It’s not how we react in the easy times. It’s who we are through the hard ones.
I was asked to give a talk to my biggest audience at that time. It was the opening keynote for a Fortune 100 financial institution – the talk that would set the vibe for the rest of their internal conference. I had to teach people in the financial industry how to pitch for what they wanted.
They told me 42,000 employees had been invited to watch live in-person and around the world. I stood backstage repeating my first sentence, “40 million Americans have used online dating.” Knowing that when I walked out there, all I had to do was take a deep breath and say that line, the rest would be easy.
It was! I was in the flow – rocking that stage, making them laugh, and helping them rethink how they ask for what they want. I was fully in my confidence enjoying that time being my engaging self, when something crazy happened. Something I was NOT prepared for.
I’m sharing with the audience all about how to use my methodology, when someone from the front raises their hand and shouts out, “Excuse me! There’s a spider next to your head.”
You don’t know who you are in a crisis until you’re in it. Lots of people say they’re calm under pressure, but then you see them in full panic when anything goes wrong. Other people say that they are totally chill when something surprises them, yet lose their shit when they didn’t plan for it. I like to say that I’m the person you go to when things go south, because I can make fast decisions that keep everyone safe. That day, my theory was tested in front of a LOT of people.
With my brain racing through all possible scenarios (such as – scream, run, freak out, wave my hands in the air, or kill it), I knew I had to do something that showed who I was. I knew in that really fast moment that if I killed it, a lot of people would be mad. If I swatted at it, it would end up on someone and they could freak out. I didn’t want it crawling on my head, so I did what I thought was best in this split-second decision.
I immediately went back to my rural-girl roots.
I said to the spider, “Well, that’s not where you’re supposed to be,” reached high and pinched its silk between my fingers so it wouldn’t have time to run up to my hand, and then walked it calmly over to the wall and said, “there you go.” Brushed off my hands, walked back to the main stage, and said “Now, where was I?”
And guess what they did when I said that? They laughed and gave me a huge round of applause. If I hadn’t earned their trust by that point, I definitely had it now.
As I walked through the halls of their headquarters that day, I would get stopped and told, “Your talk was wonderful, but that spider thing? SO good.”
It WAS a great talk. I got LOTS of great feedback from the speakers who would be sharing their talks the rest of the day. They told me how they were updating their talks as I was teaching – and that they got WAY better feedback than they usually do because of it. I was so grateful for their willingness to share their courageousness with me that day.
And yet, the thing I won’t forget about that talk – as it could have blended into every other talk I’ve ever given – is the moment I had to make a decision that showed who I was on a big stage.
Now it’s YOUR turn. Are you ready to learn how to show up and show off on a stage? Well, I’ve created a free training just for you! Check out How To Write A Stage-Worthy Talk In Under 45 Minutes at stageworthytalk.com and get started writing the talk that will get you into the flow so that not even a SPIDER can pull you out of it.
Asking for feedback is tough. Asking for feedback AND doing something with it is even tougher. Asking for feedback, doing something with it, and growing from it – that’s how you become the best at what you do.
In my career, I’ve read more bullshit testimonials than I want to count – and I can spot them right away. I’ve even had clients try to send me fake testimonials to add to their websites, which has made me waggle my finger and make them get real ones. Most testimonials are too consistent because they’re written by one person. They’re written in the same voice – the voice of the person who wants people to believe someone said those words about them. Is there a templated database of crappy testimonials somewhere for people who don’t want to ask their clients for real feedback?
While I’ve been building my programs, especially SPEAK With Confidence, I wanted to know what we were doing well and what we needed to do better. Sometimes I got a lot of helpful answers – other times I got back information that would only help that one person. Either way, I’ve learned I can’t take any of it personally – it’s business – and the only way we’re going to get better. It’s also the safest place for me to get real feedback in my business.
In reality, I only want to hear the good or bad constructive feedback that will make the program better. It’s usually worded like this: “More of this because _____. Less of this because ______.” We’ve taken ALL of it into consideration as we’ve built this incredible program – even if we haven’t implemented all of it. It’s the reason I KNOW this retreat is the best of its kind.
