World of Speakers E.85: Rebecca Heiss | Making a lasting impression with your keynote
Ryan Foland speaks with Rebecca Heiss, keynote speaker, author, and founder of self-awareness app, ‘Icueity’.
In this episode of our podcast series, Ryan and Rebecca talk about the biology of our stone-age brains and how we can train our brains to interpret the physiological messages our bodies keep sending us.
One of the key messages in this interview is that while speaking as a speaker, you should focus on just the one piece of information that you want to pass on to your audience.
Tune in for an interview full of ideas and advice on how to become a fear(less) speaker.
Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.
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In each episode, we interview a professional speaker, and reveal their very best tips and tricks.
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Here is your host, Ryan Foland.
Ryan Foland: Ahoy, ahoy, ahoy everyone, welcome to the show today on the World of Speakers.
You will hear from someone who was fearless, she’ll help you fear less.
Her name is Rebecca Heiss as in ‘nice’, and since I’ve gotten to know her over the last few minutes before this call, she thinks she’s funny.
I think we’ll have fun, but I’m concerned about whether you’ll think she’s funny or not, so as a result of this, if you think she’s funny, because she thinks she’s funny, you will need to give her that feedback.
Now, if you don’t think she’s funny, she needs to know that she’s not funny.
And if that’s the case, then she has an app where you can tell her she’s not funny, so she’s funny-less, to help you more.
Welcome to the show, Rebecca.
Rebecca Heiss: Thank you. I honestly cannot say I’ve ever had a better introduction. Although I am terrified now that I am not funny, I am going to fear less and accept the fact that if your audience thinks I’m not funny, that’s okay.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, and you can make a joke about that later, and then we’ll see how that lands.
Rebecca Heiss: Maybe.
I mean, if I can even pull up any jokes. I’m so afraid right now, I don’t know.
Ryan Foland: Well, let’s not be afraid, let’s fear less.
I am going to ask you a question that I know you have no fear in answering.
That is the fact that you have a lot of stories — some funny, some not, I don’t know, it’s up to you and us to judge — but I want to challenge you to tell me a single story from your past, a moment in time, per se, and that moment in time is something that I can use for the rest of my life to introduce you.
“Hey, Vingh, you’ve got to meet my buddy, Rebecca. Well, actually this one time …” fill in the story you’re about to tell, and then he’s going to be like, “Oh my gosh …”
He’ll make his judgment, he’ll get to know you, all through this single story.
A lot of pressure, but I know you’ve got this.
What story can you think of?
Rebecca Heiss: This story that I’ll tell you is that at 22 I decided that I was going to hike across Spain.
So I packed up all my gear, I planned this whole big long trek, a 500 mile hike across Spain, it’s called “Camino de Santiago”.
And, of course, me being who I am, I was like, “I don’t want to do the traditional trail, I want to do the toughest trail. Let me go through the mountains, let me try and make this as hard as possible on myself because I want to fear less. So I want to do the bravest, boldest thing that I can.”
So it is day one, I am 7-ish miles into this hike, and I am looking around, like, “This is so beautiful,” and I take one misstep and I hear this little pup-pup and my ankle goes poof.
Ryan Foland: Oh no.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, so I’m sitting there like 7 miles in.
I only have, what, 493 miles to go, and trying to decide if I can put any weight on this ankle.
So the short version of a much longer story is I had the most incredible adventure.
I was able to avail of the wonderful emergency rooms in Spain, and made the 500-mile trek only to return home to my orthopedic surgeon who said,
“You have no ligaments left in your ankle, what happened? And when did you do it?”
And it was 500 miles and 22 days ago.
So that’s my short story.
Ryan Foland: The one-legged wonder.
Did you actually skip? Was it more of a skip than a walk? Like a one-sided skip?
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, it was a lot of cussing, honestly. There were a lot of words that my mom would not be proud of, and you know, with your ahoy intro I figured I might as well bring out my inner pirate.
Yeah, lots of positive thoughts, lots of mantras, lots of great people that helped me along the way.
Ryan Foland: Nice. I imagine you as Yosemite Sam, just sort of [talks like a pirate].
Rebecca Heiss: You got it, that’s very accurate.
Ryan Foland: So if I were to digest that story as something that I could share with someone to let them know who you are — granted I don’t even know who you are — I think that’s pretty good.
You are adventurous, you are someone who looks at an adventure not as the end result, but the beginning.
This idea of, “Hey let’s go do this,” somebody might take that as an adventure, you use that as the baseline. You’re like,
“All right, we’re at the X-axis here, where we’d like to start? Let’s climb up the Y-axis first to make it difficult on ourselves.”
So that says a lot.
The fact that you continued to destroy your ligaments, makes me realize you’re probably not a doctor or a professional runner, because you would have been smarter than that, but that’s fine, I’m not saying you’re dumb, you just know what you’re after and you go get that mountain.
Rebecca Heiss: I mean, I’m not the useful kind of doctor, Ryan, I do have a Ph.D. that I can’t do anything useful with, so yeah.
Ryan Foland: Good, good.
I’m sure we’re going to learn more about that as well.
Now, has hiking always been like one of the things that you do, and that’s why that was chosen?
