Pushing Boundaries vs Sticking to Your Strengths


Today I am going to talk about the clash between pushing boundaries and sticking to your strengths, in particular, this was a major issue that I had recently in LA, and I would love to hear your feedback.

First, let’s start with a quick overview of these two business staples:

Pushing Boundaries = going the extra mile, forcing yourself to go one step further than you are comfortable with, doing things that are not within your comfort zone etc.

Sticking to your Strengths = focusing your energy and time on the areas that you are best at.

Ok, so here is my issue/problem, myself and Barry Dunlop (more info on Barry later in the week) were recently in LA because we were asked by Yanik Silver to be speakers at his Underground Marketing Seminar.

Now, I have done some public speaking before, and on a small stage (classroom, college etc) I have been fine, no nerves, no issues… but it is certainly not something I have ever enjoyed, I get no thrill from it, and I don’t enjoy it or benefit from it in any way, shape or form. But when I heard that there would be 300-400 people in the audience in LA, each of which had paid thousands of dollars to be there, that it would be beamed all over the Internet, and that DVD’s would be made from it, I have to say I was pretty anxious (understatement alert).

So anxious in fact, that I decided it would be best if I stuck to writing the bulk of the content for the presentation, and we use Barry’s excellent public speaking skills to present it.

Now, perhaps you can see the issue here… I had a chance to push my comfort levels, but it was something that not only am I not naturally very good at, but it is something I dislike intensely.

So it was a clash/contradiction in my brain-box.

As you all know, I have previously pushed myself and my comfort levels to extremes that most people could only dream of: I was a semi-professional golfer at 18, by 19 I was high street manager of a major retail store (a world age record for that brand), by 21 I was making a healthy living from the Internet, by 22 I moved to a foreign country where almost nobody spoke English, and at age 25 I was making 6 figures, and generally out-earning most people who were twice my age.

So clearly I am capable of pushing my boundaries, but all of the above have been areas where I have either had a natural talent, or it has been something I enjoy.

So I pose this question to you:

In your opinion, is it a good idea to push your boundaries with activities and tasks that you are naturally not so good at, and that you don’t get any level of enjoyment from at all?

I should add that public speaking is not, and has never been part of my career path or job description, but do you think I should have done it anyway? Even considering that my business partner is far more skilled in that area? And considering that my strength is in my writing abilities?

I look forward to your opinions.


  • Tamas

    Join a local Toastmasters Club (see http://www.toastmasters.org to find one), commit to your personal development through public speaking and deliver the first ten speech projects.

    You might have the answer after that.

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt


    It is not really a question of how to improve my public speaking, it is more a question of whether I should be doing it even if it is:

    Not part of my career path
    Not something I enjoy
    Not something I really benefit from
    Not something I need to be doing

    Yes, I could quite happily do some smaller speaking gigs and build up my confidence and skills, but would it be worth my time and effort to improve an area that is no interest to me?

    Bear in mind my time is quite valuable.


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  • http://www.sulbiz.com Suleman

    Well as you have said, your time is very valuable, and doing a thing that is no interest to you, I don’t think one should waste his valuable time for that. But if you have some spare time, its always good to get a taste of everything.
    Sorry for my poor English, but i hope you’d get what I am trying to say. :)

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  • http://bradbonanza.com Brad

    I think that stepping out of your comfort zone is something you do with a goal in mind, something you want to achieve but it is outside your comfort zone.

    If it is taking away time from doing what you like to do , you have no interest in using it in your career and it isn’t your goal to be a good public speaker, then it seems to me it isn’t worth the time.

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  • http://www.lipstickandthongbook.com Courtney A. Walsh

    I don’t enjoy liver. So I don’t eat it. I don’t believe that eating it builds character and I don’t care how good it is for you.

    Ironically, I adore public speaking and get a high from it. Trying to do a lot more…


    to raise awareness, connect with pepole in a physically present way which has such ab amazing power that it runs through your whole body like a current of electricity. But that’s what it does for ME. For YOU…it might be like eating liver.

    I don’t think forcing yourself to do things that have no appeal to you adds value to your life. At this point you clearly have nothing to prove. You have to know yourself. It is not a comfort zone thing…it is a self knowledge thing.

    I think you handled it just fine and dandy…no regreats and no looking back.

    Onward, upward and killerbunnyward, dude.

    Your instincts have served you well thus far…no need to start questioning them now.

    Rock ON!
    Courtney A. Walsh

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    Thanks Brad, I would probably agree with that, but it is great to hear people’s opinions.

    By the way, http://bradbonanza.com/ looks great.

