How To Follow Your Own Advice With Kit Pang
Following your own advice is probably the hardest thing to do. In this episode, we look at how to make that happen and pave the way for success. Tony Martignetti sits down for an interview with the founder of Boston Speaks, Kit Pang. Kit talks about learning to follow your own advice. He explains why his current profession was his first hurdle and how he convinced himself to push through with a career in public speaking. He explains how a person nurtures their adult mindset and discusses why people are hesitant to take their own advice and how risk factors into their decisions. Kit also describes how people with analysis paralysis can overcome it and finally get going.
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How To Follow Your Own Advice With Kit Pang
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Kit Pang. He is a Harvard Business School public speaking coach and the Founder of Boston Speaks. His mission is to turn professionals into exceptional speakers who deliver compelling presentations. His clients come from diverse industries, including Fortune 500 CEOs, well-known TEDx speakers, NFL players, three-star Michelin chefs, as well as rising leaders and executives of companies like Dell, Delta, RE/MAX and many more. When he's not coaching, his time is dedicated to CrossFit, his wife and trying to help his cats get along. Kit, I want to welcome you to the show.
Tony, thank you so much for having me. My mission in life is, “Happy wife happy life.” That's the only reason I exist.
That's why you do all these things. I'm thrilled to have you on the show because I've seen the work that you do in the world, and I am amazed at all the things including the dance work that you've done. You used to be a dancer.
I don't do it that much anymore.
What we do in the show here is we bring along people who have done amazing things in the world and who are continuing to make an impact. We help them to share their stories. Particularly we talk about what's called a flashpoint, the point in their lives that ignited their gifts to the world. There might be multiple points but I'm going to give you a place for you to share what you're called to share. Along the way, we'll highlight some of the key reflections and things that we wanted to share with the audience so that they can learn what it takes to be Kit Pang.
As a speaker coach and a speaker, there is a moment in my life when I felt that I was in the zone speaking. That was the flashpoint. Sometimes, maybe you feel it when people are playing basketball and you're reading. When I was in college, I entered a public speaking competition. I didn't care too much about it. I was nervous but I entered because it was for the money. It was my last year in college. There were three winners. One gets $3,000 and the other is $2,000, but I went for all of them. I'm like, "I'm going to go for all of them."
I practiced my butt off for the competition. I did more of this than my thesis. I'm packing it in. It was held at a church. Every single day I went to the church, practice my speech, look up at that empty audience, practice my body language and the speech over and over. When I got on the stage on that day, I got into the zone because time slowed down. I had the speech so memorized that the words were flowing out. I can be in the moment and be present with the audience. I can look at people and they were looking at me. I can see that they were nodding. At the same time, I felt more alive than anything else. At that point, it gave me more confidence in my life. Not only did it help me gain more confidence but it was like a second starting point for me. It was that focus point. From that point on I felt like, "Public speaking is this experience that I want to feel again."
It became almost like an adrenaline rush or drug that you wanted to experience.
In a way. Sometimes, some people experience an a-ha moment. For me, when I was on stage I felt like, "Life is good."
There are two types of people: people that plan and the people who just go headfirst and then plan later.
For most people, that's not the feeling that they have in those moments. It's more of dread and still feeling scared, fear. They may be still doing well but an element of fear is always underlying that being onstage.
That element of fear will always be there for the people who don't like it. For example, and I always say this, when Olympians do the big game or whatever that they do even my wife is getting ready for a competition, they get super nervous. The day before, even 1 hour or 5 minutes before, they might want to go puke because of the adrenaline that's building up, but they choose to do it.
Even the people who are well-seasoned can feel that fear and still do it anyway. It is good to hear. Tell me more about this because I know that this is not something that you just arrive at and say, "I enjoy this." Did you jump right in and say, "I know that public speaking is something that I can do and want more of?" Did you say, "Let me start a coaching practice?"
