The all-too-many follies of motivational speakers speakers”

I’m planning to write one of those self-help, motivational books one of these days. That is, if I can get up for it. I almost got around to it yesterday, but I got invited to a chili feed at the last moment.

  • Wednesday, July 16, 2008 12:00am
  • Opinion

I’m planning to write one of those self-help, motivational books one of these days. That is, if I can get up for it. I almost got around to it yesterday, but I got invited to a chili feed at the last moment.

If you are ever motivated enough to spend 50 cents on the Seattle Times, you can see a huge newspaper ad in there for an all-day seminar coming in late August called “Get Motivated!” I did a rough count and found that the sprawling full-page ad contains more than 18 exclamation points. By contrast, one of the biggest motivational books of them all – the King James version of the Bible – contains none. I’m not sure what that means, but thought I’d mention it.

The “Get Motivated!” seminar offers “Inspiration! “Career Skills!” and “Wealth-Building!” But before you can learn how to build wealth, you have to part with some of it first. The seminar will set you back about $225. For that $225, you’ll get to listen to experts explain why they are rich and successful and you are not.

The event is a who’s-who of motivational speakers and money gurus. First of all, there’s a guy named Zig Ziglar. Ziglar is billed as “America’s number one motivator,” which will come as a blow to Oprah. But like Smucker’s, with a name like Zig, he’s got to be good. (By the way, he should not be confused with Cig Ciglar, a lesser-known speaker who motivates people to quit smoking.)

Among Zig’s topics is “How to Get Everything You Want.” There is no explanation of what exactly “everything” is, but it would obviously be different depending on the person. For some, it might be financial wealth; for others, achieving a higher life purpose. For my friend, Chuck, it’s landing a date with Heidi Klum. If Zig can swing that, Chuck will definitely be signing up.

Also on the docket is Terry Bradshaw, the Hall of Fame quarterback. Without benefit of a hairpiece, Bradshaw will offer “How to Sharpen Your Competitive Edge.” He will explain why, from his experience, it’s a good idea to wear a helmet and a cup when going to work each day. Incidentally, one of Bradshaw’s sub-topics is “How to Score Big and Score Often.” This, too, caught my friend Chuck’s eye.

Another scheduled speaker is former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He had planned to be busy accepting a presidential nomination at the Republican convention this summer, but his schedule opened up and he’s coming to the seminar, instead.

A self-made billionaire, Bill Bartman, will be offering the “Secrets of Billionaire Success.” Ironically, the seminar is being held at the Key Arena, the same building that a self-made billionaire from Oklahoma City has pretty much turned into a white elephant. Those self-made billionaires love their secrets.

The unfailingly perky Suze Orman will be at the seminar, too, dispensing money advice. She’ll also explain how she gets her teeth their whitest white.

Perhaps the biggest luminary on hand will be Colin Powell, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration. He will presumably explain why, in hindsight, maybe it’s better to work for yourself than for someone else.

Past seminars featured Anthony Robbins, that guy with the gigantic head full of teeth. He appears to part human, part T-Rex. His speech was called “How to Achieve the Results You Demand Now!” Notice it was not titled “How to Achieve the Results You Demand After This Seminar is Over.” It promised “Now!” – a pretty good deal, indeed. Imagine achieving the results you demand while sitting on your rear end all day at Key Arena.

I don’t doubt that such motivational seminars can get people fired up and inspired. On the other hand, if they worked really well, pretty soon everybody, everywhere would be rich – except for the people in the motivational seminar business, who’d suddenly be unnecessary and broke.

So you can figure that self-help seminars will continue to be a great way to build wealth for the people who put on self-help seminars. Meanwhile, maybe you or I will finally get around to getting our own motivational book written and on the shelves. Some working titles to consider:

• “The Power of Positive Negativity”

• “Think and Grow Rich; Eat and Just Grow”

• “The Seven Habits of People Who Used to Have Eight of Them”

• “Who Moved My Cheetos?”

• “How to Win Friends and People Under the Influence”

• “A Passion for Ecksellance”

• “Women Are From Nordstrom; Men Are From Schuck’s Auto Supply”

Perhaps the greatest motivator I ever met never wrote a book, never gave a speech. He was my old man. When I was a kid, all he had to do was give me a look. Within an hour, the lawn was mowed.

Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at pat@patcashman.com


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