Thursday, February 11, 2010

Better Living Through Cheerleading

I just spent the morning with the Phoenix leg of the Zig Ziglar Get Motivated! seminar.  An afternoon of fellowship, leadership, and motivational speaking.

Zig Ziglar is a man with a plan, and he's a man with a powerful history. Tenth of twelve children, Navy veteran, a long time salesman, and now one of the foremost promoters of a brand of motivational speaking that brings me to this diary.

Today, we were treated to luminaries like Colin Powell, Laura Bush, Kurt Warner, Tamara Lowe, Steve Forbes, Steve Nash, and Rudy Giuliani. It was to an enthusiastic crowd of folks whose businesses had paid a $20 fee for tickets, and with those tickets, they could bring as many folks as they wanted to from their offices for a morning of inspiration.

Motivational speaking and I have a checkered past. I really don't believe in it. Not as a group activity. I think that folks do need mentors who can inspire you, advise you, and buoy you through tough times, and over humps. I do think that staying positive is essential key to success. I am positive that relationships and networks of folks are essential for success in business and life. We all need folks around us. We do need to keep our goals in mind if we are to get anywhere. The problem being, that group activities like this seminar are pretty much ways to build those networks, but less effectively, than say, going out and meeting and talking with folks.

And certainly not paying for mentorship--especially mentorship in absentia or by projection.

The morning was a series of rousing talks about the myth of leadership. About, as the title suggests, better living through cheerleading. My problem is that a series of rousing talks about being leading by example, by doing exactly what Zig Ziglar and his champions suggest by lending their names and their own success to lend credibility to a fella who is selling cheerleading as a service. Selling the power of positive thinking, selling the importance of leading by surrendering oneself to God's Will. It is a curious brand of boosterism that melds business acumen with Christian fellowship, and a sort of Neo-Calvinistic approach to success by the blessings of Jehovah.

Not that there's anything wrong with belief in God, and using the lessons of the Bible to guide you through your trials and tribulations in business. If more folks melded strong beliefs and actually acted upon those stringent moral and ethical mores to guide them, we would probably see a lot less malfeasance in the business community. That is, if folks walked the walk, as opposed to just talking the talk.

The problem with seminars like this is that after watching them, I come away only with the blatant huckster sheen of a tent revival, bound up within the trappings of a business seminar. It is rooting for your own success, and touting some trite aphorisms, to feel like you're doing something, as opposed to something useful.

Zig Ziglar and others, have realized a wonderful thing. And it comes bound up with Sarah Palin's own PAC buying up her books to hand out to donors.  It is a blatant form of hucksterism that applies a business model to boost a service that is not just elusive, it is a back slapping fiction. Sarah gives away copies of her book to those who contribute to her PAC--the PAC, being separate, buys books to give away, and Sarah, pockets her percentage--and there are others who have bought her books to give away as well. She gets the illusion of being a best selling author, and pockets the cash herself, and others get to deduct the expense of doing this little thing for her. It is a similar niche--a handing over of cash that can be written off. It is a type of boosterism and a brand of back scratching that typifies the business climate where folks complain bitterly about how folks need to be rugged individuals who do things for themselves, while relying on others to pave their own way. Zig and others broke through on the idea that businesses will pay good money to have them come in and give a boosteriffic speech or five, to give the appearance of a service, and then those businesses can then take that expense as a deduction. Zig and others exist to suck up those dollars--and there are a LOT of them available--that the folks who hand them that cash can then deduct for the myth of leadership. Call it professional development or whatever, but essentially, it is a niche carved out as an industry to provide nothing more than a bit of back slapping and congratulations for being positive, and giving folks some folksy wisdom, and allow those who partake of their services to then hand a buddy of theirs cash, that they will then recoup later. It is, essentially, money for nothing. It is a form of self improvement that we, as taxpayers, pay for, and so those same folks can then decry the terrible nature of entitlements.

It is the appearance of leadership. It is smoke and mirrors, and it puts on a good show, but at its heart, it is equal parts scam, cronyism, and just plain Carneys preying on the hopeful who figure that if they just act the part, that they can get in on the gravy train. Never realizing that they and those around them, are the gravy train. And binding up with a jingoistic patriotism and cheerful religiosity to invoke "the spirit" to affairs of crude valuta, and swill it together with a sort of surrender to the Will of God, while trying to pair up that religiosity with business acumen, it boils down to a brand of vulgarly cheerful snake oil.

Mentors we need. Mentors can provide us so very much. I am wary when folks are offering their mentorship to me, while reaching into my wallet, and that that is exactly what seminars like this do, by being a deductible expense. And not just in my wallet, but all of ours'.

Originally posted on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 17:17:22 PM EST at The Motley Moose

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