13 Personal Development Speakers in 3 Days

January 20th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Last week I attended a 3-day seminar from Parker Seminars here in Las Vegas. This was a chiropractic seminar (the largest in the world), but they had a whole track on personal development with some top-notch speakers, so I registered. I’m glad I did, as the seminar was excellent (even for a non-chiropractor). I heard estimates that there were around 7000-8000 attendees.

This conference had something unusual that I’d never seen elsewhere — the conscious perpetuation of a consistent industry-wide mission. The whole conference was organized around the vision of chiropractors as compassionate healers. This was integrated into many of the talks — the focus on service to others and building individual practices around that vision. And this vision has apparently remained consistent for quite some time. I’ve never seen such a clearly articulated industry mission at any technical conferences I’ve attended over the years. I really enjoyed seeing the effect this mission had on attendees, and I think it would make a huge difference if conference organizers in other industries adopted it.

I attended this conference for two reasons: 1) to model some of the best professional speakers in the world, and 2) for the content itself. The tax deduction is nice too.

Day 1

Naomi Judd – Mother of fellow musician Wynonna Judd and actress Ashley Judd, she gave a speech called, “How to have a breakthrough rather than a breakdown.” I’ve never been a fan of country music, so I knew virtually nothing about her going into it. But I was pleasantly surprised. She told some great stories, and one thing she did better than most other speakers was to connect with the audience. She was the only speaker I saw who came down off the stage and walked through the audience (of probably 2000 people). I was sitting near the edge of the 7th row, and at one point she walked about four feet from me, leaned forward, and delivered a few lines of her speech while looking me straight in the eye. She did this with many other audience members too, and it certainly created a strong connection for her, which I think gave her tremendous rapport throughout the rest of her speech. There wasn’t anything during her talk that really resonated much with me because it was largely about not being a victim (not a current difficulty for me). But there was one sentence she said that I really liked: “Nothing bad happens to us — we do it to ourselves through other people.” That’s so true. You hear people complain about an abusive boss (i.e. playing the victim role), but the only way out is to stop playing the victim and take responsibility for beating yourself up through your boss… then get out fast.

Mark Victor Hansen – I was looking forward to seeing Hansen speak, since he and Jack Canfield together hold the title of the best-selling authors on the planet, having sold over 100 million books in the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Did you know they have another 74 CSS books in development right now, and their goal is to sell another 1 billion books over the next decade? Wow! Hansen is one of the most hypervisual speakers I’ve seen and very enthusiastic. He gave a Power Point presentation with lots of humorous slides, like one showing a picture of Martha Stewart behind bars on the cover of the fictitious Chicken Soup for the Insider Trader’s Soul. I really liked his views on wealth, which resonate with my own: The reason to get rich is so that you can do all the stuff that no one else can afford to do — to do good for those who can’t afford to do good for themselves. Hansen and Canfield have been giving away to charities 50 cents per book sold since the beginning… $50 million so far, with a goal of $500 million more over the next decade. I’d read many of Hansen and Canfield’s books, so much of the material here was already familiar to me, but I definitely benefitted from seeing Hansen’s personal energy injected into his ideas. Seminars are just so much better for “getting it” than reading books.

On Purpose – During the lunch break there was a live 1- hour recording of a radio show called On Purpose, hosted by Dr. Patrick Gentempo. The guests were Naomi Judd, Dr. Fabrizio Mancini, and Mark Victor Hansen. I enjoyed this immensely and laughed a great deal. The overall message: Find your purpose and live it consciously each and every day.

Dr. Erik Plasker – I’d never heard of Plasker before, but I enjoyed his talk tremendously about living without limits. A strong and dynamic speaker, he talked at length about how often people make excuses to justify their mediocrity, while those who don’t can achieve greatness even when starting at a disadvantage. His most powerful story was that of Kyle Maynard, a successful wrestler who has no arms or legs due to a birth defect called congenital amputation — and he has a winning record! Kyle is currently writing an upcoming book called No Excuses.

Dr. Patrick Gentempo – Gentempo delivered a speech about turning challenges into pure power. I liked his mention of the Stockdale Paradox, which I’m very familiar with. This basically states: Retain your faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be. Stockdale was a long-term POW who saw many of his fellow men die of despair, and he formulated this paradoxical statement as the key to his survival. Confront the brutal facts, but no matter how terrible they may seem, never give up faith that you will ultimately prevail. Gentempo also emphasized the importance of clarifying and deepening your purpose. If you only focus on your survival needs, survival is all you get, meaning mediocrity. Greatness requires a greater purpose, one that extends far beyond you as an individual.

