World of Speakers E.06: Jesh De Rox | Turning anxiety into empowerment


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World of Speakers E.06: Jesh De Rox | Turning anxiety into empowerment

Ryan Foland speaks with Jesh de Rox, a revolutionary photographer, who has spoke to tens of thousands of people in over 30 countries on a mission to raise consciousness and spread ideas that lead to extraordinary, high-impact, beautiful lives.

Ryan and Jesh share insights about what they have learned about human connection and art, and how to make a global impact. They also dive into how to become an expert in your field, and engage audiences.

Listen to this podcast to find out:

  1. How to use pre-performance anxiety to your advantage.
  2. Why tapping into your existent passion will make you a more impactful speaker.
  3. How to increase emotional intelligence in your message.
  4. How to craft talks that audiences can relate with and benefit from.
  5. What it means to be an expert, and why organizations will pay you for your expertise.



If you enjoy this interview we’d be honoured if you reviewed us on iTunes. Just follow this link.


Jesh de Rox: Hi everyone, this is Jesh de Rox. I am here with Ryan Foland from World of Speakers. We had a really great time talking today about the amount of joy that you’re having in your work, your life, and how you can get more of that. Thanks for hanging out with us.

Ryan Foland: Welcome back to another episode of World of Speakers, where we find speakers from around the world you can meet, learn from, and be inspired by.

Today we’ve got Jesh de Rox. I am excited because I’ve done a little research online, but we haven’t actually met. I’m meeting you here for the first time with everyone. How are you doing today?

JD: Very good. Thank you so much.

RF: Let’s go back to where it all started for you.

It sounds like you weren’t moving often like a military brat, you were a dreamer brat. You said your dad was a dreamer, and so you traveled around the US as a child.

Get us up to speed from where this all started.

JD: My dad had a lot that he wanted to do, chase, and achieve in his life, and he took our family along for the ride.

From a very young age we were constantly moving.

I think by the time I was 18 I had lived in about 27 different houses across the United States and Canada. We were never anywhere for very long.

Sometimes we were in a place for a month, or three months. Sometimes we lived in our car. We were at the lowest level of poverty in the United States that you can get to without being completely homeless.

It was an incredible upbringing that was very formative for me.

Some advantages I gained were having to develop flexibility and adaptability.

I think another big advantage was I didn’t build a sense of personal identification around the same kind of things that most people do, which might be a certain home, community, or friendships.

That left me with a very fluid sense of self, compared to what happens to most people.

The downside to that is of course you don’t get the chance to build long term relationships, which is a really huge part of how humans feel a sense of stability and safety in their lives.

When you’re a young kid and you’re meeting other young kids, that’s not really that big of a deal. Because very young children are very connective, they’re very quick to accept you into the fold so to speak.

But as I got older and moved into junior high, and then high school, I was always the new guy. Sometimes the new guy can be interesting, or a curiosity, but rarely is that the person that you invite over to your house, and into some of the deeper friendship and bonding activities.

The older I got I felt increasingly isolated from the social structure I saw around me that most people had been steeping in since the time they were born. Because of that isolation I developed a really strong fascination with connection, how bonding works, how it forms, and what prevents it from happening.

What was an incredible weakness of mine, which was an incredible amount of loneliness, actually ended up becoming something that I became so fascinated, and obsessed with that 20 years later I now get to travel around the world and talk about connection. It is kind of cool how that can happen.

RF: It’s funny how that comes full circle.

JD: Totally.

RF: At a certain point did you know that you wanted to share this message? How did you come up with this core message that you share?

JD: As with most things it’s a long story.

But the short version is that what was a disadvantage for me in my teens, which was being very isolated, and growing up outside the culture, became an advantage for me in business.

In my early 20s I entered into the field of photography.

I had not been taught the traditional way, and as I said, I didn’t have a lot of the cultural references a lot of other people had. Because of that I ended up just doing it completely my own way.

For me photography was never really about taking pictures, it was about connecting with people.

Because as soon as you give somebody a camera, they get invited into these social rituals that most people take for granted, like birthday parties, weddings, and family reunions.

All of those places where people who have bonds celebrate each other.