The most unhelpful feedback I’ve ever received was from an audience about my speaking. I learned quickly that getting feedback from an audience can be torturous if you take any of it personally – good or bad. They can give you the highest praise and make you feel like a rockstar who never needs to change. And they can judge you and tear you down for even showing up and opening your mouth.
You see, audiences are tough. Some humans sit there thinking: “I could do better” or “How did she get asked to speak about this & I didn’t?” or “He’s dressed like an idiot.” or “This is the biggest waste of my time.” Other humans are enthralled with you. They’re taking notes, nodding, listening intently – excited you showed up to speak directly to them.
The first set makes up about 10% of the audience. These humans will never share their name, but are happy to to tell you exactly how they feel with ZERO constructive feedback. It ends up coming out in generalizations about the entire audience or just that you suck.
The second set makes up about 90% of the audience. They will RAVE about you. They’ll sign up for your newsletter and engage with you on social media. They’ll come up to you afterward and give you a hug. They’ll remind you of why you do what you do.
The problem with being human is that we read the 10% and let it eat us alive. We sit with those remarks as if our own mother said them to our faces. We forget that 90% of people loved us – because the negativity creates a black cloud over the positivity. And guess what? You can’t blame them for being mean – they can’t help it. They weren’t taught how to give constructive feedback AND they aren’t the ones on stage doing what you do. You have to blame yourself for focusing on that shit. For letting it eat you apart.
While I was on my most recent vacation, I sat under a cloud of negative energy for a whole day. It was a cloud I believed someone else put over me. Until I journaled about it and gnawed on it for awhile and came to the realization that I don’t have to care what other people think of me – because I care about people.
So, I wrote a phrase that will stay with me from now on. I’m even going to write it next to my desk so I can’t forget it.
I love humans enough to not care what they think about me.
I care SO much about what I do – and I love people enough to share it with them. I know I’m meant to do this so much that I can’t care what they think of me. I say things people don’t like to hear – and I do it on purpose. Some people in my audiences don’t have the space to listen. Maybe it’s not their time to hear what I have to say. That’s 100% ok. They don’t have to. But I love them enough to not care what they think of me or my message. I love them enough to say what needs to be said.
I care so much about what I do because I KNOW it gives humans the ability to become who they are meant to become. And I have to do it without apology. Thankfully, I have a space that I’ve created for real feedback that I can review any time I want – to remind me of my impact. And the impact of my Crew. All the negativity falls away and I start cry-laughing when I watch their beautiful faces.
While we’re hosting our SPEAK With Confidence retreat, we ask our Rockstars to do on-the-spot Confessionals. Little video clips of them telling us how the retreat process is going. Some start recording them before we even start the retreat and others record them after they’ve gotten home. Some record one every day, others give us just one. What I love about these videos is that I get a glimpse into how someone is feeling throughout the retreat. It gives me real-time feedback that I can review when we’re done. They give us their in-the-moment feelings, thoughts, fears, excitement, and wins.
It’s such a delight that I put them on YouTube in a playlist for you to watch. They’re my favorite form of testimonial – and they’re 100% real.
Sometimes I wish I could get these kinds of testimonials from my audiences while I’m speaking or even from those haters who finally hit the epiphany moment years later. Because I DO get little notes from people 2 to 5 years later saying that one of my talks affected them deeply and that they finally got to a place in their lives to share what happened. THAT is why I have to love people enough not to care what they think. Because I have to keep saying what needs to be said.
Now, it’s your turn to ask. To get REAL testimonials. To get REAL feedback.
ASK YOUR CLIENTS
Send a survey to your clients – anyone who gives you money to do what you do.
What do we do well?
What could we do better?
On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to refer us?
ASK YOUR TEAM
This one is even harder for most companies and personal brands. Send the same survey to your team – anyone who gives you their time (executives, employees, contractors, vendors, interns, and volunteers).
What do we do well?
What could we do better?
On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to refer us?
