World of Speakers E.112: Mike Olson | Turning Life’s Challenges Into Speaking Opportunities


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World of Speakers E.112:  Mike Olsen | Turning Life's Challenges Into Speaking Opportunities

Ryan Foland speaks with Mike Olson, a motivational speaker and a retired professional e-sports player.

In this episode of our podcast series, Ryan and Mike talk about the importance of using one's voice to communicate intentions and goals effectively. They also discussed the value of not fearing failure and using it to improve oneself.

Tune in for an interview full of ideas and tips on leveraging one's skills and being self-reflective as the key aspects of personal growth and success in speaking and life.

Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.

Subscribe to World of Speakers on iTunes or Soundcloud.


Welcome to the World of Speakers podcast brought to you by SpeakerHub.  In each episode, we interview a professional speaker and reveal their very best tips and tricks.  You'll learn to improve your presentation skills, keep your audience engaged,  and learn how to grow your business to get more gigs and make more money.  

Here's your host, Ryan Foland.  

Ryan Foland: Ahoy, everyone. It is Ryan and I am back with another episode of the World of Speakers. 

And we have a special one today with a special guest,  a friend of mine,  somebody who I have not talked to in a while, and I'm super excited because he recently reached out.  And he is now here on this show so that you can get to know him.  And then maybe you can reach out to him.  His name is Mike Olson, and he is not only a motivational speaker,  he is a retired professional e-sports player.  And if I had to describe him, I'd say he is a,  if not the,  go-getter. 

Mike, welcome to the show.  How are you doing?  

Mike Olson: I'm doing pretty good.  Thanks, Ryan.  

Ryan Foland: Well,  you know, here on the World of Speakers,  we love talking with speakers. And the best way to get to know a speaker is to ask a speaker a story that shaped them.  So rather than me talking about you and your bio,  I'm going to ask you to share a story that shaped you. And then we'll dig into conversation from there.  We'll learn about some of your tips when it comes to the art of public speaking.  And then we will talk about how you continue to build and grow your speaking business. 

So story time.  What do you think?  What's the story that comes to mind?  

Mike Olson: Well, I was born with arms and legs.  And so what that means is my arms just stopped development just before the elbows and my legs just before the knees.  So that kind of makes my approach to life quite a bit different.  So from an early age,  I needed to use my voice to be able to express what normally we would use as hands and gestures and things like that. 

I have the gesture with my voice. So from even just a small child, I've had to use my voice to,  say,  ask someone to grab something off the top shelf of a cabinet or things like that. And so it really shaped my understanding and ability to express my voice and articulate what I want, think,  feel, things like that.  Fortunately,  I have all my other faculties.  My brain is intact and I'm able to express myself well.  So I'm blessed with that.  But, yeah, so it has shaped my life considerably. And yeah. 

Ryan Foland:  It’s kind of like an obvious question with an obvious answer.  But and you're known as the real handy and you're a retired e-sports player.  Tell me about that,  because somebody might be thinking,  well,  how does one play e-sports with no arms or legs?  

Mike Olson: So it's a little bit interesting when I have the first video games I started to play.  It was like the Legend of Zelda on the original Super Nintendo.  My mom actually was the person in our family to finish the video game herself. 

And she likes to tell the story of one time she went to the bathroom and I just kind of hobbled up to the controller and started using my legs to control the controller.  And that kind of sets the theme for a lot of my uses of, well, just everything in general, but also video games.  I've been playing video games since the early age and I'm very competitive. And I'm lucky that my disability and my discoveries of different video games and the keyboard, they all kind of meld together in a very easy way where I just use the right side of the keyboard instead of the left.  And yeah, that's pretty much it.  It's easy for me, but it's hard to understand.  

Ryan Foland: Right, right.  And I mean, when we've hung out, you've been pretty mobile and, you know,  walking around and stuff like that as well. And it's amazing to see how active you are and how mobile you are and your ability to play video games and be here with me. And, you know, you're up to speed on technology. 

We were talking the other day about AI and chat, GPT and all this stuff.  So it's like,  even though you don't have arms and legs,  you're still super connected.  You're still there. And I think that it really sets a foundation for what makes sense to inspire people and to share your story and not just your story, but to connect with people on a real level at the end of the day.  And so, talk to me a little bit more about this sort of like using your words from an early age as your hands and your feet, like step us through that process.  Was it just the fact that it had to happen?  And so it approached that as a direction?  Or did you just learn that you needed to be able to articulate what you wanted to get, what you needed?  How did that whole process develop?  And obviously,  you're still using your voice today as a key piece of everyday life,  really.

 Mike Olson: Sure.  One of the early lessons that life taught me, I learned, was I like to share my grandparents raised me and they kind of raised me in such a way that I would need help for the rest of my life. 