It was amazing for me to all of a sudden have that opportunity to feel like I was included, and I could be close to the action.

When you’re a photographer, you get to stare at people and it’s okay. When normally it’s very not okay to do things like that.

I got to be in quite emotionally intimate situations with people. I became especially fascinated with people who were in love, and with weddings.

To make a long story short, because photography was always about connection for me, I ended up developing this technique that’s called moment design that solves a really huge problem for photographers.

As you probably know, when somebody holds a camera up in front of your face, if you’re like most people, you get very awkward, and weird, and you get what I call “camera smile”.

Of course camera smile is not the best version of you. You would never win any friends, or lovers if you only used camera smile. Yet that defense mechanism comes up almost every time somebody tries to take a picture.

Photographers have this really tough challenge of, how do I get this complete stranger to show me the same sides of themselves they would normally only show to a loved one, or a close friend within a few moments. That’s a very challenging thing to do.

To my knowledge that has never been addressed before in terms of teaching.

The great portrait artists learned how to do it, but with such an esoteric method that it was just written off to “personality”.

If you had the personality, you could get that out of people. If you couldn’t, you were screwed.

RF: Almost like in Austin Powers where you have to be larger than life. You’re in a burrow, you’re in a burrow, you’re digging, digging, yes, yes, no, no.

JD: Exactly. Some kinds of personalities, specifically extroverts, can pull that off.

But a lot of photographers are actually introverts, like I was.

They don’t like being on the other side of the camera, they like observing.

RF: They like to be behind the camera.

JD: Right. On the safe side.

I developed this technique, first just for my own purposes, and that brings down what I call the personal walls very, very quickly.

There are some situations in which people will bond very fast, and I got really interested in those.

One of the most formative experiences that happened in my early 20s was at the time I was photographing the weddings of some oil workers who lived in Northern Canada.

Oil working already is a very tough job.

There’s huge machinery, things can break, there can be explosions, and that’s just in a normal place.

In Northern Canada you’re talking about temperatures sometimes as low as minus 30 for two weeks. Having to work that kind of a job up there, you have to be a very, very tough individual.

A lot of people working there were giants of men who come from long lines of very tough family situations.

RF: Hardened souls. I imagine it’s very hard to get them to smile.

JD: Oh god yes.

Their girls would usually be into it when we tried to take their picture, because typically girls are more interested in that. But the men would be these stone walls.

These same guys, if I had called them an artist or something like that, or creative, they probably would have beat me up for accusing them, for slandering them.

But what happened is I would see these guys on their wedding day. They would get up to give a speech. They would say something like, “That time when dad left, and you just really showed up for me, and I’m always going to love you for that. I’ll never forget that.

They would say this speech that was so beautiful, and the entire audience would just bawl.

As a speaker, and I know you’re a speaker too, to be able to get an entire room of people to cry because they’re so moved by what you’re saying is quite a powerful act of art. It’s an incredibly powerful, creative expression.

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on powerful act of art - World of Speakers Podcast (Blue) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

The fact that this guy who never would have considered himself an artist on this day can all of a sudden get up in front of an audience, and give himself permission to access this piece of himself, and share this piece of him that moves everybody to tears is fascinating to me.

Because for him it was a wedding, it was a special day. But for me it was just a Saturday. I saw this week in, week out.

He probably would never access that place again in his entire life, or at least not very many times. But something about the elements in place there allowed him to access that subconsciously.

That really got me exploring could the elements in place that caused him to feel like he could access that piece be found, and could they be replicated. It got me interested in exploring what are the ingredients of what we call beautiful moments. Could you ultimately make a beautiful moment on purpose.

Because powerful photographs are only powerful when they’re photographing a powerful moment.

A lot of times photography is so focused on the picture that most people who are taking pictures completely forget there has to be something really interesting and engaging happening for the photograph itself to be interesting.

I started exploring the moments more than photography. Why we open ourselves up to engage in a moment, and how it affects us. The walls we have that normally prevent it.

The elements in place that allow us to be able to engage with really beautiful moments it turns out are definable, and repeatable.

I created this very simple technique where within moments you could access the genuine, authentic science of almost anybody.

That became a huge sweeping thing in the photography industry.

