Popular Seminar Lives Up to the Hype

The Get Motivated Seminar that has been travelling across the nation made a stop in Rochester, N.Y. last week and I was fortunate to attend. It may take a considerable amount of motivation just to get through my 5-page recap, but it will give you an idea of what you are in for during the day long festival that is part rock concert/part motivational seminar.

It was a bit overwhelming taking in speeches from so many giants in the political, military, and sports world so hopefully I can do it justice trying to recall a few bits and pieces that I took away from their speeches. Overall I had a great time, highlighted by my autographed Terry Bradshaw football. I think three of us secured his signature out of 10,000 people so I was lucky. I also had the chance to speak with many of the guests, though they were busy trying to get back to the airport. Colin Powell, and Bill Cosby delivered inspirational messages and to see them up close and talk to them was a once in a lifetime experience. The radio commercials didn’t lie and there wasn’t really a “catch”. All of the announced guests showed up and spoke, mixed with a few sales pitches, some I think were legitimate and possibly worthwhile, though I didn’t break out my credit card like so many did. Another highlight was one of the audience members getting into a shouting match with the sales presenter onstage and getting escorted out by security. Staged? Maybe but I don’t think so—it looked real and the guy was fired up!

My “secret parking spot” that I’ve used for years at downtown events has been exposed. My “free” parking spot cost me $12.50, as our lovely city has replaced the quarter meters with machines that accept credit and debit cards. Because I had no idea how long I would be there I had to pay the max: $1.25 an hour.

They gave away three door prizes, none of which ended up in my possession: a big-screen TV, $10,000 in cash and a Disney trip. When they called out the winner for the 10 grand, the winner wasn’t there. How bad would you feel if you had left early and lost 10 grand? (“But I made it home for dinner honey!”) Not sure if the man ever claimed his prize but I didn’t hear them draw a second name so he must have. For the Disney trip two rappers came out and encouraged the entire arena to dance for the Disney trip. It was pure entertainment watching some people go absolutely nuts trying to get selected and other executives sit in their seats disgusted with both the music and the dancing. They selected five people to dance on stage and had the crowd cheer to decide the winner. One lady was going crazy up on stage dancing provocatively, to say the least. A heavy guy ended up winning for shaking his money maker so effectively.

There were several underlying themes that many of the speeches contained. Most were common sense but it’s good to be reminded of them. Don’t just talk about what you are going to do, or a good idea you have. Do something, anything, to get started on a goal. Another lesson taught by many of these successful people is that ultimately people matter and are the most important thing in life. Money isn’t going to make you happy (though I’m willing to give it a shot). Ultimately it is family, your kids, your relationships that need help. As one of the sales speakers said “I have been poor and I’ve been rich. Being poor sucks, but having money isn’t going to solve all your problems”.  A stat that I found interesting, but not shocking is that 83% of divorces in the US today are over money, or lack thereof. 

The Speakers:

Rudy Giuliani

The former mayor of New York gave a compelling speech. Giuliani is quite a character and was pretty funny during the beginning of his speech. He told the crowd that New York City had a Democrat mayor for the past 25 years and that he was the first Republican elected. He said “We’ve had a Democrat for 25 years and we couldn’t do any worse, let’s give the crazy Italian a shot!” He spoke a lot about leadership and how his first priority was to try to improve the crime problem. He was successful by employing several different tactics. For each decision he tried to talk to an expert on that particular strategy. One interesting tactic was utilizing the broken window theory. It says that if you repair buildings in poor urban areas crime will go down. Leaving windows broken gives the idea that the police and society have given up on the area so crime becomes more rampant.

One thing I took from this speech is that you have to talk to people to learn from them, people who may have already started a business or went through something that you know you will be facing. Most people are excited to talk to you about things they have accomplished and how they did it.

He spoke about being prepared for crises. As a lawyer he said he learned to prepare for 4 hours for every one hour he would be in court. That way when a question came up that he wasn’t expecting he would be able to give an effective answer.  He also said that his experience as a lawyer was key to handling the events of 9-11.

The serious segment of his speech was 9-11. He described in detail getting out of the car he was in and seeing the second plane hit, guys jumping from 100 stories, disturbing scenes that he had a difficult time talking about. He said he felt helpless but needed to move fast to secure the area, set up triage, etc.  He said he didn’t know where to start because they had nothing in place for a terrorist attacking from the skies. But he did have a plan for a general terrorist attack, floods, etc. where he could use pieces of them to create a plan for dealing with the events of 9-11. It was because of all the other plans they had that they were able to handle this crises. So preparation and speaking with experts were two of the main themes from Giuliani.

