George Takei and the lessons learned

Last week, George Takei (activist and actor from “Star Trek”) spoke at the National Speakers Convention in Washington, D.C..


Photo provided by Craig Price,

George has 8.8 million FaceBook followers and 1.7 million followers on Twitter. Did he share how we speakers could grow such massive followings to help impact more people? Did he talk about how the original Star Trek series was cutting-edge for addressing cultural and political norms?

Did he tailor his speech to speakers with the intention to help them grow their businesses – from the lessons he has learned through decades of being in the entertainment industry and as an activist?

Surprising for some, the answer was, “No.”

What did he speak about? Humanity.

George shared the personal story of his family (U.S. Citizens) being interned by the U.S. government when he was only 5 years old.

To provide a little background, 14 days prior to the National Speakers Association convention, I was at Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site for the 2nd time. Throughout being at Dachau this time around, our guide talked about being mindful of what is happening right now in the world along the same lines. Our guide believed strongly that you have to know history, speak of it openly – including its wrongs – to transform the future. He shared how every child in Germany tours the memorials of concentration camps at some point in their education. Their country puts their horrors front and center.

Our country does not. We hear people yelling, “Why should we be discussing the wrongs of ‘some people’ in our country’s past? I didn’t do that and so its not my problem.”

Am I comparing any particular actions of our country to the holocaust? No, I’m discussing the LESSONS learned from wrongful pasts.

How does this relate? George Takei provided a history of our country MANY people in the audience never knew about. While we knew about internment camps, many had no clue of what that truly meant – “to be interned.” The shame is that many of us never had any concept of how horrible those actions were until we were sitting in that audience with George sharing his personal story.

When the film “12 Years a Slave” was released, some people thought it was too violent. Yet, the movie was only showing a small piece of the horror slaves experienced in our country. People seem to forget that one time our Supreme Court RULED slaves were not to be treated equally.

Where are the memorials? Where do our children walk the grounds of old plantations seeing the horror of what our country allowed to prevail – to avoid ever repeating any such history again?


Photo provided by Craig Price,

Where is the experience where children hear GEORGE’s STORY as they learn the history of our country? Almost no where. They simply hear “internment” with no real understanding of what was taking place.

As George finished sharing with us, he stressed how far we have come as a society. He left us understanding our past and how we have an opportunity for continuing to improve our future.

George Takei provided more than a keynote on how to grow our organizations. He provided us, as speakers and individuals, an opportunity to be reminded what every human being should continue to be passionate about – acting with humanity for all.

P.S. A huge THANKS goes out to Brian Walter and the National Speakers Association for bringing George for all of us to hear. I am deeply thankful.

Should you FOLLOW Your PASSION?

So-Good-They-Cant-Ignore-YouCal Newport’s book title So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love is an unique look at whether an individual should follow the “Passion Hypothesis” or the “Craftsman Mindset.”

What is the Passion Hypothesis? Often people today say, “Follow Your Passion!! Leave what you are doing and dive 100% into your life’s passion.” I’ve said very similar comments to many people. Why did I make such comments? I told myself, “I LOVE what I do and I got to where I am by following my passion. I want everyone to have that joy!” So Good They Can’t Ignore You helped me realize that I didn’t get to where I am by just following my passion. My history shows that I had accumulated a LOT of what Newport calls “Career Capital” that enabled my MISSION to take me where it has today.

The problem with being focused solely on your passion is that you may not have the “Career Capital” to actually succeed with that passion. Just because someone wants to start a technology company doesn’t mean that person has any rare or valuable knowledge/experience to actually excel in doing so. What happens when you follow your passion without “Career Capital”? You see people leaving their jobs to seek fulfillment and happiness by following a passion – unfortunately the final results often end up being a very unfulfilled and frustrated individual.

In January of 2011, I was sitting in the “Keynote Lab” being held in Las Vegas for the National Speakers Association (a 3 day event that dove deep into the business of being a keynote speaker). Toward the end of the weekend, the event held a panel discussion. Mark Sanborn, author of the best-selling book The Fred Factor, was talking about taking your time getting good before diving into full-time speaking. I raised my hand and asked (more stated), “Mark, don’t you think desperation can be the greatest motivation?” After all, that was what I THOUGHT was my experience and it worked for me – so it must work for others too, right?

What did I mean by “Desperation is the Greatest Motivation”? The concept of dive 100% into your passion. Leave what you are doing and pursue 100% living your passion as a professional speaker – instead of taking your time gradually becoming a better speaker.

Mark replied with, “I’ve seen a LOT of people go broke relying on that approach, Mike.” And I thought, “Well it worked for us.” Except I was missing the truth of what was the biggest factor for WHY we succeeded so quickly with The DATE SAFE Project.

