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Champagne and M&Ms: The Speaker’s Life

I woke up to a text message that put me in a bad mood.

My mood worsened when I climbed out of a second-rate hotel bed; I found only decaf packets in the coffee machine.

After silently cursing out whoever forgot to supply my early-morning caffeine fix, I threw open the blinds to the unfamiliar landscape of whatever Podunk town they had put me in.

Driven by my caffeine addiction, I put a t-shirt on and went downstairs to the hotel “breakfast” to get coffee and protein.

The bacon was made in a lab.

The sausage was a week old.

The eggs were instant and tasted like margarine.

At least there was coffee.

Upon returning to my room, the phone rang. It was my ex-wife. She wasn’t being a jerk or anything, but we disagreed on a topic about our children, and the conversation was frustrating.

I was in a foul mood.

I started antagonizing her for no reason. I didn’t do this when we were married, and it pisses her off (understandably).

I wasn’t in the mood to compromise.

I didn’t want to be away from my home. I didn’t want to be away from my kids. I didn’t want to miss their baseball practices, concerts, and all the other Dad shit I love so much.

I questioned the decision to speak to a group of people who would never take action on the tactics and strategies I was there to share in my keynote later that day.

I felt used.

It was 730am.

What the fuck…

The Job

The speaker’s life is not glamorous.

Sure, it has moments.

You meet incredible people. You visit incredible places. You learn incredible things.

You’re also constantly tested. The audience doesn’t lie.

If they don’t laugh, it’s your fault.

If they don’t pay attention, it’s your fault.

If they aren’t inspired, it’s your fault.

It’s on you.

No exceptions. No excuses.

Speaking is a performance business. A poor showing is never the crowd’s fault, the venue or audio-video system, the time of day, or whether the audience is hungover or just finished eating lunch.

It’s you, always…as it should be.

Damn You, Google Maps

Uninspired, I begrudgingly put on my speaking uniform (a dope jeans and jacket combo). 

Looking good always elevates my mood.

ryan hanley keynote speaking

This day, it did not.

Then, a thoughtful and encouraging text message from the woman I’m seeing puts a smile on my face.

…a reprieve from my foul mood.

With new determination, I gathered my shit and left the “meh” hotel room behind for a 30-minute drive to the venue.

I’m not a huge fan of sleeping separate from the venue, but routines are a crutch, and I’d like to consider myself a pro, so we soldier on (and in full transparency, I rented a baller GMC Yukon, sooooo… whatever).

For all its great knowledge and experience, Google Maps was unfamiliar with this particular section of Podunk.

On three separate occasions, I stared at dirt-road dead ends, each with its unique version of “Cars on cinder blocks in front yards.”

The first time, no big deal.

The second time, ugh.

The third time, murder.

It’s 1030am.

What the fuck…

Be a Pro

Finally arriving at the venue, it’s actually pretty gangster.

Gathering my bag and putting on my jacket, that familiar thought enters my mind, “I’m going to fucking dominate.”

Why do the work if you don’t think you’ll do well?

Approaching the building, game face on, all the aggravations of the morning fade away.

You’re a pro, Ryan. Time to go to work.

Inside, it’s smiles, handshakes, and pleasantries. All the normal stuff.

I need to kill an hour and a half before show time.

No problem. I like to be early and catch the vibe.

Wait, is there no place besides the main venue hall to work or chill out?

…and we’re running behind?

…and there’s no audio-visual team?

…and people are going to be eating while I’m presenting?

All the earlier frustrations and aggravations rush back into my brain.

I can feel the fog of negativity blanketing my creativity.

I’m fucked.

I’m going to suck.

I came here to blow minds, and there is no way I can do that in these conditions.

These people have no respect for me, my work, or how badly I want to deliver maximum value to their audience. They have no idea how seriously I take this work. They have no conception of the brain cycles I put into each performance.

I don’t want to be here.

Why am I here?

I’m officially in a terrible mood.

What the fuck…

Negativity is a Construct

This will sound a little crazy to some of you, but I don’t care.

I’ve done a massive amount of work on myself, from counseling to reading to working with mentors to journaling (and this one is quickly becoming the most impactful day-to-day), developing a deeper relationship with God.

The funny thing about working on yourself is that you never experience the full benefit in the moment. Whether your work that day is reading the Bible, talking to a mentor, or getting in 30 minutes of reading, each is a small deposit in your positivity bank.

You’re building up a saving of positivity that you can call on to combat “What the fuck…” moments like this one.

It was beautiful outside.

I stood up, walked out to the patio, and turned to face the sun. I was by myself, so I didn’t feel like a complete weirdo, but I would have done the same thing regardless (although not feeling like a complete weirdo was a bonus).

I then closed my eyes and silently said the “Our Father” prayer.

“Our Father, 
Who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in Heaven,
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trepasses,
As we forgive those who trepass against us,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil."

I said it again.

…and again.

…and again.

…and then one more time.

Five times in total I recited “Our Father,” prayer.

Why the “Our Father” prayer?

It’s the only prayer I know by heart. I figured God would care less about which prayer I chose to recite and more about my decision to turn to Him in my time of need.

Then I opened my eyes. I felt better. More than that, I didn’t just feel better, I was back.

Then I said out loud, “This is a test. God is testing you. You’re a fucking pro. Stopping being a little bitch and get to work.”

This part I’m actually glad there was no one to witness.

I turned around and went back into the building.

This time, with a smile.

The Rub

I wasn’t having a bad day.

I wasn’t in a bad mood.

The world wasn’t conspiring against me.

In truth, the region of our country that I was in was beautiful. The people who inhabit that part of the country are some of my favorites. The hotel was perfectly nice, clean, and quiet, and the coffee at the hotel was delicious.

The drive from the hotel to the venue was beautiful and scenic. It reminded me of my youth growing up in the sticks (a time I have many fond memories of).

The venue for the event was completely baller.

The acoustics were great.

The audience was tremendous and responded throughout the entire performance.

We laughed together, we considered tough realities, and in the end, everyone had a great time.

I would go back and speak to that group again in a heartbeat.

I constructed the negativity.

Let me say that again, “I constructed the negativity.”

I have to own that.

We are not our thoughts. We are not our emotions. We are not our feelings.

We are our soul and the deeper I get into it, the more I believe a connection to God, (in whatever shape that takes for you), is the key to managing our lives through our soul.

This means, in turn, NOT being a slave to our thoughts, emotions, and feelings.

How could I be in a bad mood?

I was doing something I LOVE with all my heart, something, as a new friend so kindly put it, “…that I was meant to do.”

And if the spiritual nature of that thought offends you, we can reduce it to an even more secular level…

“If you’re going to be there, fucking be there.”

…and at a minimum, never let your bad mood ruin someone else’s day.

Lesson learned.

…and as a reward for a wonderfully hard-fought day, some champagne and M&Ms in the Delta Sky Lounge on the ride home.

This is the way.


p.s. looking for a leadership, growth or peak performance speaker for your next event? Check me out here.

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