This was after college when I felt that public speaking experience. At that point, I was teaching dance. I stayed at where my college was in Hamilton College in Upstate New York because of my wife. She was still in college. I stopped teaching dance. When I moved back to Boston, I wanted to get into dance but whenever I saw speakers speak on stage, in the back of my mind I was always thinking, "How are they getting booked and paid to speak?" That was something that I always wanted to do.
I started experimenting and teaching public speaking. I would find an empty space, put out a workshop and put it on event lights. I would do that 2 or 3 times a week, and that's what I did for the first year. Everything on the event is right, everything I meet up gets a bunch in the seat and then that's it. How I learned public speaking is by teaching public speaking. For me, I don't have that imposter syndrome. I just go do it and fail.
Tell me about the first few times. I can imagine that because I love the audacity of that. Maybe audacity is not the right word but there is an element of like, "It's that simple. Go out, get a space and fill it." For the first few times, I'm sure you've had some empty rooms.
There were still empty rooms even a year afterward. It fluctuates. Everything is not as good as the tenth time around even the branding of the image and the amount of people. I forgot how many people were there the first few times, but I still do remember that even the year afterward, there will still be zero people sometimes showing up for the workshops. Most of the events were pretty good except for one. This was when I had a guy email me and says, "Kit, you should never be teaching public speaking." The reason he said that was because on that day, I take a win. As in if I even help one person speak better, that's a win for me.
On that day, not only was I teaching, someone came to my workshop and I said to her, "If you want to work on your public speaking, teach the workshop with me." It was her first time teaching. I thought she did great. The person emailed me because I put that person that was brand new out there. It was her first time doing it, but that's what I mean by helping one person win. Even though there were maybe 30 or 40 people then, I was helping her at the same time. Even if she got that experience that she could have never gotten, that was a big win for me. I'm all in with even throwing people in there.
That's natural for you that you're able to get people right into the mix of it and seeing that when you step up to the stage and start doing, it starts to build the muscle and that element of, "I can be doing this. I just got to give it a chance." From your own experience of constantly getting back up and doing it, before you know it, you're mastering the craft.
For the readers, there are two types of people. There are people that plan and people that go headfirst then plan later. I'm on the opposite end. I go headfirst and then plan later. What I need to work on is to plan a little bit more and then still go head in. For the people that always plan too much, go in headfirst a little bit, rely less on the plan and shift towards the other side a little bit more.
Striking that balance is an important distinction that is being made there. Oftentimes, people talk about detaching from the outcome, having a plan and a vision that you're working towards but having no attachment to how you get there.
What about you, Tony? Do you like to plan much or do you go headfirst?
I used to be a super planner because I came from this finance world. Slowly but surely I've realized that that was something that I became, not by nature but by force. Now I've let go and by letting go, I've become more of who I truly am. It's not something you do overnight but you start to build into it.
We morph as human beings.
There's an element of taking it step-by-step and don't try to do it all at once, which I want to get back to your story because I'm thinking about how you did build your business. You set up all these different workshops and slowly but surely, you made it into Boston Speaks. Was it the name from the get-go or was it something that developed over time?
If you keep on holding back, then you're never going to know what you're missing.
I picked Boston Speaks, went on Canva and picked the box logo. It took two minutes and that was it. There wasn't much thought around it.
It's contrary to what I thought. You did it based on what you had said before, jumped first and didn't plan.
It's a good and bad thing. It's good that it worked out. As you can tell, I did it off of workshops. Most of the people might be going on social media now. There's YouTube, Facebook, podcasts, blogs and whatever marketing vehicle. Most influencers got big with one vehicle first and have launched into other types of vehicles. Mine was workshops.
The word of mouth of once people experiences you then they pass it on to other people. There's an element of referral.
That one is hard to track. I'm not sure.
Especially when you think about when you have a market like Boston where there are a lot of people who know each other and a lot of common connections, people start to spread the word around.
The fun thing is when I used to do a lot of meetups, there are some crazy people out there. There was this one woman who came, and every single time she would talk about the tea on the train no matter what the topic was. It’s the downside of public free events.