I slowly learned, usually, I like to think because of a social context of worrying about what it looks like socially,  got me concerned about how I might do things later in life,  not necessarily someone do them for me.  I slowly began to develop an understanding that I would need to conform to the world and not the world will conform to me.  And so I've always had a very hungry personality.  I want to learn, I want to do, I want to think,  say,  etc.  And so when it came to conforming to my surroundings,  I've just kind of used my surroundings,  whether it be a stick to press a button or something to that effect, to even my voice.  I've learned that my voice is something that is most powerful for anybody.  And using my voice to be able to communicate,  not only my intentions,  but my goals,  etc.  Those are probably the most worthwhile things to me as a person. 

Ryan Foland: I would agree.  And I'm fascinated with the voice.  I love to speak.  I feel that communication is something that most people can level up,  no matter where they're at.  It's like skateboarding.  Like, there's just always levels and continuous levels to it.  And so you're, I guess, the necessity for you to understand the importance of your voice and just speech in general.  It makes sense that it's such a refined tool for you and such a powerful medium. And so I think that, you know, every time I hang out with you, I just I appreciate life more.  And I feel that your resiliency rubs off on me. And I feel that at the end of the day, like it's just another person who is dealing with their own life. And there's a lot of inspiration within that.  So let's transition into some advice you have about using this tool that we are collectively sharing and our listeners are prospective speakers or people who are event planners looking for speakers. 

So let's do a little deep dive into the voice, like your tips for articulating what you need to get or what you want to get across to an audience.  Maybe we'll start with three and see how well that goes.  But what's one thing that comes to the top of your mind as far as the art of public speaking and how we can better utilize our voice?  

Mike Olson: I'd say the number one, actually two pieces of advice that I would want to share. Number one is do not fear failure.  Failure, I have only used to make myself better, more experienced, but also more understanding of what I can use.  And this is my second point as leverage.  By leverage, I mean to define, use what your skills and what things that you can bring to the table in a more self-exploitive manner to be able to promote yourself, to be able to refine yourself. And so, I would say in my experience, and now I've spoken for businesses, I’ve spoken for classrooms, I’ve spoken to veterans and assisting and learning how to make more use of your surroundings as a person with a disability. 

And so there's been quite a different slate of different experiences I've had.  The fear of failure, not knowing how to succeed in any one particular event or situation is, I’d say probably the most advantageous skill that I have developed.  You really need to be able to be secure in yourself and know what you need to offer.  And in order for that to happen, you need to fail.  There needs to be times in which you don't know what to do and you need to learn from that and self-reflection and things like that. 

Because at the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world.  And that really has led me to understand that there are things I need to leverage of my skill set.  Things I am good at, things I'm not very good at, things I need to develop and things I need to be more reflective on.  And I'd say those two, if one can be more self-reflective, those would probably be the qualities I would say would be a good jumping platform as to starting a speaking career or develop that sort of skill. 

Ryan Foland: All right, so let's break these down a little bit. The fear of failure.  I agree completely.  And I think that as you're starting to get your speaking chops, we always have this challenge where it's called the Hollywood conundrum.  You have to get the experience to get the gig, but you have to get the gig to get the experience.  And this is something that we all are challenged with as we're building our profession as a speaker.  And I think fear of failure is a big part of that because maybe we can call it the failure conundrum where in order to be successful, you have to fail. 

But in order to fail, you have to try to be successful. And if you're sort of in this middle ground and you're too afraid to put yourself out there or you actually never get started in the first place, like that fear of what might happen is what's going to actually stop you from moving forward.  Granted,  moving forward,  you might fall flat on your face,  but I always tell people,  you know, something that happens that's bad to you or this failure,  like always makes for a good story.  Most definitely.  I remember one of the first Toastmasters speeches I was giving and the topic was on water.  And, you know, Toastmasters is an organization where you are basically public speaking in a practice-safe environment. And I was up there speaking and I'll never forget it.  I just forgot everything and I was like, just total blank dead.  Everyone's looking at me in the face.

I'm like, I just, it was like super embarrassing.  I felt like I felt like, but at the end of the day, it wasn't the end of the world. And it's actually a story that I tell quite a bit.  And in order to get past that, I now know what it feels like to be totally stuck, but I wouldn't have had that if I didn't put myself out there in the first place.  So for people who are fearful of the failure, what do you tell them to break through?  I mean, it's easy just to say to go for it, but how would you phrase it in a way to get people to be okay with getting up there and messing up? 

Mike Olson: I would suggest that before I start, I want to make a clear distinction between winging it.  Winging it. Yeah. As a phrase.  Yes.  And putting yourself out there, they are similar, but they're very, very different. Winging it is a lazy term. That means that like you don't really prepare or you don't really know what you're doing, but you're just going to put yourself in this situation and just whatever.  That's not good.  That is not what I want to encourage.  

