Counterculture · Life Choices

Are Motivational Speakers Bottom Feeders?

What makes shakedown artists, grifters, snake-oil salesmen, preachers, and motivational speakers so influential and effective? It is called the Art of Persuasion, which is based on the following.

  • First – there is the set up, which refers to highlighting a general problem. For example, lack of success, being overweight, or human suffering.
  • Second – there is the bait. This is where the speaker tells a story that says the both of you share a common experience. 
  • Third – then comes the hook or the emotional appeal. This is done by tying the problem to a realistic or probabilistic solution. For example, poverty gets turned into wealth; obesity becomes a slim and healthy body; and suffering is traded for the promise of eternal life. 
  • Lastly, there is the sale or conversion or the gotcha. This basically says, “If you follow my lead and do as I tell you, you can experience the success I am experiencing.” 

The motivational/inspirational industrial complex is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is built on “one of our greatest human weaknesses, namely, the belief that we can get something for nothing, that we can achieve our goals without any blood, sweat, or tears.”

How long did it take YOU to develop your skill as a professional [occupation]? Two years? Five years? Ten years?

So, what makes anyone think that s/he can attend an hour-long workshop or a weekend seminar and go from good to phenomenal overnight? Because people have literally convinced themselves that proximity to greatness amounts to greatness. These individuals believe that if they get one more dose of the “right” information, their entire reality will improve at the snap of a finger. While motivation is a necessary facet of the human experience, it is insufficiently predictive and lacks the capacity to effect lasting positive change or performance improvement. 

The fact is no amount of motivation can get someone out of a self-imposed crisis—at least not immediately. It takes years to develop bad habits. And for someone to make the claim that s/he can simply wave a white piece of cloth or pour “anointing” oil on your head or sell you a motivational audio book and change your behavior in an afternoon is peddling snake oil, a fictional narrative, and a worthless bill of goods. 

No one becomes overweight overnight. It took many years of poor nutritional and dietary habits to put on the excess weight. No one becomes bankrupt overnight. A long series of poor financial decision-making and planning led to insolvency. Based on that premise, no one is “fixed” overnight either. It takes time to go from living an average existence to an empowering existence.

I have said it before, and I will gladly repeat it again. You DO NOT need permission to be great—period! Let’s say I am a guru, even if I gave you permission, I cannot make you great. My permission does not and will not translate into your greatness. Happiness, success, wealth, and abundance cannot be transfused from guru to student. 

So, please do me a favor. Stop listening to these snake-oil salespersons—these bottom feeders—who prey on people’s fear, ignorance, apathy, and ego. You do NOT need to purchase the latest self-help books or attend motivational seminars or become a member of an eLearning platform or listen to a preacher, or “motivational” guru in order to win.

No person can be “motivated” into success. Building an enduring legacy takes time and there is no way around it! You’re gonna have to WORK your ass off to create the memorable and positive life experiences you want to have for yourself and your community. 

Upcoming post: “I Hate the Process!”



37 thoughts on “Are Motivational Speakers Bottom Feeders?

  1. Wow! Well said, if not a touch negative 😳

    I agree but- and this is a huge but for me because you have picked on one of my dreams- I think the world is changing; evolving. I think the snake-charmer and the carpet salesmen ideas are on their way out. I think to be a true motivator in the new world we will need a little more than charisma. What I’m saying is I think the new world is going to catch on- large due to the wonder of internet- to the fact that they don’t need to pay others to become wise. Really all that proper motivation is, is training others to desire wisdom. But the reason it fails is because (most) motivational SPEAKERS charge for the full package, then turn their back when the tap runs dry. But a true empowerer or as I like to call them motivational TEACHER sticks around, continuing to implant seeds of encouragement and wisdom, and soon the new breed will appear; the evolutionary teachers; the ones who will work hard for their living whilst also teaching and empowering others for FREE! So stay positive bro; the future is bright 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John, thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I support “teaching” that is based on actionable strategies. The selling of “hope” is where the problem of “motivational” speaking lies. Keep up the good effort. And continued success to you! -jh

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Of course I get the gist of the post as always well-written and on point. I just had to smile when I saw the advertisement. Sad to say there are people who believe in this type of overnight success. Great to see u offer the reality of perseverance

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes…the selling of hope is a powerful motivational instrument, but the results of it are short-lived. As you mentioned, perseverance is an absolute must. Sorry folks, no overnight success is coming your way.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Exactly! I was involved with the ‘spiritual’ community for 15 years. Yoga, Zen, blah blah blah… It’s definitely snake oil. First, as you said, you have to think there’s something wrong with you as you are. They sell you on it. ‘Find your inner being, inner light, your spirit, become a Buddha. You ARE LOST in the illusion!’ Then I got hooked into a community of other suckers and we fed each others feel good statements, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it keeps you stuck and coming back. Zen is not so bad because its inexpensive and they don’t push the money aspect and it is a religion. Yoga, on the other hand, is out of control. a billion dollar industry. Workshops costing hundreds and hundreds, retreats for a thousand. You get a little buzz that lasts for about a week or less then you’re back into your old life. Nothing has changed and I realized I was not broken to begin with. Sorry…I went off on this…sore topic. Good post.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Eric, I appreciate your insights. You captured so many valuable points. As you posited, once money becomes the driving force behind any movement, that movement or industry is on its way to becoming unhealthy and outright dangerous.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Interesting post, sir.

    I agree with much of what you are saying, especially in the context of what you mentioned concerning preachers. It frustrates me to no end how many con-men are behind pulpits and on camera nowadays. And I do agree that motivation in and of itself is not enough…work and effort are certainly needed.

    Part of my goal in blogging is to really challenge fellow believers to think critically and get back to what it means to truly follow Jesus. I think we differ along those lines as far as our beliefs, but I respect and share many of the values that you write about.

