Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 16, 2011 8:19 AM

The Business Of Motivation

Motivation is a strange beast.

In April 2007, I was asked to be a speaker in a full-day conference that was billed as a day of "motivation and leadership." The event featured speakers like former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, Ben & Jerry's co-founder, Jerry Greenfield and motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins. Over 6000 people attended the event that was headlined by Anthony Robbins - who delivered over two hours of high-energy insights about what it takes to move your life to the next level. There were moments in his presentation that elevated the day to levels of rock concert mayhem. This included people jumping up and down, standing on their chairs, cheering at the top of their lungs and hugging complete strangers. If you weren't motivated to change, if you didn't take two extra minutes to think about how your inner voice dictates almost everything about you, all was lost. Thankfully, nothing was lost on this crowd that gave Robbins a standing ovation. As someone who speaks publicly, this was a master class in the art of presentation, beyond the practical and honest insights that Robbins offers up. How could people not have been moved to change? And, by the looks of the line-up at the merchandise table, where Robbins was selling his motivational programs, people were desperate for more... and to change their set ways.

Fast-forward thirty minutes post presentation.

I'm now in my car maneuvering through the underground maze that is the parking complex attached to the convention center. It has been a long day of presentations and learning. I'm both mentally drained and physically ready for a shower and some loafing on the couch (don't tell Tony Robbins!)... then mayhem breaks loose. With only two stalls to pay for parking, the thousands of born-again humans trying to be better suddenly regressed to the white-knuckled, road raged, people that we were thirty minutes before coming down to the event earlier that morning. Suddenly, people are honking horns, arms are flailing and the language of love for our fellow humans has turned into sewage of four-letter diatribes. As I took a deep breathe, I remember saying to myself, "well, that didn't take long!" 

I am both cynical and sarcastic, at times. 

Just like New Years resolutions or starting your diet on Monday, all of the motivation in the world means nothing without the determination to see it through to the bitter end. People often marvel at others who have lost a significant amount of weight or have completely rehabilitated from a drug addiction, but we see efforts towards our own psychological motivation or personal development in relationship to our brain as "weird." Think about it this way: how do you feel when someone says that they have a personal trainer at the gym versus how you feel when someone says that they have a life coach? What needs to be in better shape for you to be successful in business: your body or your mind? The answer is that they're both equally important. In that case, why is it that so few executives spend the time to train their brains as much (or more) than they're doing to make sure that their blood pressure or waistlines are in check?

Who's fault is this?

The problem is partially Anthony Robbins' fault. He spent years making promises about life-changing moments if you would order his program on late-night infomercials. It became the type of stuff that made for hilarious parody on Saturday Night Live. It's too bad, because Robbins' content works. In fact, most of the content that motivational speakers and life coaches put out into the market works - whether the coach is an original or derivative of someone that walked before them. The challenge is that the majority of people either think that the content can't work (the skeptics) or those that buy it never actually get around to taking the time to study, apply and implement the content - much in the same way that the majority of people buy an annual membership to their local gym only to drop out after a few sessions (or never go in the first place).

It's tragic when you consider that the Internet makes it even easier to get a hold of this type of information and training (on-demand and fairly cheap too!).

The truth is that you don't need a motivational program or life coach to improve your business, but you might. Some people do great by just hitting the gym on their own, but the truth is that those people (and everyone else) would probably have a more effective workout and better long-term results if they did the occasional session with a personal trainer. All of the reading, conferences and post-university courses will make you a better (and smarter) businessperson, but why not make the effort to get some additional coaching for that critical part of your life as well?

Who knows what new, unchartered business success might be right there for your taking with the proper motivation and the determination to see it through?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

By Mitch Joel