Ari Hershberg is a speaker coach and PR professional. Learn what he has to share about purpose and passion in this interview.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do for work right now?
I’m really into athletics, volunteering for different events, checking out good music and eating well. I love to cook.
My two projects is one, I’m an event producer for Gluten-Free Health and Wellness Festival. It was the first year. This just happened 2014 in February. I brought in a keynote speaker, Dr. William Davis, the gentleman who wrote Wheat Belly, to kind of break through the sound bite of gluten-free so people could understand a little bit more than what they’re hearing in the media. Also, something that was beyond Victoria a usual). It’s big to go to Victoria that usually when we’d have to go live at Vancouver, drive to Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. I want to do stuff like that in the city.
I also just started my own agency, a speaker agency, to represent really good talent in the city and abroad to speak at different events throughout the world.
Q. What do the words ‘soul purpose’ mean to you when you hear them? How would you personally define that?
To me soul purpose is things you tend to want to do all the time. You spend hours and hours and hours getting better. You might have been happy, it’s enough to begin with, but something that you just are happy to do for hours.
For me, I love to cook. I could cook all day and I won’t lose a beat. Or I could talk to speakers and I won’t lose a beat. Or talk about health. I don’t mind putting in huge hours on it. I think that’s your soul purpose, things that you don’t even think you’re putting in lots of hours until your shoulder goes or your neck goes and you’re like, “Oh I’ve been putting in a lot of hours.”
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your purpose, if you know what that is?
I think it’s getting clearer as I get older: I’m definitely a people person. I don’t have to be front and center. Actually I like being behind the great speakers who get to make big differences. So I’ve always been attracted to people who have done great things. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it be dance like Michael Jackson and the singing or great culinary chefs like—there are so many—or great athletes and beyond it. I love being behind the scene and getting their message out.
Or even like Dr William Davis. To be the guy behind it, to be able to bring in something that can either educate people on health or make them think about food differently or their activities. Or with other speakers like athletes that I’ve represented who ran and won eco-challenges which—we’ve never heard of eco-challenge. It’s even exhausting to mentally visualize it’s so tiring. It makes an Ironman look like nothing.
I love being able to get these people on stage and showing people in the audience that it’s not impossible. It’s just a lot of small steps. It seems like it’s a lot of small steps to be excellent at anything. So I like being behind all that, all the people who can really execute that well so people can learn, “Oh I could do a 5k run or a 2k run. Maybe one day I could do a 10k run. Or maybe I could cook a little bit healthier out of—instead of a box from scratch. If I just did this 5-minute recipe, maybe I can get to a 10-minute recipe one day and get a little bit more complex.”
I love these little small steps that people are excellent at. I like being behind them so that they can talk to thousands of people.
Q. Do you think everybody has a soul purpose?
Sure. I think everyone does. I think that’s why all of my generation love Star Wars and the next generation love Harry Potter, because they identify with the lead character in themselves, because they’re good at something. Everyone’s good at something. Everyone’s great at something. It’s just paying attention to what you love and what you can put in your thousands and thousands of hours and not think anything out of it other than “Man, this is fun.”
Q. How did you get clear on your soul purpose? What was your process around that?
I guess a lot of reading. I think like many people on neurosis of trying to figure it out. But when you just keep doing what you’re doing and you know that it’s the thing that you like, then it’s all of a sudden you wonder, “Why did I work so hard at trying to figure it out? It was already there.” I think it’s just letting go and just knowing, “I love to quilt,”—I don’t but—“I love to quilt. Why am I not putting more energy into quilting?”
Or why am I not putting more energy into writing? Because every time I write, a person might think that’s my happy place. I forget about my gardener because I’ve been writing for 10 hours or reading for 10 hours about something that’s fascinating. I think it’s easier than we think it is. We were reading Po Bronson’s book years ago. It was good. Again, it’s always back to just what makes you happy.
Q. In terms of your purpose, would you say that you’re living it day-to-day? If so, how do you know?
It’s easy. It’s not like I’m not neurotic anymore. I think it’s my heritage. It’s my ability. It’s a great skill actually. But I want to get up every morning. Like I jump out, like I got so many things I want to work on and play with and create or just take it to the next step. I’m little bit (if anything nervous) that I don’t have enough time in the day. So I think that’s what it is. I’m really happy doing it. Mostly. Not always, mostly.
Q. What do you think is the relationship between your purpose and finances? Do we need to sacrifice in order to live in our soul Q. purpose? Or is it actually the ticket to a bigger bank balance? What’s your perspective on that?
Well, because I’m still in the beginning of a business, I would say—I really like what a lot of people say, “Keep your day job if you can and work hard on your other thing if you have that opportunity. If you have the opportunity and you have a job that’s giving you a decent pay or enough to live on, do it. Then put your hours into creating something bigger and better for yourself or a side thing just for fun. Who knows which way it’s going to go? Well, you don’t know. So just make sure you’re financially covered while you’re figuring it out. Again, it’s not hard to do the stuff you love while you’re having a safe income.
Q. What’s a decision you made in the past that got you on course that you would make again today?
Move back to Victoria, and a couple things before that. I moved back to Victoria and also I accepted a—I didn’t accept. I demanded a position as an agent in an entertainment agency years ago. I called up the CMI Speaker for Management. I said, “I want to work for you.” I’ve never done that work before. I knew I wanted to be an agent. I had no experience other than a degree. She let me in after I wouldn’t stop hounding her in a nice way. That was one. The second was coming back to Victoria. I was able to do stuff here that I wouldn’t have even wanted to try in Calgary.
Q. Overall, did you feel encouraged or discouraged by your community as you were going through the process of discovering your purpose?