    Tamas – I subscribed to the ToastMasters thing, I may be going to a meeting in a couple of weeks, so that may shed more light on things.


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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt


    Good point ref the liver…

    I think many of my achievements far outway anything I could achieve with public speaking, so yes, I have nothing to prove, and thankfully, I am skilled in other areas, so public speaking will never be a route I HAVE to take.

    That said, I am still tempted to give it a shot, who knows, maybe I will grow to love it (probably not)


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  • http://thegolfster.blogspot.com Mark Pearson

    Hi Dean

    My belief is that if you like what you do you will do it well. If you are uncomfortable doing something, or you do not want to do it then you will either struggle at it or not come accross very well at all – which can be detrimental to what you are trying to achieve.

    If you want to push your boundaries, I think it should be done in an area that you enjoy i.e. trying to be better at what you already do.

    Imagine an athlete, a marathon runner for instance. They like running, they are good at it. The challenge is to push their boundaries…for training and technique…so they run faster. However, they would necessarily like to start competeing over 100m. Yes they can go fairly fast, but they don’t enjoy it, have no interest in it and it doesn’t benefit their marathon times. So they should not waste time on it.

    Hope that makes sense?

    Do what you like, and like what you do!


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  • http://www.connexted.com/blog/ Craig Dewe

    It seems to me like it is part of your career path, you just don’t want it to be. You also would have benefited from being on that stage as well.

    So push the comfort zone!

    I found when I decided to really try and improve my public speaking I began to enjoy it. Doing something you were afraid of can give you that enjoyment.

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt


    Good to hear from you buddy.

    It is 100% not part of my career path, but, it is an additional route that has been made available to me and Barry recently.

    Yes, I could have benefited from being on stage, there is no doubt about that. But also bear in mind that Barry is a superb public speaker, so I could have actually damaged things as well.

    Luckily I am exceptional in other areas, for example, I did a deal recently via email that I believe almost no other marketer would have been able to achieve. In total, it took me one hour, and has had over 10,000% the response that the public speaking in LA had.

    So yes, I could spend time making my weaknesses less weak, or I could spend my time focusing on my strengths.

    I do also agree that doing something that you are afraid of can be a thrill, but that is not always a good thing. I could get the same thrill from robbing a bank.

    That said, I just subscribed to a public speaking meeting in Madrid (fancy coming along Craig?)

    I will give it a go and see what happens.


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  • http://www.songwritingtipsonline.com/ Shamir

    Dean, hear me out… (if this has already been posted, my apologies).

    Take one of your favourite speakers. Heck, take three of them. (and I mean ANYone). For me, somebody like Tony Robbins comes to mind.

    For you, it may be someone in his league – perhaps even your business partner Barry.

    Do you EVER look at him and think “wow, amazing. I’d love to be able to do that”.

    If the answer is YES, then underneath it all, you DO have a DESIRE to dazzle people with your teachings. If this is so, then you SHOULD step out of your comfort zone and work towards getting brilliant at this.

    (let me add that since you have done some public speaking that you probably have a gift that isn’t fully developed yet).

    If the answer is NO, you don’t have this desire, then forget it.

    Bottom line: Do it because you have the desire to dazzle/educate an audience with your stuff… and if you do, then don’t ‘not do it’ because of fear.

    You dig? :-)


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  • Doc

    I’m intrigued that you felt “very anxious” and are now writing a post about it. Do I sense a tinge of regret?

    ps: For me, anxiety appears with things I want to do at some deeper level, but am afraid to act on.

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt


    Good points… in answer to your question, no, I have no desire to do it at all. I admire and am impressed with rock stars and musicians, but I don’t have that same feeling towards public speakers, and that includes Tony Robbins and co.

    Doc – the main reason for writing this blog post is that I wanted to not solely focus on all the great parts of what I do. I wanted to show a more real, and more human aspect to what I do.

    In other words, I am putting in as much nitty gritty stuff as possible.

    Ref regret, I felt a little regret, no doubt about that.

    Thanks guys,


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  • http://www.connexted.com/blog/ Craig Dewe

    Hey Dean,

    I still think you’re limiting yourself a bit by not wanting to do it. I appreciate you like to be the person behind the scenes but a certain amount of this ‘guru’ stuff has become onstage presentations.

    If you take your online presence and put it on a stage it’s a pretty powerful combination. Just don’t close a door you might want to reopen someday.

    But then I also agree with focusing on your strengths and not agonising too much over your weaknesses. Your formula is obviously working. I just think this could include public speaking.

