The motivational speaker business is good these days. Or, at least, lots of people seem to think so and want to get into the game. I know this because three speakers I have seen recently are offering their services to help other people achieve the success, acclaim and power that they have found in being a motivational speaker.
I’ve been around MLM (multi-level marketing) schemes for long enough to know that often, selling your own products is less rewarding than selling success, offering others an opportunity to take a crack at your success. It’s a great trick, a reason to live a luxurious, aspirational lifestyle that you seem to offer to others.
In my experience, lots of people want to be authors, celebrities with audiences that hang on every word, able to spin money as they teach others how to live their lives. The fantasy of having Oprah asking you to explain the world to her viewers seems irresistible to many.
The real work of being a writer, a sage, a shaman or a guru, though, is much less appealing. Who actually wants to lock themselves in a basement with a blank screen to fill, creating works for others to judge, and then to have to sweat and scrape to begin to build an audience?
The actuality of being a writer is far less glamorous than the image of being one, which is why so many people say “I want to write a book someday because I have something important to share,” and then so few people actually do write a book, let alone one that finds an audience.
To do, for example, a TED talk that really creates ripples in the world means you have to have done the work to achieve mastery, both at understanding your subject and knowing how to communicate it to an audience in an exciting and compelling way. That’s a lot of mastery, a lot of work, a lot of choices.
I have known for decades now that my role in the interlocking communities around trans is to be part of the grad course. I have the smarts and the skills to push beyond conventions, to search far, go deep and express with intelligence and passion.
The following disclaimer was on my first site, 17 years ago:
Guarantee: If you don’t find something on this site
that challenges your thinking or your identity
within 20 minutes,
we’ll give you double your money back!
Translation? I know that I am a porcupine.
People find this blog for whatever reason, then they go to the front page and read the most recent post and usually, they find the content less than accessible and useful.
Should I try to make sure that my work is accessible even to newbies, so that when they find my stuff, going back to the kind of intro stuff that I wrote in the 1990s, or should I do the kind of work that I need to do now, the searching and thoughtful stuff that even I find challenging?
One of the most fundamental questions for any woman is who you are willing to be the queen for. Does it make you happy to be queen of the bar, queen of the break room, queen of the board room, queen of the stage or something else?
To be attractive, we need have some idea of who we want to attract. To perform well, we need to be in relationship with our audience, finding the balance between who we can credibly play and who we want to play. Audiences shape us as we let them, rewarding certain choices with attention and moving away from other choices, so that to become their queen we have to satisfy their desires and needs.
On this blog, I have deliberately chosen not focus on being inviting and attractive to an audience. This is where I do my own creative work, just screaming into the darkness and trying to express what I need to understand more clearly. Often, my posts will be triggered by interactions I have had, but they don’t seek to convey or replace that interaction, rather they more deeply explore and express what came out of my mouth so that I can own those thoughts and feelings in a more clear and full way.
Still, the question comes up: if you can play the guru, why don’t you do that? Why don’t you share with a wider audience, why don’t you clean your act up and be more attractive (the echo of “You’d be so pretty if you just lost some weight”), why don’t you package up a few of your gifts and take them on the road?
I know that other people have the job to be missionaries, to take the word to the people in a slick, consistent, well-packaged way. And I know that when they are good at that, selling the aspiration of being a motivational speaker, an author, is a good way to appease the desires of many for fame and clout while picking up some nice coin.
For me, though, the challenge is creation. That’s why I loved live TV; something new every day. I create without consideration of being attractive to other people. Now, this does mean that I end up believing that I am not attractive, that I am a porcupine and people who get close will eventually get stung and move away, but that’s the best I can do while I am on my own.
I sort of understand why it is attractive to be attractive, why people think they want to be the kind of people who they find attractive in the world, even if those people are motivational speakers.
There is a reason, though, why most people don’t actually end up doing the work to be the queen for people who are needy and looking for healing. It might be the audience expectations or it might be the work required, but the idea always seems better than the actuality.
As for me, I never learned to have the adoration and attention of others, so I never had to be concerned about keeping it. I knew that respect was more important, especially self-respect, the only thing that kept me propped up in a family full of differently wired iconoclasts. I had to work hard for what emotional nourishment I got, so I learned to play alone, to think alone, to explore alone.
I don’t understand wanting to be an attractive celebrity with a rapt audience. I do understand ink-stained wretch, or, more likely today, carpal tunnel suffering wretch. It was all I could hope for.
And it was all I got, too.