There are about 15,000 people in the world now who practice my moment design technique. There are teachers that teach it. It just became its own thing.

But for me it became the start of this journey I found much more interesting than photography, exploring how feelings happen in us.

What if we could have beautiful moments on purpose? Since they are things that are happening inside of us, why don’t we have more control over that?

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on beautiful moments on purpose - World of Speakers Podcast (Navy) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

Since that time, which was about ten years ago, I’ve been simultaneously building that part of my work, and helping to train photographers in that.

But on the side I became increasingly interested in emotional intelligence, feeling generation, and something I call pattern disruption. Just this whole host of ways to try to describe and build simple, practical language for how we feel things. As well as understanding why we don’t feel on purpose. Why are disconnected from our conscious thought process, and can that be changed.

RF: In one of the videos I saw you were asking a large audience, “Who here has ever had feelings?” You got a giggle.

Then you asked, “How many were bad feelings?”

Then you asked, “How many times have you continuously thought that?

You made this analogy of there being something in your brain, like an appendage, an arm, or a foot that your body has the ability to use, but you just don’t tap into it.

Is that one of those cores of emotional intelligence that you’re helping people to understand by giving them the, and I love this, you said, “The natural language to describe it?” Because if so, you get me.

Now I don’t do oil mining up in Canada, but I’m a man’s man.

Talking about my feelings is probably one of the most difficult things for me to do, even though I love communication, and I’m a geek about it.

If you put me up on stage in front of 10,000 people, that’s fine.

But if it’s me and another person, I’m trying to tap into that moment. That’s a real problem I think people would be willing and eager to solve.

JD: That goes back to a couple things.

One that I think is really, really fascinating that I’ve been obsessed with for a long time is that everything you’ve ever felt in your entire life was generated in your own brain. It’s not even possible to feel something that your own brain chemistry didn’t make.

For most people that’s an obvious thing, and not something we think about a lot.

A lot of us are very dependent on external situations, external people, or external stimuli to generate these feelings inside of us.

Another analogy I like to use is that the brain is like an instrument with all these keys.

Where the different combinations of the keys produce different sounds is like different combinations of keys that produce different feelings.

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on why brain is like an instrument - World of Speakers Podcast (Grey) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

Most of us never learn to use our instrument. Instead of mastering it, which would take just as long as learning any instrument, we don’t even know it’s there. Instead we bump into things randomly.

Sometimes we make a good sound, and sometimes not. It’s like we’re throwing rocks at the keys on a piano, instead of learning to use it ourselves.

It’s really hard to talk about this kind of stuff without sounding cheesy, or corny, and saying things like follow your heart. Because that’s great, but it’s really difficult to figure out what that even means.

It’s clear that a small percentage of the people on earth learn how to tap into this place, and generate incredibly powerful feelings for themselves, which they then share in the form of music, painting, or books.

They’re able to outlet those feelings, which the rest of us can vicariously tap into, and we then feel something big from them.

When you really look at what artists do, the function they provide, what’s really happening is these artists are feeling huge things, then they’re creating forms and containers so that other people can also feel those huge things.

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on artists - World of Speakers Podcast (Navy) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

When you think about why your favorite movie is your favorite, why your favorite book is your favorite, or your favorite song is your favorite, that’s because of the way they make you feel.

We are very interconnected as a species.

The way we feel has a huge impact on the other people around us.

But I think the only difference between artists and so called regular people is artists have found a way to subconsciously to build a conscious connection to the place where feelings are generated.

That’s a another huge subject we could talk about for a long time, because a lot of the ways those artists did that don’t end up being the healthiest all of the time.

RF: I want to go back to this quote. Remind me of that again. What is the concept that everything you feel you’ve created in your own mind?

JD: We feel our feelings through our nervous system, which is sparked by our own brain.

Our brain will experience something, interpret that experience, and then send a feeling response because of that.

Because that happens subconsciously, it’s not a part of something that we know how to control. We tend to associate those feelings with whatever it was we were experiencing.

If we meet somebody, and they seem like they’re in a bad mood, or they don’t like us for some reason, we’ll probably get a bad feeling about them.