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, I mean, I grew up hiking.
My dad is a big hiker and did all of the Adirondack Peaks, and so it was kind of in my blood, I guess.
I love the outdoors, I love escaping, I love testing myself, pushing myself, and trying to, kind of, find a positive spin on things.
My life motto is “Spread happy,” right, so even with my busted ligament on day one, I’m going,
“All right, how can I still turn this into an adventure rather than an ordeal?”
Because I truly believe the difference between an adventure and an ordeal is right here, in our brains.
Ryan Foland: Okay, a couple of other questions: Your dad: Was your dad in education?
Rebecca Heiss: Well, you might say that. My dad was a minister.
Ryan Foland: Okay.
Rebecca Heiss: So I’m a preacher’s kid. It gives you a whole lot of information, we go one way or the other, I’ll let you decide where I ended up.
But my dad was a minister. I spent many Sundays on those hard pews, learning lessons.
He was a storyteller.
Ryan Foland: Well it’s funny, because my guess was something to do with education, but that is definitely in education. And my follow-up, if I was wrong or right, was going to be: Was your dad a speaker, and is he one of the most ultimate speakers alive?
Rebecca Heiss: He truly is.
Ryan Foland: I love to meet speakers who are influenced by their parents, and he made you hike so I’m assuming that, if anything, he probably showed you that someone can talk as a profession maybe, that it can be the power of sharing voice and messages.
I’m assuming it’s more of an upbeat pastor that he was, instead of like the “doom and gloom, you’re going to burn” kind of style?
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, there was no doom and gloom.
In fact, my sister and I made it a Saturday night ritual to try and challenge him to work something into a sermon. He tended to be a bit of a procrastinator.
Ryan Foland: Wait a minute, are you a procrastinator?
Rebecca Heiss: I’m not. I’m totally not. I am way ahead of schedule, that’s my mom in me.
Ryan Foland: Good.
Rebecca Heiss: My dad, it would be like Saturday night,
“Hey dad, do you think you can work in, I don’t know… Gloria Estefan into the sermon tomorrow? Or the Boston Red Sox? Can you work an angle on that?”
And inevitably, it would at least keep us paying attention in church, and usually, he could work it in somehow, he was a genius at telling stories.
Ryan Foland: Okay, well I think you’re an adventurous storyteller who sees the finish line over fear. That’s my assessment of you.
Rebecca Heiss: I like that, the finish line over fear. I’ll push back a little bit on it.
Ryan Foland: Okay.
Rebecca Heiss: Now you can see that I’m a challenger.
I don’t think there is a finish line. I think you might reach a point where you think it’s the finish line but then you have a new fear to conquer, you have a new mountain to climb, you have a new challenge ahead of you.
I think there’s a lot of focus on the finish line and people trying to maximize and get to the epiphany of their career or their love life, or whatever it is that they’re seeking, and that just kind of leads to more unhappiness.
Because they reach it and they are like, “Well, why don’t I feel like I’m supposed to feel right now? This is weird, wait… huh?”
And so you’re kind of moving the gold pews.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, cash rules everything around me, right?
Rebecca Heiss: What? C.R.E.A.M!!
Ryan Foland: Dollar, dollar bills, y’all.
Rebecca Heiss: Oh my gosh.
Ryan Foland: But —
Rebecca Heiss: We go way back.
Ryan Foland: But it sets you up for failure.
Rebecca Heiss: For sure.
Ryan Foland: Looking at cash as a finish line can set you up for failure.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, I’ll tell you, that was one of the biggest takeaways from my dad and my mom.
My mom was a kindergarten teacher, so I learned early on that community was where the real wealth was, and if you can build community, that’s probably the most important value that I can take away, is having a community that you give to, that you can give back to, because they’ll support you in your times of need, which we all have.
Ryan Foland: I dig it.
Now the real question is, why, for somebody who likes to be outdoors and hike, did you put yourself into a position pre-COVID to be in musty rooms filled with hundreds of people?
Or, post-COVID, in front of a computer with one eye that’s staring at you, on to people who are possibly doing something else, to try to get their attention to talk with them, to be a speaker?
Why did you do that? Where is that transition?
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, I wish I could say this was a completely conscious decision and I had this pathway mapped out, but I was just staring at my compass and it was spinning, and I really stumbled on this.
I had given a Ted Talk and gotten really lucky to have that opportunity, and somebody had pulled me aside afterward and said, “Hey, would you come speak at my company?”
And I was like, “Oh sure,” and he handed me a check, and I was like,
“This is amazing, people get paid to speak? You know I’m a professor, I’m speaking every day, I don’t get paid like this, this is incredible.”
I love communication, I love boiling down complex things and applying, for me, science and biology in particular, to areas that don’t necessarily, typically have that lens.
So business, for example, most people don’t think of the biology of business or understanding business from a biological perspective, but at the end of the day, we’re humans, right, we’re the ones making the decisions, as human beings are biological in nature.
So I think it’s a fun challenge to apply science to realms where they don’t typically see it.
Ryan Foland: Interesting.
