“Know that you are unique and special and that the universe is a better place for having you in it.” – Holly Hinton
It’s WAY too easy to get caught up in the online world. Don’t get me wrong – the online world has its time and place and can lead to great things; but even for someone like me, who prefers in-person conversations to emails, I inadvertently find myself getting sucked into the email and social media world all the time (I can proudly say I recently completed a 3+ month hiatus from social media). Email and social media are valuable tools when used effectively, but they are often misused.
The theme of my interview with Trevor is about making, cultivating, and maintaining the human connection. As you will see, he offers all sorts of advice, from starting a business, to work/life balance, to taking care of yourself, but he always returned to his core theme of valuing your uniqueness.
Trevor’s authentic ideas make a lot of sense and he, like some of the other experts I’ve talked to, was featured in Reach Your Mountaintop. Trevor Smith is President and CEO of Blue Sky Consulting and I met him at a networking event in northern Connecticut. As a consultant, trainer, and professional speaker, Trevor impacts, inspires, and helps organizations by teaching teamwork and communication skills while showing how to bring more humor and lightness to everyday work life. Trevor speaks to everything from non-profit organizations, to healthcare corporations, to colleges and universities. He definitely makes a solid impact.
“I show people how to laugh, smile, and have fun with their jobs, even during stressful situations,” Trever said. “When I started this business I realized that businesses and organizations weren’t smiling enough, were constantly miscommunicating with one another, and didn’t know how to create and maintain cohesive teams. My consulting business solves those problems.”
The Mental Game of Life
I was interested in learning about Trevor’s mindset and how one can use authenticity to come out on top, specifically relating to the mental game of life. Have you ever heard it said that life is more mental than it is physical? Let’s dive into the importance of the mental world.
“It’s crucial to surround yourself with the right people, bouncing ideas off of friends and colleagues, like we are doing right now,” Trevor said. “Connecting with people, talking to people, and creating ideas with people is the core of success. Don’t think you always have to go it alone. People are here to help you.”
This was refreshing to hear, considering that I’ve been brutally stabbed in the back by close friends my fair share of times.
“I get that people want to help,” I said. “But when I do my best to develop relationships with administrators at colleges, I often get shut out. With that said, I’m doing a pretty good job speaking to other types of organizations,” I said.
“Great point,” Trevor said. “There’s so much opportunity out there. If you limit yourself, you’re hurting yourself.”
It was a powerful response showcasing Trevor’s insightful and outside-the-box thinking. This ties into what Chris Guillebeau says about not limiting yourself to one niche.
“It’s great to have a single point of focus, but when you find yourself consistently getting shut out of a certain niche, it may be time to expand your horizons,” Trevor said. “That isn’t to say give up; it’s just to say keep your options and possibilities open.”
“Thanks Trevor, that makes perfect sense, especially for someone growing their business,” I said. “I just got a little discouraged because I thought colleges would be the easiest kind of group to contact, but they ended up being the hardest. I had some people who said, ‘sure, I’d love to speak with you’, and then never heard from them again despite my attempted follow-ups. I’m not one to nag people – I followed up because I thought they wanted to speak to me, but these people expressed interest and then suddenly disappeared off the map.”
(Note: I share this in the hopes that you will be able to relate to me in experiencing rejection, as it’s something we all have to go through at one point or another. Since speaking with Trevor I have made progress and spoken at more colleges, but it was difficult to land those engagements and I wanted to be vulnerable by sharing with you my frustrations along the way.)
“I don’t get that,” Trevor said. “In that it makes no sense why they would initially respond to you and then ignore you. But that’s not your fault. Remember what I said before – there’s a lot of opportunity out there.”
Trevor helped me to not let small discouragements get in the way of the possibility of big victories, and hopefully he’ll help you do the same. Rejection is something we will continually deal with. Sounds simple, but if you’ve experienced rejection you know as well as I do that it’s not always easy to pick yourself up. But the name of the game, and the key to life itself, is to pick up the pieces and continue to move forward.
“Sorry for bringing up my own challenges,” I said. “But I feel like you offer great advice.”
“No worries at all!” Trevor said. “This is the time to bring up challenges like that, in discussions such as these. What you asked was perfect.”