    But yeah, I’ll come along to the speaking thing…sounds like fun…to some of us ;)

    Discussion to be continued I’m sure…

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    “a certain amount of this ‘guru’ stuff has become onstage presentations”

    But as you know, I don’t follow what everyone else does. Don’t get me wrong, presentations etc work well for a lot of people, I just don’t think it is for me.

    But hey, I may go along to this event and give it a go, and who knows, I could be the next Tim Robbins ;-)



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  • http://renegadeconservatoryguy.co.uk/ Devo’s Dad

    Hi Dean

    Having spent time with you in LA, it is clear that you are a very confident individual, who speaks very well in company (albeit small groups of people). I would have thought that should you have got on stage with Barry, the double act would have worked very well:

    the old bull and the young bull!

    However, in your position I would have done exactly the same, mainly because I’m a chicken!

    By the way, thanks for not mentioning the tipping thing again. I don’t want the whole world to know I’m a tight Yorkshireman…

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  • http://www.beat-tuition.com Kevin


    Look at it from another angle. My wife is a volunteer for a women’s group. She likes helping women with certain aspects of their lives. As a result, she has been asked to speak at small conventions and workshops.

    In other words, Public speaking is just a way to communicate. You don’t have to become a public speaker as a career choice, but if invited or if you want to organize your own workshop to explain how you work your magic, then speaking makes complete sense. It is just another medium of expression.

    I saw above that someone suggested Toastmasters. Not a bad idea, but listen. You write just fine. If you can speak as you write, I see no reason to go to TMI. Write what you want to say and polish it, have a few small audiences watch you – start with your wife and business partner.

    I’m not a huge public speaker, but I have given hundreds of speeches, lessons, presentations, reports…it just isn’t that big of a deal, especially when you are speaking to a willing crowd presenting good information you are comfortable with.

    Just another medium. And you can handle that, right?


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  • http://www.payoffyourmortgagein8yearsorless.co.uk Diane

    Dean, we all like the way you “talk” now, and I have extreme personal experience of forgetting to actually breathe at a Networking Presentation with my daughter, who luckily took over at the moment I went blue in the face and went rather “squeaky”

    Later in my Networking Career, I could ad lib my way through a “duo” presentation with my daughter no problemo.

    It’s not that I did not enjoy it, it was simply easier for my girl to show me up, even though I could out-write her under the table so to speak.

    My opinion? Try a double act first, then decide, you will grow into being able to convey what you write into how you talk, and people will respond, guaranteed.

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  • http://www.4urworld.com Teresa Caldwell

    Dean I know exactly what you mean. I too would hate to speak publicly. In fact when I went to Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas, I actually got enough nerve to stand up and make a comment. You have no idea how much nerve it took me to even raise my hand. I am sure everyone there could hear the quiver in my voice and, oh my God, I think I actually stuttered. I totally understand. I think some people are performers and some are not. Now I have stepped out of my comfort zone and actually did a few short youtube videos for your “I am Dean Hunt” but I got to review them and decide which ones were okay, and which ones I didn’t really like. Maybe I am a performer deep down inside but I don’t have the confidence to do it in front of an audience.
    I guess my opinion, is if you feel as strongly as you seem to feel about public speaking, do what you did, create the content and let someone like your partner who is good at it, present your content. Everyone has their strengths, and you have many, and you do an excellent job at what you do. You push yourself in those areas, and enjoy it.
    My vote is don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable or anxious. Push yourself on the things that bring out a passion or desire.

    Kudos to you Dean Hunt. On another note your customer service is excellent. I know for a fact that you do personally answer emails sent to you. I just hope that people realize how busy you are and I hope they don’t take advantage of your kindness and customer service.

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  • Mini

    Hey Dean

    Its good that you decided to give it a go. The reasons why I say you took the right decision are:

    I felt that you wanted to be comfortable with public speaking. Though it does not interest you right now, though its not of any benefit to you, though you do not want to be at the stage just because you have the opportunity, but the fact is you want to experiment it.

    Now there are two issues:

    1. You have to get yourself out of your comfort zone for something which you think does not interest you.
    2. You have to take your valuable time out for something which again does not interest you.

    You see, the main cause of these issues is not taking interest in that thing. Once you take part in that public speaking thing, these issues will be no longer exist, and you will come out with a new experience. It could be that this presentation might bring you joy that you have never experienced before.

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    Kevin – If I could speak the way I write, then this blog post wouldn’t have anything to do with sticking to my strengths.

    If I could speak the way I write, then it would be a no brainer, of course I would be doing public speaking.

    Diane – Inspiring advice, thankyou.

    Teresa – You rock! Thanks for the kind words.