A Nice One-On-One Chat With Dr. Barbara De Angelis – At the end of the first day, I wandered into the concourse where the speakers’ display tables were setup for product sales and book signings. The room was mostly deserted, but I saw Dr. Barbara De Angelis and one of her assistants setting up a book display. One of the #1 relationship experts in the world, best-selling author of 14 books that collectively sold over 7 million copies, Dr. De Angelis was scheduled to speak at the end of Day 2. Given that she was one of the people I came to the seminar to model, I couldn’t let pass the opportunity to speak to her in person. So I walked up to her table, waited a minute until she wasn’t busy, and after she greeted me with a warm “hi,” we had a nice 10-15 minute chat. At first I talked to her about her books and audio programs that I enjoyed and that this was my first opportunity to see her in person. I’d actually found out about the seminar from a link on her web site, so she was delighted when I told her that. I also reminded her of an old interview I read that she did for the book Success Secrets of the Motivational Superstars, so I asked her a few follow-up questions about that. Then we went on talking about synchronicity, her upcoming book How Did I Get Here?, and what makes a great speaker. Her advice for me can be summed up as this: Be authentic and just trust. It’s not about the money at all. The message is more powerful than the marketing.

The interesting part of this conversation was that when I went to talk to her, my intention wasn’t to try to pick her brain or corner her for advice on building my own career. I just wanted to connect with her for a moment, get a sense of who she was, and talk to her as a human being, not a celebrity. At the end of our chat, we shared a nice hug, and then I went home thinking just how much the universe is conspiring to help me achieve my goals. I wanted to give her something to thank her for her time, but I knew a physical gift would be meaningless, so the next morning I wrote her a nice thank you letter and gave it to her in an envelope with a copy of my article, The Courage To Live Consciously, not to get feedback but just because it’s the only gift I could think to give her that might actually mean anything to her. I thought she might enjoy reading it on the plane. I wonder if she’s read it yet…

Dr. Stephen Covey – After a wonderful 30-minute Cirque du Soleil performance with some fantastic acrobatics, Dr. Covey delivered the evening keynote. He spoke about the 7 Habits and the changes that led to the release of his new book, The 8th Habit. I just started reading that book today.

Day 2

Doug Caporrino – This was a very emotional and compelling speech about defying the odds. I can’t think of anything in particular to note about it though because it was more about inspiring stories than about “here’s what you need to do.” It was mainly directed at chiropractors, so a lot of the content was industry-specific.

Dr. Fabrizio Mancini – This was a speech about The Parker Principles, which were created by the founder of Parker College, James W. Parker. While these are geared towards chiropractors, I see a lot of truth in them that carries over to any profession. Mancini is the President of Parker College and was mentored by James Parker himself. I think the principles speak for themselves — I particularly like #4, #9, and #11.

Dr. John Demartini – This was by far my favorite speech of the entire conference, resonating perfectly with what I’ve been discovering on my own. Demartini is a person who came up with a mission statement at age 17 and has been living it for decades, and he shared a lot about what that experience was like. He also spoke at length about the fears that keep people from declaring their own missions: fear of failure, fear of being unable to make a living at it (financial failure), fear of rejection, fear of ill health and lack of vitality, fear of breaking perceived morals and ethics imposed by some authority (going against the grain of social conditioning), fear of not being smart enough or knowledgeable enough. Which ones are holding you back? Some other things I liked from his speech: “The master lives in a world of transformation [embracing change without fear]; the masses live in a world of gain and loss [fearing change].” “Any area of your life you don’t empower, someone else overpowers.” “No resistance on the mortal plane can interfere with the persistence of the celestial plane.” My favorite part of Demartini’s talk was when he spoke about fear of rejection. He commented that, “The more people I please, the more people I piss off.” When you go after a big goal, both your level of acceptance and your level of rejection by others will increase. I’ve certainly experienced this in my own life. Every time I make a new blog post that challenges people deeply, some people rise to the challenge and take action (even if they disagree with my views) and then send me the most incredible feedback, while others get defensive and feel a need to push back to protect their fragile shell of excuses. So the more people I help, the more people I piss off. As I continue on this path, both are increasing. But ultimately the acceptance and rejection balance out, which keeps you living on purpose and not getting sidetracking into living for acceptance or for the avoidance of rejection. Just be authentic. You’ll be simultaneously loved and hated no matter what.

