Tag: Life of a professional speaker

Svanholmen Island, Sweden.

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As you can see by my latest two posts, I am on “vacation mode” and this post will be on the same theme.

I hear many entrepreneurs who justify their crazy work loads with the argument: “I am going to work like a maniac for XX years so that I can sell my company and never will have to work again in my life.”

For me that is as clever as saying: “I am going to starve myself for XX days so that I can go crazy on the all-you-can-eat-buffet-dinner.”

I strongly believe that a much better strategy for how much you work – and how much you eat! – is to spread it out and not overdo it.

Being a speaker is a dream job in many aspects, but perhaps the biggest perk of all is that you can look at it as a job that is done by many semi-retired people.

Personally, I will have 5 months off this year to be with my kids.

At the same time, I am one of the world’s most globally booked speakers.

And I do not intend to retire (I do not even own a retirement account!) because as a speaker, you can literally do your job until the day you die. Not very many jobs let you do that. Edward de Bono, for example, is 82-years-old and is still giving keynote speeches.

Because as stupid as I think it is to work too much, I equally think it is stupid to totally stop working at a certain age and spend the rest of your life “in retirement”.

Now, I think everyone who works 8 hours per day 5 days per week until they retire should change that to 6 hours per day, 4 days per week until they are so old they can not work anymore.

I think that would create happier families, workers and societies. At the same time, I think it would probably produce more productivity counted over the lifetime of a person.

Now, do not get me wrong. I love entrepreneurs — people who have an idea that they strongly believe in and that they want to see come true. But I have met so many entrepreneurs who say “I love my job, but I hate my life.”

When I sold my company in 1999 (after working way too much for a few years), I pledged to myself that I should be a “Lifetrepreneur”.

The definition of an “Entrepreneur” is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses”.

The definition of a “Lifetrepreneur” is “a person who organises and operates his or her life in the best possible manner.”

Lesson: Being a speaker is the perfect job if you want to achieve high “life-work balance”. The fact that most people call it “work-life balance” just shows how many people have forgotten which of the two should come first.

Question: Are you spending as much time as you would like on work, or are you spending too much? If too much, then what can you do to create the right “life-work balance” in your life?

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San Francisco, USA.

Don’t you get tired of all the travel?

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I get that question a lot.

And it is true, I do travel A LOT. I actually have more hours in the air than a commercial airline pilot.

But no, I do not get tired of it. Or at least I find it much less tiring than having to, for example, commute 1 hour back and forth to an office every day of the week.

Let’s look at the trip I am on right now.

At 9:25 on June 9, I left Singapore to fly, via Seoul and San Francisco, to Las Vegas where I gave a talk to all the BMW car dealers of North America. Then back again, via San Francisco and Hong Kong, to Singapore where I will land 11:25 on June 12. So, that’s 74 hours of travel for a 40-minute speech.

Sounds crazy, but now let’s break it down.

24 hours would be sleeping. 2 nights in Singapore Airline’s awesome business class bed, 1 night at the equally awesome Aria Casino and resort in Las Vegas.

So now, there’s 50 hours left.

5 hours of meeting with client, checking on stage, delivering my speech, hanging around the conference learning about the future plans of BMW USA and about their new car.

10 hours of experiencing Las Vegas. I went to a show, had some great food (cajun crayfish was the best!), had a massage, did some people-watching on the Strip, and of course, a bit of gambling in the casino.

On my way back, I had a 5+ hour layover in San Francisco so I called an old friend, Elin, who lives there, and took a taxi downtown to meet with her. She took me wine tasting at a hot start-up (Built), and then for a really nice dinner at Union Square. Time catching up with old friend in San Francisco: almost 5 hours.

Now, suddenly, the “74 hours of travel” is down to 30.

In those 30 hours, I watched 2 movies, 10 TV shows — I do not have cable TV at home so I catch up on TV when I travel 😉 — and had the time and piece of mind to read (cover to cover!) the book “The Lenovo Way” by Lenovo’s HR manager Gina Qiao, which she gave me last week. And of course, I was also able to get a few hours of emails done (and write this blog post).

Out of the 74 hours I will be gone, I would call less than 10 hours “annoying traveling time” (such as taking taxis to airports, going through airport immigration and security etc.) — which would be the same amount of annoying travel time that someone who works 9-5 and commutes 1 hour to work would have.

But how about “being away from family”?

I left Tuesday morning after sending my kids off to school. I will be back on Friday before lunch and will spend the rest of the Friday “workday” playing with my daughter who comes home from Kindergarten at noon, giving me 6 hours of “father-child-play time” during “office time” on Friday.

Now, a person with a “normal” 9-5 job (who commutes 1 hour to work) would have spent 8 hours “playing with kids’ in the same 4 days. This is based on having 1 hour from 7-8 in the morning, and 1 hour from 6-7 in the evening before kids go to sleep.

In the same 4 days, I had 1 hour on the 9th and 6 hours on Friday giving me 7 hours of “playtime”. Almost the same as the person with a 9-5 job.

Now, I also spent Monday at home, since I knew I was going to be away, which gave me another 6 hours with my daughter. In effect, I had MORE time with my young child this week than someone who works 9-5 even though I was gone travelling for 74 hours.

And then I also got to visit a good friend in San Francisco, have a day of fun in Las Vegas, and work with the amazing people at BMW USA during that very same week.

But this doesn’t add up, you might think? You must loose out somewhere?

Well, here is the lesson: Being a global speaker DOES involve a lot of travel. But because the actual work time is so short (in my case, 5 hours this week), a lot of the travel is done DURING the normal 40-hour work week. People who complain about travel are usually the people who have a 40+ hour work week AND then have to travel on top of that. That must suck.

Also: I do not HAVE to travel. I could choose to be a Singapore-based speaker working in Singapore.

But I find that the energy, the insights and the experiences I get from being a global speaker makes my life richer, fuller and more amazing. And that is why I am not tired of the travelling.

Done right, it fills your work week with a lot of inspiration and you are still back home for lunch on Friday 😉

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(On a Singapore Airline flight between Shanghai and Singapore)

 

I am writing this on the last leg of yet another “around the world trip” that has taken me from:

Singapore via
Oslo, Norway
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Mexico City, Mexico
New York, USA
Toronto, Canada
Shanghai, China
and now back to Singapore.

All in 18 days. And all on one Star Alliance “around-the-world-ticket” that cost me 12 000 USD and included 10 flights, to 10 different airports, in 9 countries on 4 continents.

Now, that might sound like a lot of travel, but it’s actually a way to reduce my travel.

If I would have flown to each of those 6 speeches on a return flight from Singapore, it would have been more flights and much more hours in the air.

During “speaking season”, it often makes a lot of sense to just fly straight to the next speech instead of going home between speeches.

By saving on “return flights”, I instead got plenty of “free time” in the cities I was speaking at where I could relax, meet interesting people, and experience the different vibes of these amazing world cities.

On this trip, the “extra free time” that I saved by cutting down my traveling time was used to experience one of the ten best restaurants in Canada, as well as one of the best restaurants in Sao Paulo, and I also got some days by the pool in Brazil, and got to do some shopping and eating on the Bund in Shanghai.

Traveling from speech to speech has made me realise why rock bands go “on tour”. By blocking off a period for intense travel, you actually free up more time to be with your family – while getting to many different cities without extensive travel.

Being “on tour” is simply a very efficient and comfortable way to travel.

Lesson: Be flexible in the way you think about travel during “speaking season”. Return flights might be a detour.

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