Ryan Foland: That almost sets you up for failure that doesn't necessarily bring fortune, right? 

Like,  if you're weak and you don't put the effort into it and then you actually do fail,  that's actually worse,  right?  That's when you fail and you actually fail. 

Mike Olson: You're bad and you should feel bad.  But in terms of putting yourself out there,  everyone has that first initial fear of stage fright, I suppose you could put it,  but you will never be able to progress unless you just take it. 

You know, you got to be able to have that courage and stuff in order to develop the courage, you have to put yourself out there while being prepared.  And that's really it. 

Ryan Foland: So maybe it's a I like that distinction.  So maybe we can phrase it instead of like, instead of saying something like, don’t be fearful of failure.  It's like, I don't know, how can we change that with?  

Mike Olson: Let's see.  I don't know. 

Ryan Foland: So be prepared to fail.

Mike Olson: That's what I was about to say.  That be prepared to fail.

Ryan Foland:  So being prepared to fail helps you to fail forward.  How about that? 

Mike Olson: Fail forward.  There you go. And that's a good way to put it.

Ryan Foland: So if you wing it and end up failing,  you actually fall backwards. 

Mike Olson: Yeah,  that's exactly right.  One step forward,  two steps backwards kind of thing.  Yeah.  

Ryan Foland: So prepared failure is a preferred failure because it helps you fail forward.  

Mike Olson: It's sort of like, this is how I'm envisioning it. 

Being prepared and then fail is like one step backwards and two steps forward,  as opposed to not being prepared and just failing. 

Ryan Foland: Two steps back.  

Mike Olson: Exactly.  Exactly.  It's one step forward because you're doing it,  but two steps backwards because you're not prepared.  And that's completely counterintuitive.  

Ryan Foland: I like that.  All right.  So to recash our little brainstorm session here, you might have to say it again, because I was listening and I was trying to reframe it, but we have a new frame of failure.  You're either prepared failure or you're winging it failure.  

Mike Olson: Right.  And so to really put in things in their perspective, we have two different forms of stress.  We have stress that is not good and stress that is good. And I view the good stress as just putting yourself out there and swallowing your fear and doing that event or doing what you don't want to do and failing.  That's like one step.  

Ryan Foland: But you're prepared for that failure.  You're doing it, you’re all. 

Mike Olson: Yeah, exactly.  You're preparing.  Yes. And that's like one step backwards because we're feeling that stress, we don't want.  And it's two steps forward because we're progressing. We're understanding and expanding upon what we are not good in or failing at, as opposed to not being prepared and just thinking that we don't need to study or anything, anything like that. And then failing.  That's that really is like a judgment on ourselves. And that's like one step forward because we're doing it still. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah.  

Mike Olson: So, two steps backwards because we're not prepared and we're really just not taking it how we should.  

Ryan Foland: I think that's awesome.  You know, one thing that I have always noticed about you is whether you want to say like speaking from the heart or, you know,  putting your heart on your sleeve or your shoulder or something to that extent.  I think that your ability to come across as genuine and your ability to come across as a human, I think resonates.  So how do you approach that?  Or is there a certain strategy? Does that just come naturally because your voice is your sharpest tool and you have nothing to lose?  Like you have nothing to hide.  Like you're there and people see and you're still speaking.  But how do you create that authenticity as you're preparing to fail to just be in front of these variety of audiences? 

Mike Olson: Transparency is what I would reply to that.  For the past 10 years or so, I've been broadcasting and streaming games online as an income.  I used this platform as a stepping tool to further like a speaking career in that I try to morph and combine my motivational speaking into it.  And this has allowed me to understand a much, much, much greater capacity of understanding people and how to present information and also to take criticism and things like that. 

And so most definitely,  I would consider I'll call it e-traveling. It has expanded my understanding of different peoples, different environments,  the different approaches to not only disabilities through different cultures,  but also how to present things to certain demographics of people and things like that. 

Ryan Foland: Transparency with a capital E.  And I like this idea of the visits or the experiences that you've had with other people online in different gaming situations, you know, international situations. You're using those as experiences to see how others view you culturally and what that might be around.  And then using sort of those interactions to create this through line of you always show up as you.  And then you're just kind of figuring out how, I guess you could call it the audience response to you or reacts to you based on their own perception of somebody having arms and legs or a cultural perception of what it means. 

And I think that transparency is hard.  I'm sure it's hard for you.  It's hard for, I think, everybody, because we might have this vision of what we think we should look like or what we should be saying or how we're seeing.  But the reality, like, we really can't change.  This is how we show up.  

