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Inspiration is Dave Kelly’s job.

As a motivational speaker, humorist and author, Kelly ’84, of Fond du Lac, delivers about 35 speeches each year at universities, corporations, churches, schools and other venues.

Kelly’s love for speaking began when he was a speech major at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. After 20 years as a mortgage broker and business owner, he finally made speaking his full-time job.

“I love being in front of an audience and sharing things that are impacting their lives,” he said.  “You can see when you connect and the light bulbs go off. And, of course, there is nothing like making an audience laugh.”

Kelly’s speeches concentrate on personal stories with a little bit of humor mixed in.

One crowd favorite, especially in Wisconsin, is his story about his late mother’s passionate following of the Green Bay Packers. Also, he said the story of his career change often resonates with older audiences who might be thinking about doing the same.

Kelly said people have a hard time staying motivated because it is not a skill that is taught.

“Often, we get up in the morning thinking about when we can go to bed next,” he said. If you tell yourself you are tired all day, you will be. You have to be intentional about motivation. You choose to be positive.”

He said that people seem to naturally gravitate toward all that is negative, but it is important to be aware and choose to concentrate on the positive instead.

Kelly sends out a monthly motivational newsletter to about 2,000 people. He also wrote “Gonzo’s Little Book of Motivation,” which he sells at speaking engagements.

Kelly was named an Outstanding Young Alumni for UW Oshkosh in 1996 and was a 2010 finalist for the Association of Promotion of Campus Activities Campus Speaker of the Year Award.

Dave Kelly’s Top 5 Tips for Motivating Yourself

  • Begin: Anything that you want to do, whether it is some sort of a project or a career change, get started! Too many people wait for the “perfect moment” to start pursuing their dreams. But there are no perfect moments, and there is great power in starting any sort of activity that moves you towards where you want to go.
  • Do the dreaded thing first: Most people get bogged down and waste time trying to avoid doing certain things that they do not enjoy. I am a Post-It-note guy, and I write down my tasks on the notes. I found that I used to spend more time trying to avoid the tasks that I did not want to do (the “dreaded” ones) than it would take to just do them. So now I do those things first, and I find I am more motivated to work the rest of the day.
  • Think positively: You have a choice about your attitude and your outlook. Why not choose to be positive and focus on the best of life? You have a choice about what thoughts and images live in your head.
  • Visualization creates actualization: See yourself where you want to be, doing things that you like. I pictured myself as a professional speaker and told people that was what I wanted to be before I ever was one. That visualization moved me toward that objective, and now I have a career that I love.
  • Write down goals with deadlines for attainment: Don’t just have your goals in your head. That is not a commitment. Write them down on paper with a deadline, which creates a sense of urgency and motivates you to meet the goal. It takes intentionality to be motivated. You have to want it and are willing to work at it on a daily basis!