The Power of Honesty, Humility & Humor: Steve Shenbaum (Transcript)

Steve Shenbaum at TEDxSarasota

Full text of former actor Steve Shenbaum’s talk: The Power of Honesty, Humility & Humor at TEDxSarasota conference.

Best quote from this talk:

Where there is fear, there is no faith! But where there is faith, there cannot exist fear.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Steve Shenbaum – Former actor

I believe with all of my heart that we are all presenters. Some of us are presenters here at TEDx Sarasota.

Some of us are presenting in a business meeting, where that presentation, your story is going to get you from here to here and that company from here to here.

  • You may be presenting as a high school English teacher and those kids are leaning on every word you say.
  • You may be presenting at your first job interview and you’re going to get from here to here.
  • You may be presenting as a volunteer soccer coach for ten-year-old girls, they don’t know the rules. You do. They lean on your words.
  • You may be presenting on a first date where the stakes are high and the anxiety is high. You may be presenting on bended knee asking that first date to spend the rest of their lives with you. Don’t do that on the first date!

And there are ingredients that make our presentation; all of ours, our story resonate. Honesty, Humility and Humor… in that order.


Honesty is not, ‘Hey man, you lost your wallet. That’s a cool deed, but that’s expected.’ Honesty is about all of us being able to get up with our voice, the voice that was gifted to us and be accessible and vulnerable enough to be here.


Humility is not the astronaut, who says, ‘I do a little travelling.’

‘No dude, you went to the moon man!’ You went to the moon and that’s awesome.

Humility is about taking that ego and that pride and those endorphins that do come in when you’re presenting and keeping them at bay. Because it’s not about you, it’s about serving.


Humor is about laughing with, not laughing at. No one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I cannot wait to be made fun of.’

And right now at this moment I want to invite laughter in the room. It’s been here before and I’m going to invite it right back. It’s been here this morning. So is honesty, humility and humor.

When you find something that moves you and you want to laugh with, not at. With honesty, humility and humor, you can serve your story. And I use the word ‘serve’ specifically knowing that it has two meanings:

  •  to serve to support your story, and
  • to serve to deliver your story

You can tell people what to do and you could tell people your story. I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it from coaches when I was a kid, ‘Let me tell you a story. Everyone good in here. You’re doing good? All right!’ No, we’re not good; I don’t dig that. ‘Let me tell you a story.’ I don’t want your story. I’m ten.

You can show people your story. We’re doing it right now on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and Pinterest. And I’m sure we created something out there in the wonder zone that I don’t even know about.

But we are showing our story.

But I challenge every one of us to use our story to move people. That’s what we’re starving for – to move. And we’ve done it this morning, through music and through silence, through laughter and through imagery. But let’s move.

Let’s put honesty and humility to the test.

I’m going to do something; I’m going to say it’s risky. But if you follow these ingredients it will be a really cool experience. I’m going to bring someone up and we’re going to put this to the test.

Steve Shenbaum: Sir, I’ve never met you. I promise you I will make you look like a hero! I know you didn’t show up, thinking, I can’t wait to be on stage. Can I work with you up here for about four minutes? Is that okay?’ Awesome, dude! Give him a hand. Oh come up here. What’s your name?

Joe: Joe

Steve Shenbaum: Joe, going to walk this way, because you’re going to be on mic. You’re going to come this way. So we’re both at the same volume. So Joe… Give Joe a hand! That’s a big deal. Joe, the mic’s right there.

The first step is buy-in.

So Joe, if you could just clip that to your button there and that you could just put the other one, the other part. Yes, there you go. Awesome, put that in your pocket.

Joe, you want to just say something so I can hear your voice?

Joe: Hello

Steve Shenbaum: Awesome Joe. I’ve never met this man. This is not someone that’s been planted, right?

Joe: Absolutely not!

Steve Shenbaum: Awesome

Joe: I’m terrified!

Steve Shenbaum: And you’re human…

Joe, this is a game called expert speaker. And just listen to the title of the game – ‘expert speaker’. You are an expert and so am I. And this is how it works. There are three rules…

By the way, as I explain this right at this moment, audience/ presenters, are you rooting for him? You are, you are and that’s sweet. That’s nice.

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Now but some of you are rooting for him because you’re like, ‘I’m glad you didn’t pick me.’ I know it. But this is a moment that is not scripted. None of this is – where you have to understand as presenters, we are rooting. If you’re in your right mind, you are rooting for this person.

Joe, everything you say in this interview is correct and I will agree with you! So if you say, ‘Steve, I built this theatre,’ I will say ‘I was there with you, Joe. That’s why it says Joe’s theatre.’ You got it?

Joe: Sounds good.

Steve Shenbaum: Yeah that’s pretty good. Everything I say is correct Joe and you will agree with me. So if I say ‘Joe, I’m a carpet salesman and I sell circle carpets, you’re buying (it)…

Joe: Absolutely, I’m with you.

Steve Shenbaum: I’m telling you, as he says ‘absolutely,’ I’m going from here to here to here.

