Back to Elements of Motivation

Motivational Speakers, Emotional Reaction and Rhetoric Hype

Note: In the article below I exclude one-on-one sales people from my comments on rhetoric hype. There are people who sell because they love it, and there are people in the sales force only for the money. For the latter, they may need emotional hype to keep going. People who are in a profession they love don't need a steady diet of emotional rhetoric, natural charisma does the selling.

A good motivational speaker is a pleasure to listen to and can inspire us to keep pushing when nothing seems to be happening. An occasional motivation seminar can make us feel good and can produce positive results. On the other hand, it is not all roses; there is a dark side.

Emotional hype can become a trap.

We all want to feel we're on top of the world and motivational speakers can make us feel we are there. After our first experience, we want to hear others, and each seems to have the ability to send us to a new high. With a steady flow of motivational material, addiction is sure to follow. At this time, the passive follower becomes hooked; and has changed his primary goal. The new goal, "seek and maintain an emotional high." By maintaining an emotional high, he feels his goals are just around the corner. All he has to do is maintain a vision, have positive attitudes and maintain that good feeling. His new goal is emotional highs with his former goal as a tool to get there. An addict becomes dependent on motivational material to maintain this illusion and, in time, can't live without them.

When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, it is reported that he tried a thousand times before he found a way to burn a steel wire white hot that did not burn up. A thousand failures is not motivating and does not make one feel good. Back in his day, there was no such thing as a motivational speaker. So what kept him bouncing back from repeated failure? A desire to explore and discover the world he lived in, a desire to learn, and a desire to do the impossible. He loved the challenge and accepted the disappointments. His belief that something could burn white hot and not burn up was the laughing stock of the scientific world. This is a depressing feeling, not a feel-good feeling. The fact is, success is the result of bouncing back during times of discouragement without dependency on others. Thomas Edison used discouragement as a stepping-stone to achievement. Each failure was a challenge to try harder.

If discouragement is the stepping-stone to success, then motivational speakers should support depressing feelings. But then, who wants to hear about discouragement, something we experience frequently without outside help? The fact is, emotional hype sells. A steady diet of feeling-good does not produce winners, but it produces wealth for the promoters. A steady flow of emotional hype is a cover-up that leads us into a false sense of progresses. There is no creativity in emotional hype other than ideas sound good. People don't remember ideas, they remember feeling good. Many people spend money and time getting an emotional high rather than trying ideas and taking risk. They lose sight of their primary goal.

Motivation is a complex subject and it is easy to go in the wrong direction. Some dead-end paths to consider:

We have all been in organizations where they tried to increase membership or increase income above the normal with little results. They use emotional rhetoric, contest or games to motivate members into action. There is no analysis of current policy, which may be the source of their problems. They want to achieve more with the same policy. People as a group, does not want change and will fight change if someone tried to do things differently. At the same time, people are greedy; they want more of something without making any policy changes.

What is true for organizations is true for individuals. The older we get, the stronger our resistance to change becomes and the stronger our desire for greed becomes. We do not want to learn new skills that could bring the desired lifestyle, so we embrace methods that give the allusion of achieving results. Greed is in control, not self-development. This is not the way winners are made. Winners continually analyze what they are doing right and wrong and learn how to correct the wrong. They acquire knowledge by taking risk, tying different ways to achieve the desired results. They learn to bounce back from discouragement and failure without outside help.

If you love what you are doing, you are not dependent on others for motivation. BUT, an occasional motivational seminar can be extremely inspiring. Coupling this with a learning process that's related to your goal, you will be a winner.

Some self-motivating goals:

Back to Elements of Motivation