I have a very odd job.

Officially, my title is that I’m a ‘futurist, trends & innovation expert.” I must be pretty good at it, judging by my client list.

And it’s always difficult to describe to some people what it is I do for a living.

Sometimes, for the fun of it, I explain, “well, I go out and talk to large groups of hungover people.” To a degree, that’s what I’m doing quite often when I’m keynoting events in Las Vegas, Palm Springs or New Orleans. You earn your pay with audiences like that — and can still change their world for the better!

Officially, my title is that I’m a ‘futurist, trends & innovation expert.” I must be pretty good at it, judging by my client list. I spend a lot doing extensive original research for my clients, and pull together presentations and workshops that helps align them to fast paced future trends.

But its’ fascinating that when I meet many people for the very first time who have a bit of an idea of what I do (“he’s a speaker”), they always ask “are you a motivational speaker?” This is happening quite a bit with the local golf club I just joined, where every round has me golfing with someone new.

The question quite possibly could drive me nuts, because  I think “motivational speakers” like Tony Robbins and others who encourage people to walk across fire to discover their ‘internal strength’ are just a bunch of crackpots!

That said, I finally give up, and will admit that I am a motivational speaker, and I’m pretty darn good at it.

Here’s why:

  • when I tie those trends into opportunities for innovation, I’m implicitly encouraging people to position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that exist, rather than coiling away in fear from the potential threats
  • every talk about innovation and future trends includes powerful challenges to people to align themselves to the future with a sense of optimism — I usually close every talk with my 10 Great Words, which many people have said provides them with a powerful motivation to adapt quickly to the future — a future that is unfolding around them faster than ever before.
  • as of late, many of my talks have involved a specific motivational theme – such as The Lessons of Powerful Optimism – Rethinking the Future Right Now

So, sure, I’m a motivational speaker.

Through the years, I’ve had thousands of folks contact me, Tweet, post to Facebook, or in the best possible compliment — book me for their own event. Some of these folks tell me I’ve changed their view of the world in a very major way : such as this comment which came after I spoke to over 3,000 people in Salt Lake City at the National Recreation and Parks Association annual conference:

Dear Jim,

I just wanted to let you know that in my 20 years of attending the NRPA Congress, no one has captivated me more than your keynote address. And, all during the week, when we talked about the Keynote, everyone agreed!

In fact, I presented a seminar “Creating the Wow—New Marketing Trends for Everyone”, and mentioned a few of your insightful comments. It was amazing to see how everyone was captivated with your session. In fact, it is the only time I can remember, that people were upset that we were running late and you had to wrap up your talk rather quickly.

In addition, Vendors raved about you pressing attendees to visit the trade show, talk to peers, and see how technology is changing our profession. It was quite a Home Run!

We have a saying in our department, the 2008 NRPA Gold Medal Winner (Class II—100,001 to 250,000), which is, “Engage. Inspire. Change a Life Today!” I wanted to leave you with this… YOU Engaged. YOU Inspired. YOU changed lives that day! Thanks again for sharing your keen insight and talents with all of us!

Rick Herold, Director of Parks and Recreation
City of Grand Prairie, Texas

So hell, yes, I’m motivational.

There’s a quote I use to close many of my keynotes. “Some people see a trend and see a threat. Real innovators see the same trend, and see an opportunity.”

You want to be the latter type of person. And if somehow through the years I’ve inspired you to think that way, then I’m doing my job as a motivator!

Here’s a great clip to get you started.


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.