There’s a third rule not just for Joe, for all of us. I got to take care of him; he’s got to take care of me. Don’t be inappropriate. And we are not… That was useful to get a laugh. And Joe, you and I are both too funny and too smart, to get a joke at each other’s expense.

You ready? Joe, you’re going to step off the carpet for a second.

Audience, I would like to hear a topic that Joe and I are both experts on…

Joe, when you hear it, own it and I will own it. And it may be something we have no idea (on). And then I will introduce you and then we will interview. Is that cool?

Joe: Sounds good.

Steve Shenbaum: Thank you. Brother and inside you might be like, ‘Ah, but I don’t see a bubble above your head!’ So we’re good?

What’s a topic? What is it? Nuclear physics? Fantastic!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am thrilled as a semi expert. But this gentleman really like he’s really topped it off. He is a nuclear physicist who works with both men and women. And he has won the 2012 Sarasota Manatee Championship for nuclear physicology, and it’s exactly pronounced that way. He won’t say it again. He has a blog, and he has a MySpace account, and a Facebook. Please put your hands together for Dr.Joe Nuclear physicist. Come on in Joe. Come on. Thank you!

Let me start, Joe nuclear. You’re like a rock star. How does that feel?

Joe: I feel really good.

Steve Shenbaum: Yeah. Let’s back up now. Joe, you became a nuclear physicist at a very young age. Can you share your story on how you were the youngest nuclear physics? You tell them…  Well, how old were you…?

Joe: Luckily, I was about 17.

Steve: 17 years old. And you’re 17, you’re in your senior year in high school, you created a…

Joe: Star in a jar…

Steve Shenbaum: A star in a jar! It sounds unique. I don’t think it’s ever been done before. You’re 17; you created a star in a jar!

Joe: Absolutely. In my garage.

Steve Shenbaum: In the garage. Sounds so familiar… Joe, you wrote a book called ‘Creating stars, I am a star!’

Joe: Yes, I did…

Steve Shenbaum: And that became a number one bestseller! Would you go to young nuclear physicist, what do you share with them? Some words of wisdom? You guys, write this down. Go ahead…

Joe: Luckily I got a lot of good material to work off. Somebody picked this great topic — that kids can do things too and kids need to be empowered, because that’s how the world goes around. It starts with the kids…

Steve Shenbaum: It can be dangerous… nuclear physicology…

Joe: Absolutely…

Steve Shenbaum: Yeah! Just saying it can be dangerous…

Joe: Yeah…

Steve Shenbaum: Joe, how do you say it with grace and expertise?

Joe: Nuclear physiology…

Steve Shenbaum: It’s got to be hush. Joe, he wrote another book called ‘Whisper’, while you invent.

Joe: Yeah

Steve Shenbaum: That’s not a question it’s just a statement. Joe, you go around the country, you tell people to reach for their stars, where’s nuclear physicology going?

Joe: Wow, that’s a great question.

Steve Shenbaum: Oh, I know. Where is it heading. What can we look for? Share us, just a just a morsel, if you will…

Joe: I’m thinking it’s heading to a new frontier!

Steve Shenbaum: A new frontier!

Give him a hand.

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That’s the beautiful thing of taking a risk and getting a reward. Joe, I’ll just let you sit in a second. You can take the mic off and put it right there.

Steve Shenbaum: Were you nervous?

Joe: Yes I was…

Steve Shenbaum: That’s human!

Every presenter needs to acknowledge that. It’s also humbling.

Thank you for agreeing. Did you feel laughing with?

Joe: Laughing with. It was great. It was all part of the experience.

Steve Shenbaum: Cool, thank you for speaking up. Thank you for smiling. Thank you when I said here’s a question that you answered it. Thank you for having my back. Thanks for laughing with.

Let’s give Joe a hand!

Good job. You can just take that off and get back out there. I really appreciate that.

It was a great recall on the 17 year old. It was. Joe, as you take your seat, I want to share some things that you earned up here. But it’s really for all of us.

Joe, you’re an expert speaker. You’re not really a nuclear physiologist… I’m making those words up. I’m doing that purposefully.

But you did it with honesty. I love that, you sat down with the person next to you and she went, ‘Good job!’ That’s what we need. You did it with honesty. You’re not a hologram. I hope your name’s Joe and you didn’t lie. This is what you were, you didn’t plan this and that to me is honest. Not returning the wallet. That’s expected.

Humility. You didn’t come up guns a-blazing boom-boom. By the way no one does, should do that. No one should do that. Ever. You did it by not upstaging me. You followed the rules. You also participated, though you could have sabotage it. You did it without pride. You did it without ego. And in doing that you moved the room.

And you did it with humor. Because in that order, the result will be humor. But it’s not debasing humor, and it’s not poisonous humor and it’s not that type of humor that’s gotten away from us.

But it’s the humor where we’re laughing with and moving people. And you did it with a 17 year old call back from that video we saw in the morning… Correct? But you honored him without being snarky.

Honesty, humility and humor. This is where we want to be. These are the ingredients that serve our story. And this is where we want to be – in the move position.

But something pulls us away and it’s called fear. And where there is fear, there is no faith. The fear sounds like this to me. And you could nod your head, if you ever heard these thoughts in your voice.

