How Well-Known, Accepted Wisdom Can Hurt You


“If you want to reach your audience, ya gotta get ‘em laughin’ one minute, and crying’ the next.”


Have you ever heard advice that sounded good, but ultimately, held you back or kept you from taking action?

I have. It was the “wisdom” that started this post. It was from a well-known and highly paid professional speaker. I was a novice when I first heard it, so I thought, “That’s the ticket to speaking success.”

So, for the next eight years, I did my best to follow his advice and proceeded to attain…

A level of unparalleled mediocrity and forgettability.

The Root Of The Problem

The challenge with the kind of blanket statement I had bought into is that all advice does not apply to all people.

I’m a pretty funny person and laugh a lot, but, when it comes to crying, I don’t do it that often. My stories don’t elicit sobs and streams of tears. It’s not who I am. My style lends itself to humor and sarcasm, with (hopefully) doses of sprinkled throughout.

But, for nearly a decade, I didn’t understand myself nor my style, and I lacked the confidence to present in my natural personality. I tried to be Inspirational Speaker Man!

I presented inauthentic stories that didn’t connect with audience. They could see I wasn’t being real. Unfortunately I couldn’t see it. I keep telling story after story that was slightly manipulative in order to force the audience to cry because I was supposed to get ‘em laughin’ one minute, and crying’ the next.”

I Finally See The Light

Fortunately, I met a speaker who took me under his wing. One of first tasks was to help me see the light. “That advice may have worked for that speaker, but it doesn’t mean it applies to you.”

Who knew?

I thought if a well known speaker said it, the idea must apply to everyone.

In one sentence, I discovered two lessons:

There’s no such animal as a ‘universal truth’ that applies to every person.

To be true to your audience, you have to be true to yourself.

Armed with this new knowledge, I began a transformation. I cut out all of the material from my stories that was inauthentic and inserted simply to evoke tears. I spoke from my humorous, sarcastic and teaching frame of mind.


Audiences began to respond more positively. I heard comments like, “I’ve never hear you sound more real” and “I felt like that was the real you up there” and “You didn’t feel preachy up there.”

Being real and not trying to be what I’m not made all the difference.

Ironically, more than once, people approached me with tears in their eyes and told me, “Thank you, I needed to hear your message today.” Those moments mean more to me because they weren’t forced or manipulated, they came from a place of human-to-human connection and my authentic experiences.

We have more information available to us than ever. It’s easy to read or hear “wisdom” from headlines or soundbites that on the surface make sense. However, dig deeper and you’ll often find those ideas aren’t relevant or don’t apply to you.

Is it possible you’re being held back or led astray by a piece of advice that works well for someone else?

Don’t make my eight year mistake and let yourself be led down the wrong path.

Be true to yourself.

Recommended Resource

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How Well-Known, Accepted Wisdom Can Hurt You ultima modifica: 2022-07-27T11:13:15-04:00 da Michael Davis