When LinkedIn decided “We don’t want to be just a place where people can find a job. Want want to be more like Facebook…” I knew there was no way this was going to end well. And I was right, as my feed is now full of business contacts all sharing the latest moment of wisdom from the modern-day snake oil salesmen: Motivational Speakers.
If you ever take a closer look at these “inspirational wunderkinds” and look at where they are coming from professionally, you can get a good idea of their background. Many of them were involved with marketing at one point of their careers, so — sticking with what they know — they market in their webinars and IRL seminars “insight” on the secrets of success. I’ve seen one individual call herself a “Chief Inspirational Officer” (see what she did there?) while another posted “Do the thing for yourself not for others. When it’s for you, it’s passion. When it’s for others, it’s your job.”
When you’re in the moment with these Cults of Personality, I’ll admit it’s all incredible, awesome, and affirming; but stepping back and really looking at their “secrets” you’re paying top dollar to find out more about, you discover what they are selling: Common Fucking Sense. Live passionately! Set goals and then map yourself a path to those goals! Water is wet! Fire is hot! Put your pants on one leg at a time, you dumbass! Many of these gurus take Life 101 approaches and re-package them as “Life’s Secrets” which is ridiculous.
Actually, I take that back. What’s ridiculous is when these “Motivational Mavericks” (and yes, all of the titles I have seen before, and they hurt my brain…) attempt to work off-script. Then you see just how little they really know.
Step back in time with me for a moment…
A few years ago, I was venting a bit on Twitter about my then-job search. Over 300 resumes sent out, and not a single sign of interest. (Come to think of it, a lot of things were going south in my life back then…) I remember being quite flattered when a Friend-from-Twitter™ — and yeah, I’ll get why I’m being so specific about this individual later on — reached out to me because she wanted to help. Now, this Friend-from-Twitter™ was a Life Coach, and from the few interactions I had on her and testimonials on her website, she seemed to be quite successful at what she was doing. And from the looks of her endorsements, it was quite the impressive network she nurtured.
Within a few minutes of me telling her where I was mentally and professionally, my Friend-from-Twitter™ told me exactly what I needed to do to fix my situation: Go into business for myself. Be my own boss.
Yeah, great idea…but that was what I was trying to get out of. Over a decade of consulting, chasing down invoices, and a lack of new clients were all in front of me. I needed stability, or at least an attempt at it.
Next idea: Write a book. Share my knowledge with the world.
You mean, like how I shared my knowledge with Podcasting for Dummies, or All a Twitter, or Sams Teach Yourself Twitter in Ten Minutes? Sure, those books were doing great…but conferences wanted to hear from folks who were monetizing these platforms. I was something of a curiosity when it came to “experts” and “pioneers” in the social media arena as I focused on the quality of content.
Next idea: Tap into my network. Have those leads I’ve cultivated over the years finally come to fruition.
Well, leads do have a lot of value but they are not a sure thing. You can reach out to them when times are hard, and they can refer your resume or drop a recommendation to someone higher up in the office. All fine and good, and some friends of mine have done just that. I don’t fault them for trying. It means a lot to me. Still, my d20 roll with my network was a CritFail.
Now, take a look at the progression of this conversation:
- Be your own boss.
- Write a book.
- Tap into your network.
Pretty much the Motivational Speakers’ #AuthenticLife Playbook. And none of it was working.
This meant my Friend-from-Twitter™ had to work off-script, and she said to me with all the sincerity she could muster, “Well, Tee, maybe you need to stop waiting for your ship to come in, and swim out to it.”
I don’t consider myself a cynic. Not by a longshot. And if you’ve ever met me, you know I tend to be a flamboyant optimist. I do believe, though, that some motivational platitudes do not age well. And this was definitely one of those platitudes.
“That may be true,” I told her, “but you got to admit — the cross current’s a bitch.”
After an awkward pause, I offered an alternative: “Is there anyone in your network you could refer me to? I’d be more than happy to forward my resume to you.”
And here’s where the tone of the conversation changed. Dramatically.
See, on account of the books I had written at that time, I did have contacts (like my Friend-from-Twitter™) that were some of social media’s leading voices. And while the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats…” remains a popular platitude the Common Sense Salesmen push, it does not apply to them per se. There are only so many slots available for speakers, keynotes, and presentations. There is only room for one lead voice, lest your conference room suddenly becomes full of “subject expert” voices. And when someone in my network did offer me a contact to talk to, that conversation descended quickly into a sales pitch for this guy’s “management program” which I could take online for the cost of a few Benjamins.
After what felt like an even more awkward pause, my Friend-from-Twitter™ said, “Let me ask around first. I’ll get back to you.”
That was the first — and last — time I spoke with my Friend-from-Twitter™.
Where I’m going with this rant is that while we see these #authentic #blessed movers-and-shakers living fearlessly by not shaving in the morning, wearing a ballcap backwards when giving TED talks, and filming themselves in black and white while riding public transit as they looking out the train window pensively, the truth is they do not have all the answers. They got lucky. It’s an inconvenient truth, but it is still the truth. My own eye-opening epiphany of these self-proclaimed happiness oracles being just as clueless as I was actually freed me from my depression. I focused less on the misery of my situation and more on the positives. Maybe I was hitting a low, but I have seen far worse situations in my life. I was not where I wanted to be in that moment, but pushing forward — as I had already been doing — was my only option. Without forward momentum, I would achieve nothing.
And so I pushed.
So before sharing the latest revelation from motivational mavens, Chief Dreaming Officers, and other Spiritual Sensai (I’m serious, these titles are real!), consider what they would never want to admit: You don’t need their advice. You already got this. You always have.
And no, it’s not an easy trip. Not by a longshot. Before I saw the release of The Ghost Rebellion and Operation: Endgame, I had a job terminate my position after being there for eight business days. Why? Apparently, another CEO wanted to make sure my CEO understood who got in the final word. Amidst my journey into streaming content online, I lost my father. I said goodbye to him the week I was told “Your job ends Friday…” at my then-day job. Even when you get yourself back on track, that does not mean you are free and clear. There will be days you just won’t feel like dealing with it.
So when I tell you “Yeah, you got this!” that is not some hollow platitude I’m throwing out there. I’m just stating fact. You really do have this. You mileage will probably vary on how much you have this — whatever this might be — but if you really think a life coach, a corporate mentor, or a spiritual guru possesses the answers you seek, I would challenge their advice with a platitude of my own: a fool and their money are soon parted.
Allow yourself time to grieve, time for sadness, time for frustration. This is all part of the human experience, and yes, it sucks the high hard one. Allow yourself that time, though, but then push through. Find that reason to keep your momentum moving forward, even if its just out of sheer defiance, and persevere. Every day won’t be a cake walk, but seriously, you’ll get through this.
Kia kaha, and I’ll see you starside