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The Promise

Jason Hewlett

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There’s a big difference between a goal and a promise. When you keep a promise, you earn trust. In this lively presentation filled with impressions of legendary singers, Hewlett touches on the value of having a signature move and how being present solidifies relationships with the most important people in your life.

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The question I’d like to start with is, why set a goal when you can make a promise? Though not to say that goals aren’t important because, obviously, they are. But goals are particulars, while promises are proclamations. And truly, when we think about a goal, if we set a goal and we miss it, it’s not that big of a deal. We just set a new goal. But if we make a promise and we break it, that’s a humongous problem. That can affect our business; that can affect our relationships. And I truly believe that promise is the strongest, most important word that we consider in our life, in our business—stronger than trust. Because when we talk about trust, it all comes from the promises that have been kept.

So when we talk about the great promises that have been made, I think about this room of MDRT members. Congratulations for being here because you are incredible performers. That’s truly what you are. And when we look at performance, we have to think about the great legends who came before. If I can take you back to the beginning of my career as a performer, I used to do impressions in Las Vegas, in the show style of some of the greatest legends of all time. These were the great promise makers and keepers of performance. So, I hope you’re ready to have some fun with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It goes like this. Here we go.


You remember that? (Applause)

And then, of course, there were not just the Jersey Boys. There were so many legends; it’s hard to pick which ones to do. But because I love the city we call Detroit, I’m going to do some Motown now. Because that music really moved me. When I was a kid, we heard this music. And I said, “Mom, what’s happening to my leg?” And she said, “Just let it move you, son.” I hope you remember the Temptations. Here they are.



And now, Diana Ross and the Supremes. If you remember the move, it goes like this. I’m gonna need your help. Help me out.


All right, just use your imagination. It’s a little disturbing, I know.


OK, now help me out.



I don’t have my glasses today, just so you know. But it goes like this. So come on, here we go. Put your hands together. Ha ha! Who’s ready?!


Stevie Wonder!

They are some of the great legends of all time, aren’t they? When we think about their moves, their signature moves, all they were doing is keeping a promise every time they came on that stage. They did something unique that we wanted to see. We wanted to hear their signature song, their signature voice, their signature thing, their move. Diana Ross doing this. [visual] The Temptations doing theirs. I don’t even have to do the music, and I could say, “Who am I?” And you know it’s Stevie Wonder, right?

So the question is, what is your signature move, and how do you stand out in a sit-down world? Because when we talk about a promise, the promise truly comes down to three elements that make up this promise for all of us. The first is our audience. If we consider ourselves performers, then we all have an audience. That’s our clients, our customers, those whom we sell to. Those whom we want to become raving fans of ours.

Then, of course, there is the family, not just the family at home, which we will talk about, but the family at work, the work people whom we care about and trust. Finally, the one. We’ll get to the one. But I want you to think about what it might be for you as we go along throughout this presentation.

Well, let’s start with audience. Who is your audience? What kinds of promises are you making to them, and what kinds of promises do you not realize you’ve even made to them, that if you break them, it could lose you business? Here’s a story from your own industry. There was a man who went to the University of Utah, and he was studying to figure out whether he should be a lawyer or a doctor. Eventually, he got married and started just a part-time job selling life insurance. He realized he was good at it. This is an industry that most people who come into have a hard time making it. But this man made it, just like so many of you.

He realized at one point that he was making more money than his professor. And he said to himself, with only a few months left of school before he would graduate, Why am I still here? I could be an insurance salesman. Now, his father had tried before and had not done very well in insurance. So for him to come home and say to his wife, “I’m going to try this. I’m going to do this”—this was a risky undertaking. And yet, as he went forward, he realized his legendary signature move, which was that he would golf with every client. He would take them to Utah Jazz games and sit in the front row. For 20 years, he did this. He became known as the person everyone wanted to be around and wanted to refer to their clients. This man made a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives because he understood the importance of insurance and that business is relationships. And his audience was his client base.

It was almost a family joke. Whenever he would come home, everyone was wondering, Which statue, which Excalibur sword would he be bringing home that day? Because he was a Million Dollar Round Table member. He is my father. His name is John Hewlett. And I honor him for an amazing career in your industry. Now, I never made it to where you’re sitting, even though he wanted me to. He wanted me to be an insurance guy. But I failed the test. And I said, “I think I’m supposed to be on stage.” So instead of being in the audience with you folks, I’m grateful to have found my place.

My dad eventually found a new industry, in the health and wellness industry. He’s now taking that by storm. I’m very proud of this man. And that is an incredible signature move that he has. People still tell me: “I remember when he took me to the Jazz game” and “I remember when we went golfing.” He’s a legendary performer to them.

I’d like you to think also, since we’re talking about legendary performers, about the greats who have gone before us. You know, recently we lost Prince, David Bowie, and Tom Petty, some amazing guys. I’d like to refer to a guy named Michael Jackson, who is still a legend in our minds. Now, if you went to a Michael Jackson concert back in the 1990s, there is one move you would expect him to do. What is it?

Audience: Moonwalk.

What if you went to his concert, and he didn’t do it? You would be disappointed, even if it was great. Because it was Michael Jackson. But he would never take the stage without doing that thing that he was known best for. It was the reason his audience always came back. I’d like to show you what would happen if he didn’t keep that promise and what it would feel like to you, as an audience, to feel cheated, even though it would probably still be great.


Come on, sing along.


It’s great, but it’s not enough, is it? You wanted to see the full thing. [dances like Michael Jackson]

Thank you. [Michael Jackson voice] Michael Jackson. [normal voice]

What a great legendary performer. But it’s because every time he took the stage, he made a promise, and he kept it. And when you go to a concert, and you’re excited to see those people, and then they don’t play their hit, you’re disappointed. And so I’d like you to think about what your promise is to your audience. But talking about audience, if I were to say to you, “What’s your signature move?” you might be saying to yourself, I don’t know if I even have one. But you do. So often we only find out what it is when we bring in our family. The family at work can help us discover what it is because all of us have something that makes us stand out in this world.

Here’s a story about the family at work. This just came out recently, and it’s a story that’s powerful in my mind because of this: When you think about your family, who is your family? You can call it a team, community, crew, group—it doesn’t matter. We’re all MDRT family here. But I’d like you to consider the word family. Because family is stronger than any of these other words.

So the story that just came out is about a man who was found to be walking to work every single day. Eleven miles. This was in Arkansas. And in Arkansas, he was walking to work every single day. Nobody knew this, but he’d walk 11 miles to work. He had to be at work at 4:00 a.m. because he worked for the postal service. Well, there’s always a mom in the workspace. Her name was Mama Pat, and she found out that this man had been walking, for seven months, to work every morning. So she went around and made sure that she could collect enough money to get this man a car. Not a new car. Just a car. Saturn ION. They presented it to him. And Trenton Lewis was blown away.

It changed his entire life, to think that he had a family at work. And when I say “family,” I want you to think about what your family is because maybe it is your work family. Maybe it is your MDRT family. What about your family? What does your family consist of? What does it look like to you? We all have our definition of family. Here’s a little picture of my cute family. [visual] I love these people. We had four kids in five years, so I’m a sleepy guy. I haven’t slept in a decade.

This little kid here on the side—his name is Romney. A strong Utah name, Romney. And when he was three years old, I had come home from a trip, and as a dad, I had become an angry man with all these cute kids. It’s just too much. And I would set a goal every time I was coming home: I’m going to be a better dad. I set a goal to be a better dad. I remember when I came home, and these kids didn’t really give me the hug that I’d expected. I asked my wife what was wrong. She said, “Romney—you need to take him on a daddy/son date.”

So we did. We went on the daddy/son date. And how fun was that? Because we were at McDonald’s and having a healthy breakfast, we took a little selfie together. I said, “Go up the slide!” So he ran up the stairs, and he said, “Daddy! Daddy!” And he went down. And I said, “Yeah, good job.” Then he went up and said, “Daddy! Daddy!” And he went down. And then he said, “Daddy! Daddy!” And I was like, OK, I’ve had enough.

And that was what I’d become, as a traveling man. I was so busy on my phone, getting things done, that when I got bored with this situation in front of me, being a dad, I went back to my phone. And I actually went to Facebook and started scrolling through the lives of other people when I was supposed to be present with my son. And as I was posting the selfie he and I had just taken, just a minute before, and I was posting, “I’m on a father/son date with my boy . . .,” I realized the hypocrisy of what I was doing.

In that moment, I made the choice to delete that favorite app. That was not easy. But how do we become 100 percent present? If you’re wondering to yourself, I don’t have a signature move, I’d like you to consider for a moment that it could be presence. Just be somebody who’s where you are, focused 100 percent. Because as much as this little device can run your business and connect you to the world, it can disconnect you from your family. And so today, I’d like to do a little song on behalf of those who are unforgettable.

I hope you remember Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie.


