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Podcast 74: Dan Clark on the Art of Significance

Dan Clark:
The Art of Significance

Dan Clark shares the wisdom from his best selling Book, “The Art of Significance.” .

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As one of the most in-demand speakers on the planet, Dan Clark delivers customized, cutting edge keynote speeches and transformational training programs to entry level employees, emerging leaders, seasoned executives, educational administrators and military Officers and NCOs.In the last thirty years Dan has spoken in all 50 states, 61 countries, on 6 continents, to over 5500 audiences, to millions of people, to a ‘who’s who’ list of clients including 200 of the Fortune 500 companies, National Trade Associations, Million Dollar Round Table, Super Bowl Champions, NASA, U.S. and Foreign Government Agencies, and the United Nations. Dan has also had the honor of presenting his ideas at the Festival of Thinkers in Abu Dhabi, UAE, to the general assembly of the United Nations World Congress in Hamburg Germany, to the senior leadership of the United States military, and to U.S./Coalition combat troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Southwest Asia, Europe, Korea and Africa.

Here’s the Transcript:

Hugh Ballou: It’s Hugh Ballou. Welcome to this special edition of the Orchestrating Success podcast. My guest today is my dear friend, Dan Clark, who is a very impactful speaker. He is a primary person of influence, and I have spoken about leaders being influencers. I have heard people tell stories, but there is nobody that I have heard who is better than Dan Clark. Dan, you have written on a lot of different things, all that sell a lot, but the one I want to focus on today is the Significance book. Tell us the title. Before we go there, I don’t like reading these dry introductions of my guest. I like my guest to give a little three to four sentence capsule of who it is you are and what you bring to the table. Dan Clark, welcome to my podcast.

Dan Clark: Thanks, Hugh. I love you. I honor you. You made me nervous that you say we have only been friends for a short time. It goes back a couple of years ago. I don’t know what timetable you’re on.

Hugh: I’m old. That is small by the time you get to my age.

Dan: There are so many realities, so many quotes that quantify a friendship. One that always comes to mind is, If people from your past are not in your present, then they weren’t real friends, and they weren’t real important in your life anyway, so forget about it. Every single time that you and I are on a program together or share a venue or even share a telephone call, we start right where we left off. I think that’s the true sign of friendship. That has everything to do with why you have this program that is of interest to social entrepreneurs. You and I both know that the goal in life is to seek to bless, not impress.

I have been a professional speaker for 35 years. I was sponsored back in 1982 by the world-renowned motivational teacher Zig Ziglar, who took me under his wing and mentored me for 30 years as his go-to guy and just a dear, dear friend. One of the great Christian men on our planet, one of the great teachers and motivational speakers. Back in the day, when I was first invited to start speaking—I will give a little bit about my background in a moment—I went to my dad, my hero. I’m a songwriter; I have a couple of gold records in country music, and one of them, my very best songs I wrote about my sweet dad, that used to get a lot of radio play, was called, “Special Man.” Lyrical hook, “Any male can be a father/But it takes a special man to be a dad.” It’s a good song; I’m proud of it. I went to my dad and said, “Dad, what kind of speaker should I be? I am starting to get all these opportunities at different venues in every industry on the planet.” He said, “Be the kind of speaker you want to listen to.” I have always loved stories. I have always loved music. That is why you and I connected at that heart-to-heart level right out of the chutes because of your background as a musician, as a concert-

Hugh: Conductor.

Dan: An orchestra leader. Everything that you are about as a conductor doesn’t do who you are and what you’re about. It doesn’t do justice just to call you a conductor. I was privileged and fortunate enough to have Zig Ziglar take me under his wing and help me become a storyteller.

My story in a nutshell: I played football for 13 years. I was in an attacking drill at practice one day. My coach blew the whistle. Two of us ran into each other full-speed. We were 15 yards apart. Our helmets crashed into each other, and we had a violent collision. My right shoulder was smashed into the cutting edge of my fiberglass pads, and we slammed to the ground. When he got off me, I had loss of speech, my eye drooped, my right side was paralyzed, and my arm dangled helplessly at my side. Fast forward, I went to 16 of the very best doctors in all of North America, and all of them told me I would never get any better. How many of us have heard that?

My question to all of you who are tuning in: What happens if you believe someone who says it will never get any better? I stayed paralyzed for 14 months, physically and emotionally, because I was asking the wrong questions. I was asking the doctors how to get better when I should have been asking myself why. Once we answer why, figuring out the how-to becomes clear and simple. Not easy, but simple.

What we need to do is tune into podcasts, tune into programs, such as yours, Hugh, that validate that regardless of whether we are in person belly to belly or on the Internet in a podcast scenario or situation, the fact is that we still become the average of the five people we associate with the most. If you hang around five broke people, you are going to become the sixth. If you hang around with five negative, whining people, you are going to become the sixth. The antithesis of that is we must be willing to pay any price and travel any distance to associate with extraordinary human beings. Who are the extraordinary human beings? That Max Lucato quote has resonated with me since I heard him say it, “We must be willing to pay any price and travel any distance to associate with extraordinary human beings.” Who are the extraordinary human beings? They are those who understand what you and I fundamentally understand, which everyone who tunes into this program has to understand when I quantify it. What flows through you, not to you. To throw a famous Zig Ziglar-ism on top of that, this simply means we can get anything in this life that we want if we are willing to help enough other people get what they want.

