I went to a Toastmasters meeting that was supposed to showcase a skilled speaker from out-of-town. It turned out to be a sales pitch, but the speaker did use some interesting techniques, that felt lifted from religious services. Lots of stand-up and sit down, hand clapping, shouting, call-and-response.
It even included the I-was-a-sinner-but-now-I’m-found motif. The speaker had been cast in a big budget Hollywood movie (which shall remain nameless) but because he was into drugs and gambling, he didn’t show up for work. When he finally “found salvation” he was living in his car, with barely enough money for food. I’ve heard it all before – but he wasn’ selling religion – he was selling self-improvement.
The high point of the talk for me was when he went around the room asking people why they weren’t making as much money as they’d like. He wrote everything down on a white board at the front of the room. Then he asked, “You know what all this is?”
Someone in the room called out “Excuses.”
The speaker countered. “It’s all B. S.”
I thought that was crude.
Then he asked, “Do you know what B. S. is?”
I thought that was even cruder. This was a room full of polite, serious people who had given up their evenings to learn speaking skills. Was he really going to insist that somebody say something embarrassing?
Finally someone timidly said, “Bull...”
Before he could finish, the speaker said, “B. S. stands for Belief System.”
We all laughed.
Then he made the key point of the evening – our beliefs can empower us or hold us back. We can change our beliefs.
This isn’t as trivial as it sounds. It reminded me of the insight I had when I read the Myers-Briggs test.
The first time I read it, I just went through and marked the answers that made sense to me. But when I read it again, later, I had the exciting thought – all these answers are equally good – it’s just that I prefer some to others. And the next question was Why?
That got me thinking about the NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) research. If you see someone doing something you want to do, you can copy them at a muscular and linguistic level. That has been demonstrated to speed the learning process.
Self-improvement courses are led by motivational speakers. Nobody needs to take a 4-day seminar to find out what motivational speakers believe. The real question is – is there value in believing something different from what they believe? In the details – yes. I don’t think there’s any sense in everybody going around giving motivational seminars. But at core – trust that everybody really wants the same things – health, happiness, love, security (however they define these things) – yes, I see value in that attitude.
I wish our politicians did, too. Why vilify the other political party, when all we’re doing is disagreeing about how to get a country we can all be proud of?