As many readers will know I am organising the first ever Sales/Storytelling Conference in Ireland on March 15th 2017. I have confirmed 11 speakers from New York Times Best Seller Tim Sanders, to Lateral thinking Guru Paul Sloane from the UK, to the brilliantly talented Noeline Kavanagh Artistic Director of Macnas, to Mitra Wani from India and more!
Stories have a real magic in an attention deficit market – according to Princeton they couple the brain of the giver and the receiver ensuring the message sticks. Any of my Speaker colleagues will concur that audiences always remember stories and exercises but find it challenging to retain facts. And I believe, if I could…. that Irish people are the most talented storytellers on the planet. On March 15th, strategically placed beside our National Holiday when the world goes green; we will be sharing the stories of some of the best sales minds on the planet, and indeed some of the best storytellers. Our goal is by conference end, attendees will have the inspiration and know how to craft their own compelling story and have a consequential dramatic positive effect on their bottom line.
On the run up to this conference www.speakeracademy.ie I will be intensifying my own storytelling on this blog and indeed sharing those of some of the participants. When you take on something new or indeed walk the path less travelled in addition to the buzz – fear visits and hit you in the face! How you deal with it will define your journey. I learned how to deal with fear many years ago while Begging in Melbourne.
The journey to Melbourne was unpleasant. Unshaven and
dressed in shabby tracksuit bottoms, I wandered towards my
appointed meeting spot on Chapel Street, a district known for its
fine dining and shopping experience.
It was the morning after the night before, and empty wine
bottles and other remnants of trash adorned the walkway. With
each step, the brick in my stomach seemed to gain mass and
weight. I did not want to go where I was headed, and once I
arrived, I did not want to do what I was supposed to do.
Contrary to my usual headlong rush into new challenges, I
stopped and rested for a few moments, sitting on a nearby stoop
of a dilapidated building, trying to wrap my mind around the task
ahead: Begging for the day’s wedges.
It was the early 90’s, and I was visiting Australia as part of my
lifelong study on human behavior – specifically I was attempting
to understand the source of personal energy.
I wanted to know the source of my passion, energy and
enthusiasm. Was I wired differently? Financially I didn’t need to
beg, I was gratefully doing well. Emotionally and psychologically
however, I needed to overcome some fears.
After completing my rest on the stoop, I knew I couldn’t
procrastinate any more. To begin, I found a moderately trafficked
spot. I thought, ‘Perhaps I should attempt a practice run.’
I extended both my hands out, palms down. Even pretending to
beg was terrifying. At that moment an elderly woman was
walking my way. ‘Easy, I can do this’, I thought. ‘Now all I have
to do is…’
Yet I couldn’t even look at her. Twisting my hands into the
proper begging position felt impossible. Ten or fifteen minutes
passed, but the squeamish feeling remained.
The challenge was too much for me, but why? After all, this was
Melbourne, Australia, and I was Kevin Kelly from Ballintubber,
Ireland – a sleepy village in the West of Ireland with two bars, a
shop, a school, a post office and historic ruins. Ballintubber was a
dot on the map, not a destination.
Nobody knew me here. This was the perfect begging
environment for an Irish, habitually Armani-suited businessman.
None of that seemed to matter because some mysterious power
had gripped me: Fear! Just then, I noticed my buddy, Chris, in the
“Well, you aren’t going to make much money with your hands
in that position,” he said to me. “I can’t do it,” I moaned. ‘Can’t
do’ was, until this moment, a two-word phrase not present in my
“Yes, you can.” Chris fired back. “Look, I’ve got two dollars
Although I was grateful for the encouragement, his words had
the anything but the desired effect. His success as a beggar really
sickened me. If he had failed as well, at least we could have
As this silly scene played out, I butted up against one of the
grand dilemmas of the human experience and encountered a
choice: Expose myself to potential failure or maintain my self image.
Was the potential dent to my ego from failing – greater
than the negative impact of begging?
“Get up and ask people!” Chris commanded. “What do you say
to them?” I asked Chris, in hope of discovering some sort of
secret verbal formula for performing the task with success. “Can
you give me some money?” he replied.
Ugh, not what I was hoping for. Summoning my last reserves of
courage, I stood up. Within seconds, I had walked right past three
people. Words were not coming easily. Finally, having backed
myself into a corner, I resigned myself to taking action. Without
a second thought, I approached an elderly man.
“Can I have some money, please?“ I enquired. “No,” came his
stern reply, and he had barely left the scene when I started to
laugh. I laughed so much it hurt. It was a laughter mixed with
delight and despair. Delight, because it felt like a huge boulder
had been lifted off my shoulder. Despair, because some people
just aren’t nice, and begging certainly isn’t good for your health.
With renewed energy, I proceeded to ask four other people for
donations but they all refused to give as much as a cent. So much
for the Australian bond with the Irish.
When it was time to reconvene with my friends, I discovered
that Zack, Diana and Chris – all fellow course participants – had
all been given money. I had nothing to report. “How the bloody
hell did you get so much?” I enquired.
Zack had got over six dollars from telling people the whole story
of who he was, where he was from, and the theme of the
exercise: ‘The death of the ego’. Remembering the old saying that
‘if you keep doing what you are doing, you’ll keep getting what
you’ve got’, I decided to adopt Zack’s strategy.
While my friends went off to give their money away, I kept on
the scent of my first dime. I approached a group of young people
and insisted on telling them the story, following up with the usual
request for money. I was rewarded with another negative
Pride gone, I pleaded with them. “Fifty cents, twenty cents, ten
cents, anything please,” I said. Not a cent came. I began to realize
for the first time in my life what it must feel like for those who are
forced to beg in order to subsist. This experience was the catalyst
for a major change in my attitude towards these courageous
people. On my way back to the car, remembering I had brought
some money with me for a cup of coffee, I took ten dollars out of my pocket and gave it to a beggar who was sitting nearby. I was forever changed.
On that warm, humid day in Melbourne I learned that our
pride, our ego and our fear of failing often keep us from achieving
greatness, keeping us stuck in jobs we don’t like, working with
people we can’t stand, engaging in pursuits we’re not
wholeheartedly passionate about. They all prevent us from
discovering happiness, leading lives full of meaning and offering
our art to the world.
That day I faced my greatest fears – the fear of being humiliated
and the fear of failing. This wasn’t about the money. It was about
me having the guts to beg and feel like a piece of shit in
everyone’s eyes. It was about getting over my ego in the knowing
that I’m much more than this. It was about knowing that failure is
okay as long as you learn and grow from it. That day I grew six