I’m going to connect you with my buddy John Bates. He talks about how, sometimes, things are not logical, they are biological, and when you’re communicating from the stage, you may think that you’re doing something, you may think that that resonates with an audience, but really, their biology says something different.
So I do want to transition into finding all of the different cells and of the mitochondria, and the nuclei within somebody who stumbled upon the opportunity to do what you’re already naturally good at, that you have a foundation for seeing the power in, and you have a unique perspective as a speaker who’s not “classically” trained.
Now, I always think people should classically train, no matter how far along you are, I’m always a student, always a learner.
At the cellular level, for somebody who stumbled onto speaking, and somebody who is listening, going,
“That happened to me. I had a TedTalk and I realized I could do this and make some extra income, or make more impact in my community,” what are, let’s say we’ll start with the three biological tips that you find yourself doing that are effective?
And then I won’t let you get away with just being the initial water that’s wrung out of this hose, or wrung out of this towel, we’re going to continue to squeeze it, and then I don’t know if you remember, you grab one side, and then both people spin in opposite directions and then you spin around, and then that puts the extra tightness on the towel, and then water comes out.
So let’s get molecular.
Rebecca Heiss: Alright, let’s get molecular.
Unfortunately, I am not a molecular biologist, but that’s okay, that’s cool, I’m good with it.
Ryan Foland: Let’s get biological.
Rebecca Heiss: Let’s get bio-nerdy.
So let me start with how to avoid the pitfalls of being a lousy speaker through our biology.
So our brain can’t handle very much information at once.
We are living in the firehose of information, and as technology has continued to increase, that pressure has just gotten turned up.
So with most speakers, myself included, this is one of my biggest challenges, which is why it’s at the forefront of my mind: Most speakers want to communicate everything they know, as fast as possible, to their audience,
“Because I want to add value, and I want to add value,” and so pffff.
“And here comes every little piece of information that I can possibly give you, as fast as I can, and oh gosh, I only have an hour to communicate it, and so I am just going to go really fast.”
And at the end, people walk away and they’re like, “What just happened, nothing sticks?”
Because biologically, we’re getting bombarded by about 400 billion bits of information every single second.
And our conscious brains can only process about 2000 bits per second. so that means that 99.999999% of the time all that information is getting passed to our subconscious.
There are two things:
We have to access the subconscious. In other words, we can wake that subconscious with something that we say.
So elicit emotion, right, biologically elicit emotion. That will get people [12:48]
Ryan Foland: Okay, okay, watch this. I’m going to cut you off because I, literally, was thinking to myself how you were just saying to not overdo the information and then as soon as we went past that, you’re like, “And then there are 2 things,” and I actually just started to get nothing.
And so it was an interesting example, no offense, but I want to go back to, “if you tell them everything, nothing sticks.” Can we call that a mudnote?
Rebecca Heiss: Yes, a mudnote.
Ryan Foland: Right, this vision.
Rebecca Heiss: I love it. Just throw it.
Ryan Foland: Just throw everything up against the wall.
So yes, something will stick, but what’s going to stick is nothing.
Rebecca Heiss: That’s exactly it.
Ryan Foland: Why do we feel that it is actually a strategy that works?
I don’t know if you can speak to the psychology of it, but I want to get stuck on this for a second.
Rebecca Heiss: 100%, and honestly, let me back up and say you’re not going to offend me, because the reason it was on the tip of my tongue is because this is a thing that I am still practising, I still have this tendency, and here’s why:
Psychologically, our 2 biggest fears are rejection and failure.
And so if we are scared that we are going to be rejected, because we don’t have enough information or we’re going to fail to communicate our message clearly, we are just trying to show our value, show our value, show our value. We’re basically trying to not get kicked out of the tribe.
So think about how we lived for 200 thousand years. You have a very intimate tribe of, I don’t know, 100 people, and you have to show your value because if you’re not valuable, why would we take care of you?
So here I am, I have this tribe, your listeners right now, and I just want to give them everything so I can show I know something,
“Love me, love me, love me. Don’t reject me.”
Because rejection means death.
You get kicked out of the tribe, you’re dead.
Ryan Foland: Now is that subconscious?
Rebecca Heiss: 100%.
Ryan Foland: Because you’re aware of it. So it’s really underlying.
Rebecca Heiss: This is the tricky bit of the subconscious conscious. I can be aware of it, but that doesn’t mean I act on it.
You’re aware, for example, or you’re about to be, that when you put your hand on a hot stove, you pull it back before you feel heat or pain.
Now, you’re aware of that, so next time don’t pull it back.
You’re not going to be able to do it, right?
Ryan Foland: Oh no.
Rebecca Heiss: You’re not going to be able to do it.
Don’t worry, I’m not saying you’re out for a third-degree burn, right.
Just because we’re aware of something, it doesn’t mean we can act on it, and that becomes part of the problem.
Ryan Foland: So are people aware in the moment that they’re doing it, but they’re just not taking action to stop it?
Is that in real-time, or is it a sign if you’re not aware of it and somebody tells you afterwards, like,
“Dude, do you realize how fast you were talking?”
You’re like, “Wait, what?”
How does someone become aware, because there are people who are not aware even though they could be aware?