Have you ever been accused of, "Who are you to be a public speaker?" You hinted at this. You've had your haters. People accuse you of who you are to be teaching. Ultimately, have you had doubts about whether you're on the right path?
With the haters, I don't think anyone said anything to my face like that. I have doubts but they're not in the forefront of my mind because I'm thinking, "If this fails, I can get a job at McDonald's. This is a first-world problem that I'm having. It's not a big problem. If it fails, it fails. I can go on Uber and make more money driving cars.” This goes back to imposter syndrome like, "Who am I to teach public speaking when I have no experience teaching public speaking?" I forgot where I heard this, “A 5th-grader is an expert to a 3rd-grader.”
If people are getting value off of what you're teaching them, then at the end of the day that is the most helpful to your audience. Sometimes a college student is too far away removed from the third-grader. They don't understand anymore their next step. I'm always at the next level for a little bit. Sometimes when I'm into public speaking too much now, I do feel like I'm in too much. Maybe I can't relate anymore sometimes because now I'm into the theory world too much. I need to step back down.
Where do you think this all comes from? I'm trying to get you back to the origin of your ability to not have that imposter syndrome and the ability to see the world you do. Where does it come from? Is there an origin behind before you started thinking about going to college and had your first public speaking experience? Where did your mindset come from that you had this almost like fearlessness?
Do you have any pets, Tony?
What do you have?
I have a dog.
How's the dog like if you were to describe your dog?
She's fantastic. Her name is Nora. She's a rescue dog that came from New Orleans. She's laid back except for when we had some puppies here that made her a little more anxious.
The reason I'm asking that is because the question that you asked me is, “How people develop their mindsets?” I think of pets like Nora. How did she act before she had the puppies?
She's pretty laid back and easy-going except for when she wants to go for a walk, and she's all in my business.
The question is, “Why is she so laid back?” I have three cats. One cat is like me. She goes in headfirst without thinking. Another cat is anxious and freaking out about everything. Another cat, she's like royalty or a princess. That question of, “Why is my mindset the way it is?” It's the way we grew up. It's built into our DNAs. I'm lucky to say that I haven't had any experience that was too bad for me even though there were bad experiences. A few times, I got jumped. I don't think too much about it. It could traumatize people but for me, I don't know why it doesn't register that way.
What fascinates me is your ability to stay so positive. Your relationship with fear is one that is fascinating. A lot of people who have been able to overcome a lot of these challenges develop these things over time. Having these experiences, they're able to overcome these fears but in the way that you've been able to almost have a shield from day one. From the moment you stepped onto the stage, you've said, "This is great. I can experience this and it doesn't bother me." From there on, you seem to have had a mindset of like, "What's next? Let me take that on. I don't have any fear of doing the next thing." Maybe that's leading you down this path of, “What could be next? What do you fear?”
The hardest thing to do is to follow your own advice.
Have you heard of the marshmallow test?
I do know what it is.
For people who do not know about it, they put most marshmallows in front of kids. The ones who did not eat it would be rewarded with another marshmallow. They tracked them over time and twenty years later, the study was finding out that the kids who did not eat it were more successful than the ones who did choose to eat it. I'm bringing that about because I will be the kid that will eat the marshmallow. I'm not that successful but there was another book that I’ve read. They were looking at it from a different angle, “Why were the kids who were successful didn't get the second marshmallow?” It's because the thought of having the second marshmallow wasn't strong in their mind at all. They weren't constantly thinking, "I want to eat that." They weren't even thinking about it. Therefore, self-discipline or self-control was easier for them because it wasn't even in their minds in the first place.
If you don't plant that seed initially, then the concept didn't even get in there.
They were thinking of something else. That's what I want to tie this back to because probably I'm thinking about something else. The things about fear were not in my mind in the first place.