Krish Dhanam

This was the only person I was not familiar with other than the few sales pitch guys. This guy is also a sales expert but he wasn’t selling anything –he was there to share his techniques to motivate. This guy was hysterical and I made a mental not to at least buy his book. He’s originally from India and went through the stereotypes letting everyone know that he isn’t a doctor, an engineer and doesn’t own a hotel. He was trained by the famous Zig Ziglar and was full of interesting quotes. This was one of my favorites:

“You are not responsible for your heritage, but you are accountable for your future.”

Here is another gem that flashed across the giant screen:

"97% of the people in the world operate in the comfort zone. 3% of the people in this world operate in the effective zone. The difference between comfort and effectiveness is called growth and growth is uncomfortable."

To be successful in these times, he said you need to develop sseveral different streams of revenue. Depending on one employer for all your income is asking for trouble because many times individuals are not responsible for employment decisions. He also encouraged people to give more than they get. There are several great videos of him on YouTube.

Rick Beluzzo 

A fascinating look at a powerful businessman and his experiences being at the forefront of all the huge technological changes of the past 20 years. Beluzzo was the President of Microsoft and now is the CEO for Quantum. He brought the audience back to his days with Hewlett Packard and told about the first time that he was invited to have dinner with Hewlett and Packard and what brilliant business guys these two were. He learned a lot from them which shaped the rest of his career.

His main advice was to not look at the horrible economy, frequent changes in jobs, etc. as a negative. Look at them as an opportunity. You’re just wasting your time complaining and being the victim. Figure out your next goal and get to work on it. With all the changes in technology there is more opportunity than ever for new businesses.

Steve Forbes

The billionaire spoke for the majority of time arguing the points for a universal flat tax. He believes our economy is in the tank due to the fact that we are overtaxed for everything, from food to clothes to housing. After spending $12.50 to park I tend to agree. Forbes came from a wealthy family and is the face for the magazine which belonged to his father and his father before him. He joked about it saying “Well I wish I could recommend that you build wealth from choosing to come from a family that owned a company but unfortunately you can’t pick your parents, so you’re going to have to do it a different way”. He also believes that we need to go back to the dollar being linked to the gold standard. He has a point and it seems like common sense. Right now it’s linked to nothing—maybe that’s why it’s worth less and less compared to other countries’ currencies over the years.

Colin Powell

Best speech of the day. Had some interesting stories about working with Bush and Obama. Real down-to-earth guy. The one thing he misses most is “having his own plane.” He said that when he would step onto the first step of the plane the pilot would start the first engine. When he got into the plane a worker would come over with a Diet Coke on a silver platter and when he set the bottle down on the table that was the sign for the pilot to start the second jet and get ready for departure. He laughed and said “That was so cool.”

He’s currently busier than he was as the Secretary of State. He just returned from Africa two days earlier. When asked if he thinks about his days as Secretary of the House I loved his response. He says he tries to live his life always looking forward and never looking in the rear view mirror.

The best story he told illustrates how he managed people throughout his life. He said he treated everyone as important, as part of the team, from the top executive to the janitor. Frequently as Secretary he would ditch his security detail and wander down to the parking garage. He said there were two immigrants that worked there from Honduras. One day they saw him and asked “Mr. Secretary, what are you doing down here? Are you lost?” He said “No—just wanted to check on you guys and see how you were doing.” Then he asked them “You have to park the cars that come in here three deep, how do you decide which cars go in first and which cars can get out?” They both turned to each other and laughed and said “Well, Mr. Secretary, if you come through in the morning, roll your window down, smile and say hello, you get parked last so you are the first out. If you keep your window rolled up and don’t even acknowledge us, then you will get out last.”

Bill Cosby

How can you not like Bill Cosby? From his comedy records back in the day (Yes they actually had these vinyl things called records—that would spin on a turntable and play with a needle) to the Cosby show (What a Thursday night lineup—Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court) to the Jell-O and Pudding Pop commercials, Cosby is an icon. I was really pumped to see the old guy work the crowd. Turns out he turned 74 yesterday and I got the chance to wish him a happy birthday as he stepped into his limo to go back to the airport. Cosby isn’t all comedy though and has upset quite a few people over the years with his opinions. He can be hardball, but I agree with many of his takes.

