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Real talk. It feels great.

This whole motivational speaking thing was never truly planned, you know.

When I was in middle school, and I was just chatting it up with classmates, my teachers would always tell me to quiet down. That was when I learned the term “Justin, your voice carries!” Oh wow, did I really NOT like that.

When I did public speaking in high school, I had a teacher – Ms. Bridges – who would also tell me that I should look into public speaking as a profession. I liked that a lot better. I was all about the positive spin. But at the end of the day, public speaking isn’t going to pay the bills when you’re in the real world. Right?

And then there was a particular mentor when I had in college – Linda H. – who was the most supportive. Ever.

She was my advisor when I was giving campus tours of Virginia Tech and this was, easily, the favorite job that I’ve ever had. I spent a lot of time in our tour guide office and Linda and I developed a great friendship over those years. We gained a lot of trust in each other and it’s one of the relationships I’m most proud of that is both personal and professional.

And, also, over those years she would tell me that I should take my motivational speaking on the road. Even while still in school, I heeded her advice. It started with various organizations on campus, and then it grew to conferences, and now it has grown to so many other things form high school graduations to other events with thousands and thousands of people. It’s amazing.

Most recently, I even had a client sign off on a contract before they even truly knew what the content of my speech was going to be. Like, what? That’s … unbelievable. For some reason it makes me feel very proud. To have that trust from a new client based on past work …

It is so, so affirming.

So, this is a thank you to those folks. Especially Linda, but also every person who told me I was too loud, that my “accent” was “too white for a black guy,” or that I was too friendly or relatable. Because, you know what?

I think it is each of those qualities, wrapped into this special package, that help me do what I do through HESONWHEELS. And I am so, so grateful for that.