What I Learned at a Live Event: The Secret Lessons

A lightbulb turning on - what I learned at a live event

At a live event, some of the best stuff is between the messages.

When you’re around amazing people, you learn from their mannerisms and you learn from their presenting styles. Sometimes their unrehearsed comments—the “throwaway lines,” the unscripted answers to questions, the little jokes—can change your life.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve picked up at live events that I couldn’t get from books or courses or YouTube videos.


Colin Powell: Find a Solution

Years before the Iraq war, I was watching Colin Powell onstage in Chicago. I don’t even remember his topic. I didn’t own a business yet. But he said something that I’ve shared with every employee I’ve ever hired since:

“Never present a problem without proposing a solution.”

As a staff person, it’s really easy to make reports to your boss. It’s sometimes even rewarding to be the first person to say “something is wrong.” But if you take the time to think of a solution yourself, you will become far more valuable to your boss. You’ll also discipline yourself to think through problems and force yourself to take ownership.

Lesson: This was an early version of “extreme ownership,” which Jocko Willink will talk about at our 2021 Summit (see below).


Seth Godin: The Storyteller

I’ve seen Seth Godin speak live three times (including at the 2020 Two-Brain Summit). I remember his lessons better than anyone else’s. Why? Because he uses stories to make his point.

Stories stick in your memory. You grow your audience by teaching sticky lessons, not by teaching the most lessons or even the most accurate ones. Of course, this is a skill that can be used for evil. But we can use it for good.

Lesson: Tell good stories instead of just spouting facts (or, worse, opinions).


Henry Rollins: Undercover Influencer

When Henry Rollins showed up at the Rainmaker Summit, he walked right through the crowd in the lobby and no one noticed him. I didn’t have to stand in line to shake his hand; I just walked right up to him. He wore black jeans and a black T-shirt, didn’t have an entourage, and just said, “Hi, Chris. I’m Henry.”

Until he took the stage as the headliner of the marketing conference, almost no one knew who he was. When he finished his story, he had to fight his way to the door.

Lesson: You don’t need a strong “personal brand” to be great.


Gary Vaynerchuk: Songs in F Major

Gary Vaynerchuk taught me to use language with intent. Vaynerchuk swears a lot. In my personal life, I also swear a lot. But I don’t do it in my media because I don’t need to. Data and good stories are powerful enough, and throwing a few F-bombs into these posts would actually distract from the important core message.

So five minutes into Vaynerchuk’s speech in Toronto a few years ago, I was so bored that I left for lunch. Not because I was offended by the language but because I wasn’t getting anything new from his message. His language was camouflage for his wisdom.

But because I don’t use swearing in my media often, I can use it to much greater impact occasionally. When I titled my talk at the 2020 Summit “Swallow the Shit,” people were surprised—and they paid close attention. I dropped two F-bombs mid-speech, and people still remember it.

Lesson: Language is a powerful tool, but overuse takes away its power.


Lisa Nichols: Yes! Yes!

Lisa Nichols was featured in “The Secret,” a book that I thought pandered to the “wish upon a star” crowd. I believe in hard work, not “putting your dreams out into the universe” and hoping for the best. So I was pretty skeptical when she took the stage.

An hour later, I was absolutely overwhelmed. I was standing and yelling with everyone else. The energy in the audience was so strong that I really believed: “These 300 people can change the whole world!” And my next thought: It doesn’t matter what inspires you to chase your dreams. All that matters is that you go out and chase them.

Lesson: My motivations don’t matter. Your motivation is all that matters.


Todd Herman: Simple Superman

Genius makes things simpler, not more complex.

Todd Herman has been a student of motivation and high performance for decades. He can cite studies on psychology and give you personal examples of high-performing clients in sport and business. But his gift is making all of that knowledge simple. The “Alter Ego Effect” can be immediately learned and leveraged to make you a better leader.

Lesson: Complicated tools aren’t as useful as simple tools.


The 2021 Two-Brain Summit


Two of the speakers I talked about above will be at the Two-Brain Summit this year. Here’s what they and the four others are going to talk about.

Jocko Willink rests and drips sweat after a hard workout.


Jocko Willink

What does “extreme ownership” mean in the gym business? What do you actually “own” here? What are your responsibilities? What does your staff “own”? This topic is so huge that I hope you bring your staff with you (their tickets are included free with yours).

A portrait of author Todd Herman wearing a blue jacket in front of a white brick wall.


Todd Herman

How do you get massive traction and momentum in your business? By using Herman’s 90-day Year strategy. Todd’s going to walk you through his $5,000 program and get you set up to sprint!

A portrait of speaker Lisa Nichols and the words "Yes! Yes!"


Lisa Nichols

You need a dose of joy. Your staff does, too. Lisa will provide it. That’s why she’ll speak at the Summit. She’ll make you believe that you can do it.

A close-up headshot of psychotherapist Bonnie Skinner.


Bonnie Skinner

Bonnie is my psychotherapist. At the Summit, she’s going to teach you how to get confidence as a leader and guide your team to accomplish your mission.


Laurie Drummond

Laurie is going to unlock the power of your team by allowing the person beneath the role to shine through.

Picture of Chris Cooper.


Chris Cooper

I’m going to tell some stories.


Take Action!


Best of all, you’re going to act on the knowledge you acquire. That’s really important to me. Most events are all about inspiration and maybe some fire-walking. My events are about results. I want you to see the results before you even leave the event.

I know you learn more through immersion than you do in a book. If you want to be great, you have to surround yourself with great people. You can’t do that in a library or your car. Join us online or at one of 17 regional locations worldwide!


Other Media in This Series


“What I Learned at a Live Event: ROI on Ticket Price”
“What I Learned at a Live Event: Making Connections”

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