The funny thing is as we all know that a person is not just one thing.

Someone that you’ve met on a certain day who didn’t seem to like you, maybe just had a really bad day, and they happen to be the best person in the world.

Maybe his son thinks he’s the best father ever, or his wife thinks he’s the most amazing man.

It’s very clear that if one thing was happening, 100 different people could all experience it in a completely different way.

That just points back to the fact that we have a huge responsibility, at least theoretically, to choose how we respond to things, and choose our feelings.

We have to realize that different experiences benefit, instead of hamper us.

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on choosing how we feel - World of Speakers Podcast (Blue) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

In the talk that you were referencing, I was just pointing out that most of the time our feelings are not a choice we’re making consciously. It’s almost like a roulette for most of us.

RF: It just happens. So here’s the crux role of speakers out there. How do we take that concept and help people deal with speech anxiety?

Even if you’re speaking at a high level you still can have these thoughts or those impressions.

 Maybe it’s about the audience, or it’s about the stage. Maybe there’s something wrong with the microphone.

Have you used this same concept to help speakers really address and understand that all of the anxiety and stress they feel is because of themselves at the end of the day?

JD: Yes. Absolutely.

RF: I think that’s really interesting to apply to speaking.

Because physiology makes it so that when you get up on stage, however well versed, or experienced you are, you always feel a bit of anxiety. Now I like to turn my anxiety into energy.

But if you’re empowering people who are artists and saying, “All your thoughts are your own responsibility, figure out how to turn that into something positive,” that’s a very powerful tool for people who are trying to speak their art essentially.

Do you have a niche clientele you work with to help get through that?

How does this concept incorporate into actionable items people who are trying to speak more comfortably and confidently can use?

JD: As I said, I got my start in the photography world. But I branched out quickly, because everything comes down to communication.

Now I speak in front of large groups. I run small workshops.

I am also a personal consultant for several high level creatives in completely different industries. I’ve worked with Grammy Award winning musicians, and with the [? Monroe] scientists, with speakers, and writers.

Across the board communication is the same. It’s all about what we’re experiencing, and being able to share what we’re experiencing with someone else.

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on being able to share your experience - World of Speakers Podcast (Navy) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

I definitely have some practical tips for people to explore. The first one is a little bit obvious, but should be laid out first.

Only talk about things that really light you up. When you’re genuinely lit up by something, there’s a certain energy that creates in your body, and in your brain. That energy can push you through that nervous feeling.

If you look at what anxiety is and where it comes from, it’s really the animal part of your brain protecting you, and trying to prevent you from danger.

Those million year old instincts we have, for the most part, are not relevant.

Speaking is considered one of the scariest things in the world to do.

Seinfeld did a joke one time based on a poll that was made, that death was the number two scariest thing in the world for people, and public speaking was number one. He said, “That means for most people at a funeral they’d rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.

RF: Which is true. I think fear stops a lot of people from communicating. That fear isn’t only present on stage.

I joke around with people and ask large groups, “Who here recognizes and identifies themselves as a public speaker?” Out of a few hundred people I’ll get maybe ten hands.

Then I ask, “How many of you have actually opened your mouth and spoke in public today?” I forced them all to raise their hands.

I then say, “Look, no matter what you learn today, you are all officially public speakers.

Sometimes I think it’s just crossing that initial bridge, realizing you are a public speaker, but that doesn’t mean you’re great. I think that’s the only thing that starts to get you going.

I love this idea of talking only about what gets you fired up. Because there are certain things that you do not like to talk about, right?

You’re saying if you find the things you light up about, tell the stories that give you goosebumps, that that’s a great internal beacon.

Then you don’t have to be slowed down by coming up with stuff to try to create that energy around something you’re not interested in.

JD: I want to address something really quick that I think is important.

I think a lot of artists and people who are expressive, including public speakers, and people who want to be public speakers, not always, but often have a more introverted or shy personality.

One of the reasons for that is because people who are introverted, or what some people call shy, tend to live their thoughts more.

The only way to develop an expertise worth hearing about of any kind is to spend a lot of time thinking, refining, and exploring personally

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on how to develop your expertise - World of Speakers Podcast (Blue-Grey) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

I think Tesla is one of the greatest inventors of all time. A/C and electricity are a big deal, and have made a big mark on all of us.