Mike Olson: Most definitely.  And I think probably one of the most useful comments I can make on that is that I can only influence first impressions.  The first impression that somebody has on a group is going to be one that is based on culture, in my opinion,  and I can only influence that I cannot change it.  However, as I keep with it and present myself and as people become familiar with it,  I'll be able to break through that cultural first impression and really show that this is me.  I am who I am and that I think plays true to what people understand me as. 

Ryan Foland: Talk to me about your experience and interactions with the audience.  Is there a certain connection that you find or is there kind of this, I don't know, distance that you have to travel physically or emotionally to, like, to the connect?  How do you interact with your audiences?  Is there something unique about that that you find works or doesn't work?  

Mike Olson: There is most definitely a difference between real life,  when I say real life,  meaning in person,  and something that is based solely on the Internet. There is a predisposition of doubt, I feel,  that is inherent with anything to do with the Internet.  And I think that my beginnings with not only in person doing motivational speaking, things like that,  face to face,  but then transitioning to the Internet is really given me a crash course and an understanding of maintaining that ability to speak from your heart and be true to yourself and really having like an unwavering stance on that. There are certain demographics that have different feels, that different expressions,  how they go about expressing themselves.  And I think both traveling and e-traveling has, it makes me a lot more humble, I like to think.

 There's a lot of different situations and experiences that have definitely been exclusive to these kind of qualities I've learned.  And really, it boils down to experience,  I suppose,  with regards to audiences on the Internet and in person and face to face.  There is a difference, but the people,  people are people.  You got to be able to connect to people as a whole and really play off the energy of your audience.  If there is no audience or there's not a lot of expression,  it does get a little bit difficult, but that's where you got to be able to draw on your experience and courage to be able to present that.

 But connecting with your audience and understanding what they think and what they feel,  asking questions as a presenter is always great, in my opinion.  And playing out the energy,  like I said,  of the audience definitely is a skill to behold. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah, I mean, there is this divide where you have an audience and then a speaker.  But like the real goal is to bridge that divide and help people feel like there is no stage, but this is this sort of connection where, you know, and that's the power of the stage where you are one person talking with hundreds or thousands of people and you want that conversation to make it feel like it is an individual conversation.  But sometimes there is that divide.  Maybe you've got a spot that's after lunch and everybody's in sort of like food hungover.  Maybe it's the first thing in the morning and they're just super tired.  

So I think your concept of transparency and essentially meeting the audience where they're at, but being unwavering, as you said, as far as who you are, it doesn't really give them an option to disconnect.  It just gives them opportunity to continue to connect, regardless of where they're at, I guess.  

Mike Olson: Most definitely.  And one last thing I'd like to add, too, is that I'm very opinionated and I'm not afraid of my opinions to be heard, but there's a time and a place to be opinionated.  And so that's really the beauty of learning when and where to express that and to not be fearful of that.  But at the same time, heed and understand the yield of when you should and when it's the right time is something that is like a learned skill, really. 

And I think that's the beauty of being able to connect with your audience and putting yourself on a level that really is not necessarily a viewpoint.  Or it's not really a it doesn't become a viewing gallery, per se, of audience and speaker.  But really, it’s all just one big room that we're in and we're sharing experiences, really.  

Ryan Foland: Totally.  Well, let's transition and talk a little bit about what's worked for you building your speaking business.  I know you mentioned streaming, and maybe we can even tap more into how that was a catalyst for it. 

But for people who are looking to increase the number of stages they're at or explore more e-travel opportunities or look into different ways of growing their own business, what are some of the things that have worked for you?  What are some of the things that haven't worked for you?  You know, let's be transparent in helping people get to know you and learning from your experiences.  

Mike Olson: The ability to convert thought into writing is definitely a skill that I believe is something that will help someone be able to find those connections and establish them and act as a jumping board for the world stage and also the speaking stage is to be able to write your thoughts and to express them in a form that people can read is absolutely a beginning point.

 Because not everything is going to be just purely speaking.  There is going to be some environments that you need to write. You need to be able to write into something.  You need to opt into this or things like that.

And if you can't really or don't develop that skill,  then it becomes a lot more difficult,  in my opinion.  

Ryan Foland: So really quick on that. So with your, I guess, reliance on your voice as your arms and legs and getting what you want and being able to articulate, do you find that that makes you a better writer or like a speech to writer?  Do you write like you speak?  Do you speak like you write?  I'm curious to know a little bit more about that.  

Mike Olson: Writing, I personally believe and feel that there is a imaginary organ that we have that is in itself its own responsibility to translate that thought into writing. 

And that is something that I feel like I have had to put more energy to develop because for a long, long time, I could not do that.  I avoided writing altogether, not because of it is somewhat physically limiting, but more so it's tiring for my personality, for my brain to translate a thought into writing. And that's definitely something I needed to work on.  And it has taken a considerable amount of energy to be able to refine and develop that. 

And I think that should be the number one or if not, like top three things that somebody might want to consider being able to develop.  

