kind of stuff but I always look for ways to diversify.

One of the things I'm changing now is go into companies and show them how they can apply the Freak Factor through their whole company to create more productivity, more engagement, and to change their strategy, not general consulting, not strategic planning, how do you take the Freak Factor and make it work it in real life and your business and that gives me more diversification and it gives me an opportunity to have steady income on a sort of subscription basis, like a retainer, that’s different than the ups and downs that come with getting paid a bunch one month and not as much the next month and on and on.

Chris: Nice. So you can diversify in the same field, maybe don’t spread your attention so thin that you really can't master one thing but look for different income sources that fit your natural abilities and where you can put focus.

Dave: Well, try experiments. When I put my first video out on Amazon and I recorded my first video and paid to edit it and printed a thousand copies before they had print on demand options and have it in my garage and I put it online, it started selling, I was like, “Hey, well, I got a couple more recorded.” Now, I can use the money that I made from selling those to produce these other two and put those online and then they really started selling so I made 5 or 6 more. But if I never would’ve put the first one on, I never would’ve been able to discover what works, and now that you think about it, now people aren’t really buying DVDs anymore. They want to be able to stream it. They just want it direct online. There are so much free stuff [unintelligible 00:43:30] free but that’s not as much of an income source anymore.

And so, being willing to try some things, be willing to see what works and also I think beggars can't be choosers, so I think one of the things we have to do sometimes is be willing to do what we can get paid to do as we gradually built up the perfect fitting that we want to do. And so sometimes you might say, “Well, this business isn’t what I'm super passionate about” or “This isn’t where I want to be 20 years from now” but if this is helping to fund your ability to try some these other things and do some of these other experiments or move in a direction you're so super passionate about, keep that cash cow going as long as you possibly can before you let it go. I didn’t quit my teaching job for 10 years because it gave me good benefits, it  gave me a stable income to build everything else from, it gave me an audience that I was in front of, it gave me a lot of opportunities to practice. I didn’t let that go until I couldn’t keep doing both of them anymore.

Chris: Great. I love it man. Those were just some awesome knowledge bombs for people that are looking to get into that industry or just get ideas to have multiple sources of income. What book would you say, aside from The Freak Factor books, what would you say is a required reading for an entrepreneur or a speaker.

Dave: That’s a good one. I think for a speaker, you need to read presentations and Garr Reynolds and I don’t remember the name of it off the top of my head, it’s right over here somewhere but you need to read one of Nancy Duarte’s books and here’s why. So many people have gone to so many bad presentations with bad PowerPoint with bullet points, with corporate presentations and then they go in and they do that. They put up a ton of slides with a ton of words and charts and graphs you can't read, look up Seth Godin, just type in Seth Godin presentation tips. You’ve got to use images, you’ve got to tell stories, you got to get rid of as many words as you possibly can and it’s surprising to me as a person who is a professional at this but didn’t use to be but then speaks at conferences where the other people are getting paid too and they're supposedly professionals and it’s like you're at a bad corporate sales meeting with these other people—

Chris: They just have paragraphs of text on their PowerPoint slides.

Dave: Yeah. They have the little animations [unintelligible 00:45:54] animation slides out or it’s just a really small font or it’s got the old header from 1987 PowerPoint and the color is all wrong, but plus, it’s just a bunch of words and it’s an outline of what they're going to say and they're looking at the screen so much. And so I think if you're going to be an effective speaker, one way to set yourself apart is to make sure that the visual part of that captures people’s attention and so I think beyond—one book I would recommend, I think, a good guide for how to give a good speech is called Give Your Speech, Change The World by Nick Morgan. There’s a lot out there. I think his is comprehensive enough that you can get almost anything you need from that. The other thing I think to do is to watch as many TED talks as you can. I watch a ton of standup comedy because I'm funny and I want to get funnier, right? And watch as many TEDX talks as you can. Don’t watch movies. Don’t watch documentaries. Watch people doing what you want to do and see how to get better at it.

Chris: Nice, nice. Dave, do you have a mantra or quote that you live by?

Dave: Yeah, so I figured this one out when I did my TEDX talk and I use it now in every one of my Freak Factor speeches, “What makes us weird makes us wonderful and what makes us weak also makes us strong.” And so my mission in life is to get a little bit weirder and every time I do, it seems to make my life a little more wonderful and every time I get a little bit weaker, I get a little worse and all those things people tell me I should be fixing, I find that I'm even stronger and even better at all those things that people seemed to really like about me and that seemed to be working.

Chris: Great stuff. Final question. What does true wealth mean to you?

Dave: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the first book I read about being an entrepreneur was called Free Agent Nation by Dan Pink and one of the things he said in there was “Bigger isn’t better, better is better” so now, I’d still base the question to what’s better. Well, I think that depends on the person. For me, true wealth means being able to do what I want, when I want, where I want. It means that if I want to wake up in the morning and train for an Iron Man I can because I don’t have to answer emails, I don’t have to answer phone calls, I don’t have to respond to my employees, I don’t have to work for the man, I don’t have to work for a boss, I don’t have to worry I'm going to get fired, I don’t have to kiss someone’s ass and it means I can stay here in North Carolina if I want or I can move to Colorado or I can move to Thailand if I want to.

So it means I have enough money to be able to make the decisions that I want to make, to be able to do the things that I want to do, and to live the life that I imagine which means I need that money, it’s not that money is irrelevant but I think we sometimes think it’s just the money, but we have to ask for with real wealth is what do I want to do with that money that’s going to truly make my life better and then sometimes ask, how much money do I really need, and in what ways do I want to go about that so that I make sure that I'm achieving the end goal and not getting stuck in the middle. A lot of people have built big businesses and they have big money and they're not happy. They're not happy with their life and so I think we have to ask that bigger question.

One of the things that happens to lottery winners is they end up killing themselves either intentionally or unintentionally and I think that’s because money takes us faster down the path that we’re already on, that’s what I teach people. Money takes us faster down the path we’re already on, and so for being generous and for living a good life, for building relationships, and for making good decisions that we’re saving for the future, if we’re investing in the lives of others and friendships and then we make more money, we can just do more of all those things. If we have an empty life and we make more money, the life is just going get emptier and we’re just going to faster down the wrong path than we already are currently doing.

Chris: Yeah, I think Will Smith also says something like money basically magnifies what’s already there.

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: If you're on the right path, if you're hustling, if you're working towards the right thing, money can help you get there but if you have no money skills and you're kind of reckless with your money, having more money is not necessarily a good thing. And that’s great, I love the way that you put that, designing your business in a way that makes you happy and allows you to do what you want, when you want, and with whom you want, right?

Dave: Yeah.

Chris: Well, that’s a great place to leave it off Dave. Thank you so much for being on the show man. You just packed this episode with value and I'm sure anybody that is struggling with weaknesses, I'm sure they're going to have some tips to flip it on its head. Guys, I highly recommend reading The Freak Factor, it’s an incredible book and I like how Dave actually goes through a list of what people think of as weaknesses and flips it on its head, so if you're like, well, I didn’t really resonate with any of the specific examples you guys talked about, I'm sure there’s something in that book that will help you find out who you are, what your weaknesses are, and how you can flip it, and succeed with them.

Dave: Absolutely.

Chris: Awesome, well thanks for being here Dave.

Dave: Thanks a lot Chris.

About the Author

Chris Dunn is the founder of Skill Incubator. He is an active investor and entrepreneur with the mission of helping people learn Skills to thrive in today's economy. Chris spends his time testing and building multiple streams of income and investing the profits. Read more here.