No More Sitting On The ‘Reserve bench’

If you follow me on facebook, twitter, even instagram, you might have seen the occasional picture of me, grinning like a maniac, in front of an audience of similarly manic, arm-waving, happy folk (although usually there’s one lone woman, sitting there , arms folded, steadfastly refusing to take part – bless her).

I take these photos perhaps once or twice a week – whenever I’m asked to entertain a Women’s Institute, or a U3A, or a Townswomen Guild, or some similar group, with tales of my writing adventures.

People sometimes ask me how I got into the public speaking lark. I blame my Dad.

Years ago, my father used to run a U3A ‘discussion group’. Each month the group would invite someone along to speak on whatever topic they liked, and then afterwards a discussion would ensue. That was the idea anyway. My Dad loves a good discussion. In reality someone would put the kettle on, a packet of biscuits would be emptied onto a plate, and twenty minutes later my Dad would be washing cups and stacking chairs in the corner, wondering why no-one had actually ‘discussed’ anything.

Dad used to try and plan his group’s programme a good year in advance, presumably in the hopes of attracting a few new members with his trove of twelve tantalising topics. But a year is a long time. Stuff happens. And every now and then a speaker would cancel on dear old Dad, and he’d be forced to do some frantic phoning around in order to find a replacement.

Which is how I got my first gig.

Out of sheer desperation Dad called me and asked if I could step in and do a talk. He’d even decided what my topic would be! Could I speak for thirty or so minutes of “how banks make their money” – thanks very much – see you Thursday – don’t be late.

Now fortunately for me, I had at this point been in credit card banking for about twenty five years, the last ten of which was as a freelance consultant. I could have spoken for several days on how my clients separated the man on the street from his hard earned wedge. But I concentrated my talk on some of the sneakier, lesser known, less ethical tricks, that go on in the banking community.

My talk was a huge success: There was almost a riot when I announced that “in a few months” the banks would be announcing the ‘end of cheques’. “How will I pay the milkman!?” exclaimed one woman – at which point, for the first time ever, a proper discussion ensued. Dad was pleased as punch.

From that moment on I became my Dad’s ‘reserve man’. Each year, for about three years, I’d get a phone call whenever a speaker cancelled and would always be told what my topic would be. For instance, I did a talk entitled “How will I pay the milkman?” – forty five minutes about, amongst other things, how the banks really wanted to get rid of cheques, but at the last moment had changed their collective minds. I promise you it was more interesting than it sounds.

But after a few years I was fed up with being the flippin’ understudy. “Dad,” I said, “I want my own slot in the programme, but more than that, I want to be able to pick my own topic!”

“What do you want to talk on?” asked Dad.

“How to do everything, and be happy,” I replied.

“Hmmm,” said my Dad. “I’m not sure anyone’s going to be interested in that.”

Several years on and I’ve given that same talk about two hundred times.


If you’d like to hear me speak, or if you’d like to invite me along to your group or society, drop me a line here, or visit my speaker’s website; PeterJonesPublicSpeaker.com

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Faith, Hope & Clarity (The Truth About Peter Jones) – WTFHIBD episode 7

piggy

Yes folks, it’s time, once again, for your favourite self-help ‘guru’ to fess up and tell you how I’ve been applying my ‘happy’ principals to my life, in a feature that I like to call What The Flippin’eck Have I Been Doing…

I’m going to break this into three parts, so come back tomorrow and Wednesday to find out about my NOW list, and BOXING days, but for now let’s start with GOALS.

My GOALS

Since I last penned the last WTFHIBD post, I’ve spent most of my goal-related energy concentrating on just one of the three goals I set myself (so much so, that I can’t actually remember what the other two goals were). That goal was this:

My total writing income exceeds my outgoings
Deadline: June 2015

So how’s that going, I hear you ask.

Let’s put it this way… not as good as I’d like.

Now that’s not entirely surprising. My potential for disappointment really knows no bounds. I’m the kinda guy who having found a £10 note on the floor, would be wishing it could’ve been a £20 instead… I’m definitely a glass half empty kinda guy. The first time I got a major book deal, my agent – having told me it was a generous offer for a first time author – was (rightly) appalled when I threw all my toys out the pram and declared the offer an insult! So, even if my latest novel was sitting somewhere near the top of the charts (any charts!) chances are I’d still not be satisfied. But it’s not at the top of the charts. Nowhere like it. And my income consistently falls short of my monthly outgoings – worse still ‘writing’ makes up only a fraction of that insubstantial income.