Rebecca Heiss: Hi, are you talking to me directly right now, Ryan?
Because I feel like you might be.
Ryan Foland: I’m talking to myself.
I’m having a conversation with myself.
Rebecca Heiss: I mean yes, this is the thing, I mean there are a lot of people that are unaware of this information, which makes it a nice tip, right? So here’s your tip, your tip is: Slow down, give less information, because our brains aren’t capable of processing more.
Great, now you’re aware of it.
The second tip is to keep practicing that tip, keep becoming aware, and recognizing that people aren’t going to value you less if you give them less information.
In fact, they’re going to value you more if you give them one piece of information that sticks, rather than a fire hose of information that’s a mud shot, that they can’t take anything away from.
Ryan Foland: Okay, so I want to stay on this for a second. We’re talking about the difference between a keynote and a mudnote, which is new to me as well. I kinda like it, right, because I’ve given some mudnotes before.
Do you think the word — actually then, this is a pop quiz and if you don’t know, it’s not a big deal, because I didn’t know this, but do you know what the word “keynote”, at least some of the origin it is, and why a keynote is called a keynote?
Rebecca Heiss: No. Go on.
Ryan Foland: Okay, now I’m not a musician, although I can play guitar as good as when I left high school, just as good but no better, which reminds me that if I want to get better at something actually, I have to do it.
But the keynote in like a song or a pattern or something, it’s like the thing that really keeps it going. It’s that key note. It’s that one thing that is the beat — I’m using the wrong…, I rap and so I don’t really worry about key notes — it’s something, it’s this key note, and it sets the tone.
It really has, if you look at a full conference, and everybody kind of calls a keynote every spot now, but in pure forms the keynote is the one or two that are paid the big bucks, and it’s totally cool if you’re not in a keynote called keynote, it’s sort of ambiguous, but understand it, I remind myself like what is the tone that I want to set, what am I going to bring people through?
But there also is this singularity-like element to it. There’s only one key. Or is there more than one key?
So my question, in order to not have a mudnote that’s an inch deep, a mile wide, and instead a keynote that is an inch wide and a mile deep, how many keys individually do you think come across in a talk?
Maybe give a reference for a 20-minute talk, because those are popular, or even something that’s a longer form like a traditional hour, hour and a half. How many keys? Because maybe knowing the number of keys can help to regulate your mud?
Rebecca Heiss: Great question.
So, Ryan, I am going to turn this around on you.
The last time you listened to a keynote, what do you remember from it?
Ryan Foland: Good question. I need to first remember the last keynote that I watched.
Rebecca Heiss: So I’ll bail you out a little bit here.
My guess is it’s one thing, and often it’s not even the point that the keynoter was trying to get across.
Like the last keynote that I remember, somebody I’m just going to put this here, I now have a beanie sitting on my shoulder, this is what he did — he talked with a squirrel sitting on his shoulder.
I can’t tell you — a stuffed squirrel. Don’t worry, it wasn’t alive. I can’t tell you what the keynote was about, right, but I remember this one thing.
I’m like, at some point he, like, noticed it, he was like, “Aagh!”
That’s what I remember from the keynote.
So if that’s your moment of emotion, whether it’s laughter or like, “Okay, that’s funny, that’s great,” I don’t know what his takeaway was, but I remember that.
Because it elicited emotion.
Ryan Foland: Is that why you ate Ben and Jerry’s at the beginning of your TEDx?
Rebecca Heiss: 100%. So you remember that, don’t you?
Ryan Foland: Well that was the last talk that I listened to. When you said keynote, I went to like,
“I haven’t been in a major conference, physically. The last one was in February of last year,”
but I remembered that you were eating Ben and Jerry’s, right out the gate.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, right out the gate.
Ryan Foland: Was that a strategy?
Rebecca Heiss: It was a strategy, because now you are curious, you’re wondering like, “Why is she eating Ben and Jerry’s?”, do you remember why I was eating Ben and Jerry’s?
I just tested my keynote ability, more than your memory.
Ryan Foland: Let me think, I remember that you made a joke about the Ben and Jerry’s of the Cro-magnon era or something? It was like antelope and something?
Rebecca Heiss: Perfect.
Ryan Foland: The flavor.
Rebecca Heiss: The Antelope Cantaloupe, yeah.
Ryan Foland: The Antelope Cantaloupe, there you go.
Rebecca Heiss: Now, why would I talk about the Cro-magnon right?
Like, what is that about?
Well my whole keynote was about our brains being stuck in the stone age.
So now you have this element that makes you laugh, or like, “Oh, you remember it,” because it’s Ben and Jerry’s and now it’s Cantaloupe Antelope even if you don’t remember the name of it, like,
“Oh, that was weird, I was back in that day.”
So now I’ve connected this sensation of, “Oh, fats and sugars are delicious,” and you can physiologically remember how Ben and Jerry’s tastes.
Now I’ve taken that biological experience, tacked it onto your brain and attached something to it.
So now here’s this thing that we all can share in, and we all know what something smells like or something tastes like. Now I want to add one more piece of information to that stone-age brain.