I have written 34 books. I am a New York Times best-selling author, gold records in country music, primary author and contributor in all the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and I bring all of that together in my self-aggrandizing bio that you asked me to share, Hugh. The process of writing a hit song is so extraordinary, and it applies to everyday living. We have to be able to take an entire experience and distill it into a 3:40 song so every word pays its own way. It’s the editing process in real time that makes us qualified to influence the affluent, to network at the highest levels and become an influencer. As a short story writer, I take that same songwriting process and take an entire experience and consolidate it into a three- or a three-and-a-half page story because everybody can pull out a book from their handbag, from their desk, from their briefcase in the middle of the day and change their mindset, if they so choose, to become an influencer, to impact the world one moment at a time. So I have chosen.

We have gone full circle. I chose a long time ago, and I have continuously chosen, to be a storyteller because when you and I speak, nobody listens. When anybody speaks, nobody listens. When we tune into the 10:00 news on television, we don’t remember the facts and figures. We remember the interpretation of the facts and figures. Nobody listens to us when we talk, but everybody listens to us when we tell stories.

Hugh: I can see the influence of Zig. He said, “If you had to give a speech, give a speech 1,000 times before it was any good.” All of us would pay to hear him do the same speech because it was so good. Had I known you were in the audience when I was speaking—when you first met me, I think you were in my keynote—I would have been nervous about it because you are the best storyteller. I am learning storytelling. You got to observe me. But I have gotten to observe you more, and every time you engage people with a story, it’s not just the words of the story, but how you present the story and the drama with the story that is so great. How did you get good at storytelling? How can I get better?

Dan: Let me compliment you first in the amalgamation of the answer. When you’re a conductor of an orchestra and you have the score in front of you, multiple pages of the symphonic score, and you are responsible to stand in front of these I don’t know how many the standard number of people in a symphony, but well over 100 musicians, and each one plays his/her part. What is fascinating about your keynote is you come out in your tails, and before you even say anything, you get the audience to respond to your gestures, to your commands with your little miniature baton. You ask us to come into your performance, and then you cut us off. Then you give us that amplification, “Use your diaphragm if you are a singer. I want you to come with volume.” Then you silence us, and you give us the metaphor that if you are a triangle player and you only have one piece in this six-minute concerto, you better be ready for when you point at that triangle player and he goes, “Ding!” It magnifies and amplifies the entire performance. Everything that you’re about answers your own question, brother. It is the order in which we put our stories that choreographs the emotion of the speech.

May I just share that every song written in any language was written with the same twelve notes. If you write a song in lyrics in English, every single song that was written with the same twenty-six letters of the English alphabet. The only difference between one song and another is the order in which the twelve notes fall and the timing and spacing in between the notes.

The question of the day is: What is the difference between a hit songwriter and a lousy songwriter if they have access to the same twelve notes? What is the difference between a great banker and a lousy banker if they have access to the same interest rates and economy? I drive 45 minutes one way to a bank and never once have I asked what the interest rates are on my loans. If money has become the topic of the conversation, it means the presentation is weak and the relationship is nonexistent. It’s all about relationships. It’s all about that connection. Seek to bless, not impress.

I have taught public speaking now for over 10 years at the MBA level. 18-25-year-old young men and women, sitting at my feet. That sounds self-aggrandizing now. Sponges seeking to understand the secrets of public speaking. Right out of the chutes, I remind them of three things: 1) Seek to bless, not impress. 2) It’s never about the speaker. It’s always about the audience. But if you and I stand up and we dazzle the crowd and we get a standing ovation and they are doing the wave and some of them name their future children Hugh Ballou because it goes so well, if they are impressed with you and me, we have blown it as a speaker. Seek to bless, not impress. 2) The audience must leave the venue not impressed with the speaker, but impressed with themselves.

There is an inverted triangle formula we must always follow. It’s my trademark. I teach it in all my public speaking seminars and to my students at the university level. Inverted triangle. Question 1: Why should I listen to you? It’s the credibility piece. Have you done it, or are you currently doing it? Question 2: Can I do it? It’s the possibility piece. With my limitations and weaknesses and with my strengths. At the base of this inverted triangle, the triangle is inverted on piece because it funnels to the ROI, the return on investment. What do I do now? It’s the actionable piece. It’s the usability piece. How do I get from where I am to where I want to be? What is the system? You can’t always control what happens, but you can always control what happens next. No matter what your past has been, you have a spotless future. What do I do now? Today, you have never been this old before. Today, you have never been this young again. So every right now matters. I need to leave this venue committed to doing at least one thing that you suggested that I can do with my weaknesses, with my limitations, and with my strengths.

The idea is for people is to leave our venue, leave our speeches, and leave our presence- Those of you who are tuning in who see my glow on my head here in my library in my home, I did that on purpose because Hugh is one of the most angelic Christian men on our planet. But I wanted to upstage you a little bit showing the public that I actually have the angelic glow. Even though you have a better camera than I do, I am taking advantage of the angelic glow.

Hugh: Not to mention-

Dan: The audiences must believe they can do whatever they dream to do. The last thing that I share with my students as a public speaking teacher and in my public speaking seminar is to make sure that people realize you spend less time preparing a speech and most of your time preparing yourself to speak, which takes us full circle with the inverted triangle to why I should listen to you.