I’ve been in this situation for a while. Six years in fact. That’s the last time I raised an invoice in my previous guise as banking consultant. I walked out of a corporate office with a years money in my savings account, and hoped that would be the very last time I donned a suit and tie. But now that pot of money has all but gone. And a few weeks back, faced with this grim reality, I stopped writing my third novel… and started looking for full time work.

Here’s what I quickly discovered about job-hunting; it’s horrible. 

In many ways Job Hunting in the 21st Century is very similar to Online Dating. My life became one long dull routine of signing up to websites, completing profiles, uploading my CV, searching for jobs, and sending out messages. And just like my dating experience, I soon discovered that today’s online job market has it’s equivalent of Cam Girls (agencies), Scammers (agencies) and Spammers (agencies). There’s even a job hunting app where you swipe right for interested, and left for not-interested! And just like my dating experience (and the dating experience of most men) it seems to make absolutely no difference whether you actually have what the job poster is looking for because (just like the dating experience of most women) their mail server has probably collapsed under the deluge of applications thereby making it extremely doubtful that an actual human being will ever see your message… let alone reply!

I’d like to say that just like my dating experience I figured out what actually works, and became a master at online job hunting – there’s probably another self-help book in there somewhere. But the reality is I became very depressed, and pretty difficult to be around. Every day was a constant reminder that in the only way that really counts (ie. being able to pay the bills), I’d failed my goal. Which means I’d failed as an author. I was being forced to give up on that career. Worse still, I was already failing at being able to be anything else.

Well-meaning friends tried to cheer me up. They pointed out that it was pretty impressive that I’d “lasted this long”. They said phrases that included the words “a good innings“. You can probably imagine how much better that made me feel.

And then – just when I was at my most desperate, when I had begun to pick and choose between which bills I absolutely had to pay, and which I would have to let slide into arrears – a miracle happened. Or, to be more accurate, a cluster of mini-miracles; minicles you might call then, or miraclets – whatever they’re called, they saved the day.

Firstly, after making a silly sixty second video-promo for my latest novel – The Truth About This Charming Man – Amazon decided to put the book in their June Summer Promo. Financially it probably won’t make a huge difference, but it was nice to know that someone, other than me, thought my book was worth plugging (and if it’s June 2016 as you read this then it’s still only 99p if you fancy taking a punt. You can watch the sixty second video below (or here)).


Secondly, thanks in no small part to other friends and fellow writers, odd bits of freelance work started to land in my inbox. Not huge amounts, but enough to give me a paid-break from the hell of job hunting. My sanity started to return.

And finally, the phone started to ring: Someone had heard me speak at so-and-so event, would I be able to come to their group? XYZ Society had been let down by a fellow speaker – would I be able to fill the slot? {Insert name of WI group here} was celebrating their birthday in July / August / Sept… and they’d like me to come and entertain them…

Word of the 45 minute talk I give telling the story of how I came to write four self-help books, and the follow talk up explaining how I met Kylie Minogue (sort of), had reached some sort of tipping point. At the start of this month I found myself doing not one talk a week, but two, or three, sometimes two in one day.

facebook cover photo 2016

I always knew the talks were popular – after speaking I’d generally sell more physical books for £7 than I’d ever sell in a week on amazon for £1.99, but still the penny didn’t drop. Not until an out-spoken, feisty white-haired lady, walked right up to me a week or so ago and told me straight; “why are you bothering with the writing,” she said, “you should be putting all your energies into doing this.”

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it earlier.

Going forwards

So does this mean I’m giving up on writing? Not even slightly. My talks are about my writing journey – so starting next week I’m picking up that third novel again and I’m going to have it finished by the end of the year. But, the lion’s share of my energy is going to be spent moving the thing that I’ve always thought of as a ‘side-stall’ (ie. public speaking) front and centre.

You’ll already find a page on facebook dedicated to my speaking-adventures – if it looks like the sort of thing that might amuse you, or others, click the FOLLOW or SHARE buttons… maybe BOTH!

And if you belong to a group or society and you’d like me to come along and amuse you for an hour with tales of my writing adventures then drop me a line – either here or on facebook – but for the first time in a long while I’m going to take my own advice; I’m going to do the thing that actually works, in preference to the thing I’d like to work. Wish me luck.

But enough about me

How about you? What GOALS have you been working on? How’s that going? Feel free to drop me a line, here or on facebook, or post a comment below.

And pop back tomorrow to find out whether I’ve ticked off any items on my NOW List, and whether I still have a Boxing Day once a month.


TTATCM sidebarFor three more days my SECOND novel, The Truth About This Charming Man, is only 99p for your kindle, smart-phone, tablet, or computer. If you like the way I write, chances are you’ll like this. Visit BuyTheBook.TODAY to find out more and buy the book… today.