I didn’t make the cut…again

motivationalspeakerkellyswansonMMotivational speakers are in a constant state of being judged – by audiences, by clients, by agents, by online communities, and by their children. It's like being on that playground as a kid all over again, and being the one they didn't choose. Things haven't changed much, except for now the kids are bigger, there are no teachers to stop it when things get ugly, and the dodgeball hits us harder.  And now we can't run home crying to our mother. Okay, well maybe that one still works – except my mother thinks being a motivational speaker is code for being unemployed.

You can't be in this business if you can't get used to being the kid they don't pick. In fact, this doesn't just apply to my business, but to any business, and to life. Yes, it stings. But let me help you get a little perspective on this. Because finally I have a healthier perspective on not being picked.

Yesterday I heard those lovely five words that used to bring me to my knees: You didn't make the cut. And for once, it didn't really affect me at all. (I guess all that mind reprogramming crap I talk about actually works.) Not only was I okay hearing those words, I wasn't surprised. No, it wasn't that self-esteem thing again (like when I was convinced the only reason my husband married me was because he was nearsighted.) The reason it didn't bother me was because I know I'm not a good fit for every group. Gasp. There. I said it. I don't fit every audience. Believe it or not, the fact that you weren't picked doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't any good. It might simply mean that someone else was a better fit for that client, or that Mr. Right. My husband likes heavy metal music, I like bluegrass. He likes movies that are dark, I like happy ending movies that break out into song. He likes silence, I like breaking it.  Not everybody likes the same thing. And thank goodness, or we'd all be going for the same guy, and that could get ugly. I am a unique, one of a kind creation and so are you. Embrace it, cherish it, and leverage it in your life and business. Because it's not blending in that gets you places – it's standing out. One rocking pair of cowboy boots can't fit every foot.

So this time I took the words you didn't make the cut as the highest form of flattery, because if I made the cut for everybody, I wouldn't be so unique, now would I? Let me repeat that: If I always made the cut I wouldn't be that unique. There's a risk you take with stepping out of your comfort zone. There's a risk you take in being different. And the risk is that somebody won't like it. Good! Then you're headed in the right direction.

Are you still focusing on trying to be something for everybody? Maybe it's time to cut some strings. Only then, will you truly fly. 

(PS  Have you ever taken a job that wasn't a good fit for you, and you knew it going in? What happened?)






Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
To book motivational speaker Kelly Swanson:
Motivational speaker Kelly Swanson's website

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  1. There's only one group of professionals who hear "you didn't make the cut" MORE than motivational speakers – and that's professional actors. I never got actually used to it – but I began to understand that if I didn't make the cut – there could be factors over which I could have NO control. Like once I didn't get the role of the wife/mom in a commercial that I was PERFECT for!  And my audition was fabulous! I found out later that the casting director couldnt use ME because the man that he really, really REALLY wanted for the dad/husband was also blonde and he didn't want two blonde parents since the two kids had brownish hair.  Oh, okay.

  2. Isn't that so true Linda! We assume that we didn't make the cut because we are losers. When sometimes, it's just because we had the wrong color hair. Oh, wow. If they factor hair into the decision making process, I am REALLY in trouble. :)   And the cool thing about motivational speakers is that we don't let rejection stop us. We refuse to be taken down. And when people see us get back up, it encourages them to get back up too. Our job rocks! Wouldn't trade it for anything.

  3. What great insight Kelly.  As motivational speakers, the product we are selling, pitching or proposing is us! So, it's really important to remember that it's not us, it's the combination of us with them.  Right message, right speaker, right audience right time, perfect.  If one of those is a no, it's not a fit.  I did an event where they wanted me to speak on a different topic now and my topic later if I passed.  Well, not the right message/speaker… and I failed. AND, they didn't hire me again. AND the speaker who referred me didn't refer me again.  So, I, like you, would rather know upfront that I didn't make the cut.  Because when we DO make the cut – it's magic!

  4. Being the newcomer to this motivational speaking business, I've had the wind knocked out of me when I didn't get the jobs I was in the running for.  What I'm learning from this is how to be more unique, like you say, and make sure my website and my topics reflect this.  A work in progress whos progress is working!  Thanks for the positive spin, Kelly!

    • Yes, Polly, it does knock the wind out of you. And in the beginning I lost far more jobs than I got. It's part of the process. Especially in this crowded market where speakers three times your fee are now scrambling to get your opportunities. And one thing that helped me in the beginning, was knowing that it wasn't personal. There was this one time I was really really disappointed that I didn't get this job in Georgia. I was convinced they didn't pick me because I sucked. I stewed about it, tormented, bugged my husband to death. I went over every scenario and came to the conclusion that there was not one thing about me that was worthy. I finally got up the courage to ask them why they went with another speaker. I said, "The only way I can get better is to know what I need to improve." The woman was shocked. She said there was no question I was their favorite choice. They just simply couldn't afford me. So there you go. It's never what you think it is. I know it will still sting – but I also know that you have something great – an awesome message to take to the world – in a package that you just don't see every day in  a health speaker. Believe. It will happen. You've got some strong women who really believe in you. If you believe in us, then believe that what we see in you is great too. You rock, my friend. In more ways than you know.

  5. Oh don't I wish I could be a fly on the wall during a committee meeting when I'm not the speaker chosen. Not to beat myself up, but to learn, to listen to their opinions to see how I could get better or better yet just become more me.

    • Colette – I got that experience once and it was so HUMILIATING. One of the most humiliating in my life as a motivational speaker. I was showcasing for APCA – Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. I was a storyteller, new, green, no idea what I was doing –  you name it. I was showcasing as an entertainer. (Never even considered being a speaker at this point.) The audience consisted of all the buyers for colleges all over the US who were booking their entertainment for the year. At the end of the conference, all the buyers would get into a room, where each performer was put on a big screen, and they would get the opportunity to "block book" – the chance for colleges located near each other to agree to book the speaker as a group to save on travel expenses. And performers got the option to sit in on this session. I didn't want to. Bill MADE ME. We sat there as they went through performer after performer until my face was blown up to a hundred times it size. And nothing. Not a sound. Not a pin drop. Not even a cough. Pause. And then they put up the next performer. Not one person was interested in having me come. Nobody. Nada. Zilch. And worse – I had to sit through it, along with other performers. It was AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL and took me a long time to get over that. But looking back, I see it from a completely different perspective. It wasn't a sign that I wasn't good – or maybe it was, and I'm okay with that too – but a sign that I didn't fit their market. College kids would not want to come see me tell stories on a Friday night before they hit the bars. Duh!!!  Today, if someone calls me asking to speak on a Friday night at a college, I tell them no way – I'm not the best fit. And I'll recommend Mike Dilbeck instead. Just wanted to share my story with you. And make another point: Even if we can sit in and hear what they think  – it's sometimes just that person's opinion. So we need to be very careful not to think that just because one client said it, they all will. Make sense?


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