If you want to have an impact, you better understand that the reason why we have relationships in the first place is for everyone to leave us saying, “I like me best when I’m with you. I want to see you again.” The foundation of every relationship at any level is to understand the definition of sales is the transference of trust. We do business with those whom we trust. Why should I listen to you? The credibility piece. It all ties into the significance of this program, and I suppose the reason why you invited me in. The last book of my 34 books is called The Art of Significance: Achieving the Level Beyond Success. And I am ready for your next question.

Hugh: I am fascinated with this. We have a number of people. We are recording this podcast live. We got another musician, a very world-famous bass singer Doug Lawrence join. He has sung on every concert stage in the world. Keith Leon says hi. Keith says, “What is the way to getting booked to share our mission?”

Dan, I wanted you on here because I work with so many leaders doing so many different things. I want to share that question before we quit here. Keith wants to know how to go on stages. I think they should go to and participate in one of your speaker events. I don’t date anything on these podcasts because people might be listening to this podcast a year from now. There are really important messages, so the events you have, you might continue to have these. You do these speaker boot camps.

Dan: Yes, sir.

Hugh: Can they find out about that at Where can they find out about that?

Dan: That is my website, If you click on “Receive Free Gifts and Training,” you will receive free downloads of some of my books on coaching and leadership. I have a joke book and a quote book and a book on parenting significant children. I have four amazing children. So many books on so many topics.

The reason why I want you to click on that is to join my tribe. Hugh and I take a lot of pride in keeping in touch. Remember I said earlier, we become the average of the five people we associate with the most. In the real world, if you have horses, you will realize that if you put a hard-to-catch horse in the same field as an easy-to-catch horse, most of the time you end up with two hard-to-catch horses. In the human experience, if you put a healthy child in the same room with a sick child, most of the time you end up with two sick children. Moral of the story: to be disciplined, healthy, and significant, we must be willing to pay any price and travel any distance to associate with extraordinary human beings who are disciplined, healthy, and significant. Online podcasting, especially joining our tribes.

Please go to You will always have the update on where I’m going around the country with my speaker boot camps. There is nothing better than figuring out a way to answer three questions. 1) Do you believe that you have a message worth sharing with the world? Do you believe you have been tapped on the shoulder and that you have a message you feel obligated to share with the world? Your stage is bigger than Toad Sack Fairy, Arkansas. Your stage is as huge as it demonstrates, bigger than wonderful Lynchburg, Virginia, what a beautiful city, historic. So extraordinary. But Hugh’s stage is the entire world, and that is why Hugh and I met as faculty members of an incredible organization. The question to all of you is: What are you willing to do to take your message to the world and fulfill your ultimate capacity and potential and fulfill your manifest destiny? If you have been tapped out, and it’s not a job or a career but it’s a calling, then you need to attend one of my speaker boot camps. More importantly, you need to join my tribe at and of course join Hugh’s tribe because together we rise. When the water in the lake goes up, the boats all rise together. Thanks for plugging that, Hugh.

Hugh: I’m excited about that and about your radio show. We will save the radio show for later. We have a hard break because you have somewhere to go. Give me a countdown when you get to five minutes. You are all over the world. People can find out about you.

Let’s go back to this art of significance. It’s related to the leader being the influencer. When I work with leaders, it doesn’t matter if you are on stage in front of a thousand people or you are speaking to one person. Working on our presentation skills is primary because leaders are influencers. My podcast is called Orchestrating Success. It’s got me in my penguin suit where you first met me. It’s converting our passion to profit. Profit is about money, but it’s about other things as well. Like in the Bible, what does a man profit if he gains the whole world but loses his soul. There are a lot of nuances. We have to have positive cash flow because we have to pay the bills. Whether you are running a charity or a business, we have to focus on giving value so there is a reciprocity to that value.

My question, Dan, is: People are hung up on am I good enough? Do I have good enough content? What do you say to yourself to help empower you to do the magical presenting? I don’t see you any different from when you and I are talking one to one and when you are on stage. There is nothing phony that you are putting out on stage. That is Dan Clark. It is just you have more people paying attention. You have been able to equip and empower and center yourself for telling the story. What is behind that? How did you get here?

Dan: Everybody claims that the number one fear of people is the fear of speaking in public. I can’t even relate to that. In my experience, I could no more stand in front of a room and speak than fly to the moon. I could always be in the back of the room and have a twisted sense of humor and we could make people laugh all day long. You and I are pretty good one on one, and most people are pretty good one on one. The answer to the question has to be the answer to what we believe.

The reason why you say I am centered and the reason why I say you are centered and the reason why we are authentic, the reason why we are the same offstage as we are on stage is because what we talk about is not a show. We didn’t just hire some magnificent speechwriter to make us look good as a Shakespearean actor, and when the lights hit us, we click it on and suddenly we walk off the stage and have no character, class, personality, or sense of humor. It’s just the stage. There are way too many people like that in my profession. Their attitude is so pathetic, it’s offensive. People in the educational world who are wonderful educators, so many of them get caught up in the same pathetic mess that I experience in my profession as a professional speaker. I am saying that so often when professional speakers get together, you will hear someone say that the audience loved me on Wednesday, but they sucked on Friday; they just didn’t get me. That is because they still think it’s about them than about the audience. So they show up and whip off Speech A and have the same punctuating pauses and the same gestures and influx in the voice. They do everything exactly the same. But they go to a venue that’s hot, where people haven’t eaten all day, and they are the last one on the program. There was a riot outside the city two days before. Whatever the situation is, they don’t take into consideration, and therefore they don’t connect.