He said, “The secret of invention is to be alone.” I love that quote. Because he’s saying if you want to go really far in a direction that is going to end up helping a lot of people, you need to spend a lot of time spent with yourself.

A lot of speakers, communicators, and artists tend to be shy, at least initially. There’s this barrier they have to get through.

But a lot of people who have been that way for a long time have identified with and call themselves shy, as well all these other words that have some kind of an accuracy circumstantially, but aren’t fundamentally true.

The way I can quickly prove that is let’s take a person who identifies as shy, and put them in a burning building.

Once they realize the building is burning, and they see flames and fire, they probably wouldn’t shyly leave the building.

RF: Right. Those animal instincts would become very relevant at that point. That taps into the human nature of survival.

JD: Yes. It goes back to these elements I was discussing before. Where there are certain things we see, feel, and respond to. Then suddenly we have access to different parts of ourselves.

That shy person would probably run through the building yelling “Fire! Fire!”, which is very clearly public speaking. They wouldn’t feel shy about that at all.

If you really believe your message is as important as yelling “Fire!” in a burning building, you’re going to have a huge benefit in not being shy when you speak.

My number one tip is to make sure you’re sharing content you strongly believe is so important, and will be so helpful to people, that you focus on delivering that message to them. You don’t make it about you, or about how they hear you, delivering the message is that important.

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on content sharing - World of Speakers Podcast (Black) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

RF: I’ve heard you have these tests you give to people. You should add a fire alarm test, based on your example. The purpose of a fire alarm is analogous to somebody who has the purpose of relaying a message.

Don’t be the person who relays the same unimportant message all the time. Because if you just call “Fire!” in a crowded theater over and over, you’ll become the little boy who cried wolf, and your message isn’t going to resonate.

Speak like a fire alarm, making sure your message is so exciting it literally lights you up to talk about it. I like that.

Ryan Foland - Quote on speaking like a fire alarm - World of Speakers Podcast (Navy) | Powered by SpeakerHub

That’s a cool, easy to digest concept.

What’s the second nugget?

JD: My second tip was taught to me by a friend when I first started speaking about ten years ago. Where you calm that part of your brain that is going to be scared in a situation by building a sense of familiarity.

Rarely is somebody afraid in their shower, or in their own bed. That fear is due to the unfamiliarity of being on this huge stage in a place you’ve never been to. Part of your subconscious evolutionary physiology is scouting for danger in this new place.

One thing I like to do is go to the place I’m going to be speaking at the day, a couple hours, or 30 minutes before, hopefully when no one else is in there.

Then I walk all around the room. I’ll sit in different chairs and imagine myself up on stage. I’ll imagine watching myself up on stage. I’ll imagine feeling connected to what I’m saying up there. I’ll probably do that with 20 or 30 seats over the course of maybe 10 minutes before before anyone else is in the room.

By doing this I’m implanting in my subconscious physiology, to the animal part of my brain, that this is a familiar and safe place for me. This is a powerful place for me. This is a place where something really good is going to happen.

Then later on when I am speaking to everyone on stage, and I’m looking out at those audience members, I already have a strong association that this is my place, this is my home court. That’s something I do that I really love as well.

RF: The home court test.

This is interesting because it taps into your original message, that all of your thoughts originate in your own brain. If you’re feeding your brain with thoughts that create comfort, power, and familiarity, you’re setting yourself up for more control over your thoughts.

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If you go into a new room, and get up on a new stage, your thoughts will be influenced by your animal fear instinct. But by you going in there and actually walking around, that makes it your home court.

I think that’s an interesting theory. It’s a home court advantage theory. You always do better when you’re at home.

JD: I’ve got one more for you if you want it.

RF: Let’s do it. Three is the magic number.

JD: Number three is when you know your material so well that you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Because a big part of what’s scary about being on stage is the thoughts of what if you mess up, what if you don’t say the words right.

In my experience people who are, or want to be speakers prepare completely differently than say professional cellists.

I don’t know anybody who decided they wanted to be a cellist, was going to go perform on stage, and would give it a good 15 minutes or an hour of practice having never played a cello before.

