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How I became a Juggling Motivational Speaker

As professional speaker and life balance expert, I pride myself on delivering insightful and useful information to my audiences. What is often most remembered, however, is the fact that I am also a juggler, acrobat, and unicycle rider. My programs are also pretty darn funny.

To be a motivational juggler sounds like an odd combination to some. But, for me, it makes perfect sense. I began juggling when I was only 11 years old, and learned to perform from a masterful entertainer named Mike Vondruska. Naturally, I sought to develop my skills and perform on stage, like my mentor. I loved it. In these early years, I delivered comedy juggling, acrobatic performances at fairs, festivals, and special events in the Chicago area. My youth and small size made my act even more of a novelty, and soon I began to grow my confidence and onstage charisma.

As I grew a little older, both my skills and my show matured. I became a sought after corporate entertainer. In fact, my performance skills enabled me to become a young entrepreneur, building a business while I was in high school and, also, paying for my college education, in Athens, GA.

How does a juggler become a motivational speaker and author?

While I was attending the University of Georgia and studying marketing and business, I was also running my own business as a professional entertainer. I had a strong reputation among Atlanta entertainment agencies (where I still live). I was able to immediately apply what I learned at school to my business efforts, which helped me to develop a profitable enterprise that supported both my education and lifestyle. I attended class during the week and performed my shows on evenings and weekends – mostly in Atlanta, which was about an hour from campus.

Of course, my performances were not always such a quick drive from home. I traveled across the Southeast and even across the country, performing in some truly wonderful venues. I often had to “juggle” my class schedule and workload, including the time I missed two weeks of school to perform in Saudi Arabia.

Simultaneously, I was a self-taught student of personal improvement and motivation. I used my plentiful drive time to listen to motivational speakers and authors such as Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, and many others. I subscribed to the Nightingale Conant  “tape of the month” club, and always had a dose of motivational wisdom ready to go.

At this point, I didn’t envision that I would become a motivational speaker. I did, however, benefit greatly from these lessons as I finished my college education and continued to expand and grow my business.

I graduated UGA in 1990 with a BA in Marketing. At this point, I moved closer to Atlanta and used that as a home base for my performance career. I continued to deliver my solo performances and expanded my company to begin to produce larger events with larger casts.  Over time, however, I began to grow dissatisfied with my simply entertaining audiences, and I began to wonder what else I could do professionally.

It was at this point that I began to ask: What if I incorporated my interest in motivation and personal improvement into my performances?

This one question took me down a road to uncover my true passion and, I believe, the career I was destined to pursue. I began to learn about the world of “professional speaking” (which I didn’t really even know existed). I began to write about my expertise in juggling and performance from a business mindset. I also experimented with incorporating these ideas and routines into my performances, testing their impact and the audiences response.

Juggling, as it turned out, was an absolutely perfect visual for illustrating many vital performance related disciplines, including:

Effective Time Management
Managing Focus
Performance Excellence
Life Balance

In 1994, I joined the National Speakers Association, and my educational opportunities exploded. Through this organization, and by attending local and national events, I accelerated my learning curve immensely.

My content continued to grow and deepen, as my key interest was the message, not necessarily the “tricks” I had developed. Still, these unique talents (juggling, acrobatics, and unicyling) continued to serve me well and enable me do deliver speeches that were more than just speeches – they became memorable experiences.

Over the years, I have written two books. My first was Success in Action, and my most recent book is Off Balance On Purpose.  In this work, I challenge some of our common beliefs about life balance and offer an alternative, reality-based approach to integrate the most important aspects of life. I am humbled and thrilled with the response that this book continues to receive. In 2011, I was inducted into the Professional Speaking Hall of Fame, achieving a lifelong goal and ambition.

And, yet again, I owe my success unique perspective, in large part, to a singular moment that was sparked long ago, when an was eleven year old boy was asked by my would-be-mentor, “Hey kid, do you want to learn to juggle?”

  • Dave Heins says:

    Great performance and message tonight at Goodyear conferance…..really enjoyed it…..also got to speak to you after…I was the Canadian who chatted with you about your Christianity (faith) keep your walk with The Lord and give him the thanks always….again great job….safe travels to Toronto ….Dave Heins

  • Sandra Ashley says:

    I had never heard of a Motivational Juggler until this week at school. I am a Teacher’s Aid in an elementary school and today we have a Motivational Juggler coming to speak to the students. One of them asked me what they are. I searched Google and found you. I am looking forward to this program more since I understand as are a few of the students I spoke with. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m also going to locate and read your books. A new fan. ?

    • Dan Thurmon says:

      Hello Sandra! I hope that your event at school was fantastic. I’m guessing it might have been a visit by my good friend, Ron Anglin, but I’m not sure where you live… so possibly it was someone else. Thanks for viewing my site, and I do hope you enjoy the videos, as well as my books. All the best! Dan

  • Samuel Murray says:

    Hi Dan, I am interested in how you got into this industry. I myself am a keen juggler but lack the public speaking skills. How did you learn? Please let me know.

    • Dan Thurmon says:

      Hi Samuel. For me, the desire to speak/teach/encourage others was always a part of my DNA. Looking back, even growing up, I was constantly stepping into opportunities to contribute ideas and observations. Entertainment became a phenomenal outlet to impact audiences, but “making them laugh and clap” just didn’t quite fulfill me. It was in my mid-20s that I met another performer, Shep Hyken, who had transitioned into the speaking biz, and he became a great friend and role model. I followed his advice to join the National Speakers Association – the most incredible professional association of those in the industry. It was in this fellowship, and through attending years of their events, that I fully found my true voice and professional success. Interestingly enough, that path has come full circle, as I now serve as the President of NSA this year – 2019 and have the honor to lead the organization that means so much to me, personally and professionally.

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