The Mindset of Top Speakers – 3 Illusions to Avoid so You Can Be Your Best Self

Carla Rieger Private Coaching

Here are 3 common myths or illusions that cause people to suffer on their journey as a speaker, and how you can transform them.

By definition, if you have your own business, or you are an independent sales rep, you ARE a speaker. Whether you’re  speaking one-to-one, or to groups, it’s the same psychological process. If you think of life 200 years ago, most people’s daily activities would be physical labour – building cottages, washing clothes, working in the fields. Today, if you have your own business, it’s often about SPEAKING, writing and thinking….such as tapping away on devices, talking to video cameras, conversing at meetings.
That’s a radical shift in a very short period of time in how humans spend their day
The evolution of our brains is still catching up with this change in daily activities. All this to say, SPEAKING is a huge part of what pays the bills. The thinking behind that speaking or writing ….is therefore a huge part of your success. Yet, many people are not getting the training necessary around that THINKING. For example, you’ve probably seen this phenomenon. One person can get on the phone and totally win a person over with how they’re being. And another person, expressing the exact same thing, to the same person, can leave the person feeling flat, uninterested or confused. What’s the difference?

What makes one person able to win people over  and another can’t?

You might say it’s the person’s skill level or their experience. Sure, that can help. But I remember years ago, the very first personal development course I ever did was called, The Mastery of Self-Expression. It had such a profound effect on my life that I went on to take their leadership development program and learn how to teach it myself. Here’s the premise. It’s a weekend workshop. Before you arrive you have to memorize five minutes of something: a poem, a monologue from a play, something you wrote. Then one-by-one during the weekend, each person gets up on stage and delivers it.  If the audience was moved, inspired, excited, responsive to you, you would get the thumbs up from the teacher and you could sit down.

However, if you left people confused, uninterested, or turned off, you had to stay up on stage and do it over and over again until you got that enlivened response . Have you ever done a program like that? The workshop would sometimes go until four in the morning. Some people would be on stage for hours with the instructor coaching them past all the layers of identity and programming that blocked them from just being real in the moment with people.

People with the most public speaking experience often have the most trouble being ON

The irony was that often the people who were stuck on stage for the longest time unable to connect, had the most public speaking experience. They were trained actors, university professors, or Toastmasters. They had developed a public speaking persona that was blocking their true self. Conversely, sometimes a person who’d never done public speaking, would do their piece and get a standing ovation.

Being connected to your true self AND having public speaking skills is the best combination

That’s not to say technique, experience isn’t necessary. But who you are BEING, that raw truthfulness, COMBINED with skill and strategy is the way to go. The problem is that it’s so easy to lose that essence. There are many things in our society designed to squash it. Many people picked up programs as a child that are looping in the subconscious mind, blocking that real connection.

What is it that frees you enough to make a real connection with a person?

Here’s an example. It’s my turn on stage at The Mastery of Self Expression workshop. I memorized a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning called, How Do I Love Thee? I had just finished a degree in English literature and she was my favourite 19th century poet. In fact, I had just spend the 4 years leading up to this point embroiled in my studies at university, head down, cloistered in libraries, no social life, working all the time. The poem starts:

How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways. 

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach,

I recite my poem putting as much expression into it as I can muster. When I’m done, there is silence. No applause. I see a few people yawning and checking the time. The instructor says – how was that for you? That question was the kiss of death. You know you bombed when they ask you THAT question.

It was okay.

What made you choose that poem?Have you ever loved someone in that way?

Although I had a boyfriend at the time, both of us had been studying so hard at school we rarely had a chance to see each other. Did I love him in that way? I thought…no. I shake my head.

Would you like to love someone in that way?



I could feel the tears start rolling down my cheeks. The truth was, I’d completely ignored my emotional life for years in favour of building my logical, analytical, academic mind. My emotional self was an abandoned child in a dark room, shut away for bad behaviour. In my family, there was no room for emotions. They were very academic and goal oriented, Any time I was emotional as a child, I was made to stay in my room until I could to behave properly – no sadness or anger, no boisterous, happy laughter either. An UN-emotional state was the only state that was allowed in our household.

So there I am, tears running down my cheeks in front of an entire room full of people, which to me felt very dangerous. To the childlike self, that meant I was going to get shut in my room for a very long time, exiled from the family, made to feel ashamed of my feelings. But in this environment, for the very first time in my life, that emotion was welcomed. It was a very bizarre experience for me.

Start the poem again from that place.

And I started the poem again – How do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways. And as I did,  I realized it wasn’t a poem I wanted to share to a lover, it was for my emotional self, that child locked in the bedroom who was feeling so unloved and unappreciated for who she was. By the time I finished that poem, the entire room of 83 people were on their feet applauding, cheering. They were cheering not only for me, but  for themselves, for their own journey. Because every time you watched someone on stage go on that journey, you went on that journey with them, too. The people who went up on stage at the beginning of the workshop did a lot of the hard work for the people near the end.