By the way these thoughts I’m sharing with you I’ve heard today in me. I’ve heard them 12 minutes ago. I heard them, when I was bringing you up. But I try to turn the volume down.

Some of these thoughts of fear is ‘I don’t want to sound dumb’.

Who wakes up in the morning says, ‘I can’t wait to sound dumb and I want to do it early. So I can basket it all day.’

I don’t want to be misunderstood.

In this day and age for all of us, man. you put that wrong update that Facebook, other than deleting it; those 1,200 see it. It’s a train you can’t slow down on Twitter. And it’s not just the young kids, all of us. We don’t want to be misunderstood because now it’s out there and you can’t take it back.

I don’t want to get rejected.

I was single till I was 40 and no one wants to go to that social event and go up to that beautiful person that says, ‘You want to dance?’ ‘No’. That felt good, all right. Now I’m not done. No, no. Again let’s stay here.

We’re staying at this place, this bar called ‘rejection’. No.

And then with that fear, we’re not in the move. We’re not in the show. We’re not in the tail. We’re off stage. We’re off the red carpet.

Where there is fear, there is no faith! But where there is faith there cannot exist fear.

How do I get through that fear?

I challenge all of us to think of things that light us up. They are called ‘coins’; they are ‘values’. And there are things that you value. Coins are not things that you do, what you do for a living or the obvious. Coins are things that light you up, that make you shine; coins are things that that put a smile to your face.

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And when you think about them and when you talk about them and when you share them, it completes your entire picture.

My honesty coins are that I’m from West Covina, California, WC. I live in Bradenton with my wife now. I love to travel. I love warm weather. I have a father who owned his own men’s clothing store for 38 years in Arcadia, California. My mom’s an artist. My brother won the Medal of Valor for the second time two weeks ago. He’s a firefighter. He has three girls. The oldest one Sarah made me an uncle.

My humility coins… My faith makes me humble every day. My wife makes me humble every day. And my one-year-old daughter Blake makes me humble every day.

And my humorous coins… Whoa I love In-N-Out Burger, West Covina. I love that. That gets more claps than faith. That’s interesting. But nonetheless, nevertheless haha. But it can get me to talk about my faith…

My humorous coins is I love old-school hip-hop, I wanted to be a DJ growing up. I still do. I love Run DMC De La Soul, Doug E. Fresh.

When I heard Doug E. Fresh beatbox for the first time, I was like I want to be that guy. I didn’t look like that guy but I want to be like that guy. Through a colleague of mine, I have to give him credit. My wife and I last week watched four episodes in a row of Duck dynasty. These are some of my humorous coins.

And these are the things that light me up, because we are born to be in the move position and if we want to get back to that place of faith, we have to think of things that light us up, that give us value, that put a genuine smile on our face.

We were born here and I’m not saying that because I’m an expert in being born. I don’t remember that moment we were all born. But I will tell you what I do remember is….

A year ago last week two miles away at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, my daughter Blake was born. And when she entered this world, she didn’t come out telling us her story. Could you imagine like…

‘That was a long nine months. Oh that’s uh I’m glad I’m here man.’


‘I’m Blake!’

‘I know, I’m your father.’

She didn’t tell us her story because she couldn’t talk and she didn’t show us her story. Because she doesn’t have Instagram, she doesn’t a cell phone yet okay.

Could you imagine that though…? I just got born update. But what my daughter did, my wife and my daughter did is she came into this world and she moved us. Because she was moving and she was vulnerable. And not only did she move my wife literally, and emotionally, metaphorically… She moved the nurses and she moved me and she moved my two sister-in-laws and she moved my mother-in-law in the room and she moved that entire room with her spirit…

Without words, without showing! Just by being and she did it with:  Honesty, Humility and Humor.

  • Honesty – She just showed up. There’s no mirror, there’s no clothes, ‘Here I am!’ That is honest, as honest can be.
  • And her humility. She didn’t come out and be like, ‘I’ll cut this. I’m good, I’m good, doc! I got this. Ha ha!’ No she did the opposite, she said, ‘I need you. I need you.’ There’s no ego and pride. It just helped me survive.
  • And she did it with humor. Have you ever seen a baby born? They’re like funny look; they’re like blue and there was laughter in the room. There was laughter for relief, laughter through spirit, laughter through we’re-tired, laughter through exhaustion… Just pure laughed with.

My daughter was born with Honesty, Humility and humor. And so were we.

And I challenge all of us to figure out what lights us up, what makes us shine, what allows us to be an expert, Joe and own that… own with all your heart and all your being.

And when you own that presentation, when you own your story, I want you to deliver it with, ‘Honesty, Humility and Humor’, and I want us all to move people. We are starving for it.  It is time. Let’s move people.

Thank you.

Resources for Further Reading:

Raymond Tang on Philosophy of Water (Full Transcript)

Know Your Inner Saboteurs: Shirzad Chamine (Full Transcript)

The 110 Techniques of Communication & Public Speaking: David JP Phillips (Transcript)

How to Stop Your Thoughts from Controlling Your Life: Albert Hobohm (Transcript)

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