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:

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…”

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 You can also follow Rob on Twitter at @Jolles.


Not Quite Ace Ventura: The Pet Detective

Kat (center) with two dog trainers from Italy who flew to Seattle to take her training course.

Cop-turned-pet detective Kat Albrecht risked losing all respect from her peers when she decided to become a pet detective. In 2001, she founded a national nonprofit organization to search for missing pets and ultimately trained over 125 pet detectives from across the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Ireland, and Italy.

But remaining passionate with her work isn’t always easy. Kat reveals the secrets to her commitment – and her thoughts on Jim Carrey’s portrayal of the job in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Title: Founder, Missing Pet Partnership
Age: 50
Based in: Seattle, WA
Job description in one sentence: I help minister hope to grieving and broken-hearted pet owners who have lost their pets.
In the industry for: 13 years
Previous jobs: 9-1-1 dispatcher; police officer; K-9 trainer for police bloodhounds and cadaver dogs in Santa Cruz, Calif. I’m also working on a romance mystery for teens, which features a 17-year-old girl using her bloodhound to score points with a guy she has a crush on.

Why she chose nonprofit work: I want my work to exist beyond just myself, long after I’m gone.

How a roadblock sparked the job: Back in 1996, my bloodhound, AJ, escaped in the woods. I couldn’t find him, panicked, and called the sheriff’s department. They told me that they only look for missing people, and that I was on my own. I called a friend whose golden retriever had been used to track missing people, and he tracked down AJ in 20 minutes. That changed my life. A little while later, I was injured in the line of duty and had to medically retire from police work, so I attempted to form my passion for animals into a nonprofit organization.

How did you expand the concept? Using my skills and experience in crime scene work and lost person behavior, I launched the first-ever pet detective academy to train others to help people search for lost pets. Training dogs takes a lot of time, skill, and effort, so we’ve shifted direction with the economic recession to focus on developing a base of volunteer search-and-rescue teams. We’ve partnered with local animal shelters in the Seattle area to train their volunteers, and would like to blueprint that plan at shelters across the country.

Kat training a search dog to find lost cats. There's a cat inside that black mesh bag!

Was there a time you almost gave up? My first efforts failed, which was discouraging. I knew I was risking my reputation, risking looking like an idiot, risking getting scorned by my peers. That did happen.

What turned you around? One day, in 1998, I was driving down the road and saw a lost dog poster on a telephone pole that read, “please help us.” I started crying, and knew I’d never be able to forgive myself if I were to give up on the chance to make a difference in peoples’ lives.

How did you remain optimistic after initial failure? When you pioneer anything new, you end up making sacrifices. I made a decision and commitment that I wouldn’t give up, which has crossed over into other areas of my life, like losing weight. There are times when I may not be happy, but I’m committed.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? Drivers that tailgate. When I used to be a cop, I could do something about it, but now I’m so frustrated that I can’t. I can’t believe I got paid money [as a police officer] to drive fast, point guns at people, and frisk men.

Most important career advice? If you ever have a chance to be paid for your passion, then you’ve arrived. Lane Frost, a champion bull rider who died during a final bull-riding competition, once said: “Don’t be afraid to go after what you want to do, and what you want to be. But don’t be afraid to be willing to pay the price.”

Is your job anything like its portrayal in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective? I love Jim Carrey, but the movie is nothing like what we do. We’re helping people that are afraid and consumed with grief and fear, and often they don’t have happy endings.

Love pets and nonprofit work? Kat Albrecht offers insight into the business.

Neon posters and tagged cars are equipment Kat uses to help recover lost pets.

1. Don’t necessarily make a living around pet detective work – use it as a volunteer opportunity. It’s important to give back to the community, but make sure you have enough time to devote.

2. Stapling signs onto telephone poles isn’t the right way to go about finding pets. Check out these recovery tips, such as intersection alerts – standing near intersections with bright neon signs with the information and a number to call. That way, people who are driving will see them.

3. When a dog disappears, it’s not abducted; it goes somewhere. So it’s a matter of getting the word out there. Now more than ever, we’re trying to spread information through social media marketing. There are tons of opportunities for web-savvy teens to start their volunteer efforts that way.

You can follow Kat on Twitter at @KatAlbrecht and find the Missing Pet Partnership on Facebook. All photos are courtesy of Kat Albrecht.