This past July, while I was in Phoenix for the National Speakers Association annual conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Hewlett. Jason is a world-class keynote speaker who excellently mixes in entertainment and humor to make his messages memorable. He recently was inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame, an extraordinary achievement.
I followed up with him after the conference and he was kind enough to continue the conversation. After checking out his website and some of his speeches, I loved his inspirational messages.
One of my favorite of his great messages is to be yourself and share your unique gifts and talents with the world. This is so powerful and ties right into the message of my next book, Reach Your Mountaintop: 10 Keys to Finding the Hidden Opportunity in Your Setbacks, Flipping What You’ve Heard on Its Head, and Achieving Legendary Goals, set to be published on November 1st, 2016. I love learning from the experts and I thought it would be a great opportunity to pick Jason’s mind on his success.
In the conversation below, the questions I asked Jason are in bold and his response is in regular font below each question. His tips, insights, and success tactics are outstanding and I encourage you to share this post with others, as it contains really powerful messages more people need to hear.
What I love about Jason is he has his values in order. He prioritizes his family above his career, which is true success because he is staying true to himself and making sure he’s there for his loved ones. Read his insights, let them sink in, and use them as a catalyst to continue making your unique difference in the world.
When did you first realize you had an interest in comedy, entertainment, and speaking? What do you think sparked this interest?
“Imitation of teachers and friends became my calling card, but my real gift was that I was witty. I was able to make the whole classroom crack up, including the teachers, who knew my progress as a student was limited, but could tell I was funny. I could even just do a face while looking at the teacher and could see them smile as adults do, without letting the children in the class know they’re smiling underneath, but I knew they were. I could read the audience from the get-go.
“I wasn’t your classic class clown, didn’t get kicked out of class (very much), but I was asked to quiet down often. I became very good friends with every teacher, including the principal. Now I make fun of the fact that I spent time getting in trouble because that is what it seemed like to others, but in essence it was as if everyone was in on the joke. It wasn’t until 3rd grade when my teacher, Mr. O’Laughlin, really encouraged me and said, ‘You are the leader of this class, you have the power to make them laugh or be quiet and listen. So help me out. You help keep quiet for the day and I’ll give you time at the end to do your show.’ It took me 2 months to figure out how to be quiet for an entire class day, but eventually got my moment and it was amazing. Everyone was laughing in their seats…not just at recess or lunch, but while seated theater style before me, laughing at my voices, characters, imitations of teachers, janitors, lunch ladies, and famous TV characters. Teachers would take me to other teachers and tell me to do the impressions, and they would fall down laughing.
“This was 3rd Grade. Remember, I’m the kid sitting with my Mom after class learning how to read and being told I may be held back every year for learning challenges, so it made no sense what the funny stuff would bring in my life. But I knew I was good at it, people loved it, and it was all I had going for me. It was my signature move. Where other kids understood math and reading, I could make a face and get a laugh, so that’s how this all started: my grasping at straws to succeed in anything. And eventually I had the chance to begin doing more formal shows later in life, midway through high school, and eventually make a living at it by the time I turned 22 or 23. The fact I get to do this is a miracle.”
What event or situation in your life or someone else’s life motivated you to start encouraging other people to be their unique selves?
“Another point of realization was being introduced for a show one time. My introduction used to say, ‘The Impersonator, Jason Hewlett!’ But somehow the person misread it and said, ‘The Imposter, Jason Hewlett!’ That made me really question if he was correct.
“As an impressionist, impersonator, and entertainer who does characters and imitation well, I have found that allows me to really teach others, especially other artists, speakers, and entertainers, the importance of establishing their own voice. Now as a coach of aspiring speakers and performers, I teach the fact that we all naturally from birth mimic and imitate people we look up to, but that at some point we must take the best of those we admire, stand on their shoulders, and raise our own voice. Otherwise we will be lost in that place of being unrecognized for our contribution.
“Having felt that I am solely an imitator for so long has really forced me to face the reality that my voice is easily the most important voice to try and master, and since I do voices of others so well, it gives me much leverage to teach why we MUST be unique and share our gifts, or we will rely on imitation to carry us forever to a place ultimately wondering if we ever reached our potential. That is why I love speaking, entertaining, and all of it combined into one, as it allows me to show impressions and characters while establishing my own weirdness and authenticity. Then I express my heart for family, life, The Promise message, as humor opens the head to learning in the heart. That has been my life’s work since the beginning.”
Check out Jason’s website for more information on the life-changing work he does.
If someone wants to get to know themselves and their unique talents/strengths better, what are some things they could do?