All right, if you take away nothing else from that talk, and you remember that we have stone-age brains, you can look through that lens and recognize,
“Oh, that’s why I’m eating Ben and Jerry’s, that’s why I love Ben and Jerry’s, that’s why I’m scared of that person who doesn’t look like me, because if I have a stone age brain, this is who I live with.”
There are so many takeaways you can apply to that lens if that’s your only thing that you take away.
Ryan Foland: Okay, I have a new idea, and it’s called the Titanic test.
Rebecca Heiss: Bring it on.
Ryan Foland: One of the most stressful moments for me in that movie was when Jack had finally gotten free and he had this whole ring of keys, and the water level’s rising, and I’m getting chills right now, it’s like,
“Come on Jack, don’t die on me yet. Come on Jack.”
And it’s like holding your breath and under and in. It’s like, which one, and it’s not that one. So I had this vision of, like, I have this keyring, like the janitor’s key ring, right, the Titanic key ring. That’s what you need to get out of the sinking ship that is your talk —
Rebecca Heiss: It is your keynote that is going under.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, right, and we can just assume that it’s going to go down, so how do you get out of it?
It doesn’t take all the keys, it just takes one key, and that is what is special about TEDx Talks in their pure form.
I’ve helped a lot of people get on the TEDx stage and I’ve done a lot of TEDx coaching and I’ve done 4 TEDx’s myself, and I keep going back to the purity — what is the one thing that you’re going to talk about.
And people are like, “Well I want to talk about this and this — “. “No, stop.”
It’s about how to get bears not to chase you. Like, what’s the one thing? It’s about pausing, it’s about being yourself, it’s about ________.
Rebecca Heiss: I couldn’t agree more.
And I mean, that is the brilliant thing about, I think, every keynote.
There’s a reason that TED Talks and TEDx Talks are popular; they’re popular because it’s that one thing, it’s that one focus. They go like,
“Oh, got it.”
That formula works.
And so I think the more you can crank down that fire hose, do the Titanic keyring test, it’s brilliant, I love that.
Ryan Foland: Okay, so for the people who are aware of this and they even know that they want to act in a certain way, but their biology is still fearful of this advice because it’s counter to what their body believes about rejection, because I have worked with people and said, “Slow down,” and they keep going.
But it’s like they know that they’re aware of it. They go, “Yes, yes,” but then they still don’t do it.
So from a biological standpoint, what is the biological key to discovering the mudnote key for the Titanic test?
Rebecca Heiss: Oh man, not the direction I thought you were going to go. I thought where you were going with that is if I’m aware of this and I’m still doing this, how can I use my biology to work with me rather than against me at that moment?
And for me, it’s about the audience.
So as speakers, I think sometimes we see the audience as our enemy, like,
“They are the ones that are judging me, right. They’re the ones I have to prove my worth to, prove myself valuable to, show that I’m worthy.”
“Give me, give me, give me. Allow me to stay in this tribe.”
So if we can flip the switch on that in our heads and say,
“I don’t have to prove myself. This audience is my tribe. I’m already in.”
They’re cheering for you, right? Like no audience wants to see a bad keynoter. Nobody shows up like,
“I can’t wait to see how this person is going to fail today.”
No, they’re there for you, so if you can incorporate them and see them as your tribe already, then having the conversation that people always say,
“Don’t go up and preach, just have a conversation,” becomes a lot easier.
Because you don’t have to tell them everything. You tell them the one thing, here’s the one thing. Now it’s lower stress.
Ryan Foland: And like for this whole section, we literally were just talking about one thing for this whole time, so it is super focused. I think we’re on brand here with that.
But again, before we move to the next section, I just want to squeeze this tab just a little bit more, the final drip.
You can tell yourself the audience is your community, you can tell yourself and you can try to think it, but when you’re in the moment and you’re prepared for that one thing and you listen to this podcast and you’re like, “This is my one thing,” and then you get up there and then the shining lights or the grid of all these people or, even worse, the names that you see on Zoom because you don’t even know if they’re there —
Rebecca Heiss: Oh my gosh, right, completely anonymous.
Ryan Foland: So people can still be aware, they can still go into it thinking, “These 100 high school students, they all have my book, they’re all part of my audience,” but at the same time I’m like a little fearful that these high schoolers are not going to find my humor funny or whatever, right?
Rebecca Heiss: Right.
Ryan Foland: So you’re leveraging the biology that, yes we want to see them as an audience that is part of our community.
How can we really trick ourselves to, in that moment, not defaulting back to just throwing mud at the wall?
Rebecca Heiss: 2 things.
Ryan Foland: Okay.
Rebecca Heiss: I’ll try and make this as clean and clear as I can.
One, our brain believes the story we tell it, consciously.
Ryan Foland: Yes, I agree.
So if we can consciously tell the story that, “I’m not nervous, I’m not scared that they’re not going to find me funny,” that trains our brain to distress response that we’re having — we can’t control our physiology, right? Our heart is beating — so if I’m telling the story that I’m not scared right now, what does that mean?
It must mean I’m excited.
That’s the only other possibility for our brain to interpret those signs as. So now we’re shifting from a state of anxiety and nerves and,
“What if I get this wrong and they’re going to kick me out of the tribe”
“Ha, I can’t wait to tell them this one thing, this one valuable thing that I have to offer my community.”