Long ago, that is why I decided I should be a storyteller. My speaking formula, preparing a speech, is really about preparing yourself to speak, which means you have a bucket list. No matter what, you keep filling that bucket list with accomplishments. You keep checking off the boxes and keep refilling the bucket list so everybody says to themselves, “Dan Clark’s message is fresh because he is.” Therefore, we owe it to ourselves to continuously have wonderful experiences.

Off camera, before we even started the podcast, Hugh, you showed me the pictures of your brand-new home. You took me on this virtual tour through the living room and through this amazing master bedroom suite and this gajillion-dollar bathroom. The front walkway, the entranceway, the grand staircase. It was unbelievable. Well, off camera, you and I start shooting the bull. Before we know it, you will have an entire ten-minute story using the metaphor of selling an old house, upgrading, downsizing, and getting the home of your dreams at your age. You look phenomenal for 103 years of age. To make a move now, there is a story in moving into this home and finding this home and allowing this home to define who you and your relationship are. I am saying there are stories in our lives every day.

May I just say something about this inverted triangle again. So many people think that the credibility piece, why I should listen to you, is about an extraordinary story. It’s not an extraordinary story. If anybody is listening and paying attention and really wants to learn to be a professional speaker, we must first be ordinary before we can be extraordinary. As a professional speaker, I have realized after all these 34 years, people don’t relate to my perfections if I even have any. They relate to my imperfections. They don’t give a rat’s wockazoodle if I have ever succeeded. They want to know, “Clark, did you ever fail? Did you ever fall down? What did you do about it?” In this credibility piece, people need to relate to our imperfections more than our perfections. We need to first be ordinary instead of extraordinary. Too many people think, “Oh my gosh, I could never be a professional speaker because the guy yesterday who spoke to our group had his head cut off and still speaks fluent French. It was unbelievable. It was so inspiring.”

As a speaker, I realize I am twisted. My profession has twisted me. The other day, I was on an airplane and we had turbulence. It was the most brutal turbulence I had experienced in all my years flying around the world. We were bouncing all over the sky. People are praying. People are screaming. People are saying the rosary. What am I thinking? My twisted mind goes, “Oh my gosh. You realize that if we crash and I survive, my speaker’s fee triples.” Yes, I have become twisted because we all think we need a more important, more exotic story than the people we follow. No, that’s not the case.

Everybody has a story. Everybody in their life has had a significant emotional event. Sadly, dealing with the military who are coming back from the war, it’s PTS, it’s not PTSD. It’s not a disorder. We need to treat it as an injury, which means that if you go through the proper steps of recovery, you can recover from an injury. I have broken my body in so many places so many times that I have realized if we go through the proper steps of rehab, the part of our body that was injured becomes stronger and more resilient than it was before we injured it, which includes our minds, which includes our hearts, which includes our personalities. The PTS, post-traumatic stress, they say that everybody, if we dive deep enough and are honest enough with ourselves, has had a post-traumatic stress situation in our lives. An automobile accident, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job. Whatever the case may be, they all differ in degrees of seriousness. But the definition of a post-traumatic stress injury is that we cannot stop remembering. If we can impact those individuals by sharing a story that makes us ordinary and relatable right out of the chutes, then we are in a position of credibility to also share that they can do it, too because we did something extraordinary after we have connected ordinary.

As a high school kid, I was so skinny that I had to jump around in the shower to get wet. I had so many zits that when I fell asleep in math class, the kids played connect the dots on my face. You have perfect hair, Hugh. It has not moved since 1977. I am losing hair right here. I am growing it in places I don’t even need it. It’s not a fair trade-off. The hair on the right ear will grow so long that I can comb it over the top of my head and fake everybody out. Self-deprecating humor makes us ordinary. When I am pulling up my socks, I say, “What else can I accomplish when I am way down here?” We can relate at the ordinary level in every aspect of our lives before we seek to be extraordinary. That is the secret to storytelling.

What we have to do is take an inventory, a self-audit. Internally excavate what we know about the nine areas of life: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, financial, family/familial, recreation, and obviously charitable giving. Each of us should have at least a story in each one of those nine categories if we are worth listening to. Each one of us should have a goal in each one of those nine categories that we can improve upon to give us more credibility. Volunteer more hours. Demonstrate our love of charity, of volunteerism, of service before self. Physical: get in shape. Mental: continuous education. Spiritual: religion is for those who are afraid to go to hell. Spiritual is for those of us who have already been there. But you and I both know we need both of them in our lives.

Why do we need organized religion? Because we become the average of the five people we associate with the most. We need to join a tribe. We need to share experiences. But because this is about social entrepreneurship, it’s not money that is evil, my friend. It’s the love of money that gets us into trouble. It’s the love of money that ruins personal relationships. It’s the love of money that screws up our lives and we die with our music still in us. Regardless if any of our viewers or listeners are of the Jewish tradition or the Muslim tradition, it doesn’t matter. This Christian example from the Holy Bible applies to all of us: The Good Samaritan, the exact same coinage, the exact same money that the Good Samaritan used in the Biblical example, the exact same money and coinage that the Good Samaritan used to benefit his community is the same coinage that Judas Iscariot used to betray Jesus Christ. It’s not money that is evil. It’s the love of money that gets us into trouble.

No longer do we have to make excuses for making a profit, for making money. The more money we make, the more taxes we pay, which allows us to build the infrastructure of America, take care of the homeless, take care of the widows, do our part. The more significantly we create events, create charitable organizations where our money can be donated to the proper foundations and causes to benefit the world. That is where you and I have connected. You have a passion and a calling to help nonprofit organizations figure out a way to more effectively fund their causes so that we can share the world, again, one story at a time.