When you get the feedback from both sets, do the following:
Delete all non-constructive feedback immediately. (Have someone else do this for you before you read it if you don’t think you can handle it.)
Look at what you do well and ask yourself if it’s what you want to be known for doing well. If it’s not what you want to be known for doing well, create a plan to change it. If it is, focus on it and keep doing it well.
Look at what they said you could do better and ask yourself if it would really be good for your company to do it better – or if it’s actually a blessing that you’re not good at it. Then make a plan for only making the things better that MUST be better.
Look at the average number on the scale of 1-10 and figure out what you can do to keep it between a 9-10. If it’s really low, go to the “What could we do better?” answers and start fixing things.
Then post the goodness in THEIR words on your website, your social media, and your proposals. If you want to keep growing as a business or personal brand, you’ll send out this survey every 3-6 months to your clients and your team. Keep asking, keep growing.
CORPORATE TRAINING: If you want a safe place for your team to give each other constructive feedback, bring us in to rock your team with a corporate training.
JOIN THE CLUB: If you want to be really vulnerable, share what you found out about your business or personal brand in the Kickass Humans Club. It’s a safe space for you to share yourself with the world.
I love you enough to not care what you think about me. AND I am so excited to share my world with you. xoxo
“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belongs to no man and to no city. She knows nothing of borders and invents her own rules and customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.” – Roman Payne
I received the bolded part of this quote in a text from a deeply connected goddess friend, Georgette Star (one of those people who I know talks to God on the daily.) I was sitting next to the pool and rice fields in Bali soaking in the sunshine and warmth in March 2017.Jennifer Moore hosted an incredible holistic retreat – and the person who found herself there surrounded by women she didn’t know in a country 24 hours away was newly single and ready for whatever was next. She had NO idea what was in store – but man, she was realizing how open she was to it.
With this quote, she sent, “This made me think of you.” It made me laugh because of something that happened in our yoga class that morning. Our retreat guide asked us to say ‘I am’ and fill in the blank with what others have put on us. Something that isn’t true. Like ‘I am hard to love’ or ‘I am not good enough’ – whatever we want to let go of. We did our yoga flow and at the end of class, she asked us to fill in the ‘I am’ with something we wanted to believe. My mind immediately went to “I am wild & free.” Of COURSE it did.
The next day, on my way to the tattoo parlor (on the back of a little scooter taxi), I saw a sign that said “All good things are wild & free” in huge letters on the side of a building. It made me laugh out loud. I was already planning to get ‘Wild & Free’ tattooed on my arm, but that went deeper. Deeper – like Roman Payne’s words.
I had spent my two weeks in Bali reflecting on everything – and had such little direction in my life and my business after years of meticulously planning all of it. Although I was old enough to know better, I was also able to change my mind and go a different direction than the one I planned. I WAS (and still am) wild & free.
While I was in Bali, I started working on my Life Vision. I picked a date 10 years in the future and wrote down what I wanted.
[MY 10-YEAR VISION (2027)]
[ [ [ I closed my eyes and pictured myself in a cozy sanctuary in the mountains. I am 46 and full of joy sitting in a chair under a warm blanket with coffee next to my sleeping dog as the snow fell outside. My husband is in the kitchen playing with our child and it makes me smile listening to them laugh. Our chef is making us breakfast before prepping our lunch & dinner so we can enjoy the day alone. I am writing an article for a big magazine and enjoying putting pen to paper.
I am on a 6-month sabbatical from my business to get a renewed perspective and set us up for even more success. My business is making $25M in revenue with 35 incredible employees and we are doing what feeds our souls. I am giving back through my company and personally to local refugee families in our area. And I am thinking about the vacation to Bali we were taking with our little human and how much fun it would be to get surf lessons as a family. My word is cozy – and I am living it thoroughly. ] ] ]
This vision makes me smile reading it still. And guess what? A lot of that happened within 2 years of writing it down. TWO YEARS. I moved to Denver at the end of that year because I met the love of my life and we live near the mountains – close enough to see them from our living room. I sit in a cozy home looking out huge windows with my dog sitting next to me – and my life is cozy. I’ve written articles for big magazines and my husband is the best chef I’ve ever met. I’m still working on the rest of the business stuff, but heading there with a big plan and lots of energy. Best of all, I’m SO excited to have an incredible team walking alongside me as we manifest all of our plans.