RF: I’ll wing it through the first few notes until I get it.

JD: There really is no substitute for practice. Another analogy I like to give is would Michael Jordan be Michael Jordan if he only practiced at games?

The answer is obviously definitely not. The vast majority of his practice happened off court.

Same thing if you want to be good at any art, and speaking is no exception to that.

However, you do have the advantage of being able to speak since you were a kid, meaning you know the words, which is good. But speaking in front of audiences is its own special kind of art form.

I went on a 50 city tour about four years ago. It was so incredible to have the experience of giving the same core speech that many times in a row.

Because from the first time I gave it to the last time, there was such an incredible transformation.

Because I knew the bones of the speech so well, and they were so familiar to me, I didn’t have to think about them. That gave me a lot more space to have fun with the audience and play.

I think that’s something speakers often forget. They get so caught up with the message they want to deliver, wondering if it’s going to go well, will they sound clever, that they forget people just want to be engaged and have fun.

Ryan Foland with Jesh De Rox - Quote on being engaged and having fun - World of Speakers Podcast (Blue) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

RF: It’s not just girls who want to have fun. Everybody just wants to have fun.

JD: Yes. It really is all of us. When you know your stuff so well, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Then you can be more interactive, and more playful.

Some of the best speeches I’ve ever given came from this really strong core material I knew. Then I was able to take really big risks.

RF: Here’s a question for you I’ve gotten asked quite a few times. I help people with TEDx speeches, or other very structured speeches.

This might be one of the first times where it’s a big deal for someone to get up and talk.

They’re questioning should they memorize their speech or not.

I have my train of thought on it, but it’s really on par for this point. What are your thoughts on people memorizing their speeches?

JD: It depends on how deep of a memorization it is. I think is should get, as I said, so ingrained that it’s like breathing.

Going back to the cellist. There’s a memorization of exactly where each finger needs to be to produce a certain note, but it’s not a conscious memorization.

You’re not talking about short term memory. It’s entered into deep, long term memory.

If somebody has practiced to the degree that they’re not even having to think about it, that’s pretty amazing.

I don’t recommend short term memorization of speeches, because they can come across as wooden and disconnected.

It would be like a boxer stepping into a ring having already decided the first 15 punches they’re going to make.

I could be a powerful speaker, but I have to be connected with my audience. At this point in my career I can instantly tell if something I’ve said lands.

I often have to speak in other countries where my speech is translated. Even with that if you practice enough you can tell when what you’re saying lands or not. If it doesn’t land, you shift instantly and say it in a different way, or pull down on the point.

The disadvantage you have with just short term memorization of a speech is that it will be this one giant monologue. You can only hope that all 15 of those punches you’ve chosen land.

RF: I would echo those comments. I like to say, don’t memorize, prepare and improvise. If you’re prepared, give yourself the ability to improvise a little bit.

Ryan Foland - Quote on prepare and not memorize - World of Speakers Podcast (Navy) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

Each time you give a speech it should be a little different. You should include a little bit of improvisation, a little feeding off of the crowd. I’m glad you share the same note.

I think the difference you’re pointing out is the short term memorization versus the long term memorization. If you practice something enough, you beat way past the short term. You become a skilled fighter who isn’t sitting there going, “Hmm, what was that next move?” Then Bam!, and they get knocked out.

You speak worldwide, you’ve had your speeches translated, been on a 50 city tour. These are all things I think a lot of people aspire to achieve.

On this last little section I always like to get your insight on what has worked for you. This isn’t the hard sell where you tell us how you make a million dollars speaking.

Certain things work for certain people.

How did you come up with the opportunity to be on a 50 city tour?

How do you get international speaking opportunities? Has it been a complicated process over the last ten years?

What are some of the things people can try that have worked for you? What would you say doesn’t work?

JD: Again, I’ll bring it back to my cellist analogy. Because I think sometimes we look at some performance careers in the arts differently than some of the more classically understood arts. Something like painting, or playing the cello or something.

How would you become a famous painter?

How would you become a well sought after cellist?

There’s really two things involved there.

One is getting really, really good at your craft. The second would be having something to offer that others don’t.

