As a veteran in the professional speaking business Jacques de Villiers gets a lot of requests from aspiring motivational speakers who want to become paid, professional speakers.

Many are in their 20s. I’m not rude about it because I don’t like to steal people’s dreams, but I always ask them about their experience. Typically, they are light on experience.  This is when I say something like, “Call me in ten years when you have a bit more under your belt and maybe you can become a motivational speaker.” Ok, so maybe that is being rude. I prefer to think it’s being realistic.

I’ve been in the professional speaking game for 22 years. Prior to starting out as a professional speaker in 1998, I earned my spurs for 10 years in the public relations, marketing, advertising and sales trenches. In that time I also became a Dale Carnegie instructor. It took me two years after attending my first Dale Carnegie course (Based on Dale Carnegie’s books, How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living) before I was allowed to train my first class solo. It was a gruelling, challenging and terrifying apprenticeship. I came out of that crucible as an excellent trainer and communicator which has stood me in good stead ever since. I would go so far as to say, that being trained by the Dale Carnegie organisation and qualifying as a trainer is the equivalent of a Top Gun pilot. There are none better than Dale Carnegie instructors.

I also joined Toastmasters to hone my communication and leadership skills. That’s where I really sharpened my oratory skills. This gave me the confidence to consider that I might one day be able to speak professionally (i.e. get paid for speaking and training).

Until now, I’ve presented more than 1 200 times both locally and internationally to 27 000+ people over 150+ organisations.

Why am I telling you this? Simply, if you’re an aspiring motivational speaker, you have to do the time.

You have to apprentice yourself to your craft and become good at it. In essence, you need to spend your 10 000 hours (Source: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell) deliberately honing your skills. That’s around seven to 10 years! Your goal needs to be mastery of your craft. Yes, 10 000 hours is a thing.

If you don’t believe me, go and read Mastery by Robert Greene and you’ll get that pretty much all the top guns you admire, did some kind of apprenticeship and spent years becoming the best at their craft.

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