By: William Thomas, For comments, ideas and copies of The True Story of Wainfleet, go to

I am not a big fan of motivational speakers.  They’re kind of like snake oil salespeople with great lines.  Lines like “Chase your passion not your pension.”  Or “Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”  And “If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.”  (Although The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest was extraordinarily successful.)

Motivational speakers are selling fresh air to flat tires.  A day later, that slow leak is back.

A blind man telling his story about climbing Mount Everest is sure to be dramatic and entertaining but a week later, does it help you sell more cars?  A quick look at the stock market, your bank balance and those two kids headed for college – now if that doesn’t inspire you to double your production, no words will.

Although I don’t believe them to be effective, I do believe motivational speakers to be harmless … until last month.  Last month in San Jose, California 21 people participating in Tony Robbin’s motivational walk-on-hot-coals exercise were treated for second and third degree burns.

Tony Robbins is a motivational guru who makes – let’s see 6,000 people attended the four-day motivational at a fee of $2,000 per person, that’s six zeros with a 12 out front – an awful lot of money.  Last year Tony Robbins made more money that Mitt Romney was able to hide!

The fire walk – a motivational metaphor for facing your fears and accomplishing your goals – involves walking barefoot across eight feet of red hot coals.

During this particular fire walk, instead of chanting “Yes I can!” people were screaming “Holy Crap!” and hobbling toward a nearby water fountain.  Tony’s fire walk exercise was titled “Unleash The Power Within” and many of them did, by surpassing Usain Bolt’s Olympic record for the 100 metres.

As a manager, how many times have you said you need to light a fire under a few of your employees?  Well, apparently Tony’s your man.

If you want to motivate people to eagerly jump out of bed in the morning you can do no better than have them experience the recurring nightmare of the Tony’s fire walk.

“It transformed people’s lives in a single night,” said a real estate agent from Toronto.  I’ll say.  How many conferences have you returned home from … wearing pillows on your feet?

Tony Robbins who makes his living speaking was unavailable for comment.

In light of this chaotic turn of events, meeting planners are taking a second look at Tony Robbins’ motivational quotes.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”  Blisters!?!

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach!”  In other words, walk the walk but be prepared to run like hell.

“Personal power is the ability to take action.”  But not legal action, okay?

“For changes to be of any value, they’ve got to be lasting and consistent.”  As they say, skin will regrow but that video of Mom screaming “Tony!  You crazy SOB” will play on YouTube forever.

“Determination is the wake-up call to the human will.”  And that stretch of burning coals over there is the snooze alarm.

Here then are some sure-fire signs you might be attending a bad motivational seminar.

•As you stare at the speaker talking about the three P’s “Passion, Purpose and Preparedness,” you notice his fly is down.

•The Olympic wrestler talking about his path to glory and gold looks an awful lot like Barry Bonds.

•It’s not until you sit down with the life coach for a one-on-one consultation that you notice the scars on his wrists.

•You actually do feel more self-confident since the motivational hypnotic session, but every time you pass a KFC you cluck like a chicken.

•Following the fire walk exercise, the speaker instructs you to look at the person on your right and then look at the person on your left and … and there’s nobody there.

•The “Pushing The Snowball Up Hill” exercise was interrupted by a dozen people with their pants on fire running from a Tony Robbins “Take No Prisoners To The Top” conference.

•Two people drown during the “Let’s All Pull Together!” rowing exercise.

•The next time you spot Tony Robbins standing beside the path of burning coals talking about mind over matter, he’s got a fire extinguisher slung over his shoulder.

•After you helped weave a hemp ladder for the team building exercise, the motivational instructors smoked it.

•During the group hug at the end of the “There Are No Limits!” seminar, somebody grabbed your ass.

No, sorry but when you have to use your cell phone to call the fire department to come and put out your feet, you’re attending a bad motivational seminar.

For comments, ideas and copies of The True Story of  Wainfleet, go to

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