What’s Wrong With Motivational Speakers?
Rock bottom doesn’t even begin to describe where I was.
Nine years after my husband was murdered, almost 6 years after the military judicial system acquitted his killer even though he’d attempted to plead guilty, I was still spiraling down. I’d bored a hole right through that rock bottom and discovered an underworld of misery I was certain I was doomed to dwell in forever.
Just when I’d been poised to move away from that abyss, I’d attached myself to a person who was hellbent on taking me down into it. I’d willingly allowed him to convince me his path was, in fact, a good one, in spite of the little warning bells ringing in my head. Rather than listen to those gut instincts I’d drowned them out until it was too late.
Finally, after years of emotional abuse (Yes, that is a very real thing), allowing him to lie to me, steal from me and my kids, traumatize me with his narcissistic cruelty, and even sabotage me to the point that he managed to use my vehicle to incur a ticket which he hid and allowed to grow into an arrest warrant in my name – I’d had enough.
I finally realized that my kids were not, in fact, better if I protected them from losing another person in their lives instead of watching their mother disappear into herself, and allowing him to exude oppression and depression in our home. I was done finding him unconscious on the floor. Done letting him wake up screaming at me. Done with it all. He’d drained all of my money, left me in debt I couldn’t pay, distanced me from family and friends, hurt my children’s hearts, and managed to leave me even more broken than I’d been years ago – because now I knew I was at fault.
Now I knew I was the reason he’d been able to have access to us all and hurt us that way. I was the one incapable of getting a job to provide for my family. I was a loser and I’d been right that the only reason I’d ever been anything at all was that I’d had a husband who was everything I was not, and he’d lifted me up, and I was nothing without him.
It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t ever going to get better. There was no way out.
That’s where I was when I hit that pivotal moment in my life.
It was a beautiful, sunny day. The kids were in school and I was out in our driveway enjoying a few moments of peace – the first truly peaceful moments I’d had in years. My fiance’ – yes, I even let him put his grandmother’s ring on my finger – was not home, and what was even better was that I knew he wouldn’t be home for at least 3 days. I knew that because he’d managed to sneak out to the nurse’s station and use the phone to call me from the psych ward he’d been admitted to. Three days is how long they had to keep him.
Three whole days without his awful energy. Three whole days without his erratic, frightening behavior. It was a release from my own prison and it felt so good- so free I never wanted to go back. I finally knew I could not “fix” him. I finally released myself from the feeling of responsibility to help him overcome his addictions. I finally understood addiction was not his true problem. He was simply, literally, a narcissist who also happened to be an addict, and he would never accept accountability for his own life. That is the difference between people who become addicted and fight their way back to health or die trying, and those who simply take as many people as they can with them to validate their own behavior.
I finally knew I deserved to be happy, and I finally understood the magnitude of what I’d put my kids through. I knew I had a lot to do to rebuild all of our lives and I knew I’d never let that person back in to my family or our lives ever again.
But, I had no idea how to do that. It was all well and good to see what I needed to make happen next, but what good was any of that if it was all impossible to actually do?
There was simply no way for me to get past all the challenges I had.
There was no way I’d find a way to get back in the workforce – no one wanted to hire me for a job that paid enough to support my kids and get out of debt. My masters degree, the books I’d written, the volunteer work I’d done were meaningless in the eyes of employers. It was too late for anything but a bailout for me, I believed. I couldn’t do this alone. I missed my husband more each day, and I’d never find anyone who understood what I’d been through.
Or so I thought.
But something happened when I made the move to rid ourselves of the very real toxic presence in our lives. I felt nothing but relief that day. I was exhausted but I felt amazing. I went home and let myself breathe in, and breathe out, and rest.
The next day I got busy again. It was time to figure out what everybody meant when they kept telling me I needed to change my energy I was projecting. How was it even possible to be anything but desperate when you are in the place I was, I wondered? Was everybody just being an asshole to me or were they actually right? Was I the one responsible for the stagnation in my life? Was I repelling opportunity? How could that be? How do I even go about thinking or feeling any differently when all I really feel is fear and hopelessness?
