As a professional speaker, I have the opportunity to sometimes hear a truly great speaker with a fantastic message. You might know the kind – its when the message and the experience stay with you months after others are forgotten. It is what I aspire to be. But the speaker I have in mind is a man called Damian Mason. I heard him speak at the National Speakers Association annual convention in Washington, DC, last year in July 2015. Now a year and a month later, I am still referring to what he spoke about. As my memories may be a little clouded by time, please don’t hold my account of his story against him, but hear instead the message that I am sharing second hand. Damian started his professional speaking career in a way that very few of us do: he was a professional political impersonator. He could pull off Bill Clinton in such a believable manner, that this country bumpkin was fooled for a good long while until I caught the joke.

As a professional speaker, I have the opportunity to sometimes hear a truly great speaker with a fantastic message. You might know the kind – its when the message and the experience stay with you months after others are forgotten. Its what I aspire to be. But the speaker I have in mind is a man called Damian Mason. I heard him speak at the National Speakers Association annual convention in Washington, DC, last year in July 2015. Now a year and a month later, I am still referring to what he spoke about. As my memories may be a little clouded by time, please don’t hold my account of his story against him, but hear instead the message that I am sharing second hand. Damian started his professional speaking career in a way that very few of us do: he was a professional political impersonator. He could pull off Bill Clinton in such a believable manner, that this country bumpkin was fooled for a good long while until I caught the joke.

“Bill Clinton” spoke from the main stage at the convention, entertained us hugely and gave me a copy of Hilary Clinton’s autobiography – which is even more impressive now with her being the first ever female official candidate for the Presidency of the USA. But I digress. When I discovered that the man playing Clinton was doing a break out session on “Reinvention”, I signed up without hesitation. And I was not disappointed. Damian Mason was the epitome of a professional speaker: engaging, authentic and entertaining. And he gave us huge value without dumping content on us. And he inspired me to look honestly at my career, both as it is now, and as it could be.

Briefly, his story is so: He was making a good enough living from impersonating Bill Clinton, which seems to be big business in the States. He knew that that gig would not last for ever – after a new president came into office people wouldn’t be hiring “Bill Clinton” anymore. So he anticipated the future, and started to define where he could be a few years down the calendar. He explained his process of reinvention, including assessing his strengths and weaknesses, looking at his past experience and work, his qualifications, being honest about his talents and developing the right ones, determining what type of family and work life he wanted. He eventually worked out that he could create a profitable niche working as a business advisor to the farming industry. This might not sound too impressive in South Africa, but for the North American market, he had just defined a profitable and valuable niche. A few points stood out in his process:

He had his wife’s full support. She wanted him to work this out and do his best work and she stopped him from selling himself short when he got frustrated and wanted to quit and get a regular job. In the speaking industry, a partner like that is rare and to be treasured. He stayed busy. In the long months when his process wasn’t working, he worked part time for a friend as a landscaper – not because he needed the money but because he needed to be busy and see something literally develop from his efforts. It was a great mental and emotional tool he found in healthy busy work. He went back to school. In his case, and I will confess some envy, he got to go to Chicago’s Second City and learn to develop his humour in their very highly regarded programs. He could afford to go back to school because in the good years he had saved up money, and in anticipating a reinvention of his career, had put even more money aside to give himself space to work this out.

One of the biggest lessons he learned during this time though, was that although he planned this well and thought that he was being reasonable, he misjudged how long the process would take. He thought that reinvention from political caricaturist to business / agricultural specialist would take in the region of 6 months. It took 5 times longer than that. Two and a half years before he could say that he was rebranded and earning properly in his new field. That was a bit of a shock to me. But happily I am a year down the path and well on my way to the area that I want to be working in.

And what about for you? Are you happy where you are? Is your industry changing or are politics, legislation, technology threatening your livelihood? Then maybe you need to start looking at reinventing yourself and your career.

Reinvention story Futurist Charlotte Kemp

Reinvention – a story

As a professional speaker, I have the opportunity to sometimes hear a truly great speaker with a fantastic message. You might know the kind - its when the message and the experience stay with you months after others are forgotten. It is what I aspire to be. But the...
Premeditatio malorum

A Pre-meditation of Evils

Premeditatio malorum, a premeditation of evils, is the Stoic exercise of imagining what can go wrong. Think of it as the opposite of ‘positive thinking’ - the practice of negative thinking that allows us to imagine the worst, get all the emotion out of they way, and...
History to future futures thinking Charlotte Kemp

From History to the Future

History at school I was talking to a History teacher recently at a regular parent / teacher meeting. At some point I rather gushed that History was my favourite subject in school which prompted the teacher to ask me what I do now for a living. I answered, that I am a...

Don’t Wait Any Longer. Start Learning to Read the Future, Today!