    Keep up the good work 👍!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wayne, thank you! I appreciate your transparency. As you alluded to, the same issues are present in religion. Here’s a question on which to ponder. Why do I need a clergy person to remind me of God’s goodness? I don’t! I either believe in God’s grace or I do not. Reminding me of salvation, forgiveness, repentance, etc, by employing psychological rapport-building techniques does two things: (1) It undermines the essence of the Gospel; And (2) it enslaves well-meaning people who are seeking spiritual clarity. The message (and life) of Jesus Christ is predicated on relationship, reconciliation, redemption and restoration.
      -Best regards!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Lisa, this is a good one. You got me thinking…🤔 On the one hand, I would say that Oprah is in a different category. That is, although Oprah is a proponent of hope and spirituality, she does not “sell” you those things. On the other hand, there are those who make a living off “selling” people hope, which I consider to be extremely detrimental to long-term and sustained growth and success.


    1. Manee, it seems like your heart is in the right place, which tells me that your focus will be on both empowering and teaching holistic and actionable strategies. Best wishes to you my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The fear mongering isn’t productive, I agree. I’ve heard some great motivational speakers, and I don’t think encouraging introspection is a bad thing if it jump starts a positive change.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Haha you said it all so well! True growth comes from a sense of empowerment, a sense of acceptance and allowance of who you are …and then from there what you strive to become. “You didn’t become overweight overnight” – is actually true motivation to me LOL. True motivation is in saying …Do what it takes, and here’s where I faltered, and here’s how I kept the courage …now go do all that, will you? …will all the love to yourself? …:)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Never thought of it this way before, of course they have their strategies, they are salespeople after all. But then again I never thought people seriously hope to turn 180 degrees and become a better them in 1 day! Motivational speakers are great to spark the interest and desire to change, whoever relies on them preaching and does nothing but passively listen is at their own fault there – I wouldn’t blame the speakers for trying to make some cash while putting a message out there and if some of the listeners get up and get movin’ – that’s a great thing! Not all motivational speakers are pure evil trash. There’s worse stuff going on in the world than folks trying to help others along the way and making money off of that regardless of failure or success to bring the message across. Plus, no one is forcing people to go and listen to motivational speakers in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am definitely a proponent of personal responsibility. And yes, for every minute a sucker is born. But damn…taking advantage of the innocent and unsuspecting is a bit shady, don’t you think?


      1. That for sure isn’t apropriate but whenever we speak ‘profit’ there’s advantage being taken of something or someone. Every industry does that. If someone decides to waste money on a motivational speech because they don’t pull through – it’s been their decision, noone’s being harmed. People throw money out of the window for trash they don’t even need on a daily basis and they cause harm to the enviroment by supporting some of the trash they by – unknowingly at times. I’ve seen ‘psychic readers’ charging 300$ for 15 minute readings – and even for that kind of stuff there is demand. There’s always someone willing to pay the price. Finding those people is taking advantage of them in some way – because the goal is profit. However, personal decision to spend money on something useless is not as bad as the advantage the social media giants take of their users, for example. Or the food industry. Or the pharmaceutical lobby. That’s where people really don’t know what they’re getting into and are being lied to. Motivational speakers on the other hand might promise you the world – but if you pull through with their advice and do the work, you’ll get it. If you need the speaker to tell you what to do or not, the result is what counts. They can show the possibilities but the work is on the people.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Perhaps I’m reading this differently than it was intended, but it seems like you’re demonizing motivational speakers, preachers, etc as being ‘snake oil salesmen’ because they have the audacity to offer a product that is not ‘one size fits all’, that because it doesn’t work for you, or someone you knew, or didn’t live up to your expectations, that it’s all garbage, and they’re all scum… but I must respectfully offer a counter-argument, one which states that perhaps the fault lies with the people who don’t do their due diligence, to those who want the results without the work, those searching for a ‘magic pill’… because for the person who pays $3,000.00 for a weekend with a specific guru or speaker and hears exactly what they needed when they needed to hear it, and the weekend gained them the information that allowed them to leap forward in their own life, it would have been worth it even if the price were double that, but for the person who pays $25 dollars for an hour lecture that they get nothing out of, it wouldn’t have been worth it, even if it had been completely free.
    It’s neither the cost nor the information, it is the individual’s ability to make use of the information that makes a speaker or guru ‘worth it’ to anyone or not… and it’s not the speaker’s job, the guru’s, nor the preacher’s job to determine FOR YOU if you’re ready to, able to, or even in need of what they’re selling… that’s YOUR job.
    You say you want to be a best-selling author… if your book sells GREAT, but makes people feel differently than you intended, is that your fault, or does it just mean that some of the people who paid good money for your book simply weren’t able or ready to receive your words at the time? Should you lower the price of your book, or give it away for free, because of the risk of someone paying good money for your book, a book they THOUGHT they would get something out of because they liked the description and were drawn in by your cover, but it did not appeal to them after actually reading it?
    Motivational speakers are no more snake oil salesmen than you are… but like all products for sale, sometimes people make a purchase, and end up less than pleased for various reasons. That’s not wrong, that’s LIFE.

    Nice post, though… I enjoyed the mental exercise!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda, thank you for pushing the conversation forward.

      Here are the main points of my post, which were captured in bolded typeface in the body of the post.

      -No amount of motivation can get someone out of a self-imposed crisis.

      -It takes time to go from living an average existence to an empowering existence.

      -You DO NOT need permission to be great—period!

      -You’re gonna have to WORK your ass off to create the memorable and positive life experiences you want to have for yourself and your community.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, there isn’t anything about the post that has changed. Those were/are the actually points. 🙂 You simply chose to direct your focus on points that clearly mattered to you and I respect that.


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