Dr. Barbara De Angelis – When we spoke during the previous evening, she asked me to sit in the front row during her talk, noting I had good energy. Speakers often feel the energy of those closest to them more strongly than those in the back — I’ve noticed this myself. So I showed up early enough to snag the front-center spot closest to the stage. I was already so familiar with Dr. De Angelis’ material that there weren’t any big content surprises to me. She talked at length about love and its ability to transform relationships, both personal and professional; being authentic; and some of the differences between men and women. She got a lot of laughs from the abundance of humor in her presentation, which I really enjoyed.

Day 3

Les Brown – What a magnificent speaker! I was enthralled by his high-energy style, and his content was outstanding. Here’s a guy that was born on the floor of an abandoned building and then abandoned along with his twin brother. At six weeks of age he and his brother were taken in by his adoptive mother, to whom Les expressed deep gratitude. Labeled “educable mentally retarded” at a young age and called DT (“dumb twin”) by his peers and even his teachers, Les talked about how he overcame his early obstacles and vowed to himself, “I refuse to die an unlived life.” He noted that he’s been speaking for 25 years and has earned $52 million, but that was the easy part. The hard part was believing that he could do it in the first place. The best thing I took away from his talk is not just to go for excellence but to aim even higher — for what he calls greatness. He told everyone in the audience to take their current goals and then increase them dramatically. I did this when I got home from the seminar, and just the act of setting some dramatically bigger goals helped me see how the original goals may have been unnecessarily limiting and that short-cuts may very well be possible if I only think to target them.

Cynthia Kersey – Author of the book Unstoppable, Kersey talked about how to keep yourself on the path to your goals without getting sidetracked. Her advice was to focus on changing just one area of our lives at a time to let that create momentum for us, such as starting an exercise program. An interesting statistic she mentioned: “90% of the people working today will earn within 10% of what they’re earning today for the rest of their lives.” People are easily stopped it seems. Cynthia’s book contains a 30-day program to increase your ability to withstand setbacks and keep moving forward each day even in the face of obstacles.

Dr. Jim Sigafoose – This speech focused on the benefits of chiropractic and inspiring chiropractors to throw their hearts into their work because it literally saves lives. Dr. Sigafoose relayed many emotional stories of healing that had the audience in tears. I especially loved hearing his story about how he turned his 8-year failing practice into a massive success by shifting his priorities to focus on his love for patients as opposed to just working a job or running a business. What drives you most deeply is the desire to serve others, not trying to gain for yourself. But when you devote your life to serving others, you find that you simultaneously gain all you could possibly want for yourself anyway.

Jack Canfield – Mark Victor Hansen’s partner in crime gave a great speech about principles of success, based on his new book, The Success Principles. Once again, it all begins with purpose. He talked about the importance of having big dreams, since it takes just as much energy to dream big dreams and it does to have little ones. Canfield’s message resonated with Les Brown’s — most people set goals that are way to small and which therefore are barely worth achieving. Five years from now you’ll be five years older anyway, so spend the time going after whales instead of minnows. Setting “breakthrough goals” that really force you to stretch are the ones worth doing. And don’t get hung up on worrying about the “how.” Focus first on the “what” and the “why,” and the “how” will begin to reveal itself to you once your vision is clear and committed.

Overall

I enjoyed this seminar immensely and would love to go again next January when it returns to Vegas. I’ve been seeing a lot of convergence in the content of many speakers and between various speakers and my own content (even when I’m writing something I feel is original). The content is become more similar and less niche-like. Even speakers with entrenched niches seem to be adapting their material in a way that fits this apparent convergence process. My take on this is that truth is truth. When an idea works, it quickly infects everyone, and the more empowering ideas rise to the top and end up infusing everyone’s content in some way. People may even come up with the same ideas simultaneously, as if the time is just right for their discovery.

A couple of the converging ideas I saw in this seminar:

  • Find your purpose and live it every day. Living on purpose is oozing out of every speaker’s mouth nowadays. Why? One reason is massive pent-up demand. Corporate slaves are awakening to the fact that there must be more to life than doing uninspired busywork, and more and more people are refusing to volunteer themselves into this old, dying system. People are desperate to live lives that actually matter, rather than to just go to their graves quietly, having made other people rich.
  • The greatest purposes are those which focus on service, contribution, and giving. Forget about living for money and materialism. That time in history is past. Motivation by greed is weak — it won’t get you very far. This is the age of fulfillment, and the deepest fulfillment comes from knowing you gave the best of yourself to the world and made a real difference. You can push yourself to complete projects that really only benefit you, but you’ll never tap into your deepest motivation and passion until you include helping others as an integral part of your goals.

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