My unusual childhood experience helped me to build an unusual expertise in human connection that translated into photography.

At that point in my career I was hugely benefited by being able to rise to the top of that particular industry.

I was first asked to speak because I won a bunch of awards in the photography industry about ten years ago. I started a few trends that went around the world. I was very lucky to have that.

I think starting absolutely from scratch, and breaking into the speaking industry, while not impossible, is not easy.

You would be greatly benefited by having an unusual expertise no one else, or few people are talking about. You can also develop a way to talk about that expertise in a way no one else is.

RF: I think that’s a great point. Because there is this search for instant success, instant gratification.

A cellist may have their success now, and make it seem easier than it was.

Maybe they just haven’t given their whole backstory. I think if you look at those people, you can really trace back that it didn’t happen all of a sudden for them.

There’s a story, and a backstory, which has a further backstory.

I help people a lot with personal branding.

If you’re trying to be known as a thought leader in a specific space, and if you’re trying to do exactly what everybody else is doing because they’re the ones at the top, you’ve lost your authenticity, what makes you different.

You have to start with your own unique story. That’s how you can stand out.

Ryan Foland - Quote on starting with your unique story - World of Speakers Podcast (Black) _ Powered by SpeakerHub

I think too many people are trying to emulate a certain speaker’s success. With speaking I think there’s a unique opportunity to look inward first. Start with what you have that nobody else has, and then find a way to communicate that.

I think that’s inspiring for some people, but also frustrating for others who just want to get paid huge honorariums, and travel around the world.

JD: I understand that. I’m in the place right now where I have been largely in the creative industry my entire life. The message that I have is for a larger audience. Right now I’m in the process of exploring how to transition out from a very small industry where I’m very well known into a much larger world where I’m not very well known.

Even having all of the years of experience I’ve had speaking, and made a living from doing that for ten years of my life, that doesn’t mean this transition will be easy. In any business there are going to be constant backward and forward fluctuations.

You have to continue to keep coming up with something fresh to engage people’s imaginations, and to get attention in a way that’s hopefully about something you really really believe in.

RF: Making sure it passes the fire alarm test.

What’s interesting is that you mention you’ve had success with a very small niche market. You’re now able to use that as a stepping stool to get to other industries. Would you make the tactical suggestion of going after a smaller niche market before try to reach a larger market?

JD: Absolutely.

RF: Because I think sometimes people want to speak about leadership with CEOs. Are you like, good luck with that?

JD: CEOs want to hear from people who have been impressive CEOs of large companies.

It’s a tough sell to get a bunch of random CEOs to want to listen to you if you’re not the CEO of a huge company. It’s not impossible. But the only way to do that is to be a very well renowned expert in a field that’s very interesting or fascinating to them.

That’s why books can be so important. If you write a book on something, you become the authority on it.

I have my own version of that. I put out this body of work as a photographer, which was like my book. If I were a touring musician, that would be like my record, and I would tour on that record.

To my understanding, there has to be some form of output where people can say, “Oh, this is who this person is. I’m interested in that. I want more of that.” The vast majority of my speaking appearances now come from people who have already seen me speak somewhere else.

It’s a catch 22 that once you’re out there speaking, you have more speaking opportunities. How do you get out there in the first place? You have to release a record, or some form of that.

Again, the more real the content, the more honest, the more unusual, the more expert, all of those things will attract the people trying to decide if this is something they want to listen to.

But I’ve actually worked with a lot of musicians, as I’ve mentioned, and I’ve been around that industry a little bit too. There’s one thing that I remember hearing that always stuck with me. I was at this one conference, and this person was talking about being a manager to an audience who want to be rock stars. They all thought if they could just get a manager they would be a huge rock star.

Someone raised their hand and said, “I have everything I need, I just don’t have a manager. Can you please just tell me how do I get a manager?” She looked at this person and said, “Trust me, when you’re good enough a manager will come to you.”

That’s just not what you want to hear sitting in that audience. That’s deflating. Because we have this idea in our head that our stuff is good enough. But most of us have not really put in the amount of hours that it would take to master something like the cello.