Hugh: The leaders and the charities need a story. The entrepreneurs in business need a story. You uncovered a couple of things. Feeling significant, I don’t know what the journey was like for you conceiving and creating that book, but you have some profound stories about significance. You hit on a point.

I gave you a link in the last few days of my interview with Les Brown. You guys are on the same level as partners making the audience want more and being so excited. I had to follow Les Brown twice. I haven’t had to follow Dan Clark at all, thank god. But I had to follow Les Brown. I was in the back of the room, which was not a good thing to do, when Les was speaking. He had people on his feet. They were excited and cheering. He went out to standing ovation. Then here comes Hugh Ballou. There was a break with refreshments, and I went to get dressed. I was putting on my tails. This is the story of anchoring ourselves in our own authenticity and not comparing ourselves to others. I am looking in the mirror and putting on my white tie with tails. I said, “You’re nervous. What are you going to do about it?” I replied back to myself, “You’re going to go out there and be Hugh Ballou.” I completely erased what happened before and went out there and did my thing. Dan, it was the best I ever was.

Have you ever been to a place where you wanted to compare yourself to that person and said, “Oh, I couldn’t live up to this?” If so, how did you manage that? A lot of us have some doubt that we don’t measure up, and we are constantly trying to compare ourselves with others, which is not really a thing we ought to be doing. Correct?

Dan: Absolutely.

It goes back to answering the question, “Why should I listen to you?” Being ordinary before we are extraordinary, everybody has a story. Again, I said, I can’t relate to people who say their number one fear is speaking in public, not if you talk about what you believe in. When you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember everything. When you dive deeper into your understanding, you start realizing the metaphor is that sadness gives depth. Happiness gives life. The metaphor of a tree, branches give height. Roots give depth. Branches have dreams for sale. Branches allow us to think bigger. Roots go deeper and anchor us so that when the winds of change come, we are not going to be blown away. The higher the tree goes, the deeper the roots go. The bigger the tree, the bigger the roots. That is what creates the balance.

Pain is the signal to grow, not to suffer. Once we learn the lesson the pain teaches us, the pain goes away. In life, there is no mistakes, only lessons. Crisis does not make or break the man or woman, it just reveals the true character within. Adversity introduces us to ourselves. No one will ever know how good we can become until we are tested. You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. I don’t want people to think I am a walking cliche. These are my quotes. I believe these things. I have taken the time to quantify what I believe so when I walk out on stage, I know I have a unique factor. This is my perspective. We don’t see things as they are—we see things as we are.

Every one of your listeners today are in the same room as you and I, and magically, you opened up the wall of your beautiful new home in Lynchburg. All of us can witness the same lashing rain storm at the same time. One person would complain, “What a horrible day.” Another person would exclaim, “What a wonderful day.” And the weather did not change. We owe it to our audience to share what we see through our glasses, what we see through our windowpanes to the world. Until we have a unique enough perspective, we are not qualified to speak because no one will listen to us.

That goes back to the bucket list. That goes back to who on your bucket list you need to interview that will illuminate the principles of life. The 12 highest universal laws of life-changing leadership that I discuss in my book The Art of Significance, which builds your credibility. You can challenge the status quo. I am famous for being the maverick outlier. I love to challenge the status quo, and that is the reason why I am the nucleus and why I wrote my book. I identified the 12 most common principles of success that are debatable that have actually created limiting beliefs and have replaced each one of those with what I call the 12 highest universal laws of life-changing leadership that are irrefutable that are never debatable.

What we have to do is challenge the status quo. I love to say things like, “How many of you have sat around or know people who are sitting around saying, ‘Ah, is the glass half empty or half full?’” Those who wonder if the glass is half empty or half full have missed the point, Hugh. It’s refillable. Thinking positively or thinking negatively does not fill up the glass. The pouring does. It’s easier to act your way into positive thinking than it is to think your way into positive action. It’s not the sugar that makes the tea sweet—it’s the stirring, it’s the process. Happiness is not found in the destination, it’s found in the journey.

Now let’s challenge a sacred cow put forth by Stephen Covey. Living in Utah, I have known Covey since 1975. We have shared multiple breakfasts and dinners and talks together. What a guru. What a class Christian and human being. One of the seven habits is begin with the end in mind. With all due respect, when he wrote Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I would suspect most of your listeners or viewers, because we are out of the same peapod, Hugh, all devoured that transformational book. After I publicly could admit that I had four of the seven habits down, he came out with the new book, The Eighth Habit. I immediately emailed Stephen Covey, “Calm down. We don’t need any more frickin’ habits. We are still on the first seven.” With all due respect to this good man, God rest his soul, he passed away, beginning with the end in mind is a limiting belief because it forces us to focus on a destination that is impressive, doing our best to manage people and reward results.

I have interviewed multiple people who have summited Mount Everest. I have interviewed men who walked on the moon. One particular man, second man on the moon, within three years after he accomplished that destination, he was bankrupt, divorced, and homeless. He was an alcoholic. Destinations do not bring any long-term satisfaction. We just check a box and are suddenly empty, trying to find a new thing to do that impresses ourselves and others.

What I have done is I have replaced begin with the end in mind with a higher law, a different mindset. When we begin with the why in mind, it inspires us. Remember, inspired people do not have to be motivated. When we begin with the why in mind, we are inspired to focus on a journey that is important. We manage expectations or only reward effort, which means the goal is to become better today than we were yesterday, which is a long answer to your simple question.