Ryan Foland: What I love about this advice is we're talking about speaking and we're reinforcing the fact that one of the most important things to do as a speaker is to learn how to write well or articulate in writing well, because you're not always on the stage. Actually, if you think about it, like if you take, you know, an average or a medium or even a high-level speaker and you mapped out how much time they are either writing to prepare or writing on social or writing for content or writing on blogs versus the amount of time that they're actually speaking. 

And now that I think about it, it's probably this crazy percentage where like the actual amount of time you're speaking is probably like very small in comparison to all of the thinking and writing and sort of brand development and all of that as well.  I haven't really thought about that. That's interesting.  

Mike Olson: Absolutely.  

Ryan Foland: I was like literally thinking about that.  I'm like, I always talk about being a speaker, but I write a lot and I'm just having a moment of reconciliation. 

But I mean, I guess if you think about it, I talk about how I'm a speaker and I'm an author, and so I may not identify as in my brain right now, but I am putting it out there that I'm a writer and that it is an important part of it.  

Mike Olson: So how often do you write down on a piece of paper when you're preparing for something like you ask yourself a question for the sole intent to be able to answer yourself?  And that it's one of the things I still do is if I'm preparing for something, I write down what are the different important viewpoints of this as question to myself to be able to answer that and then be able to prepare exactly what I would want to say in a swallowable form.

Ryan Foland: So, I'm a Post-it note junkie for sure.  And literally I have in front of me people, this is audio,  but I have like six or seven Post-it notes that I've just been writing on here.  And I think one of the reasons why I love Post-it notes, aside from the fact that when you're done, you can crumple them up and then challenge yourself to toss it into the recycle bin. 

But there's something about only having a few inches by a few inches to put something down. And so to your question, yes, I write stuff down all the time.  And those Post-it notes usually end up on one of two places.  I have a notes on my computer that it's a notes for quotes,  because as you know, I also draw a lot of stick figures and I think in your quotes.  And so when I think of something or something is inspiring or possibly good stick figure material, I'll write it down wherever I am. 

And then I'll put it into this quotes notes and then I'll use that as inspiration to go back when I'm drawing my stick figures.  Another thing that I'll share is that I actually have a scuba diving notepad in my shower.  

Mike Olson: What is a scuba diving notepad?  

Ryan Foland: Scuba diving notepad is a notepad.  It's literally a pencil and a little slate that you can write on underwater. And so in the shower, I always find that I have these like magical inspirational moments because it's the one time in my day when like no emails are pinging,  no text messages are coming through.  There's like pure I'm sitting there naked. I'm just like, the world is great because nobody's bothering me right now.  My brain just gets all relaxed and then it goes bing,  bing, bing,  bing and all this like all of these dots of connection,  a book that I'm reading,  a podcast that I'm listening to or a video that I'm listening to in the car. 

It just all of a sudden like connects and I'm like, oh my gosh, that’s an idea.  But if I don't write it down, it’s gone.  And so I have this little notepad while I'm in the shower and I scribble my little note and there's two sides of it. So one side gets filled and then the other side gets filled and then when there's no more space, I take a picture of it and I translate it into the appropriate note category.  

Mike Olson: That's great. That's awesome. 

Ryan Foland: All right.  So, to build your business, identify that writing is a key part of speaking.

I love that.  Nobody's ever given the advice in a hundred plus episodes to build your business, be a better writer as a speaker. 

Mike Olson: I think that's great. Most definitely.  

In my personal opinion, it takes to be able to truly remember and add something to your memory and also your style, your personality.  One must be able to see and you have to have two separate senses react off of something, whether it be hear, see, feel,  what are the other senses?

Right.  You need two key senses to be able to understand something. And in my opinion, writing and reading what you write is kind of like a package to be able to think and understand what to ask, then to be able to answer yourself in writing is most definitely a skill that is most powerful and becoming your own.  

Ryan Foland: I do have to admit something.  There are often times and this literally happened last night, I took a whole stack of post-it notes that I cram in the front part of my bag and they just stack up. 

And then I have literally like post-it notes flying out of my bag when I pull other things. I'm like, OK, now it's time.  So I'm reading these notes.  But honestly, sometimes I have no idea what I've written because it's so damn sloppy because I'm doing it so fast.  And in the moment, it's like my doctor, right?  I'm like, oh, you know, you get the ups and the downs and cross a few T's and I'll get it.  And I sat there last night looking at like, I have absolutely no idea.  Sometimes on Twitter now X, I would take a picture of my note or my post a note and be like, can anybody tell me what this note was? 

So make sure when you write your notes, try to slow down and be legible.  And if I have the patience, if I write in all caps, I have a much better chance of retrieving that information than my weird, you know, Dr.  Scribble.  

