Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"All Brian Tracy's Fault," part II

And then we came to the second part...
First of all, I feel a disclaimer is in order. If you happen to have stumbled upon this entry by Googling Brian Tracy, you need to know up front that actually, I have nothing personally against Brian. I’ve been listening to him since Earl Nightingale first introduced him on the old “Insight” series of tapes from the Nightingale-Conant Company (and they were cassette tapes, an admission which dates both me and Brian, although not necessarily in that order). That first speech I heard—about the difference between high achievers and those who fell short—was delivered at a rapid-fire pace that conveyed either a) a breathless passion for the subject matter, or b) a script with too many words to fit in the allotted time period …
…or both. :-)
I just knew that that frenetic, enthusiastic young man had a message that was inspiring, convincing, and challenging all at once. I bought it. And that, in the long run, has become my problem.
Brian, and most motivational gurus like him, preach one consistent theme when it comes to work: “Do what you love.” To this day, I can hear his voice in the back of my head saying, “If you don’t love your job enough to want to be the best at it, get out of that job and find something you do love. Life’s too short to waste it doing something you don’t love.”
But the best part about that was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If you found what you loved to do and became the absolute best—indispensable, in fact, at that job—good money would absolutely follow. Some of you scoff at this, but in the 80s, this was leading-edge. This was what all the business/career/self-actualization books said.
Trouble was, it’s never happened.
When I first got out of school, I was convinced my husband and I would both make our living as musicians. We graduated from good schools, we were good at what we did, and we were in Chicago, a place that offers myriad performing opportunities. So we went on auditions—one memorable one in particular, a Civic Orchestra audition my brand-new husband went to on the day after we got back from our honeymoon. (He probably played with a big smile on his face, but the judges didn’t know…they were behind a screen. :-) ) I, too, did audition circuits—to the point where the people at some of these places may well have muttered, “Oh, no, not her again.”
This, mind you, was around moving twice, having a baby, and all the rest of that newlywed-stuff. And I did keep singing; I joined an early music ensemble that sang Palestrina and other great stuff all over the Chicago area.
Of course, none of this paid. Which became a whole ‘nuther problem.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I did get the occasional stipend for a wedding or the like. But most people think singing is easy, and so except for union professionals who work major opera houses or the like, singers as a whole are lucky they make grocery money, even in major cities. Most of them actually live on teaching lessons and directing church choirs, not the performing itself. And there are only so many church gigs to go around, even in a city like Chicago.
So music wasn’t paying, not in any way remotely close to the “abundance” that was supposed to come from doing what I loved in an excellent fashion.
Much the same thing happened in the writing trade. After staying home with kids for years, writing and polishing fiction, I had a nice collection of rejection letters but very little else. Finally, faced with losing everything, I went out into the work world and found (what I thought was going to be) a great job being an administrator and newsletter editor. The sky was the limit with this organization…or so I thought.
Unfortunately, that sky turned out to be a heavy overcast as well.
So it’s not like I haven’t tried the formula, in various guises: full time. Freelance. Contractor. I’ve been a newspaper columnist, written for magazines, and tutored writers “on the side.” I even did one of those slightly-shady “term paper” jobs for awhile. But the bottom line still was that I worked for years providing “excellence” for people who went on European vacations, lived in neighborhoods I could only dream about, or sponsored Romanian orphans, while I worried about whether I could hang onto a two-bedroom townhouse and keep my utilities on.
So was the promise hollow all along?
And what do I do if it is?
If I talked to Brian about it, he might well say, “Have you truly given this your all? Have you done your best 100% of the time? Are you willing to pay any price, go any distance, to be the best?”
To which I’d have to say Yes. Maybe I haven’t been able or willing to hop on a plane at the slightest provocation to do endless “informational interviews.” But I have hopped on planes to go to writers’ conferences where I’ve networked…which in essence is the same thing. And yes, I’ve practiced visualization. And affirmation. I’m a positive-attitude person enough to choke most people I know. So this isn’t “not happening” because I give up too easily.
Trust me on this. :-)
I entered the Golden Heart for ten years before I even finaled, and that year I not only finaled but won. Persistence ain’t my problem.
So what is?

Here I am, in a career I’m still giving my all…and the brass ring keeps going to someone else. I’m still struggling just to pay my bills. European vacations? Providing for orphans? Don’t make me laugh. And it ought not to be this way.
So I’m wondering…what does Brian say to people when that happens?
Does he plead exceptions to the rule?

Or did I just waste my time for the last twenty-some years, chasing dreams that had no chance of ever paying off the way I’d been promised they would—sold to me by a man (and many others like him) who’s made multimillions off telling me I just need to “work harder” and “believe better”?

Many of us already think professional motivators are selling nothing more than snake oil. That they know a certain percentage of us will never get where they promise, no matter how hard we work, smart we make ourselves, or persistently we try. As long as some of us make it big, that’s good enough for them to keep peddling that same oil to the rest of us, and they don’t much care about the results.
I don’t want to think that way, for many reasons.
But I do have to wonder.




Deb said...

You forgot the most important part of this snake-oil paradigm: if it doesn't work for you, it's YOUR FAULT.

There's a thought process going on (although I hope it's over by now) in charismatic Christian circles called the "gospel of prosperity." God wants the best for His children, right? The best means you have all you need. Faith accepts this, and pursues it. Ergo, if you're not wealthy, you haven't enough faith. God isn't the party at fault here! It's YOU!

Enough guilt for a Jewish momma, or even for a Catholic.

This thought process is bogus and can be argued as such with those who still buy into it. Although some of these preachers could tie up sand with a rope, debate wise. Does the Word specifically say everyone who has faith will be rich? No. It says that riches can be a snare straight from the pit.

So, IMO, can the pursuit of same. And a pox on those who say that if it doesn't work, here, take on this swackload of guilt. You'll feel better.

Anonymous said...

I also went to several Brian Tracy events, 20 years ago. There's no question that a lot of what Brian and other motivational speakers say is hype. But that is their job, to get people energized. My perspective on those kinds of speeches is to just try to take 1 or 2 good "walk aways" from the meeting, and then apply it through the lense of Jesus Christ. Ie, "How does Jesus feel about this advise I've heard?" I am involved in full time Christian work. I told Brian that, and told him I appreciated his training through the years, and he looked at me like I was nuts. Don't know for sure, but his eyes were saying to me "Another one of you religious nuts." But I still got some good walk-away from Brian's presentations. I think the first lens to take everything through is The Bible. Then my wife. Then other Christ follower friends. Lastly, guys like Brian Tracy.

...Not a sermon. Just some thoughts.


. said...

Hi there not sure if you will read this comment after many years but to do a little bit of justice to Brian, in his book of "No Excuses", Bryan explains the first law of Economics which is Scarcity. He explained that the competition out there is fierce and that to be able to succeed in the market, the products you sell must satisfy the customer needs and the product must be good enough for the customers to come back and pass the word to other customers. I am not implying that your product is not good, but maybe that it was not for the right audience. Many of our contemporaries did not develop appreciation for quality, good art and cannot see the gold hidden under not-so-mainstream things. I believe what Brian says is true, as long as we stay within the business/professional world, but once we are out of there, as in Mother Teresa's context, that is a very different world for the 'nuts', even great insighters like Brian could agree with this statement. I hope this helps and I hope that the sacrifice of pursuing your passion always pays off, not with gold that pays the bills but real gold to live this life the best possible way being who you are, and happy beyond limitations, incoveniences and circumstances, living the most exciting way. Cheers!