Ruettimann failure

One of my mentors, Nick Morgan, believes that every public speaker is a motivational speaker. I think he’s right, and it applies to bloggers and writers like me.

If you’re on the internet telling other people how to live, you’re a player in an industry full of people like Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, and Gary Vaynerchuk. You hope to move people from inaction to action, and your primary tool is your voice.

Having tried to be a motivational writer and speaker for over a decade, here’s what I know about successful people: I’m not one of them. The best of the best understand that they are flawed and broken, and they are relentlessly committed to improving their lives and taking you along for the ride.

That’s not me.

At my core, I’m just an HR blogger who couldn’t cut it. While I was noisy and flashy, I was mostly early to social media. I benefitted from being a big fish in a small pond. And I blew it. I didn’t offer mature or humble advice. I wasn’t one of those speakers who whispered wisdom in your ear and set your world on fire. I also wasn’t brave enough to bare my soul. I was an HR chick with a snappy URL who found myself somewhere in the middle, hedging my bets and hoping people don’t poke too many holes in the fragile narrative that I constructed to get through the day.

It never paid off.

I was never able to crack the upper echelon of writing and speaking because I was smack-dab in the mediocre middle, speaking no truths and sparing myself from criticism from the powerful. The middle-road is crowded, by the way, and full of middle-aged white men decked out in Landsend slacks telling you that your best effort is nothing more than amateur hour.


Now it’s 2017, and I’m committed to ending my career as an HR blogger. The truth is, my career ended years ago. My traffic is down, my advertisers are gone, and nobody wants to hear me half-heartedly rage against a machine that earns them a paycheck. When I’m paid to speak and attend events, I’m now there as someone who encourages and promotes a larger message that’s not my own.

So if I have any wisdom about HR blogging and speaking, it’s this: either burn the motherfucking boats and go all in on your journey, or toil away in mediocre misery and wonder why you’ve never been paid to speak at a national conference and can’t get above 500 page views.

Writers and speakers who try to play it safe are losers and, ultimately, imposters. And audiences can see through cowards who are attempting to half-ass their way into being motivational speakers.

So if you’re going to blog, blog. If you’re going to speak, speak. Do it with a sense of purpose and direction, or be prepared to waste a decade of your life waiting for success and wondering why it hasn’t arrived. It’s not coming for me — not on this blog, anyway — and I can only hope to God that my ongoing example of failure fulfills my ultimate goal of motivating you from inaction to action in your personal and professional lives.


  1. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing this valuable insight. It demonstrates the divides that exist between commercial, meaningful and the Eternal Darkness!

  2. I’ve followed you from the beginning because I love the way you cut the BS out of HR. Unfortunately, many of my cardigan-wearing, cat-lady counterparts get offended when you point the lens of self reflection in their direction. Odd–when it’s part of our profession’s responsibility to to point that lens at the humans in our respective workplaces.

    Oh–and that comment at the Baton Rouge SHRM presentation about how wearing flip-flops to work is professional suicide…PRICELESS!!

    You may only have 500 followers…I will always be one of them!

  3. Laurie, time for a reality check from yours truly! I know that everyone on this blog would agree that you are so far from a failure. Are you a motivational speaker? Maybe not. That field is full of, as you say and I agree with, middle-aged (add tall and good looking) white men spouting platitudes that make people feel good while they’re in the audience but don’t inspire them to do anything real. The truth of the matter is, your voice is is and has always been unique in this space, and you HAVE earned a living being independent. So you don’t get paid a year’s salary for a single speech. You have managed to assemble a living with all sorts of related activities. That’s extremely difficult, and in doing so you have been a role model to so many people. There’s something to be said for periodic reinvention, but please don’t forget all that you’ve accomplished.

  4. Laurie:

    Excellent blog entry. I don’t agree because I’m not so mainstream and appreciate someone not thinking that they are ‘God’s gift…’ in ANY way. You are insightful, irreverent, and more on point that most of the HR pundits out there. THAT is commendable!

    Thanks and keep it up!

  5. Bravo, Laurie. I love this. Failing is so scary for people and you’ve summarized my favorite theory of “fall forward” in such a great way!

  6. Sorry to hear you are calling it quits, Laurie. But I will say it takes stones to stop the sunk cost cycle. If the boundary between giving up too soon and not giving up soon enough were more clear, there would be fewer wise people in the world (assuming you subscribe to the notion that wisdom is only ever truly gained through wisdom.

