Friday, April 20, 2012

Why I Don't like Motivational Speakers

I really don't like motivational speakers because, when I see one of them dancing about the lectern and spouting trite adages with a silly grin, I hear one of two things, and these are really the only two messages they can possibly give me; one is that they obviously have no idea what I've been through or they wouldn't be up there smiling and dancing in mockery of me, or two, the alternative, which is that they do know what I'm going through, they have had it even tougher than I have, and look at how much better they are than me, as they have beat their demon and I am being consumed by mine.

I have learned that when I tell someone my story or even discuss a small part of it, if they tell me something vapid and pithy like, "Life is like a box of chocolates..." I just roll my eyes and shake my head. They obviously have no idea. Once again I feel alone and misunderstood. That is mere sympathy and it is very condescending. Not unlike when someone says, "I must have a brain injury too, I'd forget my head if it wasn't attached." I don't hold it against them, they're just trying to say something nice. If however, I share something and they shake their head and say something like, "Wow, that's nasty!" I feel much better for having shared, because they obviously have heard me and appreciate what I'm going through.

I also don't mean to say that what the motivational speakers are saying is nonsense, far from it! Only that it doesn't help for someone else to tell me to be strong, because that message needs to come from within.

This is my motivational message: Recovering from brain injury is tough, it is often without reward, and frequently you are alone and unappreciated. When I hear THAT acknowledgement from someone else, I feel better. That renews my strength to carry on.


  1. Mike - I loved this piece - spot on. Absolutely. Motivation doesn't come from packaged phrases - I tell people with BI there are 4 key elements -
    1. It will take a long time. Longer than you ever thought and then some.
    2. It is hard work. Hard hard work. And there isn't a shortcut.
    3. You will fail, not once, not twice, not 10 times but a 1000 or more. And then you will succeed -sort of. But when you do you will gain a lot.
    4. Have grace with yourself. Others may not, society may not, so you have to give yourself grace.

    I also tell folks to learn to live with ambiguity - like swimming with your eyes closed, you depend on a different set of senses.

    I do not use the word recover - I do not believe that recovery is meaningful, there is only rebuilding.

    I also do not like the word survivor though many do. I do not think that BI is a war, nor is it a singular event. Life is tough, we are all survivors.

  2. Why hate the motivational speakers only because they help most of the people to stay focused to make efforts to achieve their goals .

    Motivational and Inspirational Speaker

    Marke Dwardduin

  3. Mark, I appreciate your comment and sentiment. Motivational speakers have a place and a value, which I alluded to in my third paragraph. The problem that I have with it has more to do with how people react to a motivational speech, which is to be really hyped with the pep talk for a short while and then to sink back down and feel worse because it didn't work for them. My piece was more about that aspect of the motivational speech, not the content or intent of the speech itself.