Mike Olson: Yeah, you mentioned early on that you had an experience at a speaker meeting that you just kind of went blank and right in the beginning.  I think I call that scatterbrain.  And so most definitely, I think everybody will have those experiences, myself included. And I think probably one another skill that will eventually just naturally come is that you understand your limitations as a person and as a speaker. 

And sometimes those limitations, our heads are just like hard drives.  There's only a limited amount of space and data that we can hold.  Once we expand upon that data limit, we start losing stuff and we start losing track of things.  And I think that being able to know your limit of how long, like you mentioned, not knowing what the note said,  the farther away from the moment that you wrote down that note,  and reflect upon it, the less likely you will be able to organize it in a correct way with all the other information.  And so that is definitely a skill to understand what our limitations are and to again, use those limitations as our positives, as our skills,  and to develop that.  

Ryan Foland: Yeah, being aware of what you're able to do and not do to that.  

Mike Olson: Most definitely.  And everybody's different too.  

Ryan Foland: You know, this also makes me think of this concept. I was reading an article from Ted Rubin, who is, he's an amazing speaker and he talks about ROR instead of ROI.  It's like the return on relationships instead of the return on investment.  So, shout out to you, Mr.  Ted.  And he was talking about AI and content creation and how in his mind, it's going to create this like info apocalypse.  And the idea is that it's never been easier as of right now with AI to generate content, this idea of, you know, just content, an article, a blog, whatever it is.  But the demand is not necessarily increasing for content.  So, there's like this astronomical increase of content and then the ability to create content gets easier and easier.  So, there's more content, but it's like we can only consume so much. And it's not like we're excited to go read AI articles that are just based on prompts that are just like information that we could go get if we wanted to go get. 

And so, I was just talking with a client today about these ties in with like notes and real time and your experiences. And when a thought comes to mind to write it down, I’ve been playing around a lot with AI. And I think that what is most powerful are the personal thoughts that you have or the notes to yourself or these epiphanies or these stories or things that are relevant to you as a human that your brain has sort of like developed based on your own experiences. And then I think using AI to flush out your own stories and your own insights and to take a sloppily written post-it notes and turn that into a blogger article, I believe, is where the magic is.

 So instead of just creating content for the sake of content, this idea of to be a good speaker is to be a good writer and to be a good writer is to capture those moments of inspiration in post-it notes or however you capture it.  Then I think you can use AI to flush out your original content, which people can't they can't create on their own. 

They don't have your experiences. And I think as speakers, that’s how we can be empowered with not being as intimidated as some might be about this AI revolution as it's happening.  Because as long as your experiences are being the core of it, that core, that post-it note, that moment of insight, then sure, use AI as a tool to build it out. But those are my thoughts on how I think as a speaker, really pulling on this thread that you are a writer and that comes in the moments of inspiration to help people get your content when you're not on stage and you're not on stage for most of the time. 

Mike Olson: Most definitely.  I think there is a separation.  There's two different viewpoints I think people are developing of AI.  There's one that is AI will do everything for us and then AI is a tool to be used. And I think that one is more, well, I'll just be honest, one is more correct and one's not.  I think that it totally can be used as a tool because there is a difference in the basis of doubt that can be cast upon an AI versus a person. 

A person there, you can't really doubt someone's opinion because each person has their own experiences and what may be true for one person and may not necessarily be true for the other.  But when we use AI as a tool, we automatically assume that it's correct.  But there's no citing of articles.  We don't know if it's correct or not.  

Ryan Foland: There's hallucinations.  The AI is hallucinating because their job is to come up with an answer.  

Mike Olson: And so, the really most important thing to be using it as a tool, I think as an organizational tool, just like the typewriter was used as a tool when it was first created or the computer or the Internet or Microsoft Word when it was first created or used.  They allowed us to be able to exponentially gather and expand our ideas in a, I need to come up with a better word, but swallowable, swallowable pill that we can take and understand and feel rather than just having to take all this jumbled information and just hear.  And so, I think that's totally where AI is absolutely amazing as a tool.  And I'm only just recently learning how to utilize it. 

And there again, it's a skill on its own is being able to understand how to ask the right questions.  

Ryan Foland: And honestly, that I think with your experience and your reliance from the first moment of your being able to speak, you were like the ultimate prompt engineer because like what you say is exactly how you have to instruct people to help you out. And what you say is your ability to be a prompt engineer in these platforms.  So that that's a really cool advantage, leveraging those strengths in your experience in prompt engineering.

Mike Olson: Most definitely, most definitely something I still need to develop, too. And I think that AI will become extremely powerful in that context.  And I don't think that the average person really understands quite how to put that in their perspective yet.  But when we do, I think that that's when that information apocalypse will be here. That's when it will arrive.  It's going to be better understand how to utilize that. 

Ryan Foland: Well, we'll realize it's coming when it's actually here.  OK, so we've been super techie here, which is awesome.  Let's go low tech to round this thing out.  What is the most low-tech way that you find you can get on stages, something that has nothing to do with the Internet, something that I would assume includes other people.  But this idea of like, what is something non tech that we can pull away with so we don't just go down the AI rabbit hole? 

Mike Olson: One thing that I was very slow to develop and that absolutely is the number one low tech thing that I have had to rely on to expand myself is reaching out to people, exploiting yourself.  There's not a very good connotation that comes with the word exploit, but absolutely exploiting yourself is something advantage.  

Ryan Foland: So essentially just reaching out or word of mouth.  

Mike Olson: That includes many things, actually. I think that includes you could put together a portfolio if you wanted to, whether it be in physical form or just what you say and present to people, like a vocal resume, if you will. 

And being able to present yourself and ask and reach out to people in a relatable way, I think just simply going out and be like, hey, can you do this for me?  May not necessarily be the best way to present yourself initially.  

Ryan Foland: But really, sorry for interrupting.  I'll give an example here that you're part of.  We haven't talked in a while and you just shot me a text to just catch up and then we caught up.  And as a result of that conversation, I was like, let’s get you on the World of Speakers podcast.  You didn't hit me up and be like, I want to be on your show.  Put me on your show.  That was a natural result of a physical, no low tech conversation at the end of the day. 

Mike Olson: Most definitely.  And you have to be able to understand how to level with people and understand their process of thinking to where a lot of times, including, I guess, in our situation, I wanted to brainstorm solutions and ideas rather than just simply having an end to means to ask you of.  And I think that that's the skill to be had is that being able to brainstorm and have different ideas and recognize other people's positives and negatives and things like that. 

That's kind of where the basis of me being on here, I think, came from.  

Ryan Foland: That's awesome.  You know, I what I'm thinking in my head is that, like, I feel like a lot of people probably have a hard time asking for help, and it's probably stemmed in maybe they see it as a piece of failure.  Like, why would I reach out to that person knowing that I need help? And like, when I reach out to them and ask for help, they’re going to know that I'm not doing as good as I maybe have the impression that I'm doing online. 

Or if I'm asking for help to get referred to other stages, maybe they don't think that I'm a good speaker.  Maybe they don't think that my business is going well.  So, it's like, I don't know, I feel that kind of taps into transparency.  And with your situation, literally having no arms and no legs, you have no choice but to ask for help as part of just the regular routine. It's like if you don't ask for help, that’s like an issue. 

And so, I mean, how can you share with people who are afraid of asking for help as somebody who has essentially leveraged help and prompt engineering for your whole life based on your physical situation? 

How can you inspire our listeners to ask for help?  

Mike Olson: I think we feel that asking for help is very ugly.  It's an ugly thing. It makes us feel ugly.  It makes us embarrassed, etc., because we have a very, very ingrained misunderstanding of what asking for help is.  In my opinion, asking for help is really just you're asking for someone to assist in achieving goals rather than can you help me come up with goals? 

You know, and it's again, as is the skill, everything in life is the skills that we develop and things like that, I think.  And asking for help in such a way that is mutually beneficial, I think, is the best basis to start upon, because it feels good to help people.  

Ryan Foland: That's a good point.  That's a good point.  You just flipped it. Like, it’s hard for me to go ask for help.  But if somebody were to ask me for help, I’d be like, I'm totally excited to help out. 

So it's like when you're on the one side for asking, it feels weird.  But if you think about it, if anybody who if you're a listener, think about anybody who would come to you for help, family, friend, colleague.  Like, I’m assuming you'd be excited to help.  But there's this bridge where if people don't ask for help, they're never going to get the help.  

Mike Olson: Exactly. I'm not going to ask my 90-year-old grandmother if she can help me help me build my computer or whatever.  But at the same time, if I have something to do with my grandmother was very, very articulate and she was great in writing and she was a poet. 

And so, if I had a word that I wanted to understand better, I would go to her and ask her because that's within her realm of doing.  And I think that's part of the developed skill is to being able to know who to ask for help for and to be able to research and study even on a small scale.  This sounds like very, very technical and things like that. But I guess that's just how my mind works.  It really is a simple thing of being able to read people.  Should I ask this question?  Can I ask this question?  If I ask this question, do I think that they can help?  And do I need help with whatever I'm going to ask, whether it be something super simple, life changing, whatever the scale of.  Need, I think that asking for help is most definitely a powerful and the best way to be able to expand ourselves, really.  

Ryan Foland: You know, bringing this full circle, it is just like you're talking around prepared failure versus winging it failure.  

