Becoming a motivational speaker – The first steps
Darryl Bellamy Jr. is a motivational speaker. As a student success and leadership expert, he teaches students how to overcome negative self-talk and push past their fears to achieve their goals in life. Darryl has won numerous leadership awards at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, including Multiple Chancellor’s & Dean’s List designations. He interned with AT&T and SunTrust Bank as an undergraduate, and has worked for two Fortune 100 companies post-graduation. Darryl has now founded Bellamy Inspires, LLC.
Darryl, What drew you to speaking professionally?
When I was younger, I was always into being out front and loved making people laugh and feel good by my being in their presence. In college, I got involved in a leadership organization that allowed me to present workshops on campus, and the feeling after presenting a workshop was addictive.
Two years after college and one year before going professional, I hired a speaking coach who introduced me to the National Speakers Association Carolinas. That was the first time I realized that people get paid to speak and change lives. I was sold.
Your main speaking topic is fear and how to push through it to get to the next step. How did you decide that this should be the focus of your talks?
While I was an undergraduate, I decided to push through a lot of fear and self-doubt to run for student body vice president. I pushed through the fear and still lost in the closest election in school history, a difference of 19 votes. That moment helped me realize that many people let fear hold them back from pivotal life experiences. I decided to help as many people as possible push through their fears in order to experience all life has to offer for them.
What were your first speaking gigs like? Did you have any prior experience?
My first speaking gigs were by word of mouth, and my prior experience was my years in college organizations and on stage in high school plays. We sometimes forget that everything we are doing now is preparing us for something in our future. It’s hard to understand now, but later it will make sense. I had been practicing for professional speaking years before I decided I would take this path.
How long was it before you started getting paid gigs?
It took around two or three months. I also had a coach by my side pushing me along. If I didn’t have her, I would have waited a little while longer. That’s one reason why everyone should have a coach or a mentor: they pay for themselves. The first time $500 came out of my mouth, it was so uncomfortable! Now, I have no problem stating my rate because I believe I’m 100% worth what clients now pay (more than $500).
Advice: start at a rate you’re comfortable with and have in your mind how many gigs you will do at that rate. Once you hit that number, raise the rate. Also look at your industry and determine what that industry pays. Corporate America is different than high-schools, and high schools pay differently than colleges. Know your worth and know your market.
What was it like transitioning fully into speaking as your main source of income?
It took around a year to build up my speaking business enough to feel comfortable making the jump full-time. I also had a really good job in corporate that allowed me to save enough money to live for months while I built my business. It wasn’t easy the first few months, but I’m glad I had the capital there to build my business without the pressure of having to bring in money right away. Anyone can smell a desperate speaker from miles away. Have confidence and a foundation so you won’t have to beg for business.
One of your favorite quotes is “the dots will always connect.” What does this mean to you?
Check out the Steve Jobs commencement video to get the full scope of the statement. Here’s the quote: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
I love this quote because I’ve found–time and time again–that everything that happens in our lives WILL make sense at some time in the future. Everything is happening for a reason. Sometimes we get discouraged because we’re going through a certain moment in our lives, and we don’t understand why. I promise you that the dots will connect in the future. Keep pushing!
When did you decide to write a book, and why was it important to you?
I decided to write a book in undergrad. I just had no idea what the future book would be about. As I started hanging around other speakers, it was a must, because all my friends had one. I wanted to write a book to help college students, but the thought of another how-to book made me want to throw up.
I decided to put the lessons I wanted to share with students in a fictional story that was interesting to read. Everyone should write a book. It’s important, because when you leave this earth, a book is something that will live on long after you’re gone.
You’ve accomplished a lot in so many different fields. Consulting, speaking, publishing: how do you prep yourself to succeed?
The thought of my future life, if I don’t push through my goals, scares me more than anything. I live my life in a way that years down the line, I can be proud of the decisions I’m making today. I have a vision for what I want to accomplish, then I look for a coach or someone who’s already accomplished it, and their expertise mixed with my hard work and vision gets me there much closer.
I paid one of my coaches $175 an hour for over a year and a half, and it was worth it. It’s time to invest in yourself to get everything you want for your life.
Where did you get the idea to start Kollege Koncierge?
Everything I do goes back to helping college students. I wanted to ensure college freshmen had the best start possible. Kollege Koncierge was going to be a service for 100 freshmen that would allow students to have an elite social group, leadership development, and specialized help to set them up for success. At the end of the day, it was about making sure my students succeeded.
What sorts of obstacles did you run into with Kollege Koncierge, and how did you manage them at the time?
Advertising and marketing were the hardest; it’s hard to get something off the ground if you don’t have the proper venue to introduce your idea to parents. I tried many ways that I thought would work, but none of them ultimately came through.
It was also my first real entrepreneurial venture, so I learned a lot. I didn’t have a business mentor. I didn’t have enough income to sustain me long-term, and I didn’t have a properly thought-out plan. I was able to fix and learn from all those mistakes when building Bellamy Inspires, LLC.
How did you feel when you realized Kollege Koncierge wasn’t getting off the ground? How did you react, and what sorts of losses were you facing?
I was disappointed, but not defeated. In studying many successful people, I knew that most of them have failed multiple times, so I wasn’t scared of failing. I always knew that my ride wouldn’t be smooth. I lost around three to four thousand dollars in the building of the company, but the lessons were worth 10 times that amount.
One thing I was afraid of, as always, is the judgment from people you care about the most. I’m blessed to have people around who support me through the ups and downs and every idea that comes my way. I’m the average among the people I spend the most time with, and I’m glad my circle is A-1!
When you think about the phrase “Fall down seven times, rise up eight,” what does that mean to you? What is your philosophy on how to overcome setbacks in our lives?
I love this question, and I hope you read every word of this: get comfortable with failing. Stop being afraid of failure. Society has convinced us over and over again that we should run away from failing, when we should be doing the opposite. Every failure or every time I have “failed” down, I have risen up to be a stronger individual.
Stop trying to be perfect, because you’ll end up perfectly miserable. Remember that every situation in your life will make sense in the future, and every failure is a dot that will connect. People ask me often how I got to where I am. I can say without a doubt that being fearless is a big piece of that success. I’ll leave you with this: being fearless is not the absence of fear, being fearless is feeling fear and taking one step closer to overcoming that fear.
And how can people reach you?
To stay up to date on living a fearless life, follow me on Instagram @BellamyInspires. Also, check out BellamyInspires.com.
Speaking with Darryl, we can certainly see how our theme of “fall down seven times, rise up eight” is appropriate. Although you could say Darryl’s “failed” with Kollege Koncierge, he sees it as a learning experience which only strengthened him. This is how all of us here at Rise Up Eight see failure – it only makes us stronger. Darryl now teaches this understanding to students, helping them realize that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall…(you know the rest). : )
What did you learn from this interview? Please let us know in the comments.