Yes You Can! Behind the Hype and Hustle of the Motivation Biz by Jonathan Black

Anyone Can Do It

RATING: 7/10…READ: July 2, 2012

A look at the inner workings of the motivation business and inspirational speakers from Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, to the aspiring wanna be. Written from a journalistic perspective, you’re left to draw your own conclusions on the validity of the industry as a whole. If you’ve struggled with with thoughts of the motivation business being a scam, this book will provide answers.

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For a good three thousand years, most speeches had been aimed at persuading a group or crowd into action, whether it was to charge a horde of Huns, unseat a king, or hang a murderer. The nineteenth century in America was notable for a new phenomenon, however, the rise of the professional speaker. Suddenly there arose an interest in mere information, in education, and the professional speaker satisfied that need.

The fifties also set the stage for a new generation of speakers with anew kind of message, that of personal transformation. In previous eras, the majority of speakers had ties change to example and imposition; we acquired new values inspired by the actions of others. Now we were encouraged to turn inward, to examine ourselves and discover new modes of belief and behavior.

Who hasn’t sat through a talk and though, “I could do that”? From a certain perspective it didn’t take more than a clear voice, decent posture, and the chutzpah to hand out advice in a big auditorium. The impulse ironically, looks particularly attractive to those whose lives have stalled. Speaking is a way to get back on track. It’s a way to put the past behind us. And what’s more American than that? Is it coincidence that Richard Hatch, the first winner of TV’s Survivor, hopped on the podium even as he was dodging the IRS? A criminal record is no disqualification.

Another offender was a big time basketball coach who gave one of the best speeches ever. “He comes across as a warm and witty guy and you thin, ‘Gee, I’d love to sit down with hum and swap stories,” says Kopcinski. “He wasn’t that kind of guy at all. He arrived in a limo, jumped out, walked right up to the stage, did his thing. As soon as it was over, he didn’t say hi or boo or good-bye. He jumped back in his limo and was gone. He wasn’t a people person at all.”

German audiences love a pessimistic ending. You want to end on as gloomy a note as possible. That doesn’t work here. The U.S. likes an upbeat finish. We’re very comfortable with the Q and A, it’s not an add-on, it’s an integral part of the talk. The English don’t like that. Japan’s an extreme example. Don’t ask for questions, because you’ll never get them.

Another red flag: the corporate chestnuts. Please, not Starbucks or Nordstrom’s again—stories about how the key to success is customer service. I can’t tell you how many times a client’s disqualified because he tells a Nordstrom story.

People want to hear from success—not about it.

Speakers he [Zig Ziglar] admires? Brian Tracy. I ask why—“He told me what I think is probably the single best advice I ever had in business. He said, ‘Find out what it is you have to say; boil it down to a two or three line statement, and go and talk about it. If they’re willing to pay for it, do it for a living. If they won’t, do it for the joy of it.”

Zig Ziglar commands $50,000 and up. Most speakers charge less. A few get more. For the companies that hire them, the free can be the tip of the iceberg. There are airline tickets, limos, first class hotels. Take five hundred top managers away from their jobs for a day, or even a bunch of salesman, and the cost skyrockets. Add it all up—the employees holed up in expensive resorts, those speaker fees, and the extras, the work hours lost, the incentive pens and mouse pads, the fees to meeting planners—multiply all that by the number of meetings, thousands every year, and you’re talking serious money. By one estimate, it all costs U.S. companies over $150 billion.

After studying four thousand companies and rating the ten most “productive”—based on various criteria from revenue per employee to cash flow—they found that none spent much money motivating their workers. “They don’t have to,” says Jennings. “They’ve made the work so magical, so fulfilling, they don’t need vision statements, they don’t have to come in with carrots.”

What works to motivate workers, he believes, is “an authentic cause that becomes the culture of the company.” He cites IKEA and its pledge to build “furniture for the many—not for the few, not fro the rich, not for design magazines.” To underscore its commitment to the masses, IKEA founder and chairman Ingvar Kamrad flies economy, stays in a Motel 6, and takes one vacation a year—a two-week bicycle trip. IKEA doesn’t stage rush rah-rah retreats with the Chalk Man or an astronaut.

Some people prospect for change in the hopes of more riches. They do it for adventure—because they want a new landscape. The rest of us look to change because we don’t like who we are. We’re not satisfied. It’s these dual propellants that power the motivation business: we’re optimists, we believe in a better future; we’re disgruntled, unhappy with our lot.

“And here’s the thing,” says Jeff. “No one’s more extraordinary than you. That’s right. You think jumping this high is extraordinary? Not to an Olympic high jumper. To them it’s just ordinary. And you know what? They’re as dissatisfied as you.”

-He tells the tale of an Olympic swimmer, a guy who won the gold. Took hum fifteen years of practice. Showed up every morning at 5:30 at the pool. Won the gold and appeared on TV, radio, the Today show. Greatest thing that ever happened to hum. But you know what? In the Forum he confessed it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough!

How come, he asks, you attribute everything that’s bad to your parents and all that’s good to you? Sound familiar? Guess what. They did the best they could. Do you ever imagine what their stories were? Some did really bad things, okay. But it doesn’t matter. Whether they loved you to death or raped and molested you, you still have to accept them—or you can’t move forward.

Stories are fine, but they need to provide a way for the people to think about themselves.

I wonder again how people make the leap from living their lives to telling others how to lead theirs. This is beyond a sympathetic ear on the phone, a chummy suggestion to switch jobs or try yoga. This is in the area of: listen to me, I know the secret to life, I can make you fulfilled.

He likes speakers who get personal; it gives them credibility—unlike journalists who rely on third party authority.