Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Be Motivated, but Don’t Take Notes

By: George Lee Cunningham

motivatorI’ve always enjoyed motivational speakers. As a kid growing up in the South, I loved listening to those early masters of motivation – the Southern evangelists. They would strut around the stage, waving their arms, and praising the Lord. And you couldn’t help but be moved.

I didn’t actually buy into their message – which almost always ended up as “send me money to do God’s work”– but I loved to listen to them and watch the audience. The people in attendance, many of them quite poor, would be transfixed, throwing their hands in the air, shouting out hallelujahs, and then digging in their pockets to fill the collection plate.

Sophisticated urban people – people who we would refer to back in those old days as a bunch of damn Yankees – would vilify these evangelists as charlatans and scoundrels, especially after one of them would get caught cheating on his wife or being involved in shady business deals

My feelings about them were less damning. The poor people who filled the collection plates got their money’s worth. They would leave the service emotionally cleansed, their troubles put into perspective, and their faith renewed. And if the preacher didn’t live up to the same standards he espoused, well how many of us fall short in that department?

The secular motivational speakers of today aren’t all that different.

Over the years, I have attended my share of motivational talks as a working journalist, and one thing I quickly discovered was to leave my notebook in my pocket. When you take notes, you quickly find out that most motivational speakers don’t really say a darn thing of any substance. Their talks are heavy with glib platitudes and generic advice.

When it comes to motivational speaking, it’s clearly not what you say, it’s how you say it that matters. You move about the stage. You speak with authority and certitude. You tell the audience to make lemonade out of lemons and when the going gets tough, they should be tough right back. And people – many of them sophisticated urban folks – leave those talks all fired up, ready to go out, build wealth, and chart a new course in life.

Like the poor Southern folks of my youth, they got their money’s worth

When others try to write about it, or even tell their friends about it – their account almost always falls flat. It’s like going to the opera and trying to put the experience into words.

It’s one of those things you just have to be there to understand.



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