CJ Calvert is a professional speaker and the author of Living an Exceptional LIFE and has also ghost-written several books for various business titans. With over 15 years of training experience, CJ speaks on a daily basis before world-class organizations like IBM, Microsoft, Bank of Montreal and The Co-Operators. He’s brought his expertise to outlets like Breakfast Television and is also an accomplished bodybuilder. He took time out of his busy schedule to share some of his insight and knowledge with The Edge.
Is speaking for everyone? What is the benefit for an entrepreneur to venturing into the speaking business?
Everyone should learn public speaking, whether it becomes a career or not! Famed investor Warren Buffett credits a public speaking course taught by Dale Carnegie as transformative in his career, helping to dramatically improve his communication skills and more powerfully influence his business audience. Whether you need to do a boardroom presentation or a toast at your brother’s wedding, just resolve to improve your speaking skills. Even if it scares you. Especially if it scares you. (In fact, if something scares you, as long as it’s legal, ethical and physically safe, you ought to make it a personal rule to do it. I just won’t let fear live rent-free in my brain.)
I always recommend people seek out their local Toastmasters club, which is a wonderful organization dedicated to teaching public speaking. Then, speak at every meeting you can. Your boss needs someone to do a presentation at work? Put up your hand and volunteer. Stand up in front of your office team and teach something, every week. Additionally, if you’re an entrepreneur, speaking is a great way to promote your product/service and your organization. Speaking usually fills the important role of “subject matter expert” and “brand ambassador,” helping separate you from your competition. By standing at the front of the room, potential clients already see your confidence and expertise in the subject. This engenders trust and is a powerful way to get your product and your company noticed – not to mention helping [to] generate an additional stream of revenue.
You teach people to reach their potential and “live an exceptional life.” When speaking to large audiences, how do you make sure that what you’re saying is useful to every individual?
Great question! Since everyone is unique, the individual recipe for an exceptional life will be as varied as my audience members. But the specific strategies for success will remain the same for everyone. For example, one person may have a passion for gardening (which I don’t personally enjoy) and another person may have a passion for skydiving (which I love – in fact, anything that requires signing a waiver before you do it sounds like fun to me!). In order to live your exceptional life, you must first identify what that means to you subjectively, and then apply the universal strategies of mapping out a plan, prioritizing your time and resources, and taking action.
Your own book, Living an Exceptional LIFE, is out there for the public to enjoy and learn from. What one takeaway piece of advice would you give?
Every day, do something hard. Do something hard physically, emotionally, and intellectually. In fact, get in the habit of pushing yourself 10% farther than you’re used to in everything you do. Look for ways to make yourself a little bit uncomfortable. You don’t grow when you live in your comfort zone. You are capable of more than you are doing now. Remember always that life accumulates. Every action, every decision, builds upon yesterday.
Every day, win small victories. Reach for a protein bar instead of a candy bar. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Pick up the phone and make the call you’ve been too timid to make. Say “I love you” and “I’m sorry” more often. Shut off the phone and kiss your spouse and kids and play together.
The effect in one day may not be very noticeable. But in a month or a year, your direction has changed wildly. You look in the bathroom mirror and see the love handles evaporating. Your office has doubled its sales because of your efforts. Your spouse and kids jump up and greet you as you walk through the door. When you make these positive changes, you will soon lay your head on the pillow at night and realize that today has been a great day. Add up enough great days and you’ve created a great year. Repeat the process and you’ve created a great life. Crack the code on one great day and you’ve got the puzzle beat.
How do you “win the morning” to make your day exceptional?
I like to wake up each day at 6 a.m. The alarm goes off and I stand right up. I say an affirmation that is meaningful to me, and then I immediately drop to the ground and I do ten pushups. Every. Single. Day.
Doing this right when I wake up does a couple of things. First, it gives a boost of oxygenated blood to my brain and helps me shake off the cobwebs. Second, it destroys the “time” excuse people usually use around exercise because everyone has ten seconds to do ten pushups. Third, it launches my day with a victory. I get a little positive boost to my self-esteem, having done something that seems difficult for so many people but on its face is actually really easy.
After that, I head to the bathroom and snap a photo of my weight on the scale, sending the photo to my bodybuilding coach. I review my goals for the year and visualize what I need to accomplish. I head down to the fridge and grab a cup of veggie juice I have prepared in advance. (I have a juicer and make four days of the stuff in advance. My daily blend is 2 apples, 2 carrots, ½ cucumber and a slice of ginger for the taste. If you don’t have a juicer, go out and buy one. If you don’t have the money, sell your television and buy a juicer.) Then, I head down to my home gym in the basement to work out. I time my workout and keep it under 20 minutes, so it never feels like a big-time challenge. If I literally only have one minute, I will do a compound exercise like one set of bench presses or leg presses and then sprint out the door. Even something as basic as that keeps me in pretty good shape between competitions.
You’ve had a tremendous physical transformation. Tell us about it.
You bet. [In] August of 2004, I wanted to make a change. I had always been skinny as a kid – even at 29, at 5’8” I was 125lbs. It really bugged me that I couldn’t put on weight. I felt that if I was going to motivate the people around me to accomplish their goals, I had to find a way to set a positive example. There didn’t seem to be a lot of resources out there to help me – I challenge you to find a book in Chapters titled How to Gain Weight! Enter my bodybuilding coach, Tom Kiatipis. I saw him speak at an event and I engaged his services. [At] our first meeting, I struggled to finish eating a protein bar.
Well, we started working out twice a week. Brutal workouts. And he crafted a specific diet to help me gain lean muscle mass. I would sometimes wake up at 2am and realize I hadn’t finished my food that day. My girlfriend, now my wife, would find me in our living room stuffing boiled eggs or tuna in my mouth to hit my daily goal. After 90 days, I packed on 27 pounds of muscle and dropped to 6% body fat. A few years later, I got up to 165 pounds. On competition day I stepped on stage at 3% body fat and placed third in Ontario – pretty good for the skinny kid in high school!
With everything you’ve achieved in your life, what would you say are the main keys to your success?
Setting goals. I set goals for everything. I even set goals in my marriage. I have goals written on paper and plastered on every flat surface of my home. I can’t say I am more talented than others – many, many people are far more talented than me. Where I win is, I focus on my goals and work until I get them. Besides that, I have an unusual willingness to face the brutal truth of what I need to change about myself, and then I attack my weaknesses.
Jennifer M. Williams | Editor-in-Chief