That’s a powerful switch. So just that one story.
Alright, so that was thing 1.
Thing 2, now I know I’ve said, create the tribe, and that’s lovely and nice and it’s kind of what we do with mission, vision, values in a business, right? You’ve got these lovely berries that you’re out picking, and you’re like, “Oh, what a lovely day,” but what happens when the tiger shows up behind you?
That’s the stress, that’s the spotlight.
Well, you run. You forget about the mission, vision, and values.
You forget about the one thing you want to communicate. You’re just like, “Ah, stress mode.”
So instead, what we can do is, we can control that tiger.
We can create a common enemy, because that’s what our brain is looking for anyway. We’re looking for the one person who’s scowling in the audience. We’re looking for that tiger that’s behind us. We’re not looking for the mission, vision, and values. We are not looking for “the one thing”.
That’s not what our brain is cued into.
So what if the clear, common, external enemy that we have isn’t a tiger, but it’s my massive amount of information that I’m going to try and give you. We create an enemy of that.
Ryan Foland: Okay.
Rebecca Heiss: Right? Now that’s the enemy.
Ryan Foland: The mud is the enemy.
Rebecca Heiss: The mud is the enemy. Yeah.
Ryan Foland: Mudemy.
Rebecca Heiss: The mudemy. I like that. I think we can coin that. Let’s trademark that immediately.
Ryan Foland: Sounds like a good book, Mudemy.
Rebecca Heiss: Mudemy!
Ryan Foland: Okay, so to paraphrase what you said, to keep that one inch wide and going down one mile track, you don’t have control of your physiology, but you can help to influence the translation of what your body is telling your brain.
Rebecca Heiss: Perfect.
Ryan Foland: I say, thoughts become words, words become things, so think the thought that you want. It’s part of a rap.
But it also makes me think of Dr. Nick Morgan, who graciously introduced us. And what fascinated me the first time I interviewed him was his backstory of getting hit in the head. He was tobogganing, brain injury, and he lost his sense of really getting that feedback, essentially.
And he became so obsessed about why he’s seen something different, and that’s one thing that really stuck with me.
The podcast ‘one thing’ is analogous to the keynote ‘one thing’, like that’s what I remember from the podcast.
And so for me, it brings all that together, that your body is saying something like this example, when you come home late and your wife’s at the door and she’s got her arms folded and you’re like, “What’s wrong?”
Rebecca Heiss: I love you so much.
Ryan Foland: I’m totally fine, yeah. I’m great with my arms folded and my brows like scowling.
And so your body may be telling you one thing but try to work to be more aware that you can act differently against the common enemy of the mud, which we’re now calling the mudemy.
Rebecca Heiss: I love the mudemy.
Yeah — wait, I hate the mudemy. I love the concept of the mudemy, but they are the enemy, right, absolutely.
Ryan Foland: Okay, the enemy is the mudemy. The enemy is the mudemy.
Rebecca Heiss: The enemy is the mudemy.
Yeah, I’m waiting for the time when our technology starts to know ourselves better than our spouses, right.
You come home and your wife is sitting there all angry, and you’re like, “What’s wrong?”
And she’s like, “How do you not know? My watch knows me. My watch knows that my blood sugar is low.”
Ryan Foland: So you’re like, “Okay, can I see that?”
And then we can use an applet.
Do you know about if then, then that? Do you know about applets?
Rebecca Heiss: No.
Ryan Foland: Oh my gosh, for everybody listening, if you also don’t know what applets are, do some research on applets.
They are applications to help other applications work.
So for example, if you send out a tweet with a particular hashtag, the applet could, if that happens then something else happens — if then, then that — so now that tweet could be categorized into a spreadsheet on Google docs, and when that Google docs gets an entry, it could also send an automated email.
So I would ask my wife if I could connect to an applet to see where her blood sugar is, to help warn me so that I can be there to support her.
Rebecca Heiss: We are in the mudemy right now, I am telling you.
Ryan Foland: We are in the mudemy right now.
Rebecca Heiss: We have gone there. I love it.
Ryan Foland: See, I think you’re funny, I’m laughing.
Rebecca Heiss: Thanks, thank you, I appreciate that. My family does not appreciate it as much as you.
Ryan Foland: The problem is your family doesn’t give you honest feedback, therefore you need Rebecca’s app.
Rebecca Heiss: So true. Actually, I would extend that to say nobody gives you honest feedback because we’re all scared to give honest feedback, and we’re scared to receive that honest feedback, so it all comes back to fear.
Ryan Foland: Because we are scared of rejection, but really all these dots are connecting.
So for people who are having fun with this, they’re about to the point where they’re going to be like these people are having fun and I’m not, get back to the show. I understand that.
Rebecca Heiss: Yes, let’s do it.
Ryan Foland: So, I want to finish strong with one single piece of advice for building your speaking business that has worked for you, and your path is your own.
How have you been able to, in Covid especially, build your speaking business?
One thing, no mud, just one, the key.
Rebecca Heiss: Are you familiar with Ulysses pact or Ulysses contract?
