Keynote Speaker’s Secret to Dreaming Big

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Motivational speaker Kelly Swanson helps people get back on life's yellow brick road

The Danger in Insisting You Are Fine When You’re Not

My mother was taught that no matter what is happening around you, or to you, you are fine.

The whole world can be falling apart, but you’ll be okay as long as your purse matches your shoes.

Your husband could have just left you for an overly-painted-up hussy with implants who sells cotton candy at the fair, and you were told,

“Sweetie, don’t you worry about a thing. Just put on those pearls, wear your best dress, smile real pretty now, and say you’re fine. And you just pretend like your husband is sitting right there at the dinner table. Don’t forget to use the good china.”

My friend’s brother shot himself right in front of their mother. And her mother’s biggest concern was that the neighbors would see the police car out front.

Another friend of mine (who happens to be white) was getting married, and her mother wouldn’t let her girlfriend (who happens to be black) be one of the bridesmaids because it would mess up the pictures to have one black girl in a row of white girls.

My mother had some pretty serious drama going down in her family. They believed that appearances were everything.

You ignored what was going on inside the house and focused on what the neighbors saw. Problems were swept under the rug – or vacuumed up by the housekeeper you couldn’t really afford – but kept anyway because all your neighbors had one.

I had to take etiquette classes as a teenager, where we learned which fork was supposed to be used for shrimp, despite the fact that our family couldn’t afford shrimp.

Apparently you could:

  • Have a secret gambling addiction
  • Have a husband who treats you like a dog
  • Be featured in this month’s issue of Hustler Beaver Hunt

As long as the car in your driveway was as nice as the cars in the other driveways, you were good.

In my mother’s life, when problems occurred inside the house, you just acted like it wasn’t happening and made another casserole or poured another drink. It’s probably why my mother is constantly counting the minutes until cocktail hour. She just turned sixty which, according to my father, is ninety in wine years.

Maybe for my mother it was a cultural thing – a southern thing – or just their family thing.

But I think maybe she’s not the only one taught to live a life of denial.  Maybe there are others who are pasting on the smile and saying they are fine while their life falls apart at the seams. Perhaps some of us are scared that if we face a problem, that we won’t be able to handle it.

Then, it will consume us.

The Truth is that Facing Your Problem Isn’t Half as Dangerous as Ignoring It

When we ignore the problems in our lives, we are setting ourselves up for greater problems.

Motivational speaker says throw away your check listLike most motivational speakers, I encourage people to go after what they want in life and to get away from the life they don’t want.

My mother never even considered what she wanted in life. It was never factored into the equation.

She was handed a list and she diligently checked every item off:

  • Find husband – Check
  • Have kids – Check
  • Learn how to hem a pair of pants – Check
  • Learn how to bake – Check
  • Learn how to judge other women based on their hair and dress – Check
  • Somebody dies, take over a casserole – Check
  • If you put the casserole in the prettiest silver dish on the buffet table, you win – Check
  • If the bereaved doesn’t return it, hate her forever – Check!
  • Somebody thinks you drink too much? Tell them your drunken slur is just your southern accent – Sssssccccccheck  (That was supposed to be “check” with a slur)
  • Get pregnant out of wedlock, tell everybody you have hepatitis and get shipped off to a great aunt in Iowa – Check, check, and check.

It’s sad, but I’m pretty sure it’s too late for my mother – not because she’s sixty, but because her habits are so deeply rooted. I’m not sure anything can break through. And until she is willing to change, change won’t happen.

Did You Hear That Dreamers? Until You Are Willing to Change – Change Won’t Happen

It’s not too late for you. It’s not too late to:

  • Get the life you want
  • Throw away that outdated checklist you were handed and create one of your own
  • Stop your life and take a good hard look at your problems – I promise they will not consume you

The Secret to True Power Starts with Awareness

Motivational speaker Kelly Swanson thinks cartoons speak to herThe first step in AA is to admit you have a problem.

Nobody can do that but you.

Until you are willing to accept responsibility for your own life your problem will stay and probably grow.

We rush. We get stuck in the motions.

Things are happening all around us that we are processing, but not really processing.

I help people get unstuck, but there are a lot of people who don’t even realize they are stuck.

They may be accepting their less-than-ideal reality as their normal – not even realizing that it doesn’t have to be their normal. They may be saying “I don’t have a problem. Everything’s fine!” They may have been taught that their feelings don’t factor into the equation – that their feelings take a back seat to everyone else in their life. They may be thinking that this was the card they were dealt, and it sucks, but it is what it is.

