I see disturbing similarities between motivational speakers and the securities industry. Both are wealth transfer schemes, offering little to no value and extracting vast sums of money from gullible consumers.
The securities industry touts an expertise that doesn’t exist –the ability to reliably and consisting pick outperforming stocks, time the market and select “hot” mutual fund managers. It has a smooth marketing machine, fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising money and a complicit (and conflicted) financial media. It appeals to fear and greed, encouraging investors to react to short-term news. This conduct generates fat fees and commissions. Investors are often left with broken dreams and not much else.
The motivational speakers’ industry is similarly insidious. In exchange for (you guessed it — hefty fees), it offers quick fixes to complex problems. You can easily see the breadth of its influence on social media, where slogans like “live your dream” and “think big” abound.
Rarely do motivational speakers have either legitimate credentials or peer-reviewed data to support their views. What they do have (in common with your friendly stockbroker) are charismatic personalities and a perpetually positive demeanor that seems inauthentic.
Bobby Hoffman Ph.D. does have serious credentials. He is the author of Motivation for Learning and Performance and Hack Your Motivation, and is an Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.
Dr. Hoffman is no fan of the “solutions” offered by motivational speakers. He finds “little knowledge of actual motivational science or any replicable evidence” to support them. He also questions the premise underlying motivational speaking, noting that “motivation cannot be mandated, regardless whether using a magic wand or just words in a book or speech.”
Steven Novella, MD is an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. He’s even more damning of the “work” of motivational speakers, noting, “Most of the advice and ‘easy answers’ that are being peddled is not only improvised, it’s largely wrong. We have decades of psychological studies that actually provide evidence for which strategies are likely to be more successful, and often the real answers are counter-intuitive.”
Dr. Novella believes what motivational speakers are selling is”… made-up easy answers, personality, and gimmicks.”
Whether you are investing your money or seeking self-improvement, there are no quick fixes.
Resource of the week
Check out this informative blog post by Dr. Novella, in which he discusses the flawed logic of encouraging you to walk on hot coals and the dearth of support for much of what is peddled by motivational speakers.