And so if you are prepared to ask for help, which means you ask for help to somebody who could help you,  who would be wanting to help you if it's in their domain expertise to even help you.  That's prepared.  And even if they can't help you, it’s not a bad thing because, you know, you were prepared, you did your best effort. But if you're just like winging it and you're like throughout on LinkedIn, like, does anybody have any stages of what I can speak on?  Or if like you're not prepared and you're just like throwing it out there, like help me, I need help.  Then there's a good chance you're going to ask help from the wrong person or the person you ask might not be able to help. And then you might just like do the two steps backward, even though you're like Ryan said and Mike said to help. 

So, like, help me.  Like, no, you end up going backwards if you're not thoughtful and prepared on it. So, this all comes full circle.  And what I think is most, I guess, inspiring about this conversation for me is the reminder about intentionality and how we use our voice, whether it's communicating transparently, whether it's asking thoughtful questions that lead to brainstorming, which can eventually help you to reach your goals. 

All the way to understanding that it's not as much of a talk as it is an experience in a conversation where it all stems from your voice.  And if you think about it, none of us really have to use our arms or our legs when we're speaking.  Now, we may have hand gestures and things like that you could argue, but the voice is something purely in itself that we all can tap into a bit more. We can all be more mindful of, and it can be that key or that tool that helps us to share our experiences, our thoughts and help inspire and motivate others to reach their goals.  

Mike Olson: So, I think a person absolutely can use their voice to gesture and to, you know, you mentioned the hand gestures and things like that.  That's how I use my voice is illustrate a picture in your head of what I might be doing or feel or anything like that.  One anecdotal piece of item that I would like to share that kind of has to do with everything we're talking about and put everything in full circle is oftentimes I will need to ask people for help. 

I like to always attempt things once if I cannot achieve them.  If I fail once, I will ask for help most definitely because I'm not going to waste other people's time.  If I fail, it is much easier for me to ask for help. 

Ryan Foland: Which is a great full circle on be the best prepared you can do it at your best effort and give it a try.  And if it doesn't work, you can always ask for help. 

Mike Olson: One step backwards, two steps forward. 

Ryan Foland: There you go.  And you do that over time.  And, you know, whether it's one foot or one prosthetic in front of the other, or it's just crawling on the damn ground, as long as you're making movement towards your goal.  That's what it's all about at the end of the day.  Yep.  Well, hey, Mike, this is awesome.  Super great to connect again. I'm glad everybody got to meet you for people who want to invite you to their stage, invite you to their company,  invite you to their school,  invite you to their fill in the blank.  How do they get in touch with you so that they can start that conversation and find out how you can help them? 

Mike Olson: One of the things I need to develop is a homepage of my own,  which I have yet to do.  But I think if you want to get in touch with me to understand me or just talk with me or anything like that, I do a semi regular stream on a website called Twitch. It's  And that's handy with an I. H I N D I that's going to be the probably the best place to get a hold of me and chat with me until I get a site set up.  But yeah, that’s cool.  

Ryan Foland: Well, awesome, man.  And if anybody wants to reach out to you and they can't either can't find that they can always email me and I'd be happy to make that introduction to you because I feel the more people you can connect with the better off will all be.  

Mike Olson: Absolutely.  

Ryan Foland: Thanks for your time, man.  This was this fun to catch up and I'm definitely more motivated than I was when I started. I appreciate it, Ryan.  All right, buddy.  Well, hey, Mike, we’ll also need to get you up on speaker hub.  And in fact, that could be your home page for speaking now that I think about it. Because this podcast is sponsored by SpeakerHub. 

It's a place for you as a speaker to have a home base.  People can book you directly from there.  You can generate one pagers.  You can have a little bug that you can put into your email, which leaves them back to the site. The site also has a call for speakers’ engine.  

So, Mike, you could be like, I’m looking to see what schools in my area are looking for speakers.  You can adjust it based on the price, based on the region, all these different filters, even international, whether it's online or in person.  And now you have a whole bunch of data that you can then reach out to through the platform. And it's crazy.  I've gotten paid gigs, well-paid gigs through the platform, and I'm proud to have my profile on speaker hub.  So check it out.  

And Mike,  we'll get you one. That'll be a good starting point.  

Mike Olson: Awesome.  

Ryan Foland: Every speaker needs to have a place to be found and we'll get you set up there for sure.  And if you are interested in my craziness and you want me to be on your stage, it’s super easy.  You can just go to my website,  learn more about me, and you can book an intro call there.  And my website is 

So think about it. Find me online and make sure to follow Mikey in his Twitch broadcasting.  And yeah, that's what we got.  All right.  I got a bunch of stuff I got to write down as a post-it note so I can think about creating content around a later Mike.  

Mike Olson: All right.  Thank you very much for having me.  

Ryan Foland: All right.  Take care, buddy.  We'll talk to you soon.  All right.  Bye bye.  Adios.


A bit about World of Speakers

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

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