That's an interesting concept and that seems to have worked well for you of all the things you've done so far, whether it be stepping out there and saying, "I'm going to teach public speaking," or getting people to come on board for your programs. You made it look so effortless and seamless. It seems like it has not been a struggle.
I think of it as fun. It's a learning curve but I wouldn't say it's a struggle.
There's a real contradiction. People often play with counterintuitive truths where they say, “What most people think is this but what's true is this.” When I look at your story, there's an element that most people think that being an entrepreneur is a struggle but for you it wasn't.
I do know the things I do need to work on though for example because most of the people that I work with are on their game like A students, the top of the class, perfectionism. That is the part that I am lacking. Because I don't plan as much, things don't get done perfectly. I'm still mediocre but things are just working out for some reason. I don't know why.
If it's not broken, don't fix it.
For me, I'm lucky to have that charisma that helped me gain back some of the things that I did not have. That's why charisma is an important people skill that is hard to track but you'll gain back. It will help you adapt to some of the skills that you're lacking as well.
When you work with people, what do you find is the biggest hurdle for them around getting them into the zone of truly owning their speaking voice? This is a derivative of what we were talking about.
If it's fear, there are two sides. One is they're holding themselves back because of fear. This is saying, “Tony, if you were going across the street and if you think a car is going to hit you every single time, will you cross the street?” If you're thinking, "I'm going to get run over," it's going to be very hard for you to cross the street but to the rest of the world, there's no car that's going to hit you. The chance is very low. You're not even looking. My yoga teacher said, “When you're stuck in your head, you're dead.” This is the easiest and hardest thing to solve because you can cross the street. There are no cars at all. When people say that about speaking, "You can try this out. No one's going to probably say anything bad about you at all." They're not worried about your voice, how you look and sound. It's all in their heads. It's not true in the real world.
I use that analogy of learning how to drive in an empty parking lot. Most people are scared because they don't have time to experiment. When people learn how to drive, they might do 360s in an empty parking lot. They would never do a 360 in the real world but they know how to do it. If people want to get rid of their fears and get better at speaking, they have to be able to take those kinds of risks. For example, if you want to be like Michael Phelps and go to Olympics for swimming. You can have opportunities but if you keep on swimming the same two laps without adding risk, you're going to be at the same level. For me, I take risks more.
Our mindsets are the way they are because of the way we grew up. It's built into our DNA.
It's an element of if you're not willing to take those risks, then you're not going to be able to grow and get the things you want out of life too. All the things that you share and where you come from now are remarkable because it comes so natural for you.
There are no more failure stories but all the failure stories for me are positive learning stories.
The reality is not every tale is told through failure. Sometimes you learn them through just seeing what works and continuing to double down on that. That's fine. From that perspective, that's a tale in its own way. It's seeing what works and keep on doing it. The question comes down to, “If you're not feeling challenged then how do you keep on challenging yourself?” That may be a question that you want to explore if you're open to it. What is the next challenge that you would want to take on?
If I'm not challenged, I need to cut down on things that I'm doing. It's not being challenged. It's cutting down on the challenges that are challenging me because the more that we do, the more we don't have time to focus on what we're good at. I've been meditating and it's helpful because it's helping me to say, "Do I need to do this? Do I not?" To answer your question is, “How you can get rid of challenges that don't need to be challenging you now?” Like little stuff. Let's say I'm using social media for example. Do you need to go on Facebook? If you do, there's a whole lot of challenges that comes with Facebook. Take a good look at it. Do you even need it at all? If you eliminate that challenge or a bunch of other challenges along the way. I'm trying to eliminate all the challenges as much as possible, the ones that are not needed.
What you're talking about brings up a story of the fishermen and the entrepreneur. I won't go in to tell the whole story but the idea is that there's a fisherman in Mexico who's fishing away and he's quite successful. An entrepreneur comes to him and says, "You could do much better once you build a warehouse. You could store your fish, ship it off to the US and build quite a successful business." I am paraphrasing. This is not the whole story. Ultimately, the fisherman says, “I have a happy life now. I'm able to go home with my wife and spend time with her. Why would I want to build a warehouse? That sounds crazy.” The entrepreneur doesn't get it because he thinks to himself that it makes logical sense you'd want to grow and add more when in reality, this guy's happy with the way it is.