“I wrote a book on how to do this called, Signature Moves: How to Stand Out in a Sit Down World,” Jason said. “Essentially it’s a How-To on finding and using your gifts, talents, strengths.
“In summary, the book is about discovering the one and only you by trying out what makes you different. It’s important to explore what makes you not normal and also failing frequently in the effort to realize where you can succeed. It’s essential to mimic the masters, have coaches and heroes, and eventually give yourself permission to be YOU. Once you understand the formula you can help mentor others to discover their formula; the key lies in pointing it out to them and encouraging them to use their talents so they’ll change their lives and the lives of others. Mostly our realization of our gifts and talents comes from friends, teachers, parents, even strangers, pointing out what we are good at, and hopefully we listen, rather than shrug it off. This answer may sound very basic, but it is! I have become a world-class encourager and cheerleader of other’s amazingness, and few things make me happier than to see someone embrace their weird, awesome, and authentic selves – becoming a much greater star than I could ever be. That’s what this is all about.”
What have you found to be the biggest challenge in finding and maintaining your own style and message? What do you do to combat this?
“The toughest part to maintaining your own style and message, outside of your own negative self-talk, are the critics. That doesn’t mean simply strangers and trolls on social media. That could be the person you’re married to, or the ones who brought you into this world, or even people from your past whose thoughts regarding your dreams won’t go away. As a high school kid, once I finally was held back in school due to poor grades, I realized I could either let everyone’s doubts of who I wanted to become define me and my path, or I could prove them all wrong. Taking a page out of Michael Jordan’s book after being cut from the team in high school, nothing drove him more than to prove that coach wrong, and he became the greatest basketball players of all-time. I had a similar negative experience with a coach, outworked everyone else, and became a better player than those on the team who were taller and more talented. I won awards for my efforts, and that helped me realize my future and my success could only be stopped by me and if I agreed with the naysayers.
“It was simply a matter of whether I was willing to outwork and out-believe in myself when no one else would. Eventually when I would touch bits of success, the naysayers would jump on the bandwagon, saying they always knew I’d make it, whether that be in-laws or family, former teachers or coaches, and I just had to prove I could do it with or without their support. Thankfully I have surrounded myself with encouragers, people smarter and better than me at everything, and I am good at imitation, so that helps me to try and understand how greatness works.
“The biggest challenge I’ve faced in the past decade is from the transition of known solely as “The Entertainer” to being accepted as “The Speaker who is entertaining”. This has been a very painful experience, but one I know I will conquer and succeed in, even if it takes another 20 years, because I have enough people telling me it won’t happen. I just shake it off, work harder than anyone else, and eventually the law of averages, whether I have the talent and skill level or not, will get me to where I’m headed.”
You are defining your own version of success, which is one of the main messages of my next book. What do you think is the #1 thing about success NOT being taught in schools today that you think should be taught?
“Now in 2016 my definition of carer success is making a difference in the lives of others. I am helping those that are on the way up, reaching back as I climb the mountain as well, giving them a hand to join me. Success now is having as much time at home as possible with my children, who will be gone soon and living their own dreams. My success is waking up and reading scriptures and praying with my children before I drop them off at school, having them wave to me telling me I love you and see you after school! Success to me now is having that ability to be home, to be around, to have quantity time rather than just quality time. Success to me today is going to the store and not having anyone recognize me and being the opposite of famous, simply known by the audience that saw me the day before and few else. I feel the most successful I’ve ever been in my life, this moment, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still in gear. Success is shaping your body and health, is writing and creating, discovering new ways of delivering material, and having enough gigs to sustain comfort and need. Success is allowing the Great Creator to shape your life and you submitting to the flow of it. The next level of success in my career is residual income based upon my strategies, teachings, and coaching. I am working on that now. The success of my life is spirit, home, family, love, and peace.
“So you’re correct Jeff, they don’t teach this kind of thinking in schools – your definition of success will be a moving target – but your definition of your morals, ethics, and integrity should be cemented and solid when you are young. If you can determine early on what your mission in life is, your true purpose on this planet – knowing we all have a short amount of time – then a moving target of success is welcome at all times, since you are grounded in truth, love, peace, spirit, service, and joy. It would be cool if they taught solid foundational core beliefs in school; if they did that, I think there would be little to no problems in this world, and everyone would have their own definition of success and would be able to attain it.”
Incredibly powerful and profound words from Jason, aren’t they? I hope these words have moved you as much as they’ve moved me. If we put into practice Jason’s insights by daring to be our unique and authentic selves, our world will become a better place to live in one day at at a time as we continue helping other people.
See you at the Mountaintop.