Our human tendency is to always compete and compare ourselves with others. That is wrong. When we focus on the end in mind, when we begin with the end in mind, it’s only about competition instead of collaboration. Here is why. Are you tall? Are you short? Are you wide or thin? Are you smart or stupid? Are you fast or slow? Are you pretty or pretty ugly? Says who compared to what.

I was a keynote speaker at the National Convention for Eating Disorders, anorexia and bulimia. I did my due diligence. I had my conference call. I tried to become as much of an expert on the topic as I possibly could. When I got to the convention, I was perplexed because they kept referring to it as an eating disorder. Anorexia and bulimia do not have one thing to do with food. Yes, I singled out a young woman. I scanned the audience to make sure she could handle it. I asked her if she would participate as the spokesperson for everyone else in the audience of several thousand who would participate in answering my questions. I repeated everything I just said to you: Are you tall or short? Are you wide or thin? Are you fast or slow? Compared to who? Says who compared to what? The obvious visual was if we put a young lady on that proverbial deserted island, and she had no access to fashion magazines with the Photoshopped Twiggy models who are really nonexistent, would she think of herself as a beautiful woman? Would she love herself just the way she is? Of course she would because she is who she is. My dad always told me growing up, “Be the best you you can be. You are going to make a lousy somebody else. If you spend your whole entire life being somebody else, who is going to be you?”

It’s human tendency, Hugh, to compare ourselves with others. So what I did was compare the 12 most common principles of success with the results they are achieving. I was appalled. Someone else that I need to throw under the bus with all due respect is Jim Collins, a great author, wonderful former professor at Stanford University. I have shared the program with him many, many times. Most people don’t realize that as authors, the most sacred space in an airport bookstore, in a bookstore, is the shelf. Some publishers pay $100,000 to have their author’s book featured in the front of a bookstore in an airport for one week. To have your book on a bookshelf in a bookstore is a very big deal. I have 34 books, and I watch and take a lot of pride when I walk through a bookstore and see my book on a shelf. Or I go to Barnes & Noble and they have more than five of my volumes on a shelf because they are selling them. The Art of Significance: Achieving the Level Beyond Success.

You realize that today, not putting any date on this podcast, this podcast could have been in 2005, 2022—you realize that Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, it was published in 2001. Nine years after publication, by 2009, 50% of his examples of great organizations were obsolete, and yet it is found on every bookstore in America and around the world right now. That’s wrong. We are bamboozling those who are seeking counsel to become business gurus. Where is Circuit City? Where is Borders? Where is Blockbuster? He gave a five-page expose on the greatness of Fannie Mae. It singlehandedly brought down the economy of the entire universe. There are people on Mars still pissed off at Jim Collins and Fannie Mae. Where is the book that doesn’t have to be updated? Of course, Jim Collins, to save face, immediately came out with another book, Why the Great Fall. That’s unacceptable.

What he failed to do is ask the deeper questions. He identified what organizations made the transfer process from good to great. But what he also failed to explain and identify were those organizations that also followed the exact same qualities, processes, and formulas that he illuminated in Good to Great that did not make the leap from good to great. What he failed to also identify were these traits of those organizations that became great organizations that also shared the same negative traits that would eventually lead to their demise.

What I did was identify these 12 most common principles of success and replace them with what I call the 12 highest universal laws of life-changing leadership. Again, my book is The Art of Significance, published by Penguin in 2013. Every one of your listeners needs to purchase this book on Amazon. It will change your life. I guarantee it will transform your mindset, your life, and your organization from successful to significant.

Let me just quickly share how I have set up the chapters by throwing the principle of success under the bus in the same chapter title by illuminating and identifying the replacement highest law of the universe.

Law #1 is practice obedience over free will agency.

Law #2: Practice perseverance instead of patience. You and I are both good Christian men. In the Bible, it says, “Patience is a virtue.” Not always, my friends, not always. Any virtue taken to the extreme can become a vice. Patience allows us to never begin. Patience allows us to mindlessly wait our turn, believing that this is the hand I have been dealt, this is the cross I must bear. There is nothing I can do about it. It was meant to be. Absolutely false theology. Bad idea. Perseverance is patience with a purpose, where we proactively take our turn because we know why we should. Faith without work is not faith at all. Hope is not a method. French philosopher Pascal said, “Too many people are living their lives hoping to be happy, but because they only hope, they never really are.” Too many are waiting for someone to invite them to their senior prom, and they have never even taken the time to learn how to dance. Just law #2 alone will transform the way you believe about time and urgency.

Law #3: Proactively stretch instead of change.

Law #4: Trust predictability instead of hope and faith, which we just talked about.

Law #5: Know the whole truth instead of believing what you think.

Law #6: Focus on winning instead of team. Focus on winning instead of team. There is no I in team. There is no I in sucks, either. Teams lose. It’s about winning. There are two I’s in winning. I won’t go there.

Law #7: Do right instead of seeking to be best. Best is only relevant depending on what you compare it against. We know that. If you and I played in a celebrity golf tournament, and I win because I shoot 108—the par for 18 holes is 72, and I win the golf tournament shooting 108. Everyone else is shooting 125, and I win because I suck less than you suck. That’s a bad system. Best is only relevant depending on what you compare it against.