The speed at which our speaking took off happened because of all the Career Capital we had obtained over the previous 19 years and more accurately over the last 32 years of my life. Career Capital was the key. Mark was right. Taking your time to gain the experience and skills that would make you more valuable to serve others was vitally important – aka “Career Capital.”

When you combine the right amount of “Career Capital” with a few simple strategies that So Good They Can’t Ignore You shares (including having mission-focused work), you are likely to be in a job you love!! Treat yourself to this insightful book filled with great strategies for finding a job you will truly love!!!

Looking back on my Career Capital (CC)?

Career Capital (knowledge or experience that brings you rare or valuable skills) can be gained throughout your life. As an example, below are the many ways Career Capital was gained in my life – starting as a child. As you read on, ask yourself, “What are ways I’ve gained Career Capital?”

As a child, I was a PERFORMER. Whether on or off a stage, I loved to perform. If a family party was happening and the right song came on over the stereo, I was soon break dancing for everyone. When I got to high school, my goal was to be a Broadway Actor. By my Junior year, I was doing morning announcements with ridiculous scripts and impressions (remember the Church Lady from “Saturday Night Live”)?  For me, getting in front of an audience was an OPPORTUNITY to make an impact. The early accumulation of Career Capital (aka “CC”)

During high school, I also ran my own businesses – mowing lawns to newspaper routes. Back then, a newspaper route was a business – you collected the money from the customers and then paid the paper for the newspapers they dropped at your house. The value of understanding marketing, operations, and money management was priceless (“CC”).

Throughout my youth, I also loved to sell and would try to win any fundraising contest I could (from selling pizzas for the Physics Club at my school to selling candy bars for our club swim team). Selling door-to-door teaches you how to overcome obstacles and how to engage people in conversation (“CC”).

From 6 years old until I was 21, I was an off and on competitive swimmer. My family ran the local swim team (my sisters were phenomenal swimmers and my Mom was a very successful coach – taking the team to 4th Place at YMCA Nationals and a state title in 1997). When I was thirteen years old, I started coaching the youngest group of swimmers for our summer swim team. I liked to be creative as a coach. My goal was to make swimming fun while also making sure the children got the skills necessary to succeed as a swimmer. Looking back, this skill set became an essential aspect of what we do today at The DATE SAFE Project (more “CC” gained).

After high school, I competitively swam my first year in college for Loyola University of Chicago – while studying theatre (“CC”).  In my second year, I transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. My sister had been sexually assaulted and I wanted to be back home with my family. At UWW, I swam for my Mom for one season (my Mom had taken over as the head coach at the university). The last 2 years at UWW, I served as one of my Mom’s team managers. Experiencing how my Mom coached taught me a LOT of lessons about integrity, doing your best to get the best out of everyone, pushing people to new standards of excellence, building a team atmosphere, staying focused on your goals, and of course training (“CC”).

As an athlete, we had to go listen to a nationally renown speaker on sexual assault. By the end of his talk, a new mission came into my life that enabled me to give back to the world. I went to the speaker and told him I wanted to speak. He was wonderfully generous in providing me a huge stack of data and fact sheets on the topic. I was determined to help stop rape from happening and so I began studying every ounce of information I could on sexual assault (laws, myths, stats, research, etc…).  Local non-profits and the university funded me to attend the national conference on sexual assault on college campuses (where I would speak for the first time to a national audience – as part of a panel). I was constantly seeking more information to share with others (“CC”).

At this time, I was studying Entrepreneurship as my emphasis in the business school. The knowledge gained studying entrepreneurship taught me about starting and operating a successful business, including one focused on a social issue (today referred to as Social-Entrepreneurship). I would begin speaking in local elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and on my own college campus. Anywhere I could speak, I would! I was using every ounce of Career Capital gained to this point: research, stats, myths, sales, marketing, performing, engaging audiences, overcoming obstacles, staying focused on the goal, and much more.

Upon graduating from college, I had written a business plan and gotten a loan from the local bank to speak full-time on ending sexual assault. My challenge was two-fold. I was 23 and looked like I was 17 years old (store clerks always thought I was a high school student). Plus, most college campuses were not looking to address sexual assault by bringing in outside speakers and/or experts. Schools feared that if you talked about it publicly, students and parents would assume your campus had a bigger problem than other campuses. After a year of struggling to overcome how people viewed my age and finding schools who wanted to address the topic, I made the choice to put my speaking business to the side (still presenting on a part-time basis) in order to make a living that I could survive off and help support our family. I was getting married and we knew we wanted children.

