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Published:August 31st, 2005 05:59 EST

How to Succeed at Practically Anything - ( Audio Update 8/31/2005 )

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

I don't know how many times I've been asked, "How do I get into the speaking business?"  The question always frustrates me.  I'd rather be asked something I can really answer, like how to become a barber.

One inquirer said something, though, that caught my attention.  He said he had speaking down to a science, and that he could speak exactly 20 minutes, 19, or whatever was needed.  Always the exact length of time, though! 

While there are certainly speakers who need to pay attention to the clock, I don't know of any who are hired simply because they do.  Audiences aren't looking for robots.  They want real people.

Because audiences want real people, they generally aren't looking for orators, either.  They want effective, down-to-earth communicators who have earned the right to speak, through extensive research and/or experience, and who are well prepared to speak from the heart.   If you use humor, someday, after giving many speeches for free, you might even get paid.

Yet, such is still a long way from being successful in the speaking business.   Much depends on how greatly a person believes in his or her message, and whether, with a good marketing strategy, a person is able to convey that belief in the marketplace.

There’s also the matter of commitment.  In his wonderful book, Winning with People, John Maxwell said that sometimes his response to the how-do-I-get-into-the-speaking-business question is, “You may want to do what I do, but would you like to do what I did in order to do what I do?”

In this respect, success in speaking takes much the same course as success in any other field.  It requires intense belief in what one is doing and the motivation, based upon that belief, to stay committed to doing whatever it legitimately takes.

No doubt some mistakes will be made along the way.  I once told my wife, Sherry, that I knew I would make it in the speaking business because I had already tried and discarded everything that wouldn't work. But, I never quit trying.  The dream had me, and I had the dream.

BARBER-OSOPHY:  To succeed in any worthwhile endeavor: (1) Know what you're doing, (2) be natural while doing it, (3) believe in what you're doing, (4) be willing to do whatever it takes, (5) and don't be afraid to make mistakes.     

Copyright 2005, Sumerlin Enterprises.

Terry L. Sumerlin, known as the Barber-osopher, is the author of "Barber-osophy," and is a columnist for the San Antonio Business Journal. He speaks nationally as a humorist/motivational speaker. Visit his website at

Audio submitting by Terry Sumerlin.