Why Won’t Anybody Help Me? The Motivational Speaker’s Lament

helping each otherBeing a coach for motivational speakers, I get an inside look at the fears and anxieties of the aspiring speaker. Over time, I have started to notice patterns consistent with most speakers. And one in particular is the "why won't anybody help me?" syndrome.

First let me say this:  I believe in asking for help.  Asking for help when I was a new speaker was one of the smartest things I ever did. Thank you, Linda Larsen, for hearing me, and stepping up to help. I will forever be grateful. And I always want to be that speaker and that person that helps whenever I'm able.

Being that the art and business of professional speaking doesn't come with a college course, a degree, and a stack of textbooks (although many chapters of that National Speaker's Association are working to remedy this) it makes it hard to run this business, especially since pretty much every speaker follows a different business model. So, yeah, I get that we need some guidance every step of the way.

But asking for help and waiting for help are two very different things. Asking for help is smart, waiting for it is not. I hear it over and over:

"I wish more speakers were like you – willing to help me figure this out."  

"I don't really have anybody to help me in my business."

"I tried to ask that speaker for help and all she wanted to do was charge me twenty grand."

"I've been searching for a mentor."

Here's the cold hard truth: You have to figure this out on your own. Yes, there will be people to ask for advice and get feedback from. But if your business model is dependent on these people, you are in trouble. You are creating an unhealthy dependency and an expectation that can not be met – even with money.

So how do you walk the line between asking and depending? You ask for advice without any expectation or grudge if it's not given. You respect the time of the person whose advice you are asking – they are busy, and you are probably the tenth person to call them that week.  You don't criticize or judge the advice you have been freely given. You are gracious and verbalize your appreciation. They don't owe you anything. Giving you their time has been a valuable gift on their part. You respect that their time translates into money. Asking them to help you is asking them to do their job for free. Then you go ACT on their advice.  Don't collect pieces of advice like treasures. Don't keep getting answers hoping that you'll never really have to do anything yourself. And if it doesn't work, don't blame them, try something else. 

And most importantly, walk into any relationship with the heart to give as much as you take. You may not have money to pay them for their skill and time – but you have wisdom, experience, other gifts that you can share as well. Very rarely do I get someone ask me for help and then find a way to help me too.  I don't expect it, but it's still a good way to be. 

Don't go into this business seeking mentors and givers. Go into this business seeking to build personal relationships with your peers – relationships built on give and take. Don't walk into a room looking for the people who can help you the most. Walk into the room looking for people that you can help. Even if they've been doing it longer than you.

And if you ever find yourself lamenting that nobody will help you – then be aware that you are seeing it from the wrong perspective. Acknowledge that you are in a waiting mentality, and this business will not be handed to you – you have to work for it.

And though it sounds harsh, remember the three little words that my father taught me at an early age when you don't know where to turn:


I promise, you'll be glad you did.





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. Thanks Kelly – you are so right.  There are givers and takers in this business and I've seen my share of both.  I've spent waaaaaay too much money on a coach who didn't deliver on promises.  Then I have people who have reached out to me to offer help with the only expectation of payment to be 'pay it forward'.  Ultimately, it's up to me to ask for help and like your dad said, to figure it out! I'm just super grateful I'm on this crazy journey with you!

  2. Great advice to anyone in any situation anywhere in the world who wants to move forward in life. You have always been incredibly generous with your gift, and I've always been so appreciative of your wisdom. Given how you take action on your dreams, you are the perfect person to deliver this message. Bravo, Kelly. Keep speaking your truth.

  3. Kelly you are undoubtedly one of the most generous motivational speakers I have ever known – and smartest. And you hit so many "truths" here that bells are going off in my head! SO many times I have been asked for help, and I've given the person as much as I can only to find out later that they really didn't do anything with that information. BUT – and this could be just as valuable – MAYBE just hearing what all they had to do made them realize that they didn't WANT to do all the work necessary. So maybe I provided value there… Really fantastic post, Kelly.

  4. I'm trying very hard not to make this post all about me!  For the outpouring of help and advice you've so genergously given to me I hope I've expressed my gratitude enough.  With that said just know that I'm figuring it out from a springboard of yours and Linda's wealth of advice!  Gift baskets for everybody!

  5. You are so incredibly generous with your heart, expertise, and time and I feel lucky to have been the beneficiary of your off-the-charts humor over triangle drinks!  This post is powerful for both positions on this fence – those asking and those being asked.  And my favorite sentence and new motivational speaker mantra : FIGURE IT OUT.   

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