By the end of that retreat in Bali, I was blissed out. The picture below is from my last day there – right before I went home to blow up the business I created and follow the purpose I was given. Right before I went to Camp Maverick and met Dan Russell – my now-husband. Right before I took big risks and found myself right where I was supposed to be. Because I figured out what I wanted, I wrote it down, I made a plan and worked on it every single day.
Two months after Dan & I started seeing each other, we sat in a tea shop and wrote out our own life visions separately and compared them. They were spot on. It was meant to be. (But that’s a MUCH longer story.)
Now you know MY big vision. It’s your turn.
Manifest That Shit
A quick refresher on manifesting. Manifesting is NOT woo-woo. It’s a concrete, very real thing that has specific steps. Manifesting what you want is not about SITTING on your butt binge-watching Netflix waiting for someone to bring you your Amazon Prime packages and takeout food. (I mean, that DOES sound lovely every once in awhile though.) Manifesting isn’t about THINKING of something and expecting it to appear. Manifesting is hard effing work.
Manifest that shit in 4 steps:
Figure out what you want.
Write that shit down.
Create a plan.
Work on it every single day.
Simple, right? No. IT’S HARD WORK! The hardest part is step 1.
Create The Life You Want
In order to create the life you want, you have to KNOW what you want. Recently, my new friend Heidi (AKA Spitfiregirl) told me that the My Life Vision workbook was helpful to review, but she was stuck. I told her to come over to my house and I’d walk her through it. When she was here, I watched her realize she was playing too small – underestimating what she could do 10 years from now. She envisioned her kids at ages 10 years from now, where she’d be living, and how much money she was making in her business – along with how much time and money she was giving to others.
Once she had the practical stuff together, we sat next to each other and closed our eyes. I hit record and walked her through a 12-minute visualization exercise. As soon as we finished, she sighed and said, “I’ve got it!” As she started sharing, I could smell her vision and see it in full color. It was exciting to her and got me excited watching her write it.
Yep, this photo below is of the two of us finishing up her plan in my cozy house with my dog & the view of the mountains (just past the buildings) and let me tell you – if her Instagram is any indication of how hard she’s working, I’m going to say there’s a big fire burning under her to get the life she wants. (I can smell the garden now.)
While we were doing this, I created this meditation for you. And yes, that’s Heidi in the background breathing – doing it with me. (note: It’s an iPhone recording – you can deal with the less than perfect sound quality. Please don’t send me notes about how it could be better. I have awesome equipment and maybe someday I’ll fix it. But it’s done now and in your hands. You’re welcome.)
So, be like Heidi and DO THE WORK! Get started on the visualization – then download the workbook and get working on what you want.
Start here by finding a cozy place to sit & listen to this visualization: (no opt-in required)
Then download the Workbook here: (free download with opt-in)
Print out copies for you & your significant other, business partner, team members, or friends. Have a party and do this as a fun exercise. Each of you will do it separately and then share what you came up with. Create a safe space for each other, push each other to go bigger, and then help each other take the next step. If you don’t have humans to do this with, jump into the Kickass Humans Club and make friends.
When you’re done, SEND ME WHAT YOU ENVISIONED HERE! I want to read what you came up with. Send photos, write-ups, ideas, questions, next steps, whatever you want. I want to know how this helped you.
Great leaders aren’t remembered for being great because of what they said – but for who they were as humans. The top 3 leaders of all time – Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK – wrote & gave great speeches, but we remember them for WHO they were and HOW they lived, not just for what they said. Each of them had courageously humble confidence in their ability to change the world. We believed in them because of their belief in themselves.
On Saturday morning, I had the honor of kicking off the #ESPAconference with my opening keynote, LEAD With Confidence. It was my first speaking gig in 2 months and as I got started, I was feeling the energy of the room and flowing with it. Until I realized the clicker for my slides wasn’t working. At all.
