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"Get Motivated!" -- borderline bait and switch and a motivation killer

  • Feb 10, 2011
Rating:
-5
Ordinarily, I have a strict rule not to review something I have not finished.  However, the “Get Motivated! Business Seminar” isn’t a movie or book whose plot might right itself before the end.  It is essentially a mislabeled bottle of wine.  It also requires comment from someone (me) who believes that a reviewer’s primary purpose is to warn others not to waste money and time.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to praise things, but explaining why something is a waste of time in particular is usually more helpful to a wider audience than saying that a movie is a must-see or similar praise.  “Get Motivated!” is not just a colossal waste of time, it is very close to a bait and switch scheme.
 
The “seminar” in Birmingham had 8 scheduled speakers (one was added after the slate was set and billboards posted--I will get to that in a moment): Rudy Giuliani “America’s Mayor”, Gen. Colin Powell “World-Famous Soldier Statesman”, Laura Bush “Former First Lady”, Rick Belluzzo “Legendary President of Microsoft”, “Zig Ziglar “America’s #1 Motivator” and Krish Dhanam “Top Sales Training Expert” (the other two were Nick Saban Alabama’s football coach and Gene Chizik, Auburn’s football coach I have them listed parenthetically for both symbolic and structural reasons that will hopefully be clear in a few paragraphs). 
 
I am a liberal who doesn’t really care about football, so I am either hostile or indifferent to all but Mr.s Ziglar, Belluzzo, and Dhanam about whom I knew little until looking them up which then put them in either hostile or indifferent categories.  I didn’t want to hear any of them speak but the ticket to the event was presented to me and my co-workers in such a way that it seemed attendance was required.  Realizing I was baited with something I didn’t like that was switched to something I didn’t want or need, I decided I needed to go to the office and do the work I’m paid to do.  Glibly, I was motivated to leave but rather than go home and veg, I did in fact go back to the office to work.
 
I want to continue the bottle of wine metaphor.  The promise on the label is a dry red valued at let’s say $100 discounted to $10.  I read the label very carefully thinking there has to be a catch, but I find none.  It turns out that the bottle is only half full, is watered down altar wine and comes with a special prize—a crucifix falls into the glass.  I wish I was kidding.
 
Here’s what I mean.  The ticket says “Get Motivated!”  I assume that the people listed will speak on the topics that appear under their names in the material.  Rick Belluzzo “Business Skills” reminded us many times that he worked for Hewlett Packard (he mentioned Microsoft exactly once) and that when the market changes, your business has to change; he makes no mention of how.  So cross that off as ineffective.  Next was General Powell “Leadership.”  He was funny and personable but spent more time talking about his ties to Birmingham through his wife than anything even close to leadership; all I could take away was that I needed to be nice to parking attendants and that if I had grandkids the only way to keep up with them was to get a twitter account.  So cross that off as ineffective.  Laura Bush was given the vague sobriquet “Special Guest.”  Unlike the others she had a podium and written speech which she delivered in the same way any of us would after just half a semester of Public Speaking 101 and with a very heavy drawl.  Apparently she was given no assignment to write/read a speech to motivate or inspire.  She spent her time giving us an update on her family—I have never liked her family … ever; I didn’t want to know anything about them when any of them were in office let alone now that they are all, hopefully forever and ever, out of the public eye.  I left after her speech.  But there were two other speakers—one on the billboard, the other not—between General Powell and Ms. Bush, and they are what made me (and make others I will get to in a moment) very angry.
 
The one not on the billboard was the first of two men I’ll call the “Timeshare-Hardsell” dudes.  I don’t want to name them or their “products” here from principle alone, but what they are and do is the issue not who they are.  He spent an hour pushing a website/service for buying and selling stock.  To retire in a couple of years with a cool two million, all I have to do is follow the red and green arrows on the website to advise me on when to buy and sell; literally all I have to do is click when the arrows say to.  But wait, there’s more.  The site/service runs a 2 day seminar on how to use the tool and it usually costs $2300.  But since we are motivated enough to brave traffic, rain, cold, and hard seats, “Get Motivated!” leaned hard on this company and we can get all of that for the low low low low price of (you guessed it because it is the magic number) $99.  The problem is that “Get Motivated!” didn’t expect as many people as showed up, so there are a limited number of slots so better sign up fast.  Before more specific comment I want to say I am very proud of the fellow sufferers in section 4U of the BJCC Arena, only about a dozen of the 200ish people took the bait.  Though we had been sitting in uncomfortable spots, too close to one another, we stayed where we were – our school of fish lived to swim another day with our finances in exactly the same condition now as before.
 