The fisherman asked him, "At the end of the day after you got the money, what is it that you want?" He's saying the exact same thing the fisherman is saying. There's another analogy I want to give you. Have you heard of the frog in boiling water?
If you put a frog in cold water and heat it up, they say the frog will not notice the difference and get boiled to death versus putting the frog in boiling water, they know it's hot. Sometimes I feel like we are that frog and we are in the cold to boiling water but we don't know what is happening around us. We remain the same. I did look that up one day. It's not true. Sometimes they'll jump out.
You don't take anything on face value, do you?
I do. They're all the same. Slow down or speed up.
If you're really thinking, “I'm going to get run over,” it's going to be very hard for you to cross the street.
What do you think is one thing that you would want people to know if they're hesitant to make a bleep or steps in their lives? What would you want to share with them from your own lessons in life?
The hardest thing to do is to follow your own advice. People already know what they need to do. Stop researching so much and do what you need to do to move to the next step. The answers are there already. We're in a world where it seems like we need to seek information for people to tell us what to do. There's Google, we can keep on searching but we forget to search within ourselves, give ourselves the answer and doing what we need to do.
There's something about what you said, and this has been the through-line of all the things you said. It's to start before you're ready. Everything you've done has all been about do it before you're ready, to leap before even knowing what's going to be next. If you do that, then everything else is going to be there for you. The universe will respond. If you keep on holding back, then you're never going to know what you're missing.
It's not easy. You have to go along with whatever's happening.
I usually ask this arbitrary question but it easily reveals a lot about how people think and about who they are as a person. What's a book that you've been impacted by in your life?
I did not want to read this book at first. I was giving a talk at RE/MAX and they said, "Do you want to read a book about how RE/MAX got started?" I'm like, "Since I'm doing research, give it to me," but I did not want to read it. It's called Everybody Wins. The book was a study from this group that wanted to track the most successful companies that grew over time without stopping. RE/MAX is one of them, Walmart, McDonald's, the big ones that for a 30-year growth, they just have growth every single year. RE/MAX was the first one out of them. Reading that book was insightful for me because as a businessperson, when something is so good, it is hard to describe.
What I love that RE/MAX did from the business model is they looked at the business model and treated it all the way around. People back then, if you are a broker, you and the broker will make 50% when you sell the house. RE/MAX came in and said, "You get to keep 100% of the house that you sell every single time but you have to pay us a monthly fee.” Their business model back then blew everyone out of the water. They failed over again.
They still got back up and kept ongoing. I love a book that is so out of the ordinary. Now I've got to pick this book up, go check it out and add it to my library. Kit, this was so much fun. I enjoyed knowing your story, which again is different than some of the stories that I know. The insights are valuable. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Tony, thank you so much for having me.
Where can people find more information about you?
I want to thank the readers for coming along the journey with us, reading about Kit and his great insights. Thank you again.
Tony, thank you so much.
About Kit Pang
Whether you want help with virtual presentations, board reporting, sales pitches, or anything in between... I'm here to help you earn your mic-drop moment.
As the founder of BostonSpeaks and a Harvard Business School public speaking coach, I help individuals become exceptional speakers who deliver compelling presentations and speeches. My clients come from diverse industries, including:
✔ Fortune 500 CEOs and TEDx Speakers,
✔ NFL Players and Three-Star Michelin Chefs,
✔ Rising leaders and executives from companies like Dell, Delta, RE/MAX, and more.
My coaching and teaching style is fun, engaging, and insightful. Professionally, I'm always looking to develop as a speaker and leader. In my personal life, it looks more like 25% Crossfit, 25% happy wife happy life, and 50% trying to help my three cats get along.