No matter where you are on your journey of speaking, we all need reminders

We all need a place to come where we can get permission to be our true self, to have compassion for the ongoing struggles of trying to have  an authentic connection with people in a world that tries to shut that down over and over again. I have workshops, courses, coaches and books I go to regularly to re-inspire me on that, and you might to. The person I was before I did that workshop and after is a totally different person. Yet, I know other people who did that workshop and felt that it was a waste of their time. What’s the common denominator?  It’s the person taking it, the meaning they give it, where they are in their life at that moment and what they are open to. I took that workshop when I was at the end of my tether.  I was feeling so dead inside, and was desperate for a more vibrant experience of life. I was ready. Now, does this mean you need to cry on stage when speaking? Absolutely not. In a professional speaking environment you want to a find that balance where you’re emotionally present for people, but not overcome with the emotion. You are in partnership with the emotion rather than owned by it. Therefore, a workshop environment where it’s safe to explore that, is the best. For example, we off that for speakers and emerging speakers in our Inner Circle Mastermind VIP Program.

Accurate Thinking

Accurate Thinking  allows you to be emotionally available for people so you can build your business and income in a way that feels on purpose. You may have heard that term. It’s from Napoleon Hill’s book – Think and Grow Rich. The basic premise is that a lot of things we think to be true about life, are actually not true. Even universal laws for living a “right living” somehow get distorted through history. Let me give you a few examples.

Illusion #1 – I can get through life without being vulnerable

I did a diploma in international conflict resolution, and then these skills in various companies and organizations.  Often they were multicultural work environments, so I had to learn the values and perceptions of different cultures when it came to resolving conflict. In one company there were many people from Japan and they were all in a leadership role. They had the concept of needing to save face. It’s a strong value in other cultures, too. It’s the idea that you must avoid having people see your shortcomings, failures and mistakes. You must at all times appear perfect. I was listening to the great philosopher-poet David Whyte, who spoke recently at the  Conference.  He says, to be a leader is to lose face constantly. I think that’s so true. I remember saying to my Assistant, “What can I improve on as your boss?”  This look of relief came over her face. I said, “You might need some time to think about it.”  She didn’t need any time, she had a big list of things. It’s the same with being a parent. Especially when your kids hit their teenage years. They know your every vulnerability. Another common situation is with your spouse or life partner. Have you ever shared a big insight you finally had into a flaw in your character, something that was in your blind spot? And your partner says to you, I could’ve told you that years ago.

It’s very hard to be successful if you’re always trying to “save face”

You especially can’t save face if you’re going to share your offers with the world, or speak about them individually or to groups. Because people are smart, they can see all your issues etched across your face, in the way you crinkle your eyes, in the way you breathe, in the slight tonality of your voice changing in the moment. We are experts, and maybe not consciously but unconsciously, we know what’s really going on for a person. That’s why a lot of people get so nervous public speaking, because they know that listeners are going to really SEE them. Your self doubts are going to show. The places you don’t believe in yourself are going to show. Therefore, the best defence is to go right into the heart of those places and own them completely. Once you do that, you can use Accurate Thinking to break you free. Which brings us to the next common illusion that seems to trap a lot of people.

Illusion #2 – Everything should always be growing in a positive direction

This is one of those Law of Attraction, or Universal Laws, that easily gets distorted.  Then, it can start working against you instead of for you. If you look in the natural world, especially if you live in non-tropical areas of the world; there are seasons. Half the year things are growing, there’s sunshine, there is progress. And half the year there’s death, decay, destruction, coldness, maybe lack of sun. Of course, that’s true in all areas of life. Sometimes your finances are growing, and then there is an ebb, a tightening of finances. Then it comes up again, and goes down and comes up. Same with your business growth. If you’ve been in business long enough you see that there is always a natural ebb and flow to your health, to your finances, to your relationships, to your mood. Yet when things go down, there’s this inner conflict that can happen. Where you start fighting with reality.

This shouldn’t be happening!

There must be something wrong with me!

I must change it as soon as possible.

But sometimes, it’s just the natural ebb of life, and during those times, just take advantage of it. You can do things in times of “ebb”, that you can’t do when the tide is high, and things are flowing.  I was talking to a friend the other day who grew up her whole life in the Bahamas, and just moved a few years ago to Vancouver. People always say to her, you must miss the sun, because it rains here a lot! And she says, no not at all. It can be oppressive to live in sunshine all the time,. For example, I was never able to wear a coat, or wear boots. I lived my entire life in a summer dresses and sandals. All year long. I still get to do that part of the year here, but part of the year I love bundling up and going outside with an umbrella. It’s different. It makes me go inside myself more. The “winters of life” are a time of reflection, breaking down of the old, going into periods of fallow ground where nothing much is happening. That way, come springtime, you can have a true creative reemergence. If you live in summer all the time, you never take those times to regroup, to let go of the old, to get back to the zero point, fallow ground of yourself where all creativity is born. On top of that, you you can stay stuck in a stagnant place creatively if you never let yourself go to that ground of your being.