Ryan Foland: No, I know Ulysses from studying Latin for 4 years and reading the Odyssey.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, there it is, that’s the basic concept. You choose a freely made decision that’s designed to bind yourself in the future. Ulysses famously wanted to hear the songs of the sirens, and yet he knows that if he hears the songs of the sirens, he’s going to jump into the water to his death.
So what he does is he binds himself, he makes this decision, “I’m going to hear it,” he literally has his crew bind him to the ship so he can’t jump in, and he has all of these men put beeswax in their ears.
So now they can’t hear it, and he says, “Arm yourselves. If I try to escape, kill me. Do everything you can, don’t let me jump in the water.”
Ryan Foland: These mermaids are pretty and they are convincing, but keep you tied up.
Rebecca Heiss: But by golly.
So there’s a bunch of examples of how we can create a Ulysses contract in, like, the legal world or the medical world.
A good example might be in your living will, “If I’m in some kind of accident, I want this to happen. If I’m incapacitated and I can’t make decisions for myself,” but I want to take this a step further and say you’re always incapacitated, like, none of us can make good sound rational decisions most of the time. It’s like,
“I am going to work until 7:00 tonight. No I’m not, my favorite show is going to come on. I’m going to go eat some popcorn. I am going to sit down and I’ll be like, oh that email will wait for tomorrow.”
So creating the Ulysses pact or the Ulysses contract has been one of the biggest things for me that ensures that I am taking steps in my business, to make sure that I’m going back every day saying, “How did I grow, how did I grow that?”
And I’ll go back to the one thing, right, the keynote thing, the one thing, what is the one thing you are focused on?
That’s what you’re doing today.
Go do it. Create that Ulysses pact. Make sure that somebody is holding you accountable, because if you don’t, what happens?
Well for me it had to be something emotional, so it’s money will go and I will not say where, but money will go from my account directly to something that I don’t believe in, a foundation that I would never support.
Ryan Foland: Oh the negative, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard about this.
Rebecca Heiss: Because I’ll tell you what, if for example, I’ll just give an example, if I found out that like if I did not finish the keynote that I was working on, if I did not practice it 20 times that day, and then my $100 goes to the Nazi party, like I am going to practice that keynote, I promise you, because it elicits an emotional, visceral, physiological, biological reaction.
And so tying yourself back to your biology, back to that negative, as much as I talk about positivity, those are like those berries right? Like, create the enemy and then fight against it.
That’s what our brains are looking for.
Ryan Foland: Okay, I’m happy with that. I’m not going to really dive too much into it. I will share some thoughts to build on it.
Rebecca Heiss: Let’s go.
Ryan Foland: One makes me think of a Charybdis, the rock and a hard place that they also — I’d like to be curious to know and explore that as a speaking concept. We can do that later, but I like this idea of taking elements of Ulysses pact, and tie it back to some sort of oration or something like that, right?
Rebecca Heiss: I love that.
Ryan Foland: Because I think we get faced with, I just went there, we get faced between a rock and a hard place, like we want to speak but we don’t want to speak for free, and it’s like how do we navigate that swirling? Like you kind of have to choose one or the other and I think having Ulysses tie you down will help you make that decision.
Rebecca Heiss: Absolutely.
Ryan Foland: But I would challenge you, I think that would be a fun blog to read from you.
Rebecca Heiss: Alright, done.
Ryan Foland: Secondly, I’m thinking more of Parkinson’s law, which is not Murphy’s law, where everything goes wrong, but Parkinson’s law you might be interested in researching. It’s basically that we will fill things, like it’s a deadline-driven motivation.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah.
Ryan Foland: And it doesn’t have the emotional appeal to it, but I think the deadline plus emotion, sometimes that works for me.
Like your dad, because the sermon is tomorrow, whether or not you’re going to fit in Gloria Estefan, you’ve got to do that before the show.
Rebecca Heiss: That’s right.
Ryan Foland: I don’t know if it was Gloria or was it somebody else.
Rebecca Heiss: It was Gloria Estefan, yeah, he was brilliant about it.
I don’t know why that name came to us but that worked.
Ryan Foland: So the other thing that I’m curious about and that is how you are incorporating for your business growth of speaking. You said accountability, and I’m going to parlay that to feedback.
And I want to know more about the app that you have, and how accountability and feedback can actually grow your speaking business.
Rebecca Heiss: Yeah, so a quick story, because I’m a speaker and that’s what we do, when I was maybe 8 years old I won my city competition for 4-H, and then I won the county, and then I went to state and I didn’t show up because I started thinking,
“Oh gosh I’m valued for this and if I fail what will I be? I’ll be nothing, I’ll be nobody.”
And so I was so scared of getting feedback that I didn’t allow myself to grow, I didn’t allow myself to expand, I didn’t allow myself to even recognize the,
“Hey, actually I might be good at this, and even if I don’t make it at this level, how can I improve, how can I get to that next level?”
So to me, feedback is a gift, and I think so often it’s tied into this fear of rejection, so “If I’m not a 10 out of 10 in everything, I fail, I’m getting kicked out of the tribe, I’m nobody.”