That’s when I discovered the power of other people’s stories.
That’s when I found people like Dr. Sean Stephenson online, and felt moved by his message and his story. That’s when I read up on people like Elizabeth Smart, who’d been victimized as a child and yet become a strong, fulfilled woman who uses her story to inspire others.
The more stories I read, the more inspirational talks I watched online, the more it changed the way I felt. Instead of absorbing or consuming messages of anger and pity, I changed my diet to consume messages and information that helped me simply feel positive emotions. It was the beginning of my own personal transformation, and I was hooked.
I watched one speaker after another online. With each story of triumph over tragedy, I began to believe it was possible to overcome my own pain. With each message of hope, I began to replace hopelessness with hope.
And so on.
The motivational speakers and inspirational stories were not the only thing that helped me change my own life, but they were the cornerstone of the foundation I built to do so.
Now I know there is an abundance of people popping up every day, purporting to be motivational or inspirational speakers or life coaches. Plenty of these people are unqualified to pitch themselves as such – but that does not mean that plenty of qualified people do exist. Just like in any profession, there are predators and there are true champions.
So I get it when podcast hosts or top influencers urge caution about blindly hiring or following anyone. But when people as influential as Joe Rogan dedicate a few minutes of their platform, while interviewing someone like Dan Crenshaw, to bashing motivational speakers as a whole – it’s time to back up the bashing train and think about things for a moment.
I love Joe Rogan’s show. I’m an avid listener and I have huge respect for his work, his voice, his platform, and his own success story. That’s why it was hearing his voice join the upswing of others on a seeming mission to completely discredit motivation and inspiration from anyone other than people he sees as uniquely qualified – in this case it is military veterans, specifically special forces, with Jocko Willink as his example – and stating that unless a person has gone through what Jocko or those like him have, they pretty much have nothing to offer in terms of motivation or inspiration – that’s a problem.
First – If you know me you know I am in awe of our military members who honorably serve. I am the surviving spouse of one such man, who lost his life in Iraq. I am friend, a family member, and an advocate for others, and I am grateful to them all BUT- that does not mean I believe for a second that ONLY those who serve or endure extreme physical challenges or danger are qualified to teach about mindset, resilience or, yes, motivation.
In fact, it is a disservice to people to even suggest such a thing.
I am blessed to know a lot of veterans and to a man, they all recognize that while what they chose to do on behalf of our country required a grit, tenacity, commitment, and sacrifice much of those who do not serve never have to tap into – they all also recognize that plenty of people who never serve in the military endure monumental challenges that only a different kind of grit, tenacity, courage, and strength, allow them to overcome. They all understand that each has value.
It is possible to live a long life without ever pushing ourselves beyond the bare minimum. But those who chose to push further will first need the drive and inspiration to do so. Those who are tossed into trauma and tragedy will need extra reserves of motivation and inspiration to fuel their commitment to grow past it. God bless those who naturally have enough of both to see them through the first steps of their challenges and right on through all the struggle along the way.
But for those who need help tapping into their own inner strength and inspiration – why attempt to drain that well they go to drink from?
And for those who may be tempted to believe their own story or experience is not “enough” to make them valuable to others – do not let yourself be fooled into thinking that.
For 2 years now, Dave and I have been bringing you stories of people from all over the country who use their own stories to inspire others. Yes, a lot of these people have served in the military, or are former law enforcement officers, with incredible stories of courage and sacrifice.
But many are not. Many are people who built companies, or created non-profits, or answered a call they heard and are using their stories to inspire and motivate others in their own lives.
We all relate to different stories, different people, and different things.
To say that ONLY one type of person is qualified to inspire or motivate others is a false narrative. I don’t believe it is maliciously or even arrogantly offered. I think it is just mistakenly put forth as fact when it is instead an opinion.
Thank you to all the people who gave me the motivation and inspiration when I needed it most, and who continue to do so today. I will never get tired of hearing your stories.