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This is John.

John has an Italian father and a British mother, he speaks 7 languages fluently and he lives in Brazil since more than 20 years.
His job is to guide foreigners in Rio, but also to go on trips abroad as a guide for Brazilian tourists.

Today he was my guide from the airport to my hotel in Copacabana overlooking the Balneario Beach.

As someone who has travelled a lot, who has met so many foreigners and been living in Rio for so long I asked him:

“What is the biggest misconception that foreign tourists have about Brazil?”

He replied: “When they have been here a few days they tend to say: ‘It’s less dangerous than we thought it would be’.”

John is not saying that there is no violence in Rio. (there is).
What he is saying is that tourists tend to realise that the picture that they had painted in their heads before coming here was unrealistically negative.

I find that so true.

I have been in Sri Lanka during the war, in Pakistan and South Africa and many other places that some people are hesitant to go to.

My reaction is always “What are people so afraid of?”

Again, I am not saying we should not be cautious when we travel, or that we should be naive and think that there is no violence in the world and that some places has more of it than others (I did see a bomb go off in Sri Lanka).

I am saying that it seems that we – as humans – tend to be the most afraid of places we have never been to.
And because of that fear we are reluctant to go there.
and by not going there we can not realise that these places tend to be less dangerous than we thought.

I guess that means that our fear is stopping us from being less afraid.

It always makes me a bit sad when I hear and read about speakers who do not go abroad to give speeches because they are afraid. It is much more common than you would think.

Personally I see the opportunity to speak in some countries as a huge bonus as I might not have decided to go there as a tourist.

The job of being a speaker is arguably one of the best jobs in the world when it comes to how easy it is to do your job in different countries.

Take advantage of that.

A positive side effect is that you become less afraid of the world.

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I have made a career out of being a professional non-expert.

Like today – when a large group of experts from government and companies met at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel in Singapore for the Asia Pacific Road Safety & Mobility Conference

Global Experts from all over the world had been flown in to give their view on the future of safe road travel.

The list of speakers included experts like

Professor Tobias Wallisser, Co-founder, Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) from Germany speaking on “How Future Mobility will Transform the City”

Mr Eric Noble, Founder, The CarLab, from the USA, speaking on “The Future of the Car “

Mr David Ward, Secretary General, Global NCAP, from the UK, speaking on “Road Map for Safer Cars 2020

Dr Cosmas Asam, Vice President, Strategy, BMW AG, from Germany, speaking on “A New Approach to Mobility”
and

Mr Chee Hong Tat, Singapore Minister of State, Ministry of Health & Ministry of Communications and Information

And so on.

There was only one non-expert speaker:

Me.

A person who with any stretch of the imagination cannot be called an expert on road safety.

So why did they select me to be one of the speakers?

Because it makes a lot of sense to bring in someone to give a different perspective, because when all are coming from the same industry, have similar background and experiences then the ideas presented tend to be the same.

It is often the job of a professional speaker.

It’s like how kings historically used to have a Jester who could speak the uncomfortable truth in front of the king without the risk of being killed. Or how Ceasar had a slave whisper “you are mortal” in his ear so he would not start to think he was a god with all the praise he would be getting from “yes sayers” around him.

So does that mean that speakers are just modern day jesters or slaves?

Yes, in a way it does. And I am fine with it. It is actually a very honourable job to be speaking the truth (or perhaps I should be saying: “speaking an alternative truth”.)

Because it is not that the industry experts are wrong.

It is just that it is always dangerous when one “truth” become “the truth” in an industry.

And that’s why it makes sense to bring in someone who know nothing about an industry to speak at an industry conference.

Lesson: Take pride in being the one with a different expertise. It’s one of our strongest selling points as speakers.

ps.

Road safety is one of the world’s most interesting industries in the world. Road accidents is one of the top 10 killers of humans globally. United Nations have declared that the world is going to tackle this fact in a big way the next 15 years and the (very ambitious) goal is to reduce the number of traffic deaths by 50% (!) in 15 years. Now that is going to happen while we will, in the same 15 years, add another 1 billion (!) new cars on our roads (which means doubling the number of cars on the road.)

 

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What does it mean to be extraordinary?

That was the question that I had been asked to answer as Bentley Motors invited me to be their speaker at a VIP dinner for a few select guests of theirs in Singapore.

I started by saying that I would take a “creative approach” to try to reply to the question. (By that I did not mean that I would try to speak “creatively” about the subject, but that I would use my background as an author of creativity books to look at the word of “extraordinary” from the viewpoint of creativity.)

So what does the word “extraordinary” mean?

The dictionary says it means “very unusual or remarkable.”

So what does “remarkable” mean? It means: “worthy of attention; striking.”

So that means that to be extraordinary we need to be unusual and worthy of attention.

And that, sounds to me, very much like being creative.

For to be creative it is not enough to be “different” – we also need to create something that makes the world, in some way, better.

But here comes a paradox:

Our results should be worthy of attention – but when we create our ideas we cannot, and should not, seek the attention of others.
We should only try to create the very best idea that we can.

In the case of Vincent van Gogh, it took centuries for the world to pay attention to his creativity.

To be extraordinary we cannot create based on what others think.

Be Unapologetically great

That means doing what we feels need doing without asking for permission or apologising for what we think it right.

Think about it, almost all truly great creative ideas has come from a place of someone being unapologetic about what the creator believed in.

But being unapologetically great it not the same as being full of yourself.
Many amazingly successful people have been full of them self, cooky and loud – but the most extraordinary people of the world are the humbled successes. The Nelson Mandelas, the David Beckhams, the Dali Lama’s of the world.

Not the Donald Trumps of the world…

Yes, some great people are full of themselves.
But I am talking about the truly great who tend to be unapologetic about their ideas – not about themselves.

Be radically true to who you truly are.

To be true to our ideas we need to be true to ourselves.

Mahatma Gandhi was passionate about an independent India through a non-violent approach and saw himself as fighting for the rights of the millions of poor Indians. When he, in 1931, traveled to the UK to negotiate with the British government he travelled in the lowest class in the ship and arrived at 10 Downing Street wearing his loin-cloth not the western suits that were expected. A great example of not caring about what others expect someone to do.

The rest of us are not Gandhi, but we should equally try to stay radically true to who we are and the ideas we believe in.

Do not try to be perfect. Be your best.

To be perfect means “having all the required or desirable elements”. That sounds great, but it implies that we somehow have to achieve what others have agreed on as “required” or “desirable”.

But why settle to achieve the highest standards set up by others? Let’s instead aim for the highest standard set by yourself.

By doing your own things as well as you could possibly do it you will achieve something better then perfect:

 

You will be extraordinary.

 

 

This is an adaptation (and shortened) text from the speech I did at the Bentley event. It was a short 15-minute speech for a small group of VIP-guests as part of an exclusive dinner.

I post this text today as a reminder of what we as speakers should aim for. Doing what you believe in is always important, but extra important for a speaker – since we are paid to give our point of view.

(Click here to find out more about the Bentley-campaign.)

 

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