I started bantering with the audience, saying NEXT! to the tech team, and watched my sweet husband run to the back of the room to help advance my slides. It was an audience full of meeting planners – a PERFECT audience to understand that this wasn’t a little thing. I mentioned that I teach speakers how to handle situations like this – and that this must be happening so I could prove to them that it really does happen. I worked the mishap into my talk and had the audience cracking up every time I said “NEXT!” I had to keep going with or without my slides because I was the show, so – on with the show!
By the time it got fixed, I was already halfway through my talk, making the audience do awkward (such fun) things like stare at each other in order to see how their energy connected them to each other, and telling lots of stories. I was also noticing parts of the talk I had planned and missed – nuggets I wanted to share that were important. I was frustrated with myself for forgetting them – it was my JOB to remember them. I even forgot to wrap it up the way I planned – bookending it as I train my speakers to.
Except, guess what?! NO ONE KNEW. No one walked up to me at the end and said “you missed a few things.” No one knew I had missed anything. I was the only person who knew I didn’t say what I planned. And that takes courageously humble confidence to keep going despite my inner gremlins yelling at me – telling me what a loser I was for forgetting things. “Great speakers wouldn’t forget that stuff – obviously you’re not that great.” HA! No way… I’m AMAZING! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! AMAZING! Forget you, gremlins!
Am I going to tighten up my talk? You bet. Did everyone in the audience walk away with tons of takeaways? Heck yeah! ESPA even got photos of lots of people with TONS of notes from my talk. Am I proud of myself for kicking off the year with a kickass talk? I sure am. Will I let this little incident deter me from sharing my message with the world? From teaching leaders how to be great? HELL no.
Raise your hand if you’ve had a mishap in front of a group of people.(You just raised your hand, didn’t you?) We’ve ALL had the shit hit the fan in front of others. We’ve all fallen flat on our face, tripped over the imaginary bump in the floor, or stuck our foot in our mouth. If you’ve ever spoken on a stage, you KNOW that it comes with the territory.
Great leaders aren’t remembered for being great because of what they said – it’s for WHO they were as humans and HOW they lead. I’m a human. Everyone in my audience was a human. Humans fail. It comes with the territory. It was HOW I handled the situation that mattered – NOT what I said.
When the shit hits the fan, how will you react? Sometimes you won’t even know until you’re in that situation. When you’re a true leader, you’ll know exactly what to do – even if you are watching yourself failing miserably. It comes from the courageously humble confidence you’ve been cultivating inside yourself – because you’re always learning, always growing.
Big stages can be one of the scariest places to have tough things happen – unless you’re trained to make the best of it. Then you can make bad things into memorable things. Everything I have learned from 10+ years of rocking stages (good and bad) is in SPEAK With Confidence – so you can learn from my failures AND successes along with other Rockstars just like you.
I even created a FREE training:How To Write A Stage-Worthy Talk In Under 45 Minutes for ANYONE to learn how to say what they need to say in front of an audience of one or many. I don’t think it’s fair to keep everything for just the keynote speakers or people who have the time and resources to come to Denver to rock a real stage with me. It’s all yours – free.
When it’s time to stand up and say what you need to say EVEN if you know you’ll fail, you’ll know what to do. You are a courageously humble and confident human. I can see that you are. It’s time you see it, too.
I want you to show up & show off in your next talk.
The SPEAK With Confidence Retreat began because I wanted a safe space to grow as a keynote speaker. Now, we are the ONLY public speaking retreat where you can write your next talk, practice on a real stage with lights & sound, AND go live in front of an audience to show off your newly honed skills.
All I’m seeing right now are decade reviews and humans saying “resolutions are dumb.” It’s a LOT of judgment on others, without even realizing it. It’s also a lot of highlight reels or “this was the worst year.” It’s just a lot.
Do you really remember where you were 10 years ago today without looking at your Facebook memories? Do you remember how you were feeling? What you were addicted to? WHO you were addicted to? The shit you said to yourself when you looked in the mirror? The belief system that drove you? The loneliness you felt, even in your relationship? The guilt you felt for that thing you hate about yourself? The friends you had? The friends you left?