That’s the kind of person Trevor is – someone who genuinely wants to help others. I’m lucky and grateful to be speaking with him.
Finding Opportunity and Making the Most of Your Situation
The way Trevor discovered his current business opportunity is fascinating, to say the least. He worked in the human resources field for twenty years and used his job as an incubator to expand his business opportunities. Specifically, he was proactive on the job and asked his manager if he could be one of the trainers for group sessions. This started out as a once-a-month thing, but grew from there.
Taking the bull by the horns, Trevor was able to go through a certified program in which he built expertise in bringing laughter to the workplace through group work and programs.
This resonated with me big-time. I’ve had a plethora of jobs in my life that just weren’t right for me. I’ve learned a lot with every job I’ve had, but everything was a stepping stone to what I’m doing now.
My advice to you, supported by the people I’ve interviewed, is if your current job isn’t working, find another job to incubate your dream. Don’t be afraid to leave a job that just isn’t right for you. Despite what the naysayers were saying to me beforehand, when I finally left a job that was wrong for me it was the greatest feeling in the world and led to better things. If you have a family to feed then I completely understand continuing to make money while working for a bad company, but the point here is to not settle and continue to look for that right opportunity. Don’t feel like you have to go straight from where you are to a business owner; as Trevor’s life story has demonstrated, a powerful and practical way is to go step-by-step by using your job as a springboard – a springboard to your Mountaintop.
Running a Successful Business
“I customize all my workshops to the client,” Trevor said. “I meet the needs of my audience by really doing the research. Find out all that you can about your potential or existing client. Focus on THEIR goals and how you can help them achieve at a higher level. It isn’t so much about you as it is about helping the organization who will hire you. If you speak in terms of results and show potential clients what you can do for their organization, they will be your best friend.
“A lot of people are a one-shot deal; too many people just want to get paid. The people I work with see how much I’m helping, how much I care, and they often hire me back for return and repeat engagements. People don’t realize that business is about helping other people. When you can genuinely absorb the fact that business is about meeting the needs and wants of others, you are on your way to a successful business.”
“Is it possible to be over-prepared?” I asked.
“Preparation is essential,” Trevor said. “But you don’t have to drive yourself crazy with preparation either. You need to know how to work with the audience and feel out their preferred style. Sometimes I find out that I need to change on the fly and when that’s necessary it’s important to meet the needs of the client in the moment rather than deliver something they don’t need. I have fun with it, mixing in my spontaneity with my knowledge. These are people just like you and if you are willing to work with them, they are willing to work with you. I’m not always able to get to know everything about my client beforehand, but I will always walk in prepared and knowing my stuff. From there, I can make changes as needed.”
“Speaking of which,” I said after pausing and writing down more notes, “I once heard the legendary Randy Pausch say that having fun is essential. Do you agree with that?”
“Of course,” Trevor said. “That’s a great point. I make it fun and engaging for people while sharing the educational pieces. The fun parts of the presentation are what help them process the educational parts. I also create a very supportive environment. I always tell my audiences and clients ‘there’s no judgment here, we’re here to support one another.’ This is the kind of work culture I’m promoting and I showcase it in my presentations.”
“Well said, Trevor,” I said. “You really hit the nail on the head.”
“In terms of starting and running a business,” Trevor said, “my kernel of advice is to ask and answer the following question as many times as necessary: what goal are you trying to achieve? Find this out beforehand so you know exactly what is expected of you. Get clear on what you need so you can please your clients.”
The fastest road to success and achievement is to know what your business and client needs, and then exceed those expectations. The fastest road to failure is to not know what you are trying to achieve with your business and presentations, and then to guess. Trevor is saying that clarity is essential. When it comes to working with a client, you can find clarity by proactively asking them what they want. When it comes to your own business, you need to find time to proactively ask yourself what exactly it is you are in the process of achieving.
I once had a speaking engagement where the meeting planner did not tell me the right information about the type of audience I was speaking to. When I got there, I decided to stick to my original speech instead of making tweaks. While I definitely wasn’t to blame for the wrong information I was provided, what I could have done better is change some of my speech on the fly to meet the needs of the audience at hand. As Trevor said, be aware that sometimes you may need to change your program on the fly.