Suddenly, I was looking for a new career that was entrepreneurial in spirit – that would provide me great opportunity to dive into an exciting position with a firm. That firm ended up being in the commercial cleaning industry with a company that was a leader in the industry and yet still small enough to enable me to take on major roles in the firm. My Career Capital built up from my sales experience as a child along with running my own speaking business in college was a huge asset. That career capital helped me to quickly grow in my position and be promoted to Director of Operations. In this position, my experience in watching my Mom get the most out of her swimmers was an asset for me leading our cleaning crews.

By now, Karen and I were married and Karen was pregnant. I chose to leave my job to become the at-home Dad. To help financially, I began working part-time for a large entertainment company as a mobile DJ (weddings, company parties, and school dances). My Career Capital as a performer helped land the job and really helped propel me quickly into being a Lead DJ. Every weekend (often Fridays and Saturdays), I was in front of audiences of various sizes – in all different scenarios. You HAD to learn quickly how to adapt on the microphone to anything that could occur. You definitely had to find a way to ENGAGE your audiences. More “CC” was being gained again.

During this time, I had heard about an assistant coaching job becoming available at a local high school. The coach who ended up hiring me made it clear that my experience working with my Mom made him very comfortable hiring me (Career Capital gained during college). After 2 years as the Assistant Coach and JV Coach, I took over as the Head Coach at another high school in the region. While I really loved coaching both the Women’s and Men’s teams at this school, we were having our third child in my second year coaching there. I made the choice to leave coaching so I could spend more time as an at-home Dad.

To help our family financially, I started my own part-time DJ firm (with 2 friends of ours we had met at the former mobile DJ entertainment company we worked at). Karen was working full-time during the week and I would run the DJ company on the weekends. The company grew very fast and was no longer part-time. Karen and I switched roles. She came home to be the at-home Mom while I was building the company full-time.

We made an early choice that we wanted our DJ firm to be known for high-end, quality DJs. I went to every DJ convention I could (and took as many of our DJs as would go). We invested a lot of time and energy into training. Training focused on engaging audiences, handling impromptu scenarios, dealing with difficult personalities (more likely at weddings), and leaving a positive impact on audiences. We brought in a top national entertainer to provide our staff with training no one else in the region of the country was getting. All this education was leading to LOTS of “CC.”

We had expanded our DJ business into doing corporate events. During this time, we had become very involved with MPI (Meeting Professionals International) and began to learn about the business of professional speaking (meeting planners are constantly hiring speakers). Soon, I started attending chapter meetings of the National Speakers Association (NSA) in Wisconsin. Throughout the past 8 years, I had continued to present my program on dating, respect, and sexual assault on a very part-time basis. Now, I was learning how a whole new side to speaking – the speaking INDUSTRY and was gaining “CC” like never before.

A successful education speaker from Wisconsin, Patty Hendrickson, asked me to present my program on dating and respect to the youth attendees at NSA’s National Conference. After the program, Patty and another education speaker, Randy Haveson, asked me why I wasn’t sharing this message full-time. When I explained my past experience, they both told me that campuses now WANTED people who could discuss sexual assault, especially someone teaching skills to reduce sexual assault. My Mission and my Career Capital were aligning!! My age was no longer a concern.

Two weeks later, I sold my DJ business and with almost no money to my name, I became a full-time speaker. We put into action all the Career Capital we had gained combined with the mission I had always been determined to follow. A year later, we had founded The DATE SAFE Project, written & published the book May I Kiss You?, and was speaking on 50 college campuses across the country. People saw the growth of that first year and thought “Wow! They are an OVERNIGHT SUCCESS story!” What many failed to see was the amount of Career Capital we had worked very hard to gain over the past decade – the hours upon hours of work and research for over 10 years that lead to this point.

That first year was 12 years ago and today I still love researching and learning – to gain every bit of knowledge possible to be better than I was yesterday at what I do today in a way that provided valuable guidance and skills for others – aka “Career Capital.”

Recently, Phil Gerbyshak and Berni Xiong, hosts of the “Shut Up Show” asked me how I created this life plan to get me where I am today. The reality is I didn’t plan this all out. When I was in each job, I believed that was the job for me and went into it fully with everything I had. I tried to learn as much about THAT business or job as quickly as possible. I wanted to be the best at what I was doing – to be truly valuable to those I was serving. What I didn’t realize was that each job would be providing me more Career Capital for the day I did find my Mission!!!

After reading Cal Newport’s book, my suggestion is no longer to “Follow Your Passion” and is instead “Read So Good They Can’t Ignore You!” by Cal Newport.