Recently, an old friend of mine, James Arthur Ray experienced a tragedy at one of his seminars. During a sweat lodge 3 people died, and 18 others were hospitalized. An event that most certainly will change James’ life and career forever. I’m sure the media will have a wonderful time calling him a self help guru, and accusing him of brainwashing the people to stay in the lodge too long. I wasn’t there so I can’t comment on that, and I haven’t spoken with James in many years, but I can say with certainty that James’ heart was in the right place, his intentions were pure, and without asking him, I’m certain that he feels terrible for the events that unfolded that fateful day.
Why even comment on this? Because it is a sobering reminder for me how important it is to have someone at my events who is a voice of reason, and looking for ways to minimize risk.
I conduct a process coming up in just a few short weeks called “The Leap of Faith” where we have a stunt man teach our participants how to jump from a 3 story building with no ropes or cables. I always take the greatest of caution, but even then, in the heat of the moment, with excitement all around it’s so easy to lose sight of the safety factor. I remember a few years back I had someone jump who did a terrible job, I was certain she had broken an ankle but when she rolled out of the airbag she was just fine. I thought it would be funny to have her limp out from around the airbag to give the audience a scare. A simple harmless joke, but the results weren’t pleasant. I don’t remember all the details but she somehow thought I was installing an injury in her mind or telling her unconscious mind to be hurt. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was just intended to give the crowd a laugh, which it did. But in the end, it was still irresponsible of me to do it. I learned from that day and since then, I’ve been nothing but business on the leap of faith day. It’s not a time for jokes, that’s for sure.
If you are a professional speaker, then learn the lessons from my mistake and take note of the events from James Ray. Have fun at your events, but most of all, keep the event safe, do everything you can to minimize the risk, and the event will be a life changing experience. My heart goes out to all that experienced the tragedy that day, and if it does nothing else, let it serve as a reminder to every professional speaker about the responsibility they hold to their customers.