On several occasions, after being in one of my audiences, someone has said to me, "I've always hated motivational speakers." That's an interesting remark for me to hear, since I'm often described as a motivational speaker.
Fortunately, the next sentence, on each occasion, has been something like: "But this, I really, truly enjoyed." And then, some version of an explanation has followed: "This was the real thing, today - the real stuff, not just fluff."
One Harvard educated PBS producer, after telling me how much he dreaded being dragged to see a motivational talk, said to me, with great enthusiasm, "But this, I couldn't believe, it was so good. You dug deep into human nature. You nailed all the real stuff. This was genuine philosophy, not just empty cheerleading. I mean, it was inspirational and uplifting because it wasn't just a lot of hype. It was deep truth, presented simply, logically, and with a lot of fun." He didn't hold it against me that I was a Yale guy.
I was relieved, and grateful for the positive words. But, hey, we all need a little cheerleading now and then. "Come on. You can do it. Head high. Just believe. Aim for the stars. Etc." But at other times, we do need much more. We need to understand the leverage points in human nature for making things happen. And ever since there have been written documents, wise people have put into writing what they discerned about those deep wells and resources we all have. Or, sometimes, their students have recorded their remarks, when they were not writers themselves, like Socrates, and Epictetus, the Buddha, and Jesus of Nazareth.
We benefit when we hear or read "the real stuff, not just fluff." The truth is exciting enough to give us hope and inspire us to move forward productively in our lives and our work. We don't need revved up hype to pump us up.
Some motivational speakers are indeed like parrots of fluff - human tape recorders of clever phrases ending with exclamation points. A few, sadly, are charlatans concerned only about their own success, not yours or mine. Some, unfortunately - and I say this as charitably as possible, and without feeling at all judgmental, but you likely know what I mean - are deluded careless thinkers. Sorry, but it's true. And some are wise, loving, and helpful guides to the heights of what we're capable of accomplishing and experiencing in this world, because they're grounded deeply in truth, and are motivated by love.
Brian Johnson, founder and proprietor of Entheos has a nice concept for the concerns of the wisest throughout history: Optimal Living. Anyone who can help us to that deserves our attention. And I include in that crowd such eminences as Aristotle, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tsu, Rumi, Hadrat Ali, Emerson, and even some much less celebrated people alive in our day.
In motivational matters, as in life, the adage holds true: Let the buyer/listener/reader beware. But if we're discerning, and follow the genuine breadcrumbs of wisdom left for us throughout the ages, we can indeed prosper and succeed, finding fulfillment and happiness along the way. Then, we become wisely motivated achievers of optimal living.