Neither. Sometimes you get discouraged. I think the people closest to you, like the family, will always question you on stuff. I think that’s cool. My parents definitely did. But for the most part, it’s your game, unless you have people who are just around you who just are completely negative of anything that you like to do (which is not a person I’d be wanting to hang around), people are just “Cool.” But no one really cares really, in my mind, until they see the result. Then all of a sudden they’re like, “You did what?” and then they’re like, “Wow that was really cool!”
That’s usually how it goes. It’s a lot of time on your own or depending on what your work is, where you’re just working all these little jobs to make a big job look like it was just always there. So that’s what I think I noticed a bit most. People are like “Oh wow! That exists, that’s really cool.” In the meantime, it’s just a lot of hours to do it. Does that make sense?
Q. For you personally, what’s been hard? What are some of the obstacles that you faced in transitioning into your soul purpose?
I think for me the hardest is financial. Because, similar to what I just said about 5 minutes ago, for me I know how businesses work. I know that it takes a few years to push it in. But just living lean and pushing through that, I think that’s the hardest for me.
Just from the way I was raised, everyone has different securities. That way I’ve worked with some amazing entrepreneurs that don’t give a damn. They know what they know. They spend money fluently and easily. For me I’m more of a frugal person. So I think that’s the hardest for me.
Doing the work is really easy because I can get lost in it and come back at 10:00 at night and go, “Oh!” Like today, it’s terrible, but I know how my week’s working. I’m going to be in meetings all week so I’ve been working since 8:00 am. I haven’t walked outside. For some people that would bother them. To me, it’s just like, “No, I’ve got a couple more hours to do. Then I will go work out and enjoy my evening so I can do my meetings outside next weekend, not throughout the weekend and not think twice.”
Q. So how do you deal with tough times on an emotional level? What helped you get through the obstacles? What helps you?
I think there are always obstacles. For me there’s always something. If obstacles ended, I think life would end. But mostly it’s friends, family, and probably the same, equal.
Working out. I have to work out almost every day. Do something physical. Because when I find once I’m physically exhausted, my mind is in its best shape. Between that working hard and exhausting my mind physically, great.
Then at least 3 or 4 times a week do something really fun, whether it would be watching a movie with a friend, which is really fun for me. I go to theatre, go try something I’ve never done before, volunteer somewhere. I don’t know.
I had a speaker, whom I represented for years, who is really a wise guy, New York Time’s best-selling business writer. He said, “Always volunteer no matter how busy you are. It always kind of sets you up for the happiest place.” It’s true. When I volunteer for stuff, it always makes me pretty much the happiest of most activities I do. Because I’m so happy that you’re helping them out. They’re like, “You’re helping me out?” I’m like, “Yeah, of course. Why? It’s no big deal,” but it’s a big deal to them. So it’s really nice.
Q. What’s different about you now that you’re living in your purpose versus when you weren’t?
Again, for me, it’s these little steps. I’d say the more I’m able to embrace things that I love to do and I’m willing to work really hard at, it’s this different level of confidence. I think it comes—
I’ve seen in a lot of people’s eyes who I believe have done all those little minutia steps to get to where they are. They have this confidence and glow. When we see them on TV or in movies—which is way beyond the average person (but that’s my only reference point) we’re like, “There’s something about that person.”
I consider that it’s in myself, in a minutia level of that, personally made it to the big leagues or perceived big leagues that I have that kind of confidence that I would never have if I didn’t take and use things that I love to do.
Q. How has your impact on the world changed since you’ve been living your purpose?
It’s kind of neat because I hear stories about it all the time. It’s one of my favorite things about being a speaker agent. After a speaker finishes doing a talk, whether it’s 100 or 20,000 people in the stadium that I represent over the years, I’d hear from the planner or from the CEO of the company, they’re like, “Our audience was so happy.” It’s that same feeling for me, but now it’s mine.
Like when I did the event at the Victoria Conference Center, everyone takes it in different ways. Some people were so emotionally charged about having a place where they were having this opportunity to learn and be educated for a whole day. They said shouldn’t be in the city. A lot of people think this is not a big enough city. People were coming up to me in tears. I didn’t expect that at all. Because they’re like “I’ve been a Celiac for years.” I don’t know. “I was just diagnosed as a Celiac,” or “I just learned about gluten-free,” or something similar to that.
I didn’t know there was a place where I can be in a community for a whole day and meet people and learn more about maybe things that will help my body better or beyond. So just to see people that excited and that emotionally charged about it, it’s really nice to know that—that’s what I think we’re here for, to create bigger communities.
Q. Can you at least find your perspective on work and purpose? Can they be separated or do they need to be the same thing?
Of course, they can be separate. It’s not linear. It’s gray. They can be however it works for the person.
Who’s a good example? I was talking to this woman whom I’m thinking about representing and maybe she will go into an agreement. She does five different things which most talented speakers are. They could be a top business CEO. They could be a writer. They could be 5, 10 things. Usually the most successful people, we don’t know half the things they do.
That’s what gets me. I really like that. Everyone has a different way doing it. So there’s no right way.
Q. What would you say are the ingredients for success or advice that you would give anyone who’s currently seeking their purpose?
Have fun. Just do stuff that floats your boat. Do a lot of it. If it really, really gets you excited, not something that’s really deep in you, something you care about and something that’s easy, just do that. Do more of that. Over time, you’ll figure out how to use that. You don’t know. You have no idea where it’s going to come from but just keep doing it. Keep having fun as much as you can. That’s it. That’s as far as I go on that one.
Q. Do you have any final thoughts or messages for anybody who might be watching this?
No, I think you got me with all the questions. I think I don’t have anything left. I’ve got to get back to work.