Law #8: Experience harmony instead of forcing balance. You know about that as a conductor, as a musician. Harmony instead of forcing balance. We’re not multi-taskers. We think like a juggler. The juggler only controls the ball in her hand. Once you have relinquished control, once you have let go of the ball, you have relinquished control, so why worry about it? Focus on the ball on your hand, the task at hand that you can do something about until you catch the ball again. Wonderful discussion on law #8.

Law #9: Accept others instead of judging them. Charlottesville, Virginia in your backyard, brother.

#10: We need to love and be needed instead of romanced and used. In a business sense, successful people are eager to romance and admire others based on selfish interests and a desire to use them and their connections. But to love is a genuine and significant motive. My personal motto: I like me best when I’m with you; I want to see you again. It speaks volumes to the elements we need to cultivate in ourselves and align with and reward in others.

Law #11: Establish covenants instead of making commitments. That alone will help you become a social entrepreneur. Why? The definition of commitment, Hugh, is a two-way contract born out of suspicion. Are you with me? You make a list of responsibilities, and I will make a list of my responsibilities. I will hold you accountable to your list, and you will hold me accountable to my list. If either one of us violates any one of those line item responsibilities, the contract is nil and void. 50% divorce rate in America. Too many contractual agreements busted because of lack of integrity, or maybe the system is broken.

A covenant is the highest law in relationships. A covenant is born out of trust and love. It is a one-way promise born out of trust and love, which means that no matter what you say to me, no matter how you treat me, I will still walk on higher ground. I will still be the man of integrity. I will still follow my honor code of ethics to be exactly the same all the time no matter what you say or what you do. I will be the same off-stage as I am onstage. I will not stand up and put on a show as a “professional presenter.” I will be a professional speaker putting the audience first and spending most of my time preparing myself to speak.

Law #12, which is a book unto obedience is: Forgive instead of apologize. This is perhaps the greatest characteristic of a social entrepreneur, of a human being, of a parent, and, obviously what draws me to you, brother, of a super human being in Hugh Ballou.

All of the laws are described in depth and illustrated by powerful short stories, funny experiences, anecdotes, and metaphors in my book The Art of Significance. Please go to I want to transform the world, and I guarantee you will not die with the music still in you if you buy this book, study it, and keep in touch with me on

Hugh: I will have the notes from this interview on my webpage. Dan Clark, you are an amazing leader. You influence lots of people. You are also a music guy. You are a very good listener. You have repeated back things I have said over—I think it’s been more than two years we have known each other. You have repeated multiple things about me, which is quite remarkable. I am very touched by that, by your affirmations and your friendship.

Shall we share with people our little discussion before we went live about the multi-day executive retreat we are planning to do? Is that something we are going to do?

Dan: Yes. Ladies and gentlemen, again, we make no apologies or excuses for charging money, for putting a monetary value on something. I was the guy back in the Reagan White House between 1983 and 1989, invited by Mrs. Reagan into the Reagan White House to take her First Lady initiative, the “Just Say No” Program, to students across America. Between ‘83 and ‘89, I spoke in thousands and thousands of high schools in all 50 states to over six million teenagers. 172 college/university campuses as the convocation speaker. Those students, nature of the beast, became college graduates and became the leaders in their companies and were involved in HR, which is how I made the transition into the corporate arena as a professional speaker, speaking on leadership, team building, motivation obviously, and safety. That is why I have had this Hall of Fame career. I was named one of the top ten speakers in the world on two different occasions, in 1999 and again in 2015. I was inducted into the National Speakers Hall of Fame in 2005. I say that because I want to answer for our listeners why I should listen to you.

Let me brag here on my partner in crime, Hugh Ballou. He understands the highest laws of the universe. He lives his message. He knows he is the message. He is the same offstage as he is on stage. What he understands is as a conductor, as a musical genius, as a motivator from the stage, one who can choreograph the order in which the 12 notes follow. As I do, I choreograph the stories, the material, and the order in which we place those stories to take our listeners and our audience members on an emotional rollercoaster ride so that when we are through, they are not only emotionally drained drip dry, but they leave saying, “I like me best when I’m with you; I want to see you again.” That is the preamble to our offering.

I am speaking for you now, Hugh. We believe that we become the average of the five people we associate with the most. What attracts these extraordinary human beings are people who are willing to invest in themselves where they understand that if money becomes the topic of conversation, it means the presentation is weak and the relationship is nonexistent. Every single time I went to a high school or middle school, and they knew the assembly was for free, I was lucky even to have a microphone, and most of the students didn’t show up. They would go to 7-11 because their idea of a high school assembly, their level of expertise had been a retired army band with some old guy showing up with five teeth playing the tuba. That is not to slam our military and definitely not to slam our army reserves or retirees. Visualize a group of seven or eight men who were hitting about every fourth note who were 162 years old: the kids could not relate. When they announced there was going to be a high school motivational assembly, these kids went AWOL.

When I charged $50, I would show up, and they would have some lame microphone set up with a short in the cord back in the day without any cordless microphones. When I charged $100, the microphone actually worked. When I charged $250, suddenly it was an investment. The school had skin in the game. The audiovisual department actually showed up. I now had a stage and lighting, and the kids were supposed to come. When I charged $500 for an assembly, now it was mandatory, and all of the teachers had to accompany their students, which became the security force to keep the wild and crazies in line long enough for the assembly to start. Then it was my job to keep their attention with my stories, my humor, and obviously my music at the end. When we charged $750 an assembly, the faculty all showed up, the administration showed up, the counselors showed up, and parents were invited. As the price continually escalated because of supply and demand, it became obvious that we all need skin in the game, whatever that means.