    Mini – I am not sure I agree that people should get out of their comfort zones to do something they DON’T want to do. I became an entrepreneur so that I didn’t have to do that sort of stuff.

    That said, I am happy to give it a go, sounds like it could be fun.


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  • http://www.NonToxin.com Ankesh Kothari


    Ask a 80/20 question to decide.

    As you know: 20% of your efforts will lead to 80% of your profits.

    So… “Should you stick to your strengths or push boundaries” depends on the potential importance of the task. Do you think that task has the potential to become one of those top 20% tasks?

    For public speaking, the answer is usually yes. Its a good way to promote yourself, make money, persuade people, position yourself as the authority. So you may want to push the boundaires for public speaking.

    But if the task doesn’t seem like it’ll do better than 80% of your other tasks, forget about becoming better at it.

    For eg: Thats the reason I’ve never paid attention to things like twitter and micro-blogging. Although everyone is talking about it, I doubt it’ll ever do soo good that it’ll be in my top 20% tasks.

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  • http://www.squidoo.com/hghreviews Eric

    You don’t have to make a habit out of public speaking but you were in the room.

    Five minutes of a short stand up bit explaining how you don’t want to do public speaking and being a successful entrepreneur means you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Besides, you don’t like to be such an open target for the bunnies.

    Give Barry a build up and intro. You are done. Now an official public speaking guru to be virally spread around the net.

    Nothing wrong for partners to play to each others strengths. But it wasn’t going to kill you.

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt


    Fantastic suggestion. I like that a lot.

    That said, if I am going to get on stage for 5 mins, I may as well stay on for the full 75 mins, after all, the first 5 mins are usually the worst.

    But yes, that is a great idea.

    Thankyou for your input.


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  • http://www.AskMrVideo.com Mr Video

    Dean, I used to hate selling. I couldn’t sell anything to anyone – never saw a need, never understood the intricacies, thought all internet marketers were snake oil sales men. AND, I used to be in advertising!

    Then after a seminar on membership websites met some amazingly wonderful people, got the bug and now am devouring all I can on internet marketing.

    I hated it because I didn’t understand the skills and techniques. I now love it because I can see the techniques much better. By pushing the boundaries of LEARNING I came to appreciate the CRAFT and now embrace what I once didn’t like very much (out of fear and ignorance).

    Do you need to take on speaking engagements? Probably not. Would you benefit by learning the skills? Probably yes.

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  • http://customcraftedkeywords.com Tim

    In order to strengthen ourselves, we’ll often do certain things where we are weak (or not skilled), this is done to build strength and perhaps explore new directions.

    In my case, I was presented with the opportunity to participate in a 5k run. My close friend was far better than I would ever be; even if I trained every day (and I WILL NOT). But this particular 5k run was sponsored by an organization I support; the ASPCA.

    With that in mind, I decided to give it a go, I didn’t expect to win, but I wanted to give a good representation of myself; both for my own ego and also the first ten runners would have their donations doubled by a local bank.

    So I trained, and while my friend breezed by me with ease, I was determined to finish and finish well; I did, number nine, respectable for me.

    I enjoy pushing boundaries, and sometimes that character trait has got me in trouble, but when I look back on the experience I’ve never said… “I shouldn’t have done that”. Instead I’ve always profited from the experience.

    For you (of killer bunny fame) use your strengths of course that is where you excel, but push your boundaries and by doing so, you might discover talents you were not aware you possessed.


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  • http://successsecrets123.wordpress.com Ethan Musolini

    Hi Dean,
    I believe in people focusing on their core strengths. Having said that, I would put 80% of my energies on honing strengths and the other 20% managing and pushing my areas of improvement.

    Pushing the envelope is good because you never know what might happen. What if through speaking you discover a strategy that is applicable and magical in your core area of strength?

    For example, I just signed up for your buzz reports because Kevin Wilke recommended you after meeting you at the underground 4. I join the list and am sure thousands would do the same. Then…you hammer us with your out of the box writing which you seem to enjoy – may be that’s your 80% since I am yet to read the details of your blog.

    Have fun :-)


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  • Joshua Brown


    I agree with Ethan.

    This is something that a lot of my crew has struggled with. I think the answer is balance. My recommendation is that people spend one day a week focusing on new things and the other 6 doing what they are good at.

    if you spend all your time doing new things, then you will spend all your time doing things you suck at. This is usually bad for one’s self-image and mood. Now there are exceptions to this. Perhaps you need a solid period of reconstruction or challenge to shake things up. But for the most part, it’s ok to spend most (but not all) of your time in your comfort/expertise zone, especially if it’s productive for you.


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