Instead of being the dad who set the goal to be a better dad, make a promise to be the kind of dad any kid would want to have. And I encourage all of us to do the same for our family.

So we’ve talked about the audience, your clients. We’ve talked about keeping promises to the family at work or the family at home. The final piece comes into the one. Who is the one? The one is you. Because if we break a promise to the audience, we lose business. If we break a promise to the family, they leave us. If we break a promise to ourselves, who cares? Well, we should care.

As a young boy, I found out that I had something different about me. This was a hard thing to learn, a hard thing to find out, because I was the weird one. I got on the school bus as a five-year-old kid, and I walked up to somebody I thought was cool and said, “I want to sit with you!” And he said, “You have a huge mouth.” I was five years old. Kindergarten. First day. This was my first school bus ride. “You have a huge mouth.” And I was like, “You’re right.” [popping noise] And he said, “Do it again,” and I went, “Ahhhh.” And he said, “Sit with us. This will be fun.”

So all the way to school, he’s like, “Do that thing with your mouth.” “Ahhhh.” And people are like, “That boy has a big mouth.” And so I became known as the kid with the big mouth. At the end of the school day, my mom said, “How was school? Was it great?” I said, “No, they said I’m ugly and I have a big mouth.” And she looked at me like any mother would, and she said, “Son, you are not ugly, . . . but you have a big mouth.” And she said, “When somebody says that, just smile at them. Just smile.” So I said, “I don’t want to smile at people.” She said, “Just smile at them.”

So I learned early on that if I smiled at people, they would normally smile back. And the light that I shine is the light that I receive. I’m grateful for a mom who taught me that early. It wasn’t until the dentist visits that I realized it was OK to be who I am, to have a humongous mouth. Because in this case, it helped the situation. For example, the dentist would say, “Open wide.” And I’d go, “Ahhhh.” And he was like, “Oh my gosh. I can use both hands!” And he would say, “You’re so blessed to have such a big mouth.” And I said, “I don’t feel very lucky.” And he said, “No, it’s cool, because I can put both hands in your mouth, and you can respond with normal sentences.” I know, it’s incredible.

Then I realized I could do the sounds of the dentist’s office while he was working on me. Now I was messing with him. Now he didn’t know what was happening. But I was comfortable with this new mentor of mine. And I heard the sounds, and I was like, [dentist office sounds]. And he was like, “Is this thing on?” And I was like, “Oh no, it’s stuck on my tongue.” [dentist office sounds] “OK, don’t do that.” And he said, “You’re a weird kid.” I said, “I know,” and he pulled the tool out of my mouth, and my lips stayed like that. He said, “How do you do that?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “Stop.” So I did. He said, “Do it again,” and I did. And he said, “That’s your gift.”

So if I come today with any positive message, it’s this. Look at my gift. Now think about yours and be grateful for once for what you’ve got! And use it. You have talents I don’t have. I have talents you don’t want. I want you to realize that. And the dentist said, “If you can do that with that side of your mouth, you should be able to do the other side.” Well, he was right. I went home, and I practiced this, you know. And I figured out how to make people smile. Like you catch a wave, like the ocean. This was all I had going for me as a kid. And so I didn’t stop. I learned that I could do the bottom lip, too, and the eyebrows. Even my nose. This is unbelievable! But the dentist helped me discover it.

And my promise to myself is that I will share it, any chance, wherever I am, wherever I go. I’m going to make somebody’s day. Now, if I go to a restaurant, and a waitress says, “What’ll it be?” I could just be like, “Oh, I’ll just have a salad.” End of the engagement. Or I could keep a promise to myself, because a promise is the highest level of engagement we commit to in any experience. And I can make her day. She says, “What’ll it be?” And I’m like, “Hey, do you have any lettuce? [nose wiggle] I just need a carrot.”

I hope that you’ll consider this message of the promise for yourself. What is the promise that you need to make and keep with your audience, with the family, with the one? And what are the promises that maybe you don’t realize you’ve made that maybe they expect to receive? You have a voice. You have a signature move. You have something that makes you unique among all people. It doesn’t matter if you have it if you don’t share it.

I hope you remember this next singer. He’s one of my favorites to close with.

Louie Armstrong.

Because we all make it a wonderful world.




Jason Hewlett delivers incredible talks that combine authenticity, humor, music and impersonations with practical business principles applicable for leadership, entrepreneurship and cultural impact. One of the youngest ever to be inducted into the prestigious Council of Peers Award for Excellence Speaker Hall of Fame, he has delivered frontline motivation and management presentations for some of the largest corporate events in the world.


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