Darren Hardy’s parents divorced when he was 18 months old. His mother didn’t want him, so he lived with his dad who he compares to the drill sergeant in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Hardy openly shares his background with his audiences because his personal story reinforces the theme that common people can find uncommon success if they turn their perceived weakness into a strength.
“Your adversity is your advantage,” Hardy says. “Going through abandonment issues is the reason I’m vigorously self reliant, self motivated, goal oriented, and results driven.”
Hardy’s “results” are extraordinary. A serial entrepreneur since the age of 18, today Hardy is the publisher of SUCCESS magazine and the author of the new book, The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster. Today the man who only completed one semester of college and admits to not being born to the ‘right family,’ or having the ‘right education,’ or the ‘right contacts’ commands more than $1.5 million in speaking fees alone.
Hardy believes that now is the time to join the ranks of the super achievers. “Never before has the average person, without privilege, special education, training, previous wealth, or connections, been offered the unlimited opportunity and financial abundance that are available today,” writes Hardy.
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I recently caught up with Hardy for a wide-ranging discussion on leadership, success, and motivation. In our conversation I learned something that shouldn't come as a surprise to readers of my column—Hardy credits public speaking skills for most of his success. And, like other successful speakers I've profiled, Hardy worked really, really hard to improve his presentation and communication skills.
“My belief is that for any leader or influencer of any consequence, the number one trait that is necessary to succeed is their ability to speak, to communicate. I don’t care who you are or what you do, if you cannot speak and communicate effectively in front of people (staff meetings, funding pitches, recruiting top talent), your ability to speak is the essential skill set for a leader.”
If you were to watch a Darren Hardy presentation on YouTube you would see a speaker who appears confident and charismatic. He’s humorous and thought provoking. He commands the stage, uses strong body language, and doesn't rely on notes. In other words, he’s very polished and effective. Hardy attributes his success on stage as being 1 percent ‘natural ability,’ and 99 percent hard work. Hardy has made public speaking a focused area of personal improvement for the past 26 years.
“For example, I used to avoid humor because I thought the topic was too serious. I didn't tell personal stories. I thought they were a distraction, but now I know the opposite is true. I went on a focused, diligent pursuit to become better at storytelling. I learned that nobody cares about your success until they know you understand their failures.”
Hardy’s diligent pursuit to become better at public speaking carries a valuable lesson for all leaders. “Speaking for a fee has never been my objective. Speaking is a vehicle to drive my business enterprises,” Hardy says. “When I think about the biggest contribution I make to the SUCCESS enterprise as publisher and editor, it’s not sitting in meetings, leading conference calls, editing copy, and meeting with advertisers. My greatest contribution is standing on stage at a large national conference and championing the message of success.”
Leaders and entrepreneurs must think of themselves as brand champions. Your employees, your customers, your partners are looking to you for inspiration. Speaking is a marketing tool to expand your brand and its reach. Take every opportunity to share your message publicly and to keep working on the craft of public speaking.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that great public speakers were born with the ability to command a stage. They worked at it. “I've had the chance to spend time with and learn from more super achievers than almost anyone on the planet,” writes Hardy. “And I’m happy to report they all seem to have the same basic DNA you and I have…You are the creator of your destiny. The mindset of ‘they were born to be successful and I am not’ is a trick of the imagination. The only way to escape is to create a success-destiny mindset day by day, hour by hour.”