First, bullshit.  “Get Motivated!” has known for at least a couple of weeks how many people would show up.  They would have to get up way earlier than I did – and I got up at an obscene hour in order to get there early enough to get what I call escape-parking (easy in but more importantly, easy out) – for me to fall for that old saw.  That offended my intelligence, but what happened sandwiched on either side of Timeshare-Hardsell Dude 1 offended me personally.
 
Krish Dhanam was supposed to speak on “Communication.”  He sort of did, but only the extent of it was to tell your wife and child every day that you love them.  For his first turn on the stage about a third of the words he lilted were his own the rest were quotes nearly all from the early days of the American experience.  He ran through Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech, the whole thing, in about 8 seconds sounding like an Indian auctioneer selling mislabeled bottles of wine (and he forgot to name the actual speaker of that famous quote).  I learned his wife’s and son’s name, that he loves them, his father’s birthday, and that he loves him and he can memorize long quotes from other people.  So cross that off as ineffective.
 
The emcee claimed, twice, that when “Get Motivated!” polls people like me, the number one thing we want to hear about are spiritual matters “with finances being second, of course.”  Ok, bullshit.  Not everyone wants to hear about the Christian God anyway, let alone on a Monday, let alone at a “business seminar” that doesn’t say the first thing about spirituality, but most people going to a business seminar would be interested in hearing about money … I mean business is money, so context tells me that. 
 
However, since most of us want to hear about spiritual matters, they call back Mr. Dhanam to make a second pace around the stage.  He explains that, though he had everything he ever wanted, he still had a gaping hole in his heart.  Then he went to a seminar very much like this one where he heard what he called a “motivational aphorism.”  The short version is “Come into my life lord Jesus Christ and be my number one.”  I wish I was kidding, but those are the first words of this motivational aphorism.  I sat there totally agape for 10 minutes as 18,000 attendees at what, to all the world looked like a secular gathering, were witnessed to.
 
This ultimately means one thing, which I will use as a bridge to a wider angle.  It means “Get Motivated!” has done the focus studies that tell them people who speak about a personal relationship with “The Living God” as Mr. Dhanam called Him/It connect with other believers making them slightly more likely to agree to whatever is said, even if it is counter to core tenets of faith.  That they can afford to offend a wider audience, most of whom were there under the same circumstances as me.  Please understand I am not saying that all believers behave as sheep and many around me were offended (and became even more so, apparently when Timeshare-Hardsell Dude 2 used the word “God” in every other sentence pushing his financial brilliance—I cannot speak to that directly since I had already left; but based on what I heard, my head would have exploded had I stayed).
 
More broadly, “Get Motivated!” uses almost exclusively white men, roughly half are Republicans or openly support conservative candidates.  For Birmingham and the next 4 cities (Fresno, San Diego, Portland, Memphis) there are only 2 African Americans—both male—and three women—all white.  Of these 5 people--General Powell, Bill Cosby, Laura Bush, Julie Ziglar, and Leigh Ann Tuohy—none have run a business.  Ms. Bush and Ms. Ziglar are famous by marriage and Ms. Tuohy is known only because Sandra Bullock played her in a movie.  There are people of color and women who have run businesses and can speak specifically to that matter, why are they not on any of the billboards or anywhere in the “Get Motivated!” pipeline?
 
One telling clue to this is the other people that fill up the billboard: football players and coaches.  Joe Montana seems to be a standard for the western sites, Terry Bradshaw and Lou Holtz for the middle of the country (I can’t speak to the east coast at present).  And in Alabama?  January of 2010 Nick Saban led the Alabama Crimson Eleph…oops Tide to a BCS National Championship.  So “Get Motivated!” has him apparently to speak about “Teamwork” but while Alabama began the 2010 season as #1 in the polls, two embarrassing losses ended the hope of a repeat.  The slate of speakers would probably not have changed except for the fact that Alabama’s rival, Auburn, took over the #1 spot and a year after the Bama win, Auburn won the same title.  Realizing that if Jesus was a Tide fan, the Auburn crowd would become Hindu, “Get Motivated!” had to add Mr. Chizik. 
 
Why?
 
“Get Motivated!” is structured to do the hard sell to white, straight, married, conservative, Christian men who know a thing or two about football.  They also seem to focus on these men living in B to B- cities (Birmingham, not Atlanta; Fresno, not San Francisco; San Diego, not Los Angeles; Portland, not Seattle or again SF; and Memphis, not St Louis).  Cynically (and I believe totally realistically), putting a person of color or woman who has or is running a successful business (other than pushing “Get Motivated!” or “Get Motivated!”-lite services) would tend to put off their target audience.  Glibly, and again I think realistically, people of color and women who have or are running successful businesses realize that shilling for Timeshare-Hardsell dudes is beneath them.
 
If they happen to snag a woman, person of color, single, gay, moderate or liberal, religiously-other … I can’t finish that conditional because if that was true the world would probably grind to a halt from the absurdity.
 
If your company is considering or has paid for tickets to any of the events, please just enter the following into a Google search: “Get Motivated” either the first or second automatic fill-in will be “seminar scam.”  Take a quick look at those and realize that taking the office to play paintball is a far better way to motivate people than having them deal with apocalyptic parking problems and sitting in hard seats for 8 hours.
 
No straight, white, conservative, married, Christian, football loving men were harmed in the writing of this essay.  Having been born in Georgia the essayist is allowed by the rococo Alabama Constitution to remain neutral on the Alabama vs Auburn war.  And he is a firm believer in the bon mot from Dave Matthews that it isn’t “where but who you’re with that really matters.”

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February 11, 2011
Unfortunately, there are a lot of seminars like this out there, people just have to be aware of what they're getting themselves into. It seems odd that Mrs. Bush, Mr. Powell, Mr. Cosby and some others that you named would get roped into something like this. Aren't they rich enough without appearance fees at scam seminars? Thanks for giving us a heads up!
February 11, 2011
That's true. So long as there are times and places where fools and money accidentally meet, there will be someone of questionable ethics to create a glorious opportunity to exploit the that happy accident.

As to rich enough. Former politicians and those related to them are in a precarious position because they have often pissed off enough people that something solid is always going to be questionable. General Powell and Ms. Bush have generous pensions and other perks but there is usually only one "book" in them for quick income then after that ... it's either hope to get temporary teaching positions or hit the motivational speaking circuit.

But Mr. Cosby in particular strikes me as a very odd participant. Once I saw that my respect for him essentially disappeared.

My broader question is why only conservatives and football people? They used Michael Phelps at one event but luckily for the event it was just about one week before pictures of him using a bong were published (that wouldn't go over well with their target audience). Are moderate and liberal speakers and people who play or coach other sports involved in shilling for other behavioral situations: "Get Deluded!" Or, is it possible that moderates and liberals and players of baseball, tennis, hockey, basketball, lacrosse ... would rather continue to drive the car they have instead of selling their reputation to a scam artist for a Hummer?
February 12, 2011
I LOVE your last line and though not all conservative Republicans would've bought the bait at this spaminar (as you stated by the lack of numbers that picked up the program!), they may have been more privy to actually listening to these speakers. I don't tend to take any of those speakers seriously, and that may be because I'm more middle of the road or that may be I would've zoned out when I felt pitched to.

The question of football and conservatives is interesting- maybe it has to do with Birmingham and the promoters stereotyped understanding of Alabama? I wonder what the speakers were for California, though the towns that you listed are more Republican than Democrat.

