Making It: How to Be a Successful Online Entrepreneur
Embrace the Performer’s Mindset (Michael Port)
July 30, 2021
Esteemed public speaker and author Michael Port says it’s crucial to take the pressure off yourself and recognize that making mistakes is a normal part of being an entrepreneur. Instead of striving for approval, we should focus on the work itself, and also take a lesson from performers who keep on going even after experiencing setbacks.
Episode summary: Once a professional actor, Michael Port now runs a business called Heroic Public Speaking, which provides intensive public speaking training programs to help entrepreneurs and business leaders take their careers to the next level. He’s also a highly in-demand public speaker and New York Times bestselling author who’s been called an “uncommonly honest author” by the Boston Globe.

In this episode of Making It, Michael says that if you really do care about making it, it’s crucial to take the pressure off yourself. You are going to make mistakes along the way, and that’s just part of being an entrepreneur. He also shares insights from his own entrepreneurial journey and emphasizes the importance of being able to work hard, resisting the urge to seek approval, and embracing a performer’s mindset that helps us keep going even when we experience obstacles along the way. 

“I was proud not because of the standing ovation. But because I put in the work required to do the job at the level that I wanted to do. For me, that's when everything changed.” – Michael Port

Guest Bio:
Michael Port has written eight books, including Book Yourself Solid and Steal the Show, the latter which—according to the former president of Starbucks—“might be the most unique and practical book ever written on the topic of public speaking.”

He’s been called an “uncommonly honest author” by the Boston Globe, a “marketing guru” by The Wall Street Journal, a “sales guru” by the Financial Times, “a public speaking phenom” by Jonathan Fields and “the best public speaking coach in the world” by Lewis Howes. The founder of MastermindTalks, Jayson Gaignard, declared, “Michael Port is the best speaker I’ve ever seen.”

His books have been on the bestseller lists of the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly and have been selected by Amazon and 800-CEO-READ as “best books of the year.”

He was once a professional actor, having received his MFA from NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, guest starring on shows like Sex & The City and Law & Order, and in films like The Pelican Brief and Down to Earth. These days, Michael can be seen on MSNBC, CNBC, and PBS as an on-air expert in communication and business development and as the host of the most popular podcast on public speaking and performance, Steal the Show with Michael Port.

Resources or websites mentioned in this episode:


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Music and SFX credits: 

1. Track Title: Sweet Loving Waltz
Artist Name(s): Sounds Like Sander
Writer Name: S.L.J. Kalmeijer

2. Track Title: The Sunniest Kids
Artist Name(s): Rhythm Scott
Writer Name: Scott Roush

3. Track Title: Dancing at Ocean Crest
Artist Name(s): Cody Martin
Writer Name: Cody Kurtz Martin

4. Track Title: Porkbelly
Artist Name(s): Adrian Crutchfield
Writer Name: Adrian Crutchfield

5. Track Title: Tundra
Artist Name(s): Gold Coast
Writer Name: Andrew Dean Piland

• Episode transcript: Embrace the Performer’s Mindset (Michael Port)

[00:00:06]: I'm Michel Port and you're listening to Making It. I run a business called heroic public speaking. We are the Hogwarts for public speakers. But instead of witchcraft, our students, you'd stagecraft to morph into performers who can change the way people think feel, and act not just from the stage but in all aspects of their life. 

You would think that when you hit the New York Times list or the Wall Street Journal, best seller list or the USA Today, a list or the amazon list, whatever list you're trying to get on, you would think you would feel like you made it. And for me it never has. Those moments have always come and gone. Is just another item to check off the list. Now, I'm not saying of course I didn't appreciate getting there, but I had to work pretty hard to get there. I think that if you really do care about making it take the pressure off yourself so that you're not focusing on getting approval, you don't have to fix yourself, decouple the feedback that you get on, the work that you do from who you are as a person and instead just keep focusing on making the work better. If you're trying to get approval through the work you do, you know, you create this dynamic where the only thing that matters is the end goal of the approval and often the work feels like a struggle. But if you're focusing on trying to produce results, maybe you can also make the work worth doing.  

     If you really do want to make it, you're gonna probably have to work harder than you've imagined, maybe harder than you've worked before. You're going to need to do things that you don't know how to do right now and you're going to get a lot of people telling, you know, or they don't like something that you did, they want you to do it differently. The more responsibility you have in life, the more you need to be able to handle it. And that means you've got to handle a lot of what might be difficult or challenging things at the same time. I remember I was testing for a film called Kiss the Girls. It was a big film with Morgan Freeman and I was testing for the role-playing opposite him. It was about like most movies in the 90s, apparently, it was about a cop who was also a serial killer and they were trying to find who the serial killer was. So apparently I can play very easily either a serial killer or a cop. What one or 2? I have the look for both of them And I was up testing means you're pretty far down the line and this would have been a huge role. I was just coming out of grad school and obviously, I didn't get it because if you've seen that film, you would know I wasn't in it, but I remember going into it thinking, well, you know, if I really want to play this kind of role, do I'm gonna get typecast is a serial killer, do is the script really even that good? You know, what do I care about this? And I think I was making all these excuses because I was really nervous that if I gave everything I had to that audition and I didn't get it. Well, what would that say? And might that hurt more? You know, if I put everything into it and they don't want me, does that mean I don't have what it takes? Does that mean I'm not good enough? Does it doesn't mean they don't like me? 