No, you’re fine, you just need to know about it so that if that’s an area you want to pursue, you need some growth.
And if it’s not an area you want to pursue, that’s fine.
Like the Steve Jobs one on empathy, maybe.
Empathy we always talk about as being a really important leadership quality, but if you know that you’re not empathetic, that’s fine, as you’re aware of it.
Because then you can surround yourself with a team that’s going to help you communicate empathy when needed.
Ryan Foland: Okay, I just had this vision of somebody, let’s say me, just completely covered in mud, like from head to toe, almost like I was in some weird like Portugal mud bath, right? Like just nothing on me.
I’ve got clothes on but just mud, and it makes me think about what you said about feedback as a gift, as like a little kinda garden hose that’s just like hosing off all the stuff that is not interesting.
And then all of a sudden you’ve got like a left side of my face and my right cheek and like those 2 areas maybe are still mudded up and I’m like,
“Okay, that’s what I’m left with.”
And that was my vision of that story. Maybe the mud because of the 4-H, and I just thought pigs’ mud, that was my connection.
Rebecca Heiss: I mean it, yeah, it fits, it’s brilliant though. I think we’re so afraid to be ourselves, it fits in with what you’re talking about with like Ditch The Act.
Ryan Foland: Yes, Ditch The Act, Ditch The Act.
Rebecca Heiss: We’re so afraid of it, like, I told you, I came on and I apologized. I’m like, “Man, I just came from my walk, I am all sweaty, I got like hat hair going on.”
And then I was like, “I could spend 15 minutes to get myself to look right and try and sound better and do the whole prep thing, or I could bring my authentic genuine self.”
And for any speaker out there, like that is my biggest advice, just to show up as you. I can’t be Steve Martin. I’ll never be Steve Martin.
If I try to be him I will fail, but nobody can be Rebecca Heiss.
Ryan Foland: Have you read his book, by the way?
Rebecca Heiss: Oh gosh, I love him.
Ryan Foland: I also appreciate him as well.
Okay so this app that you have gives feedback, that’s the mechanism.
Where do people go to download it to solve the problem that they’re filled with mud and they just need to be hosed off a little bit by their friends and family?
Rebecca Heiss: Pretty simple. You can get it on the app store. So whether you’re an Android user or an Apple user, downloaded it, Icueity is its name, I-C-U-E-I-T-Y, so like I cuing you in, like I am giving you a cue here, you should pick up that cue, you should use that cue, it’s an important cue.
Ryan Foland: Okay, yes, I am cued and I have a handful more cues to ask but I don’t want to throw too much mud at our audience today.
Rebecca Heiss: Boy, that’s a shame.
I want to just cover them with mud because that is what I do, but I’m going to resist that urge, I’m going to talk to my own enemy here and mudemy.
Ryan Foland: Yes, the enemy, the mudemy.
Rebecca Heiss: Love it.
Ryan Foland: Hey, well this has been refreshing, this has been fun, this has been muddy, but I think that’s how we really clean ourselves up as speakers, essentially.
And I will send a shout out to, not only to Nick Morgan for connecting us, but also to SpeakerHub who sponsors this awesome podcast where I get to spend my time hanging out with people that I’ve never met before, challenging them to learn all of their secrets, all of their dirty muddy secrets so that it helps me, and less selfishly, all of our listeners.
And I would invite you, and I’ll send you the info, if you want to have your own SpeakerHub profile, it’s a place to be seen, it’s a place to search for calls for speakers, it’s a place where you can throw your keys, not your mud.
Rebecca Heiss: But only one key, I am going to change it.
Ryan Foland: Only one key.
Rebecca Heiss: Your key.
Ryan Foland: Your Ben and Jerry flavored Antelope Cantaloupe.
Also, check out Rebecca’s TEDx Talk, it is a fun one, and yeah, forever you’ll remember that TEDx Talk where somebody was eating not Ben and Jerry’s but Antelope Cantaloupe berries.
Rebecca Heiss: Good stuff.
Ryan Foland: Good stuff.
Hey well, thank you. If people want to find more about you, or they want to hire you to bring your energy and your humor, whether they think you’re funny enough or not, where do they go to find you and book you?
Rebecca Heiss: You can find me at RebeccaHeiss.com that’s R-E-B-E-C-C-A-H-E-I-S-S.com and you can find me on all the socials at Dr.RebeccaHeiss. Find me. Yeah, I’ll be there.
And be on the lookout for my new book, because it’s coming out in April 2021. If you want to know more about your instincts, look out.
Ryan Foland: Heiss is a nice, what is the title of it? Is it called mudemy?
Rebecca Heiss: I wish. I mean the title was taken. I don’t know, people got to it before me.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rebecca Heiss: It’s called “Instinct” I’m pretty stoked about it. It’s all about the instincts that helped us to survive for 200,000 years that today hold us back from our optimal performance. So check it out.
Ryan Foland: Well we need some survival tactics today, so put me on the early review list, I’m happy to support it.
This has been a lot of fun.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are done.
A bit about World of Speakers
World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voices, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. This special series of episodes has been created to help speakers navigate the coronavirus crisis.
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This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.