It's pretty funny that Mrs. Bush and Mr. Powell, etc are jumping into whatever appearance they can get just to make a buck, what does that tell you of the former administration? Though I'm sure this has happened since the dawn of time, this is just the first I've heard of it.

I'd much rather just continue to work down my debt myself and maybe drink some more green tea if I need some extra motivation. None of these people would've motivated me to do anything but, find the nearest exit. I'm sorry that you were forced to endure it!
February 12, 2011
I don't want to beat dead horses ... but ... I looked at the upcoming locations for the "seminars" and read some other opinions and complaints posted in various different places over the last 2 years. When it comes to sports, the only person that was not involved with football was Michael Phelps (March 2009). He didn't speak in the traditional way but was rather interviewed. One reason he may not have been asked back to any other events is that 2 weeks after that appearance, pictures of him using a bong were posted on the web (I state no opinion about that, just that I have a feeling that he would likely have been removed from any future appearances--for a little while at least--until that unfortunate event was forgotten). With regards to Alabama, there would be no reason for them to use any of the ones they normally do since the natives would rather pay full ticket price to see one of these coaches than bother to walk into an arena to listen to any of the others speak for free. But the point is football-football-football (and Jesus).

This specific kind of shilling is not new but using the people they do is more new than not. Typically people involved in any administration go back to doing what they did before either in academics or business (and often academics even if what they did before was business). The Bush Administration pulled people from different backgrounds than was more common before and the decisions they made, supported, or have been saddled with were far more controversial than any before, so there will be more people opposed in principle than for previous administrations (by and large). Since most of the Obama administration comes from the more traditional sources, the idea that they will "need" to hit this sort of low-rent "lecture" circuit is pretty low. There are two questions that will never be answered but whose answers would either totally cement Get Motivated! as an unvarnished scam or leave the mix unsettled: How many figures from a polarized administration have they approached who had the dignity to say no? And what may be far more telling, how many people from that administration (or the like) have requested that they be added only to be denied?
February 12, 2011
Those are really good questions and I'd love to hear the answers!
 
February 11, 2011
Wow, sorry to hear that you wasted your time and money on this, but thanks for warning us! I like your analogy about your experience with wine. This is really too bad.
February 11, 2011
I want to stress that I didn't buy a the ticket, I was the unhappy beneficiary of one. My loss was in time and $6 in parking I wouldn't have had to pay.

The thing I want to stress, and may go back to the review itself to do it, is that anyone in a group that's considering it should reconsider. One of the gimmicks is that you can take your whole office for $10. This is supremely funny because my ticket says my "premium" ticket is $225 (no, that is not mistyped). When we called to find out what the "platinum" seating cost, we were told $89. If my 65 cent seat that had a notional value of $225, that would put the notional ticket value for the platinum seating at roughly $30,000. There are many red flags and buzzing red lights that say: warning this is probably a scam or very close to it. If someone in a position to be able to have the office close for a day for an event ... realize that what your team is really supposed to take away is the promise to buy products by people that appear nowhere on the literature since they will have to dig deep to find any unifying sense of "motivation" from the speakers. Now do the math for how much productivity is lost that day. I ran the numbers and was appalled.

A friend that went with me found the link I've attached.  Please listen to the embedded audio.  Also, please read the first comment below the adventure story.  She captures something I tried to write but decided to remove: about the cost vs impact to the local economy.

http://www.adventurestories.info/articles/638
February 12, 2011
Wow, those are some weird and insane pricings. I wonder how much the speakers get compensated for this. It sounds like people are probably better off listening to experts who have studied these topics rather than other people who are just trying to reflect on it. Or heck, reading a book on motivation sounds like it would've been more helpful than attending this event.
February 13, 2011
"Motivated" is just the name not the goal, so it really doesn't matter what the speakers say.  Yes we could all be better motivated reading a book that fits our lifestyles.  The real goal--and I'm being as neutral as possible here--is to sell financial services/tools/products.  But as with motivation, each of us could be far better educated by buying a book that fits our financial situation.
 
February 11, 2011
That's totally crappy! What a waste of time & money!
 
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Paul Savage ()
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