     So when I look back to the early stages of my career and the time that I was pursuing acting professionally, and I think about what it meant to me at that time to make it, If I'm being honest about it, I would say that it meant getting approval, which over the years I've discovered is a terrible way to approach making it because it's very difficult to get as much approval as you might actually need to feel whole. If there's something that you know that you feel is missing or there's something that just feels incomplete, it's very, very hard to fill that hole through the approval of others. The greatest performers can create authentic moments in manufactured environments. And I would say almost every single human being is a performer simply because human beings are adaptable. Human beings are generally flexible. We change, We evolved. If you look back on your life, it's likely you've played lots of different roles over the years. So the role that you play as a parent is different than the role that you play as a child. And the role that you play as a child is different than the role you play as a friend to the people you went to high school with, which is different than the role you play as a friend to your co-workers. 

     And so what you can do to start to embrace the performer's mindset is recognized that you already are someone who has the ability to play lots of different roles with authenticity in integrity so that your core values are consistent. Your core values don't change. But the way that you interact with people may change if the environment calls for you to play a slightly different role. And so if you can be intentional about it, you start to have more control over the outcomes of the situations you're in. People don't change the way they think until you change the way they feel. But if you can change the way they feel and then change the way they think, guess what, You can also change what they do. Mhm. In 2000 and eight I wrote a book called the Think Big manifesto and it hit the New York Times bestseller list. So I booked the first speech on the topic of the book. But I made the cardinal mistake of thinking that my years of experience as a professional speaker, my years of experience as a performer, my subject matter expertise or knowledge, and my gift for the gap would be enough to do the thing that I wanted to do to do something different, really creative, really unusual and really transformational and I failed, completely bombed. People were walking out of the room that had never happened to me before. It was devastating. I think that night I spent in my hotel room curled up in a ball on the floor and there may have been a couple of pints of ice cream involved in that episode, but I said, okay, that's it. I'm not going to do another one of those speeches. I totally folded. Now I see the irony of the guy who wrote a book called the think Big manifesto Giving Up because he bombed a speech, but I did not do another thing big manifesto speech until 2014 when I was asked, I was in a particularly good mood. I think I was on my boat at the time and it just popped out of my mouth. I said, yes, no problem. So I put in process a six-month rehearsal and content development rehearsal process. I worked on it for over 500 hours. I even rewrote 80% of it two weeks before I was going to give it in Australia for 5000 people because I realized 80% of it wasn't working, But when I gave that speech in Australia for 5000 people and I got a standing ovation at the end because it worked and I was proud, not because of the standing ovation because I had put in the work required to do the job at the level that I wanted to do for me. That's when everything changed. 

     I think that sometimes when people come into entrepreneurship, they make the assumption that it's a progressive or linear or sequential process, that if you do this, then this, then this, then this, then you'll make it and you'll be done, you know, like writing a book, oh, if I finished the book and then publish it, the books done, that's how they feel that entrepreneurship is, but of course, it's not because your career as an entrepreneur is hopefully going to be long, you know, for every step forward to take two steps back. I think sometimes when people think about life, they think, ok, well the model is work really hard, accomplished something really big and then be happy, you worked really hard, accomplish something big and be happy and maybe you work really hard for a long time and maybe you do, or maybe you don't accomplish something really big, so maybe you never really get happy. That seems like a flawed model to me, but if you said, well what if I was just happy and then I worked really hard and then maybe I accomplished something big, that'd be great, but I could be happy all the way through. So sometimes if I'm in a little bit of a cheeky mood and someone says, can you just tell me one thing, just give me one thing that will help me either get booked solid or, you know, be a better speaker or book more gigs. You know, I don't want to read the whole book, I just want to like, what's the most important thing? I'm feeling a little cheeky, I'll just say be happy and you'll work more like most people, I think I've made more mistakes than I've had successes. Uh, and I think that's not unusual. 

     So for example, when I first came into the business, there were no social media, you know, this was 2003, there were only really a few channels that consultants or modern adult educators could use to advance their ideas. And one of them of course was writing books. So I thought, well let me see if I can try my hand at writing books. I wasn't I didn't even consider myself a writer prior to that. I wasn't interested in writing when I was in school. In fact, you could barely get me to write a five-paragraph essay when I was in high school. And yet I ended up writing a lot of books and some of them are pretty good. Others are fine essentially to boil it down. I did about five books over a five-year period of time and that was a huge mistake. It was just too much content development then I couldn't do service to each one. By the time I got one promoted and out there I had to start promoting the next one. Uh and ultimately I think that was a big mistake. So the big mistake that I see people often making is trying to do too much, uh it's very, very difficult to do as much as you would like to do and the more focused you are, the more streamlined you are in your approach, the better you're generally going to do because it's just easier to do better work that way rather than Hive mind, you're really doing very very deep work. A lot of folks struggle with the fear of missing an opportunity wolf, I don't do that then what am I missing? You know, fear of missing out and as a result that sends you down so many random pathways that don't really amount to much or add up to much and it can be confusing and convoluted, distracting and even destructive, So really keeping it simple, finding elegant solutions to critical problems that your audience has and really focusing on those. There are so many challenges when you're building a business, there are so many hurdles that you're gonna have to jump over and you know, issues that you're going to contend with, that having somebody that you can rely on to create meaning together during those difficult times so that the outcome is not the most important thing, but the experience along the way is the most important thing. 

     Again, I'm Michael Port and this is Making It, you can find me at heroic public speaking dot com. 

     Making It is a Mirasee FM original production. This episode of making it was assembled by Geoff Govertsen, Cynthia Lamb produced the episode. Danny Bermant is our associate producer and Danny Iny is our executive producer. If you liked this episode, you might want to check out Just Between Coaches the podcast that explores the really tough issues that coach's face every day, so you don't miss the great episodes that are coming up on Making It go ahead and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you're listening right now. And if you like the show, please leave us a starred review. It's the best way to help us get these ideas to more people. Thank you. We'll see you next time.