A sense of humor is a powerful spiritual discipline

The Dali Lama says that developing a sense of humor is a powerful spiritual discipline; to be able to laugh at yourself and life, when things don’t go as planned.  In fact, the root of the word humor is the same as the root word for humiliation. It’s the word “humus” or soil. To be humiliated, is to be taken back down into the soil of your being, the ground, the fallow, zero point, of yourself. That is the birthplace of all true innovation and the type of creativity that comes from the soul. To be able to laugh at yourself and life, in the face of humiliation, in the face of making a mistake, looking like an idiot at the front of the room, not achieving a goal you vowed to achieve. The gift of that experience is to have all your egoic illusions stripped away in one swift motion, so that you are only left with your true self. At first it can be uncomfortable as you fight with that present reality, but if you allow it and let go of how it “should” be, ironically you can feel relieved. It’s just back to simple old you, your truest self. From that place, you can create again, and feel more congruent and at peace, as a result. Think of a situation going on now that is bothering you in some way. How might you transform it by laughing at the situation, letting go so you can rise above it all and get back to YOUR true self?

2 types of innovation

I’ve been teaching innovative thinking in work teams for a long time. When I first started studying the subject, I realized that there were two kinds of innovative thinking. Mostly people were teaching on the first kind. Type #1 comes out of the linear, logical mind. It’s about being tricky. It’s something lawyers are taught to do through abstract reasoning processes in the courtroom, to get their client from going to jail. It also can look like analytic problem solving, brainteasers and riddles. But there’s another type of innovation that comes from the imaginative mind, that’s connected to your true self, your soul, your heart, the embodied self. The only way to access that is to go to the ground of your being, to have all preconceived ideas, programs, egoic notions of grandeur, stripped away from you. Only then, can you truly see the path you are meant to take in the moment.

Illusion #3 – I should see my life path in total clarity all the time

That brings us to the third and final illusion that people drive himself crazy over. It’s the notion that you should be able to see your life path in total clarity all the time. If you can’t get clarity of your vision, there’s something wrong with you. Of course, I’m a big advocate for knowing your deep why, your vision for why you do your business. It’s what can get you out of bed in the morning, because that’s obviously going to be a big motivator when the going gets tough. But, have you ever noticed, you hit times in your life where you lose your vision? What you thought was your vision, doesn’t feel compelling anymore?  That is a natural part of life. For example, have you ever hiked up a mountain and been unable to see the path clearly all the way to the top? Rarely. It winds around the bend, and you can only see it for a few steps in front of you. Maybe in the desert you can, but even then once you hit the horizon and the earth curvature comes into effect, you don’t see the path anymore. The only place you can see the full path, is perhaps from a satellite, as if you are a Google Earth satellite. Often, the only time you can rise above it all to see your true path, are those times when you’ve been brought back to the ground of your being, when you’ve let go of all the programs, preconceived ideas, and deep attachments to having things go your way. When you just let go of it all, you can float up above the clouds and see your path again. While you’re on the ground, often you can only see a few steps in front of you.

People often know these illusions intellectually, but need to practice them in life

I’m not inventing the wheel here, but I find most people need to be reminded of common illusions over and over and over again. People need to hear them in different ways and be given practical daily tools, in order to grow. You may speak of these things to the people you help, too, which is very important. If you’re not helping people at the mindset level, no matter what you’re area of expertise, you’re not truly helping them. The truth is, mindset is 80% of your success in any endeavour, whether it’s public speaking, marketing, yoga, career transition, healing your body, or having a productive work team.

Why telling someone to “just be yourself” doesn’t work

Many of our clients don’t include “mindset” because they don’t understand how to teach about it. Alternatively, they keep it shallow with comments like “You should just think positively” or “Just be yourself”. People don’t change their mindset through suggestions like that. It’s a much more involved process. For example, to “be yourself” at the front of the room took years of training for me. I had to build my self esteem, remove years of limiting programs in my unconscious, learn how to share a vulnerable story without falling to pieces emotionally, protect myself from detractors, upgrade my self image, and feed myself regularly with the kind of nourishing thoughts that could sustain my spirit. In other words, please don’t expect a miraculous change in a person after you say “Just be yourself!” Give them tools to get there. Our company  mission is to see as many people in the world talking about these kind of things as possible.


In fact, that’s why we have a program called Confidence Gold: How to Master the Inner Game of Giving Presentations. It’s to really support people giving one-to-one or group presentations to be their best self. It’s a program where you can on-goingly access and nurture that deeply creative part of yourself, so that you make a bigger difference in the world, and get more results and attract more income.

What have I missed? What are common illusions you find entrepreneurs get lost in?