As I opened my computer one September afternoon, expecting another hour of lectures, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by an unfamiliar yet enthusiastic voice. Motivational speaker Lance Smith, also known as Claysmile, was presenting for my 7th-period health education class. As soon as he started to speak, I saw my classmates’ faces brighten up with anticipation for what he had to say.
Smith graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in accounting and worked as an auditor for the federal government for six years. However, his real passion had always been motivational speaking and dance fitness. His brother, Marlon Smith, was already in the speaking industry.
From observing Marlon’s work, Smith noticed how fulfilling it was to encourage others. As soon as he tried it out, he knew that motivational speaking was what he wanted to do.
“I loved it,” Smith said. “Especially because I find motivational speaking to be a great way to use our adversity as our advantage to comfort and inspire others who are going through similar situations.”
Eventually, in 2010, Smith resigned from his auditor job and became a full-time motivational speaker for Claysmile Entertainment. The name Claysmile has multiple meanings. One meaning is from a Bible verse Isaiah 64:8, that describes God as the potter and humans as the clay. Another meaning is that “just like a potter molds clay, the decisions that we make are shaping and molding our future and our quality of life,” Smith said.
Smith believes that those two meanings reflect a very important principle of life.
“Ultimately, God owns it all and God is our true source of strength and, at the same time, we have a responsibility to do our best to make good decisions with the free will that God has given to us,” Smith said.
While working at Claysmile, Smith has devoted much of his time delivering motivational speeches to all sorts of audiences including high schools, college students, and employees. Smith believes that it is especially important to speak with high school students.
“It’s during the teenage years that many people experience a wide range of emotions for the first time and it can be a very overwhelming experience,” Smith said. “My presentation addresses a lot of emotions and offers insights regarding how to manage them.”
In 2012, Smith reached out to health teacher Nikki Marafatsos at Walt Whitman High School, expressing interest in presenting to her health education class. Mrs. Marafatsos found his presentations extremely beneficial for her students and has invited Smith back to present for her classes every semester.
“Mr. Smith gives excellent examples of how a slight shift in our mindset can help us view things from a different perspective, creating more opportunities for growth,” Mrs. Marafatsos said. “His energy really keeps students engaged and he even can get them motivated to Zumba in front of the class!”
By having Smith present, Mrs. Marafatsos hopes that all students can find grace within themselves.
“We are our biggest critic, and when we stop judging ourselves for making mistakes, we allow ourselves to grow and learn,” Mrs. Marafatsos said.
Smith hopes that his presentations will exhilarate and inspire people to turn their problems into power by managing the perspectives in which they view the situations of their life.
“I hope my presentations inspire students to live their life with passion, enthusiasm, and optimism and help others to do the same,” Smith said.
For so many students, Smith’s presentations accomplish just that.
Back in September, Smith delivered a virtual motivational presentation at Walt Whitman High School. His presentation left a positive impact on so many students.
Senior Nikki Widra felt that Smith’s presentation served as an important reminder to have a positive outlook on life.
“Especially at a competitive school like Whitman, students are pressured to take a lot of hard classes. Kids definitely stress themselves out a lot and it’s nice to have a reminder to take care of yourself,” Widra said. “It also made me realize that so many of my current stresses in life are actually not as big of a deal as I make them to be. One of my favorite quotes is when he talked about how challenges can actually be a blessing in disguise.”
Senior Nina Quinonez thought that Smith’s presentations are even more crucial in a time like this.
“Not everyone has somebody to talk to about their struggles especially during these times of social distancing,” Quinonez said. “It’s also really comforting to receive advice from a professional who knows what he is talking about.”
For Quinonez, Smith’s presentation made her feel more relaxed and appreciated. It was a nice reminder to take a breather during these stressful times, she said.
Around that same time when Smith came to present to my class, I was working on an article for my school newspaper, The Black and White. I loved Smith’s presentation and felt that he would be a great person to interview for my article topic regarding teen mental health during these strange times.
“After the interview, I reflected on the experience and the teen issues that Sarah brought up,” Smith said. “I thought about how it really does take a village to raise a healthy child.”
Inspired by the interview, Smith decided to focus his YouTube channel more on educating, entertaining, and motivating viewers.
“I’m very excited about my YouTube channel because I believe that it has the potential to be a very useful resource in the lives of teenagers as well as young adults and even older adults,” Smith said.
Throughout the Claysmile YouTube channel, Smith hopes to stress the importance of maintaining both a positive and healthy mindset. As a person who has struggled with insecurities and rejections in the past, Smith understands how hard things can be. One main thing that helped him through his most difficult moments was changing his perspective, Smith said.
In addition to the topic of mindset, Smith is also producing content on the subjects of dance fitness and financial education, specifically real estate investing.