On Wednesday, I had the fortunate experience to speak in front of an entire senior class at a private all-boys high school in Baltimore. As a favor to the President of the school, I accepted an invitation to tell my story of personal and career accomplishments, and disappointments, with the hope of motivating 280 young souls to persevere and overachieve.
Only time will tell if my words were enough to get the students energized, but the immediate reaction seemed positive. Of course, they could’ve just been pleased by the idea they didn’t have to go to class for a couple of hours.
Those who know me best will always say I have an answer for everything. It may not be the correct answer, but I’m coming back with something. Well, during the impromptu Q&A session, I was speechless—albeit for a few seconds—when asked the following question:
“Who motivates you?”
We all know who the classic motivational speakers are: Tony Robbins is good; Jim Valvano’s talks to his N.C. State Wolfpack teams are legendary; Deepak Chopra has received tons of praise. But who gets these guys going?
I suppose the answer is different for everybody, and it probably lies from within. However, it’s always good to have an advocate and it’s that person who will get your juices flowing with a feeling of invincible optimism. Sadly, if you’re looking at the guy occupying the Oval Office these days, he’s not going to be the one to do it.
For those history nerds, you’ll recall what life was like in 1980 USA. It was brutal. The misery index was sky-high (21.98 in June), the ‘Operation Eagle Claw’ mission to rescue the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran had failed, resulting in the deaths of eight American servicemen (April), and unemployment was 7.5 percent (May). Looking back, though, gas prices averaged just over $1.00 that year. Of course, this was a 100 percent from 1978.
President Jimmy Carter who was our leader, and motivator, at that time was just plain awful. In his cardigan sweater and slumped shoulders, he didn’t exactly paint a picture of confidence and made many Americans wonder if the best times were behind us.
Feel free to raise your hand if any of this sounds eerily familiar.
After watching the Presidential Debate on Tuesday and the smoke had cleared from my Twitter ramblings, I began to feel anxiety and wondered if the “best days were behind us.” Sure, I can rally a young crowd of eager overachievers, but what about for those in their 30s and 40s? Realizing sixty-plus hour work weeks seeking to satisfy your capitalistic genes are just pointless under the current Administration, even the most-motivated of motivators probably hit the snooze button a few times the past couple of mornings.
In other words, what’s the point of working hard and making more money if you’re looked at as the villain in this current tale of domestic policy?
I, for one and I doubt I’m alone, welcome a fresh perspective to motivate the masses. Going through life with a Robin Hood approach and yelling for hand-outs is not exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind.