Aug 252009


I’ve noticed over the past several weeks that many of the people I follow on social networking sites have started quoting motivational speakers. Often. For some reason, I suddenly have about a half-dozen people in my feeds on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn who not only want to ensure I have a great day, but that I Do What I Love To Do Because I Love To Do What I Do.
What I don’t understand is why all these people have suddenly taken it upon themselves to spread these messages. Good wishes are one thing, but being told over Twitter that it’s my #1 Priority to Make Today Count By Being The Best Possible You (or “Me,” presumably) is something else.
I understand why people on LinkedIn do this: LinkedIn a business networking site and in the business world we live this stuff, so why not make a good showing to a potential employer or business partner by showing publicly that you’re one of those carpe-diem people? (And perhaps sometime I’ll tell you how often my cheese has been moved.) But now Facebook and Twitter also seem to be homes for platitudes.
Maybe it’s tension over the economy or just something in the air that’s spurring on a sudden desire for introspection… I don’t know. All I know is that I’m seeing a lot of it these days.
I’ve previously questioned the value of Facebook and Twitter, and I know the real answer is to direct my browser elsewhere and shut up. Still, that doesn’t stop me from feeling a little annoyed. Seeing an inspirational quote in my feeds rarely serves to inspire me– actually, it makes me wonder what’s up with the person posting it.
I believe an affirmation is something private. At certain times we all need a little lift in our shoe, as it were, and it’s those times when I seek out some form of inspiration. Sometimes I’ll do something as simple as heading out into the sunshine or putting on a song that I know will get me charged up or lift my spirits. When I was going through a particularly rough phase of my life a few years ago, I had the lyrics to one of my favorite songs stuck to my fridge with a magnet. A few years earlier, I had the “Five Votes of Confidence” printed out and stuck on the flyleaf of my DayRunner. The point is that I sought out the inspiration.
In general, I’ve always been a pretty upbeat guy, and despite whatever setbacks or challenges I’ve had in my life, I’ve managed to keep an even keel. And yes, I’ve read some of the books and heard the tapes by the bigshots of the motivational speaker world.
I have nothing against the likes of Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Anthony Robbins, et al. They all provide a worthwhile service, and if their audiences find their words helpful, more power to them. (And don’t forget, the books, tapes, and posters are available for sale at the back of the room.)
From what I’ve seen, most motivational speakers take simple concepts and express them in simpler terms. The better ones in the bunch, like those named above, do it in a fashion that makes you stop and think, and it’s not until much later that you realize the ideas you heard were very simple, yet they stuck with you. The lousy speakers, like the guy I saw at a company seminar years ago– he was previously a high school football coach and still acted every bit of it– have a technique that’s so transparent that they have a Matt Foley effect: I walked away motivated to do the opposite of what the speaker said.
It comes down to this: if you get something out of motivational speakers’ words, go you. I’m just not sure I need to see it blasting at me between “I’m waiting in line 20 mins at Starbucks. Coffee break=FAIL” and “Dan just took the quiz ‘Which brand of ketchup are you?’”

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