You Have a Lot to Offer the World
While you are making progress, remember happiness is not meant to be put off to the future. You can be happy, joyful and free right now, while pursuing all that you are meant to pursue (and achieve). Life is not meant to be a rat race. We all have our challenges, but it definitely doesn’t mean you have to be miserable along the way. I shared these thoughts with Trevor and he agreed completely.
“Always take care of yourself first and foremost,” Trevor said. “You can never forget about friends and family. Even during the busiest times of my work life, I make time for friends. The most important part of life is your family and friends. You really need to balance it out in your work life and personal life because it leads to happiness, satisfaction, and self-fulfillment.”
While writing this, I took Trevor’s advice. I gave myself a break when I needed it. It was helpful to take a break for a little while. There is definitely a time and place for solitude and focusing on your goals, but it’s important to keep life in perspective and enjoy each day.
“What I’d like to emphasize to your readers,” Trevor said, “is that they have a lot to offer the world. They undoubtedly have a lot to offer and they need to stay connected to that truth in their daily lives. Start by offering your services for free to get some practice and from there the possibilities will really open up.”
Staying True to Who You Are
“What would you say is the key to really being yourself in this world?” I asked Trevor.
“It’s about really being comfortable with yourself and knowing who you are,” Trevor said. “Show your true uniqueness to the world. Your uniqueness lies in what makes you different and it will cause you to stand out, in a good way. Take risks around that.
“Also, being yourself may mean stepping outside of what you’re comfortable with. A lot of people stay in a job because they are safe, but the truth is they are miserable and not challenging themselves. They stay in that job until they can collect their 401k. My encouragement to others is to do something that is more meaningful to them. Do something that you are more passionate about and then take that leap of faith.
“I was miserable at work. The truth is I was depressed and unhappy. I couldn’t stand my manager. That’s why I took that leap of faith, and why I suggest others do the same when the time is right – it comes from realizing you need to change something. The challenge is it’s really hard to know you need to change something.”
“Yes, that’s so incredibly true,” I said to Trevor. “Most people lack the self-awareness to know they need a change, and then they lack the discipline to actually make a change.”
“Well said,” Trevor said. “For me, I knew it was time to go when I was consistently waking up miserable and depressed. The time to go is different for each person. What you need to do is take time to discover your purpose. I was working for many years in mental health and with people who had disabilities while I had my regular job. This helped me to figure out who I am and what my purpose is while I had steady income.”
This is powerful and useful content from Trevor, so there are a couple of important things to point out. One, Trevor had the initiative to find his true purpose while he was working at a job he wasn’t meant for. He could have sat around feeling sorry for himself, but he instead chose to take action and learn more about himself. You don’t learn more about yourself by sitting around. You learn more about yourself by taking action, doing, trying new things, and experimenting. Because Trevor came to know and understand his purpose, it eventually became easier for him to step into the career he was meant for. This is not an overnight process, but rather a continual process of growth and evolution.
Trevor also talked about making the leap into doing what you love, but he only suggests you do that when you’re ready. Trevor is also for responsible saving, and he advocates for making small, reasonable changes along the way. During our conversation, Trevor mentioned the practical need to save money while growing your other initiatives. Use your current job as a vehicle and foundation while you learn more about yourself. If you despise your current job as Trevor once did, use that as a signal to look for another career. Don’t make the same mistake I did when I was starting out, when I left a good job to pursue the illusory dream of entrepreneurship. Becoming an entrepreneur is an awesome and valid dream to have, but it takes more to achieve it than initially meets the eye. Do your best to not put yourself into a financial hole, unless you feel that’s your best option. Don’t fall for the people who are selling you programs that promise you the world, but claim to require little to no hard work.
Trevor is founder and CEO of Blue Sky Consulting, a training and development company dedicated to enhancing employee engagement, morale and productivity through creative means. Owner Trevor Smith uses laughter and improvisational techniques that once allowed him to transform lives in the social services sector to transform employee spirit and collaboration. He runs business workshops, stress reduction seminars, and personal development retreats.