What a person should do until they’ve clocked in all of those hours is just practice, practice, practice. Do free things at local organizations and communities.

I’m working in my local community here in Los Angeles to do some speaking programs for people who donate a lot of money to disadvantaged children who are homeless or from drug addicted families. That’s not something I get paid for, but it’s something that’s deeply fulfilling to me.

It’s a great way to continue to practice my craft, as well as giving back to the community around me. Plus I’ve built relationships with people who are like minded, who care about people in a similar way that I do. I think part of what I’m saying here is this is a long game.

Some people are just looking for the three steps they need to be the next Tony Robbins. I think you need 40 years to be Tony Robbins.

In the meantime, enjoy the journey. Live a life where you’re building unusual experiences, and seeing things that other people aren’t seeing.

Slowly over time your brain will become this very special, unique, individualized thing. If you just practice your craft long and well enough, eventually you will start putting out fruit no one has tasted. That’s when people will say, “This is what I want. This is what I need. Where do I get more of this?”

RF: You’re giving me the goosebumps, which means this is a great time to end the show.

There’s a superstition on goosebumps, that when you get goosebumps you’ve experienced that moment in a different form, either in a different life, or in the past.

There are moments where you get motivated. I think sometimes that motivation isn’t the ra ra ra, it’s this deep understanding that it will take time, and that’s okay, because that’s what this process is all about.

Don’t skip to go to collect your $200, buy properties along the way. Collect these unique experiences.

This really comes down to the mindfulness. The more mindful you can be of your journey, the better your journey is, and the more fun you can have.

Because at the end of the day boys and girls just want to have fun. Speaking, music, or art can be tools for you to have fun, and to engage the audience on an emotional level.

Whether you’re a jedi who can make everybody cry, or a jedi for living, or a jedi in making everybody think a little bit differently about how the information you gave them can change their life in a little way.

JD: Can I close with one last thing?

RF: Absolutely. Just don’t give me the goosebumps again, because my hair is going to stand up, and I’ll have to go get a haircut.

JD: Just tying up what you said there. In addition to that, there really is no guarantee that we will get to the places we think we want to go.

If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that my brain was not always right about the things that I thought I wanted.

My strategy now at this point is to still pick end destinations and goals. But I just try to have the best quality of life I can as I do that. I try to have the most fun I can as I do that. Because if fun is your main goal while you’re working towards achieving something, that feeling is not dependent on whether or not you achieve it.

If your goal is to become a speaker, really ask yourself if you want to be a speaker in a year or two years, how can you have the most fun doing that?

Because then whether or not you ever end up becoming that, you have a lot of fun along the way.

As silly or simple as that may seem, when you’re having fun, your brain is growing. When you’re having fun, you’re engaged, and you’re learning.

I think anybody pursuing anything really would benefit by paying attention to that simple indicator of, am I having fun, am I engaged?

Because if you’re not there’s not a good chance that you’re going to have something worth delivering even if you do get to the end of that journey.

RF: Jesh, I’ve had a lot of fun in this show today. I’ve learned a lot. This has definitely been a fulfilling experience.

If someone wanted to find out more information, what is your favorite social platform, or where would you point them? If right now they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I need more Jesh,” where do they go?

JD: There’s a contact form on my website, jeshde

Send me a message, and I’ll add you to my contacts. Instagram is really the only social media platform I do anything with these days. You can find me there under Jeshde Rox.

RF: I encourage everybody to reach out.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ryan Foland here with the one, the only, Jesh de Rox. I’m excited for everyone to take these simple tools, and implement them so they can think better thoughts. Because thoughts become words, and words become things. Jesh says, “Think the thoughts you want.”

Join us on other podcast episodes here as we explore speakers from around the world to help you become the person you want to be. Whether that be a speaker, an artist, or a professional cello player for all I care.

We’re signing out. We’ll see you later. Find more episodes on

Thank you Jesh. This has been a pleasure. We’ll see you later.

JD: Cool. Thank you.


A bit about World of Speakers

World of Speakers is a weekly podcast that helps people find their own voice, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business.

We cover topics like: what works versus what doesn't, ideas on how to give memorable presentations, speaking tips, and ideas on how to build a speaking business.

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