So Today Your Motivational Speaker Asks, How Are You Really Doing?

What kind of mother is this woman?Maybe you really are doing great – and that’s , well, great. Then this message isn’t for you.

Or maybe you’re in denial.

How are you feeling?:

  • Happy?
  • Fulfilled?
  • Frustrated?
  • Scared?
  • At peace?
  • Anxious?
  • Lonely?
  • Invisible?
  • Not good enough?
  • Trying to program your GPS for the nearest cliff?
  • Ready to call social services and tell them you have two children you would like to donate?

List how you are feeling. Share it with people you trust.

It’s okay to feel these things. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re human.

If you’re not doing so well, please let me know. If you are brave enough to put it in a comment, then great. We are all here for you. This is a safe place and we’ll celebrate together. Yes, I said celebrate.

No… we’re not going to celebrate that you are in pain. We are going to celebrate that this is the moment you have chosen to change your normal. That’s so important, I think I will say it again in bold print so you don’t forget.

Celebrate the Fact That You Have Chosen This Moment to Change Your Normal

Awareness is the first and BIGGEST step. And if you take it, you are already a winner – no matter whether the circumstances stay the same.

I believe in you.  I do care how you are feeling.

With much love, and a heart that means well, I’m Kelly Swanson. I’m your wacky motivational speaker who doesn’t claim to have the answers – but thinks she might be asking the right questions.

Kelly Swanson
You. Your story. Make an Impact!

Give us your thoughts!


  • Marilyn Sherman

    Love this Kelly! On top of your inspirational writing, is that a picture of your beautiful little boy at the end? Cuteness!

    • Yes, Marilyn, that is a picture from when Will was smaller. Isn’t it precious! One of my favorites!

  • Oh wow, Kelly. This is absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much for this clear, clean, hopeful message. We don’t have to continue living a life that we merely “accepted,” not realizing we had the option to decline and create something new and joyful. Very, very VERY good post!

    • Thank you, Linda!!! I know that you (one of my favorite motivational speakers) knows full well that we all deserve an abundant life filled with joy.

  • Ah …such a great post and I think a lot of women in general are taught to stuff their feelings and play nice.

    When many do share their points of view, it’s blurted out coldly with little thought to how they are coming across to the receivers because they never learned how to express their opinions — like many men effectively do — not super-charged with anger and passive aggressive double-speak. Or they don’t say anything at all, but try to stir the pot with other women behind someone’s back.

    And yet, so many women prefer to work with men because men don’t do this — instead of all of us trying to learn how to communicate more effectively and take the “charge” out of our communications.

    I was raised to look nice, play nice, be nice and not to get “too mad.” Stuffing your feelings can make you either over-weight or uber-skinny depending on how you “wear” you feelings. It can be a complex issue for so many women and undoing what was ingrained isn’t easy. I’ll be curious to hear how you advise someone take that first step in changing their life and staying with it.

    Loved the video. With the Irish, you flirt with our man and we’ll smile to your face and you’ll never see us again. Or maybe that is a redhead thing… hmmmmmmm….


    • You are so right, Catherine, its not easy to change what has been ingrained in us for so long.

      Do you know that even as I wrote this post, I was scared to publish it, because I was worried that speaking my mind would hurt somebody’s feelings. It’s amazing how many moments as a writer and speaker and comedian, that I’m afraid to say what I truly think. And many times where I do, and it comes back to haunt me. But my goal is to be real – as much as I can – without hurting anyone in the process.

      So yeah, it isn’t easy to change what is ingrained. (And it’s not up to me to force change on you – not my business – nor my intent – just my words of encouragement for those who really don’t want their lives to stay the same.)

      And it doesn’t happen in one step – it happens in a process of slow painful steps. It involves reprogramming your brain and rewriting your script. And I’m glad you want to know more -because that is exactly what my See/Believe/Do process is all about – answering these questions – and more. I will be walking through every step of the program from seeing where you are stuck, seeing where you want to go, believing that you can get there by rewriting that internal script and replacing negative mindsets with positive ones, and then doing – taking action, coming up with a plan, battling the things that distract us from reaching our dream. My hope is that by the end of the year, we are in a new place – with new habits – and new mindsets – and a lot of new COURAGE!

      By the way… your comment about the Irish and flirting with our man. I’m actually of Irish decent. Makes a lot of sense. And I like to think I’m a redhead – but it’s been so long since I’ve seen my real hair color, I’m just not sure.