In one of my melancholic, philosophical moods, I found myself stressing over whether there was more to life than eating chocolates and playing video games. As I looked back at the past few months, only to realize the person I had seen most outside of my family was the food delivery guy, I decided my social life needed some improvements.
Luckily, my editor asked me to write about motivational speakers. Perfect! Perhaps watching motivational videos would push me to get my life back on track. So far, my most consistent method of hyping myself up to do anything was watching a looped gif of Hulk Hogan play up the crowd.
I knew what I expected from motivational speeches
- A framework to use in self-improvement.
- Tips on maintaining motivation.
- Strategies for working efficiently.
These three, I felt, would help me reach self-actualization, a Psychological term for reaching one’s full potential. I was no longer content with being a loser. I had to become the best loser I could be, to be the person everyone wants to hang out with. It was time to win friends! “Making” friends humanizes them and leaves the option of them walking away. That’s just depressing. No! I needed motivational speakers to teach me to win friends like they were carnival prizes.
The Origin Of Motivation
Sadly, my editor considered motivational speakers a sham. But I was prepared to become a bigger person. I would start writing this article in size 12 font, but by the end of it, I knew I would be motivated to submit it in size 14 font. I would laugh in my editor’s face after proving him wrong. Or maybe just send him an email with emojis and exclamation marks. I’m not very good with in-person confrontations. Motivational speakers would likely prepare me well for spending money on T-Shirts with slogans, but I wasn’t yet sure whether they’d teach me the basics of human interaction.
Ready to be actualized, I sat down to a motivational video and spent the next 30 minutes listening to a man yell at me for wasting my potential, tell me that I was a failure, and insist that my own poor decision-making skills led to my low points in life. Eventually, however, Dad left the room and I started the video.
To my surprise, many of the motivational videos I watched emphasized believing in oneself and claimed that most people fail because they lack this belief. If most people’s problem is not believing in themselves, I wonder, then how come there are still people buying monthly gym memberships in the belief they’ll last past the second day?
Nevertheless, I tried believing in myself. I am not the problem! No! The make-believe personas of the inanimate objects that I practice flirting on are the ones lacking! Ms. Lamp is the fool for wrapping a shade around her bulb to prevent herself from having to look at me. Ms. Headphones is the one with poor social skills for continuing to berate me no matter how much I try getting a word in. And Ms. Mirror? Ms. Mirror’s a 4 out of 10 on most days, but maybe that one’s just my reflection.
Yes! I was in the right! Everyone around me was wrong! I was finally in the right mindset to conquer social life.
And in a way, believing in myself worked: the next time Ms. Pillow turned me down and told me to ask out Ms. Dustbin because “I hear she likes trash,” I discovered a strong, mutual chemistry between myself and Ms. Tears.
Anyone Can Do Anything
I moved on to the second common theme I noticed across motivational speakers: their insistence that anyone, including me, can become good at anything. This claim was often accompanied by music and random shots of the ocean and the beach. These shots made sense, because I feel if I ever focus on picking up tourists’ leftover belongings from the beach to sell off for a living, I could become quite good at it, despite lacking a relevant college degree for the position.
I wondered: could we improve at handling social situations? For awkward people, it can be difficult to make new friends in certain social contexts, such as parties or a mugging. While being mugged, you might ask yourself: can I fight him? Am I more actualized than he is? But then he pulls out a gun and you think: well, that’s just cheating.
And yet, I think I can become good at being mugged if it happens again. Would I be able to prevent the mugging? No. But if I study light angles and body postures, I would be able to hand over my wallet and beg for my life in a more charismatic and confident tone.
Inspired by the motivational videos, I figured out how to become good at being invited to parties too. The trick, I think, to joining a party is to wear a checkered white and black shirt, and sit at the entrance with your head and shoulders tucked into your legs. You then wait for an attendee to mistake you for a soccer ball and kick you in. Once more, your social skills have triumphed!
And yes, it worked: I got kicked a lot, although not towards the entrance. My guess is that the people attending were bad at football and could not shoot straight.
Putting In The Effort
The final common theme I saw in the motivational videos was the speakers’ insistence that you have to put in the work if you want the reward. This advice failed to resonate with me: putting in work sounds scary. For instance, it’s easy to take a look at me and tell me to work on being less slack-jawed, but what if I don’t want to push my limits too fast?
Still, I watched the videos tell me that discipline is important, and I nodded. I listened to the speakers emphasize the importance of hard work in success, and I gave my computer screen two thumbs up. I listened and smiled and leaned back. Then I sprung out from my chair and quickly hopped to the computer screen’s side. There were only wires behind it. So, it really was the motivational speaker in the video talking, and not Mom crouched behind the screen, using cover of the video to force advice on me.
Just to be sure, I checked the closet. Nope, Mom wasn’t hiding there, using ventriloquism to pretend to be the TV. I looked up, but no Mom spinning round and round by the ceiling fan either.
It was definitely the motivational speaker telling me to put in work to better myself.
It Just Doesn’t Work
That’s when I realized the problem with videos: there was plenty of talk, but little original substance. The hype a motivational speaker builds can certainly be inspiring in the moment, but without actual direction to funnel it, it usually dissipates after a bit.
In fact, a lot of the advice from motivational videos can easily backfire. Forcing myself to believe in myself sets up a harsh disappointment if it’s not followed by actual results. Similarly, hearing “anyone can do it” is a precursor to a sinking feeling in the chest when I find myself struggling with things that come naturally to others.
Even the advice of working hard is quite empty: it gives no structure to use to improve. Hard work without moving in the right direction feels draining when you look back at the hours you spent on improving, only to never make headway because you worked on the wrong things. Like trying to learn to swim by standing on puddles.
Motivational videos may have a good premise, but the heavy emphasis on anecdotes and metaphors over providing specific steps to improve left me with the discouraging experience of feeling like I wasted my time with them and learnt nothing new.
And that, dear Readers, is the story of why this article stayed in size 12 font. (Editor’s Note, he still laughed in my face, but left sobbing).
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