Most of us have a hard time remembering how we felt 6 months ago. We look at our 2019 in review and think about only the darkest and brightest moments. It’s a survival mechanism that allows us to keep moving – or that holds us back. We forget about the stuff that doesn’t matter. Except that the stuff we forget is a lot of the stuff that matters. The FEELINGS are what we forget.
10 years ago today, I was only 8 months into my business after losing my job. I had just paid off my student loans and my car, had just opened my first office in Bethesda, Maryland and felt lonely, isolated, unfocused, and unhealthy. My best friend was about to die unexpectedly and my other two best friends would walk away from my life two weeks later. I wouldn’t go deep with anyone for a very long time. I would be an emotional wreck without a support system while looking like I had TONS of friends.
10 years ago today, I had just started running races and realized how much they were a respite for me in entrepreneurship. I was only at the beginning of feeling healthy in my body, except I was a mess emotionally. I was still going back and forth in a relationship that was emotionally abusive and taxing on my system. I ended up hiring my pastor’s wife as my first employee (who thought I was a nut-job for staying with him until she found out years later why I felt I had to). I was even told by my then boyfriend that I only went to networking events to meet men (when in reality, I was going because they served free food & I was broke.) I hated him, yet was addicted to how I felt when I was with him. Ashamed, yet wanted. Mostly.
photo by Mary Gardella
5 years later, the picture above was taken on my first real photoshoot with Mary Gardella. She took me to a warehouse freight elevator near her studio in Baltimore and made me feel like a model. I had just finished the Live Your Brand Tour, still wasn’t talking to my mom, and was doing everything I could to keep my business and team intact. We were making over half a million in revenue and my inbox was a daily dumpster fire. I wanted out, yet had NO idea what that would look like.
Until this photo was taken, I’d had people I didn’t even know tell me that my chin was too big for profile shots, my body was shaped weirdly, my height was a distraction, my crooked nose didn’t fit my face, and my tattoos would make me look manly. Except they were all wrong – and I had to realize that their comments had NOTHING to do with me.
This photo captures me feeling damn sexy. Simple, yet damn sexy. White t-shirt, jeans, and chucks – standing in a dirty elevator being ONLY my badass self. I felt like an effing model. Mary Gardella is one of the few humans who has ONE incredible purpose and she’s MASTERED it. She makes you feel like yourself – amplified.
It wouldn’t be until 5 years later – right about now – that I would realize my sole purpose – to amplify humans. To make sure humans become their full selves in whatever way that means for them – without judgment. Even my Crew of badass ladies boldly told me that it was my gift to put incredible humans into the same room and allow them the safe space to be who they were meant to be. I accept this fully.
I turn 40 in 2020. 9 months from now, I’ll officially be in my 40’s. I think that’s about the time everyone stops telling me “you’re still a kid” and I realize that I’ve finally become old enough to know better. (Is there a point that people tell you you’re old enough!? I digress.) Now, as I’m about to hit the end of another decade of my own life, I’ve decided that I’m not getting older, I’m getting COOLER.
If I could go back to tell my 29-year-old Melanie anything, I’d let her know that everything will be WAY better than she ever imagined. She’d have her dream husband, dream apartment, her dog wouldn’t be a dick (thanks to Prozac), her business would be helping humans become Rockstars, and she’d get to go on her dream vacations.
I’d also let her know that she would still be stressed out about money, would still wish her body was more fit, would still want to get rid of her forehead wrinkles, would still have a hard time sleeping, and would still wish she had a few friends to go see girly movies with. And yet, everyone else has similar wishes, stressors, and issues. Because while Facebook and Instagram are filtered and highlight reels, EVERYONE – and I repeat, EVERYONE – has issues.
So, let’s all work together on being less frustrated with ourselves, more hopeful about the human race, and more focused on how we can better ourselves so we can better the world. Because we’re not getting older, we’re getting cooler. Together.
To being grown-ass humans who love and accept ourselves in 2020.