Speaker of the Hows

I know several people who, among their various talents, list availability as a “motivational speaker.” That sounds like a pretty sweet gig and I’m thinking of hanging out my metaphorical shingle. Of course, the first thing I need to decide is: how much can I pull in for one of these talks?

The second consideration would, of necessity, be the content of the message I intend to convey. What is it I feel qualified to motivate others to accomplish? What gripping personal story will I share (or borrow from an old copy of Reader’s Digest) and relate to a universal “life lesson”? How can I establish an intimate connection with an audience numbering in the hundreds, nay thousands, when I really don’t care for most people on an individual basis?

I believe, in all modesty, and not using this post as an example, that I am most qualified to motivate suckers people to use humor and positive thinking as a way to cope in moments of despair:

  • I was laid off from my job. Great! Now you have time to write that novel!
  • I think my spouse is being unfaithful. Great! Now you don’t need to bother with “date night” anymore!
  • My business went into bankruptcy. Great! Now you are qualified to run for President of the United States!
  • I’ve just been diagnosed with a fatal illness. Great! Now you can… uh, well, actually — that sorta sucks.

I’m just spit-balling here; I may need to refine my approach a skosh.

There are several well-known quotes regarding motivation, which I’m sure you can find on the internet since I don’t feel like taking the time to search for them at the moment.

The best part of billing yourself as a motivational speaker: you have zero accountability for any observable improvement in the lives of those who attend your talks. Fly in, spend the night in a nice hotel, take to the stage amidst wild applause, captivate the crowd, bask in a standing ovation once you’re done, and fly out. An hour later, folks may have only a vague recollection of what they just heard — but you will be settling into the plush business class seat specified in your contract while staring googly-eyed at the long string of zeros punctuated by commas on the cashier’s check you pocketed upon your departure. Easy peasy.

Years ago my wife and I went to hear Dr. Leo Buscaglia speak in Schenectady, New York (motto: “We’re not certain how to spell it, either”) at Proctors Theatre. This was early in our marriage, back when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other, which made the drive there difficult. At that time, Buscaglia was a ubiquitous presence on public television, sharing his message regarding the importance of showing love to yourself and those around you. Among his nicknames, he was known as the “Hug Doctor,” due to his propensity for offering a warm embrace to every member of the audience who turned out to hear him. The moment he concluded the talk we attended, a woman seated in the third row rushed toward the stage like a defensive lineman: hurdling over seats, elbowing others out of her way and knocking people over so she could be the first recipient of his post-lecture affections. Her actions seemed somewhat at odds with the message Dr. Buscaglia had just conveyed. I’m open to making brief eye contact with my future acolytes, but times are different now and another provision in my contract will be for a metal detector positioned stage right.

I don’t have an advanced degree, so I suppose I’ll have to put quotation marks around the honorific listed on my promotional materials:

  • “Dr.” John Branning / Bored-Certified
  • John Branning, “Esq.” / Little Gator
  • “Rev.” John Branning / God-Awful

Anyway, I’ll wrap this up since I’m feeling motivated to get started on my presentation and fee schedule. If you’re interested in booking me for what will be an inspirational yet surprisingly brief appearance, let me know and I’ll send a link to my PayPal account to secure your non-refundable deposit. Sorry, the “Meet & Greet” is only for those who paid extra for a VIP pass.


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