When we have a charity event and the corporation buys the table and then they send people who can’t afford to bid on the silent auction items or the live auction items and it is a fundraiser, we shoot ourselves in the foot. We need to make the program so compelling that the C-Suite level leaders of that organization want to come and then they have the deep pockets where they can bid on the silent auction items and the live auction items and we can make it the fundraiser we all dream it to be so we can make the difference we are claiming we want to make.

Having said that, we haven’t put a price point. Obviously it is going to be an exclusive event that Hugh and I put together. Obviously, it’s going to be a three-day event. If it is one day, there is no overnight stay. There is no slumber party mentality. There is no transformation. It’s just another meeting where we laugh and think and cry together, and we go back home and flip on back to the exact same situation we were in before we left because while we are together, reality has not changed. If we spend the night, one night, so it’s a two-day event. The transformation starts to begin to occur because we are starting to think in a different way, and now we have isolated ourselves away from and against reality because we do not watch the news, we do not read tweets, we do not touch base with a potential negative environment that we have left at home or work.

But the magic occurs when we have two nights away, a total of three days, where we have sequestered ourselves from the world and we have begun to transform from these 12 principles of success that have created limiting beliefs and replaced them with the 12 highest universal laws of life-changing leadership as an automatic thought process, which obviously validates my mantra in my business. When you attend one of my speeches, when you read one of my books, when you attend one of our joint three-day events, guaranteed, self-mastery will become permanent. Winning will become personal, and leadership will become automatic.

Stay tuned as Hugh and I brainstorm. Guaranteed, it will require skin in the game. A high-ticket item, which will attract the most significant individuals on our planet who have a desire to transform their lives from successful to significant so they don’t die with our music still in us. Remember the goal is not to live forever; the goal is to create something that will. Hugh and I have agreed to do whatever we know how to do to put together the right curriculum, the right formula, and using his expertise as a conductor, to put all of us in our proper positions playing the correct instruments that we are actually natural at playing and together create a magical experience that will transform our lives forever.

Long answer, Hugh. Sorry, but I believe in you, I love you. Our chemistry has always been natural. Our cause is the same. Anyone listening would be a fool not to take advantage of this opportunity because we will take personal development to the highest level possible because we understand the metaphor of the tree. The deeper the roots, the higher the branches. The bigger the tree, the stronger and bigger the roots. We need balance, and all of them will occur simultaneously, just like they do in nature.

Hugh: Very well spoken, as I would anticipate. I will concur with everything you said. You and I talked at this level, but you came down to the ground level. We are perfectly aligned in all of it. Dan Clark, besides being a special friend, you are a special influencer. Every time I have seen you, you always give value to everyone who is in your presence. You don’t select people. You give value as people step up. You care about people. You give them value.

Dan: May I mention my radio show?

Hugh: Yes, I mentioned that earlier and I didn’t get back around to it. Where can we find the radio show?

Dan: If you believe that it’s a job or a career in which you are engaged, I’m sorry, that’s just sad, you are going to die with your music still in you. We need to find our life’s work. We need to find our calling.

My calling is: I have never missed a speech since 1982. Why? I am not trying to be some noble knight in shining armor. I know, I believe this in my heart of hearts, that there is someone in my audience, a man or a woman, at least one or two in every audience, who is hurting as badly as I was. I was able to tap back into my human spirit of resiliency. I had lost hopefulness and the human connection, the two major causes of suicide in our country. I experienced those. I had hit rock bottom. I know that there is at least one man and one woman in every one of my audiences who is hurting as badly as I was, and it’s my moral obligation to do everything I know how to do to share humor, thought-provoking ideas, philosophies of life, a little bit of music, and definitely my inspirational stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul to do anything to inspire you to take it to the next level.

Writing books is not enough. Being invited on magnificent podcasts like Hugh Ballou’s is not enough. I have been given a two-hour show on what is called It’s an on-demand podcast radio show available on the Internet obviously, but it’s broadcast live every Tuesday from 12 noon PST to 2 pm PST. You do the math. You figure out which timezone you’re in. Then it’s rebroadcast 10-13 times every single week across the other channels on My channel happens to be the Influencers Channel. I am honored to be the number one host on the Influencers Channel. I am trying to build my tribe. I want to build my listeners. You need to go on, click on the Influencers Channel, and look me up by my name of Dan Clark or by the name of my program “The Art of Significance.”

I have a library log of all the previous podcasts you can listen to. I have interviewed Tim Ballard, who started Operation Underground Railroad, who is saving and interrupting the sex trafficking going on in our world. I have interviewed Rudy from the movie Rudy. I have interviewed Clate Mask, who started and founded as the current CEO of Infusionsoft, which is a premier contact management follow-up system for entrepreneurs across the globe. Miss USA. The list goes on and on and on. I always have a Grammy award-winning songwriter who talks about the reason why they wrote the song, the story behind their #1 song, and then I have the artist perform on that radio show. They perform the song the songwriter has described. Tim McGraw, “Live Like You’re Dying.” Little Big Town, “Girl Crush.” Keith Urban, multiple hits, “Tonight I Want to Cry,” “Who Wouldn’t Want to Be Me?” “Days Go By,” written by my songwriting buddy Monty Powell.

This post first appeared on The Transformational Leadership Strategist, please read the originial post: here

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Podcast 74: Dan Clark on the Art of Significance


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