Speaking in the arena – I want to be famous

How I move from the outside to the center of the arena

Do you want to be the best? or Do you want to be rich? or Do you want to be famous? Choose one and say it out loud.

“I want to be famous.”

speak podium arena

Yes, I want to be famous. I know it’s weird, but it is the feeling that I have for the last few years. It’s not something I always dreamed off. Actually I never thought about becoming the best, rich or famous before. I heard this question in an interview. You can only choose one she said. Just one.

I chose.

What I did not realize was that the feeling was deep inside me for a long time. It is something I want to accomplish and at the same time it scares the sh*t out of me. I get so frightened about it that I maneuver carefully at the outer ring of the arena. I am there but not in the spotlight. I don’t take center stage.

Social Media Event, WordCamp Netherlands, Social Media Club are the biggest events that I initiated and co-organized. At these events we invited great speakers to inspire the audience. Topics that helped the audience forward in their business. It is a lot of fun putting these events together and see the attendees enjoying the event.

I love putting these events together with friends. As an organizer I would not speak. Of course not. Announcing the speakers and opening the event that’s what I did. Balancing at the outer ring of the arena. Inviting others in the center of the arena.

The dream inside of me is to become “Big”. I write to have a large audience. Publishing 10 books, because with each published book my audience will grow. And book No. 10 will be a best seller. Becoming famous.

Not rockstar famous of course. Not ‘paparazzi in our garden’ famous. The voice in my head tells me all about the negative side of becoming famous. No private life. Working even harder. Missing your family.

This voice in my head is telling me that I am save at the outer ring of the arena. Some people even see it.

Step into the spotlight

In the spring of 2012 I was at the international speaking event of PSA Holland, with lots of great speakers. I listened to speakers and watched how they speak. Learning what I liked about their way and how I could use this in my presentations. I had even secured a slot to speak. Not on the main stage but there were 15+ people listening to my talk about social media for speakers.

It was the last day of the event and one of the keynote speakers said he wanted to talk to me later on. At the end of that day I tracked him down and made sure he spoke with me for a few minutes. This is what he said to me.

“Erno you are a great person with lots to share. That is why you need to get out of the shadow. You need to get into the spotlight. I see you walking around, at the outside of the circle during our network moments. You want to be more in the center. Claim your spot and step into the center of the circle.”

He did not have more time, his flight was leaving soon. I was confused. I was off balance. How…? Why…? What…?

For the next two hours I was driving back home, alone in my car. I kept thinking about it. Slowly it came to me and it hit me right in the face. He was right. That was almost 2 years ago and I am still not in the center of the arena.

I am taking small steps to train myself and getting closer to the center of the arena. Let me share two of the steps I am taking, with you.


Spending time with my children is important to me. That is why I am also involved with the sports of our children.

When our son was 10 he started to play soccer. (I will tell you about his fencing dreams and his cross bow dreams another time.) Soccer. This was not my game. I did not like it.

When I was 11 or 12, I played that game too. For about one and a half year. Half of that time I was on the bench with an injury in my heel.

Sitting on the bench is no fun. Being placed in a lower team when everyone else in your team is moving up is not good for your motivation either. But most importantly I am missing the right talents for soccer. So I stopped playing soccer.

From than on I was not interested in soccer anymore, even a bit anti. While my mom and dad watched the soccer program every Saturday (German) and Sunday (Dutch) on TV, I listened to music or read comics.

This all changed when our son started playing soccer. I watched most of his matches. I even became a member in the board of the club. After three years I stepped down and became the team manager for our son’s team. Taking care of the communication with the parents for example.

The team also needs an assistant referee for every match. I started doing that too. This is great, this way I am actively involved with each match. Running at the side line. Seeing the team grow, becoming better. Watching our son finding his place in the field.

Then our daughter got involved in soccer too. We took a course together to become a referee for younger players. I followed this course to become a better assistant referee. She became a referee. How cool is that? At the age of 12 she was already in the center of the arena. Now she plays soccer too, and she still volunteers as a referee for the younger players.

I want to become even better at my function of assistant referee, especially now that the players of our son’s team are getting older and better. You have to know what you are doing. So I decided to take another course, to become an official referee. When this course is completed I can start the course for the official assistant referee.

Becoming an official referee is a step towards the center of the arena for me. Literally. From the sideline of the field I am moving to the centre. It is exiting and scary at the same time.

When I make a mistake as an assistant there is always the referee responsible for the final call. Now I will be the one who is responsible for the final call. The players, team officials and parents will look at me when I blow the whistle.

But hey, I am doing it.


Every other Sunday the first team of the soccer club plays a match at home. At some point they were looking for an announcer. This was a nice opportunity I thought, a win-win situation. I can train my speaking skills and support the club.

So every other Sunday I do the announcements before the match starts. During the match I tell the viewers who scored and announce the substitutes coming in the field. Last year I was also the announcer at three international matches for the European Championship for players under 19.

The announcer speaks from a small booth where most of the visitors don’t see me. I speak from a save environment.

It is just like being an assistant referee. You are at the outside of the ring, not in the center.

I enjoy doing it and it is speaking, so I am moving forward.

Step into the Arena

It is time to move even further into the center of the arena. Start actively searching for speaking opportunities. Speak for a live audience. Direct feedback from the audience. Are they listening to your story? Are the participating?

Start writing my next book and publish it. Moving forward with my goal of 10 published books.

Becoming famous in my niche. Help my audience forward with their business. Sharing my experiences so you can find your arena and move to the center of it.

BTW I love how Brené Brown talks about the arena.


When I asked that question in the beginning: Do you want to be the best? or Do you want to be rich? or Do you want to be famous? What did you choose?

How do you support and train this goal?

Let me know in the comments below.

Credit foto Jesse Wagstaff — Speak

By Erno Hannink

Sparring and accountability partner for entrepreneurs who create sustainable positive impact. Explores decision-making. Shares his insights on this in, articles, books (Dutch), podcast, newsletters, and tools. Has a life mission to reduce social and ecological inequality. Father of two children, husband of M., runs, referee for the national soccer league, and uses stoicism for calm. Lives in the Netherlands. Speaks Dutch, English, and German.