    I don’t know what the magic sauce is that makes one social media outlet work where countless others fail. But you tried something interesting when thousands of other people wished they could have.

    Best of luck in whatever comes next!

  7. From the perspective of being a personal blogger, I will be candid in that I face the “green monster” in several ways that sort of parallel what you said — I don’t have the kinds of metrics that appeal to some brands/causes I want to work with; I see bloggers get opportunities that are (probably) more because of their follower number/UMVs than the quality of their work whereas I put heart and soul into what I write (and heart and soul don’t put food on the table). BUT ………….. sometimes you make an impact without being Gary Vaynerchuk (sp?). I write, to an extent, for ME — to practice being a better writer and to try to inform/amuse/educate/inspire. Last night someone messaged me about the “white privilege” post I wrote weeks ago to tell me that it had made a difference for her — if she had not said that I would never have known because she didn’t comment on the post itself. Point being: it’s not the BIG NUMBERS and BIG IDEAS and BIG CAMPAIGNS that always matter ……I am sorry you feel you aren’t big” enough or “brave” enough to make a difference. Goodness knows HR issues still abound. And I hope you’ll possibly reconsider because I feel like you still have a difference to make even if it isn’t blogging.

  8. When I started looking at HR blogs a few years back, this was one of my first. I have always enjoyed your style and insight. It’s different in a way that works for me. I have no idea what it takes to be a successful writer or speaker (and have no desire at all to do either), but I like what I like and I will miss checking in on your blog when you decide to be officially done.

  9. huh. that was really something to read. I really appreciate your vulnerability in sharing that. wow. seems to me that’s just the sort of honesty that is going to move you in the right direction – already has? and i think you’ve left some great advice! i know i heard it–and needed to hear it as I am in a fairly new career and am wondering if it is really the right move for me.
    take care of you! and thanks for writing and sharing that!

  10. Oh, stop it. Switching directions is not failing. And not reaching your original goal is not failing.

    You’ve done great stuff.

    I think there’s something about being in your 40s (which I also am) gives you more clarity on how the workforce is bullshit. For me, I’ve also realized that when it comes to my career, I care. Just not that much.

    Switch directions, do new stuff, but don’t call yourself a failure or a loser.

    BTW, I’ve done a lot of public speaking, workshops, etc., over the past 15 years. Honestly, the most motivational thing you can say is “yeah, I’ve been there too.” And you do that all the time.

  11. If this is indeed the end, I’ll miss your distinctive voice.

    I found your blog after some tweets from my 2013 presentation at SHRM appeared on your account, You are funny, smart, and irreverent. I don’t always agree with your perspective on HR, but I always appreciate the thinking that went into them.

    So from a used to be young turk who woke up one day as a middle-aged white guy (without the slacks:), this is a great piece. I look forward to the next chapter.

  12. The problem is not your blogging and speaking. You’re exceptional at those things. The problem is HR. It’s not a craft. It’s a crutch. HR came to the fore as companies were trying to find ways to scale without resources that were human. It was seen as a necessary evil cost center that they could departmentalize and compartmentalize rather than actually valuing resources that are human. No one cares about HR because no one cares about resources that are human.

  13. I’ve enjoyed and shared your blog posts for a while now. (and I am not even in HR)

    You’re pretty tenacious, or at least – project that – so, wrap yourself in that and kick some ass in your new gig. Trying and failing is what life is all about…

    Hope you will still get on the interwebs and drop thought bombs for those of us with whom your voice resonates.

    I’ll still read it if you still post it.

    Cheers – Becky in Dallas

  14. Oh, do stop beating yourself up. You are funny and talented and you write well. Try and be happy with that and work with it, even if it doesn’t pay the overheads. HR is populated by the perennially ineffective anyway. You can do much better than that for company.

  15. Laurie,

    I totally get it. I officially hung up earlier this year. But you know, you’re one of the main reasons why I even started that blog. When I first met you at SourceCon back in 2013, I asked you for some blogging advice and you were kind enough to share with me your insights. I was kinda star struck tbh. Lol. But I appreciated your candid, unfiltered posts that influenced my writing and never gave a shit what the suits thought because you cursed in your writing. But to me, that was real life. Being politically correct in HR is a sham. It just covers up the bullshit, that “professional” HR people didn’t want to clean up or address bluntly. But you opened a lot of eyes of how it really is and how it should be said. So thank you for that!! And even though you’re hangin it up, I still think you’re fucking awesome!!


    Mike Chuidian

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