Why People Make Fun Of Motivational Speakers

I was sitting with a group of people having lunch at a convention when we all got to talking about losing weight – one of those topics everybody has an opinion about. I was explaining that I was having a hard time losing weight, while I spread butter on my second roll and asked the guy beside me if he was going to finish his cheesecake. We all agreed that exercise was the only true answer to weight loss, and did anybody have a solution for an exercise that was quick, easy, and didn’t involve moving around too much? One guy tried to sell me herbal supplements that cost more than my car and had a warning label that said “May cause explosive diarrhea, bouts of gambling, and the intense urge to throw yourself off a bridge.” Another lady swore that I could bind myself skinny if I didn’t mind bruised ribs and shortness of breath. The best answer I got was from the guy who ate undercooked chicken and lost fifty pounds. Sign me up.

“I have a gym membership,” I announced proudly, failing to mention that the closest I had come to that gym was when I turned around in their parking lot to follow the smell of donuts. “I just can’t seem to motivate myself to work out,” I whined to the guy beside me, somehow feeling better that at least I had admitted I had a problem.  “What do you do for a living?” he asked me. I sat up a little straighter. “I’m a motivational speaker,” I answered proudly, at which point we both burst into laughter. I think I actually saw tea shoot out of his nose. And the irony hit me – I am a motivational speaker – someone who gets paid to go motivate people to take action and conquer their obstacles – and I can’t even motivate myself to go to the gym down the street. Pathetic.

It was one of those moments when I took a cold hard look at myself in the mirror to see if I matched the person I claimed to be on stage. I realized that I motivate people to let go of the small stuff, to release their bitterness – and I’m the first one who complains when the old lady with the walker brings fifteen items into the ten-items-or-less lane, even going so far as to accuse her of faking her limp just to get attention. I’m the one who tells you not to worry about what you can’t control, and then stays awake all night convinced that if a meteor hits our planet it will hit my house first. I’m the one who tells you to be happy with yourself, warts and all, and then has a nervous breakdown because I’ve just realized that my left arm is longer than my right and I’m a certifiable freak.

At one point my motives were good, and I like to think they still are – but if my actions don’t match my motives, that makes me a fake. And I don’t want to be a fake. I may not have a wide circle of influence, but I want those that I do influence to be influenced by someone genuine, not someone who is happy to give you advice, but not willing to take it herself.

And it’s not just me. I know sales speakers who can’t get anyone to buy their services. Customer service speakers who never bother to return your call. People who want you to stay on the funny side of life, while they sit in a dark room thinking nobody loves them. Speakers who want to empower you to be confident, then feel guilty taking money for what they do. People who want to teach you how to be successful at marketing your brand, yet nobody knows their brand. Speakers who tell you that you can overcome anything – and they’re living out of their car eating dog food on crackers.  There are many of us out there who are preaching something we don’t practice.  That’s why people make fun of motivational speakers. They think we’re full of you-know-what.

It’s always easier to look at somebody else and tell them what they need to do. And just because we’re motivational speakers doesn’t mean we are perfect. Humans don’t have the ability to be perfect – it’s not in our DNA. And just because I stand on a stage and give out advice for a living, doesn’t mean I will always make the right choices. But I can try. I can try to measure my actions against my words. To take my own advice and see if it even works. To walk my own talk. And who knows, it will probably make me a better speaker, since now I can actually speak from experience. I’ve got to go now – there’s a treadmill at the gym with my name on it.

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