He started out with his typical comedy routine and wasn’t making a whole hell of a lot of sense. I began thinking that maybe he had slipped a step in the last few years. Then he began getting serious. An audience member tried to give him a business card and he was lambasting her (in a good way). He said “Why would I, Bill Cosby, a millionaire, come to Rochester, N.Y. and want your business card?” Not sure if he was referring to this woman or not but he then said “Mrs. Cosby and I do not hire C students. Can you image if you were going into the operation room with a brain surgeon who was a C student who tells you that they get things right 74% of the time?” He continued on with a good story about a guy who spots Jesus and asks for healing. The man tells Jesus that he has diabetes and all kinds of health problems. As only Cosby can do he pretended to be the man saying “OK, Jesus—I’m ready, start healing me!” and Jesus replies “Stop eating salt.” The moral to his story, and the theme throughout Cosby’s serious part of his speech was that God helps those that help themselves. They had a singer come on stage and sing happy birthday to him at the end, and Cosby was really giving it to the guy. Some good stuff.

Terry Bradshaw

Terry Bradshaw was next on the list and he brought a lot of energy into the building. On the Fox football show he plays the part of the clown, constantly joking around with everyone. Bradshaw said that he played football because he couldn’t do anything else. From his post football career that’s certainly not the case. Bradshaw preached family and relationships as his number one priorities in getting ahead. He’s real close to his kids and spoke about developing solid relationships with your kids. He also poked a lot of fun at himself and the fact that he’ been married so many times (3, 4?—I lost count). He also brought up the fact that they couldn’t get any other quarterback to come to Rochester for $1500—the price he was paid to speak. He pretended to cry when he mentioned Peyton Manning’s 25 million dollar-a-year paycheck compared to what he made in the ‘70’s.

Erin Brockovich

The environmental activist turned celebrity encouraged people to speak up and not be afraid because individuals can make a big difference. Her experiences have been very inspirational to many especially after the movie came out.

The Sales Pitches

One audience member interviewed by the local news station likened the sales pitches to being in Orlando and going through a time share seminar in return for a free lunch. And actually, if you signed up for one of the sales pitches they did give you a free lunch, along with a $100 credit card bill. The one shady part to this whole thing that I learned while searching the websites last night is that the sales guys are never identified to the press. The press was also shut out of this event and had to interview people outside of the venue. The husband and wife that own this company that puts on these events also don’t say much to the press. They are Peter and Tamara Lowe and oddly enough neither of them have a page on Wikipedia. But they are both considered self-help, motivational speakers with a religious focus.

The first speaker (Phil Town) very effectively convinced the crowd to open their wallets. It was a very interesting presentation on investing, selling their classes and website access. They are affiliated with Wealth magazine and as so frequently happens on the web, you can find people that think these guys are the anti-christ and others that say their techniques made them a millionaire, changing their lives forever. In a nutshell, the website allows you to search for stock bargains and it tells you when to buy and sell with astonishing success. It’s also heavily involved in options trading. The coolest thing I was impressed with was their “legal insider trading feature.” This allows the user to watch a stock and see the top 20 or 30 executives in the company to see when they buy their own stock and when they sell. If a top executive is buying or selling, they argue, they definitely know something that you or I do not. This has always been public knowledge but no one has ever created a tool to access this information. The “catch” or “scam” here according to a few articles I read is that there are tiers to the website and though they don’t tell you—you are only getting the first tier. The 2nd and 3rd tiers are upsold to you in the classroom and cost $4000 and $8000 dollars respectively. But on the flipside many investors said they stuck with the first tier and are doing great in the market. Almost makes you want to try it out. Almost.  I learned later that the website access they sold to audience members is only the first tier. A second and third tier is upsold at the classroom events and can be very expensive.

The other Speaker was also pawning financial wares that focused on buying real estate, renting it out and collecting “passive income.” He made it sound easy but I think we’ve all heard the real estate get-rich-quick scheme before. This guy rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, a bit arrogant, a little over the top. This caused one audience member to start shouting like a crazy person which landed him out on the street compliments of the very large security guy in section 204. The speaker gave a lot of advice that made sense and sold quite a few training sessions but I thought this guy was less believable than the first guy. One thing that did make sense was his advice to shut off the TV set, and start paying attention to the people in your life starting with your family.

Terry Bradshaw signed football