Why success is simple, motivational speakers suck and Eye of The Tiger is dead to me

motivational speakers

*Eminem’s Lose Yourself blasts from speakers.*



Maybe you do. But first, consider a dirty little secret. I know some quite successful business owners, some of them worth nine figures. These are people who take success very seriously.

None of them go to success seminars.


Never did, even on their way up.

Maybe my contacts are a skewed sample, but they find those speakers and seminars as cheesy and embarrassing as any normal human. They prefer to talk to lots of other business owners, and read a lot.

Side note: none of them really go in for ‘look at me’ success symbols either. They’re not parading stupid cars, houses or jewellery because they have a much better understanding of what success is.

There were two main reasons for their lack of interest in motivational speakers.

1. All talk, no track record

Motivators talk it up, but other than their speaking gig, most of them haven’t actually hands-on built a successful business.

Or they had one long ago, but then keynoting became their business and they lost touch with reality. And if you can score $10,000 for a 45-minute routine, that’s a lot less work than real estate.

2. It’s 95% showbiz shtick

Motivator advice is largely correct. But there are only so many essential tips, so to fill out the whole session, they add a ton of moves borrowed from Anthony Robbins. That’s a really time-consuming way to learn.

There will be embarrassing interactions with those around you. Half an hour into the speech you hear the dread words: ‘Feel’s like the room’s a little low on energy right now. Let’s get some music on! Make some noooiiiiiise! Now I want you all to stand up, turn to the right, and massage the shoulders of the person to your right. YEAAAAAH! How good does that feel? Keep it up! Can you feel the energy? Now, turn around and massage the person to your left!’

Please. I did not give up half my day to touch the shoulders of some random guy from an instant-print franchise, and I especially don’t want to turn around and feel his creepy sausage fingers on me. That is the opposite of relaxation.

A basic adult skill is the ability to think and absorb information while quietly sitting still. Why do you think they teach it at school? If people could negotiate treaties to end world wars from the seated position, you can learn the basics of business without getting pawed by strangers.

This is not where you find grown-up business people who need to get stuff done. It’s all emotional color and movement designed to juice up sales reps whose job is to run toward the machine guns without questioning the point of their mission.

Eye of the tiger

A long time ago, I was a corporate video roadie. I sat at the back of the room playing inspirational material at conferences. I watched the same corporate motivators again and again, backed by the classic soundtracks. Eye of The Tiger, We’ve Got The Power and Tubthumping, to name a few — all tunes that made me yearn for the blessed silence of the grave.

After repeated megadose exposure to motivators, you could see right through their act. Like the king of body language, with his hot tips on the hidden psychology of why people rub their eyes or fold their arms, with zero consideration that they might just have tired eyes or arms.

His favourite theory was that in a handshake, the most powerful person would approach with palm tilted down, asserting dominance over the weaker, palm-up person. I always enjoyed watching the menfolk shaking hands afterwards, each doing hyper-masculine contortions to avoid being a submissive bottom man.

Whoah, the future is coming

Then there are the futurists, who just trawl Wired for plausible-sounding stuff that can’t be disproved in the present. They deliver these factoids like gospel, with the jazz-hand flourishes, shiny jackets and nouveau-mullet hairstyles of Las Vegas Strip magicians. They are so full of bullshit.

‘Work will be a collaboration between human and machine. Nanotechnology will download your mood KPIs straight to the HR servers, which will customise your own augmented reality friend to cheer you up. And if you’re not on board with that, get out of the way because tech-savvy Generation Next is set to bring their native interconnectivity to the workplace at a break-neck pace of change. Also blockchain.’

If I had my way, futurists’ speaking fees would be paid into a trust, with the funds released after 10 years if a single one of their flaky predictions actually came true.

Find better role models

The world is jumping with people of breathtaking achievement, most of them outside of business. Read their stories instead. I’ve had more inspiration from David Attenborough for my work life than all the corporate motivators I’ve heard combined.

Now, you want to know how to be successful?


*Eminem comes back on, but gets muffled as a cloth bag is shoved over his head.*

Just do these things.

Seven steps to guaranteed success

  1. Turn up on time.
  2. Do the things you said you’d do.
  3. Be genuinely interested in people and what they’re doing.
  4. Listen rather than talking over others.
  5. Look for good ideas outside your own industry and steal them.
  6. Picture stuff you want to achieve in your mind.
  7. Treat people like you want to be treated yourself.

That’s. It.

You can go to work now. You’ll save literally years of trawling the fridge-magnet slogans and suspiciously fast, twitchy video chats of Gary Vaynerchuk.

Those seven points are pretty obvious, pedestrian tips. That’s why most people don’t actually do them. They want to believe that success is more complicated than it is. They’re looking for the secret winning edge, the 2% competitive advantage over others. So they turn to Neurolinguistic Programming or Lean Six Sigma, whatever those things are.

Their focus on the 2% means they ignore the 98%, because basics don’t carry that prestigious aura of expertise.

If you can do these simple-ish things consistently for the long term, you will succeed. If you can get your staff to do them consistently long term, you will have a terrifying master race who will sweep all competition before them.

This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics. Read the original article.

NOW READ: Snake oil salespeople: Be sceptical of business coaches who promise you the world

NOW READ: Stop telling us how busy you are, it’s boring and charmless


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3 years ago

Excellent article and 100% on the money. I would like to say……“Don’t tell me how to do it, show me how you have done it”

purple pyjamas
purple pyjamas
3 years ago

I laughed out loud and was thrilled I read this article on the same day I have been spammed with *free tony robbins tix!

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