The Traveling Motivational Speaker


Photo courtesy of Jessie Jolles

Need some motivation to get back in the work groove after a long, relaxing Memorial Day Weekend? Thought so. Well, look no further: today’s No Joe Schmo is Robert Jolles, who has spent nearly 30 years as a professional speaker and corporate trainer. And he has 2,000 pages of journal entries to show it.

At 22, Jolles began his career as an insurance salesman. Now, more than three decades and 2 million air miles later, he gives seminars to corporations across the world that inspire success and dare clients to change their working cultures.

Below, he explains the science behind nailing an interview, his rationale to a work/life balance (hint: he never stays at work past 5 p.m.), and why he wears black underwear during seminars.

Title: Professional speaker and corporate trainer, Jolles Associates, Inc.
Age: 54
Salary: Ranges between $200,000 to $2 million/year, depending on time on the road.
In the industry for: 30 years
Number of miles in the air: 2 million
Graduated from: University of Maryland, major in communications/minor in business
Biggest audience : 10,000 people. Usually speaks to 300-500.
Previous jobs: Salesman for New York Life Insurance Company; Training specialist for Computer Science Corporation; actor

Job description in one sentence: I teach persuasion and influence to a variety of clients, including over 60 financial institutions, universities, and other Fortune 500 clients.

What does that mean? I can get in front of a group of teachers and totally change the way they teach you. They’re not persuading the way students learn – they’re using fear tactics. You have to motivate and inspire someone to learn.

How he got into the business: At my first job working as an insurance salesman at the University of Maryland, I went to a meeting to find that the entire management team had gone to lunch and was stuck in the parking lot because someone had parked behind them. So I handled the meeting instead, and I ran it like I was directing actors. I got such a high, it made me want to be a corporate trainer. Another freakish occurrence made me take that to the next level. I was sent to a seminar called “How to Listen Powerfully” by Lou Hampton. They charged $250 per head, and I thought, that’s a very good day’s work that guy is having. I thought, I can do that, and I can do it better than that guy.

Why he loves his job: I get the pleasure of teaching, the thrill of performing, and the ability to feed my family.

Biggest mistake in interviews: People forget that the more the interviewer talks, the more they like the interviewee. If you want to win an interview, engage the interviewer in some questions about themselves, the company, and something they would want to brag about.

The most important lesson he’s learned: You’re as good as the last time you opened your mouth. You need to always give 100 percent maximum effort, period.

One of Jolles' three best-selling books, "The Way of the Road Warrior."

What skills are necessary for starting a business? The book answer is to have a passion for what you’re doing. But the reality is, it’s too much pressure to tell a recent graduate to go do their passion. Recent grads think they’re absolutely heading to their careers, but I think they’re just answering some questions so they know more about what they want their careers to be.

What rules do you live by? I have a fear that if I give into a temptation of quitting, I’ll open a Pandora’s Box to make it much easier to quit the next time. So I have many quirks that a psychiatrist would have a ball with. I only wear black underwear when doing a seminar; I wear a Jerry Lewis cufflink on my left arm, and a Dean Martin one on my right; I’ll pick up a USA Today sitting outside my hotel room, but won’t read it until the wheels have lifted on the plane, as a treat to myself. I’ll never drink the night before a seminar — I believe doing so would open the door to not run the best race I possibly could. Some of it is superstition, and some of it is probably crossing the line.

So you’re kind of like George Clooney’s character in Up In The Air. I measure speakers by their mileage in the air. I understood on a deep level what it felt like to have that addiction to travel that was portrayed in the movie.

Favorite quote? “We weren’t put on this earth to make a living, we were put on this earth to make a difference.” During my first two years in the business, I was caught up in making a living. My travel went up to over 200 nights a year, and the more I went out, the more money I made. Limos came to my house. But then one day, my wife sat me down and told me we didn’t need all that stuff. Now, I balance my family and career, and feel like I make a difference because I help others become more successful. I never stay at work past 5 p.m. so I can spend evenings with my family.

Jim Carrey in the movie "A Series of Unfortunate Events." Photo credit: hollywoodjesus.com

Does being positive 24/7 ever get tiring? I live in the positive, and that’s not crap. I’m not bullshitting you. The only time I had serious trouble with that was on 9/11 – I couldn’t think of anything positive, and there was nowhere to go mentally.

If you could be reincarnated into someone dead or alive, who would it be? Jim Carrey.

Sense of humor: I never tell jokes, but I can have you falling out of your seat laughing. I have go-to lines, but you’ll never hear me say, “Two guys walked into a barber shop…”

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
Want a job based on inspiring others? Rob Jolles offers the steps to get there.
1. You need to be energized by getting up, performing, teaching, and motivating others. You also have to like to write, since you need to study and know your subject matter.

2. A job as an entry-level training specialist is a great place to start. It’s the step before becoming a professional speaker. As a professional speaker, if you do a good job, everyone knows it. But if you don’t do a good job, everyone also knows it. If that scares you, don’t be a trainer. But if that makes you smile, let’s keep talking. At the end of day, I’m just a training specialist on steroids.

3. Remember the quote by Jerry Lewis: “If you finish a performance and you’re not sweating, you’re an amateur.” Not only will I sweat [during seminars], but I will very rarely wipe it away. I want people to see me go across the stage and think: wow, that guy is really working.

How do you prepare for interviews or presentations? Any superstitious quirks? Share them by commenting below! To learn more about Rob Jolles and professional speaking, visit jolles.com. You can also follow Rob on Twitter at @Jolles.

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2 thoughts on “The Traveling Motivational Speaker

  1. Pingback: The Traveling Puppeteer | No Joe Schmo

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