Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dying while talking

MARK’S ARTICLE – July 28, 2009 “Motivationally speaking”

After three minutes of looking at an audience, I can sense whether or not I’m in trouble. It’s a scary gift. Sometimes I can figure out during the introduction that I’m in deep doo. “So, here’s Mark Hastner.” Somebody just shoot me.

A few weeks back in a town far away, I was giving a motivational talk to a rather mature audience. Old is what these people were. The chance of any of them reading this article is rather remote, or else I wouldn’t be writing it.

By the way, do any of you have elderly kinfolk in Central Oklahoma? Say around Tulsa? Well, don’t send them a copy of this. In fact, I don’t see why you’d wanna send anyone a copy. Read and then burn.

Okay, back to the talk. I started out by asking if everyone in the room was pretty well happy about how life had turned out for them? I looked out at the sea of gray and got a few nods and a bunch of loud whispers. Age can really do a number on a whisper.

I was getting no help from the audience, so I tried again. “You’re telling me that everyone here is happy with how things have gone? There’s nothing you’d care to change if you could?” -- Nothing. -- “Do you realize we’re having salmon patties after this talk? Nothing you’d care to change?” No comments. A few smiles. No laughs.

At that point I was dead. If you’re a motivational speaker and you find yourself talking to a group of people who are totally satisfied with life, the talk is over. Anything you say can only do harm. I thought of faking an asthma attack, but feared it might set off a chain reaction.

A more confident speaker might’ve said, “Well, if you’re happy now, imagine how much happier you’ll be when you hear what I’ve got to say!” I don’t have that much confidence. When facing a group of people who aren’t laughing and who are actually looking forward to salmon patties… well, let’s just say I’ve had better nightmares.

The guy who invited me to speak actually told me to talk for as long I wanted to. Three minutes in, I’m wanting to sit down. I should’ve sat down. But instead, I stood my ground and talked for about forty minutes. Talked about everything that came to mind.

At one point I tried to get my listeners to see that they couldn’t possibly be happy with the way things were going. Couldn’t they see what reality TV was doing to society? These competitive cooking shows where the cook is yelling at everybody? Who enjoys that kind of stuff?

By the time my talk ended, the audience was thoroughly disgusted with the way things were going. Some wouldn’t even touch their salmon. Turns out, it wasn’t all that bad, either. You can really mess up a salmon. Don’t get me started.

All said and done, I managed to motivate my audience to anger. That wasn’t my intention when I showed up, but I think they deserved it. At least I got them to thinking about stuff. They’ll thank me one day. Like they’re gonna see me again.

For the life of me I don’t see why there aren’t more people around who are susceptible to motivation. Young people? Too many of ‘em know what they want and are fairly sure they’re gonna get it.

Have you seen one of those episodes of “America’s Got Talent?” Some yokel will come out and say that he was born to sing or dance or do magic. It’s his destiny. Begins his presentation and he stinks on ice. He gets all sad when they say he’s not qualified to continue. What’s he thinking?

How do you motivate a guy like that? He already thinks he’s God’s gift. “Keep hammering away. You can do anything you set your mind to.” What a load of hooha.

Obviously, there are a number of people who need de-motivational speakers. Someone to bring them down a peg or two. I don’t think we should do that to the elderly. I just did it in my talk ‘cause I was desperate. Didn’t want to come away looking like an idiot.

But, more and more I find people who are way over confidant. Think they deserve the best for nothing. Get a job and expect to start out on top. Get married and expect to start out in a new house with a new car.

Where did this attitude get started? Well, like most of you I believe it all started with the advent of the all-you-can-eat buffet. Before the buffet, we knew our limits. “No, you got the one leg. There’s no more chicken. Don’t look at me like that, or you’ll be eating your next meal through a straw.”

Now, we don’t need anyone to say when we’ve had enough. We can just keep going. “I want the fried chicken. And, you know how much I want? All I can eat.”

Yeah, that’s what did it. The buffet line. And, uh, that stupid purple dinosaur. “I love you. You love me…” Get real. That dinosaur doesn’t give two hoots. He’s a dinosaur, for cryin’ out loud! A meateater, at that! They don’t call ‘em carnivores, cause they like Ferris wheels.

Yes, that’s the kind of stuff I had to resort to with the group of senior citizens. Just pulling stuff right outta the air. Outta somewhere. I was throwin’ everything I had at ‘em.

It was the fourth scariest moment in my life. Tough audience. They just about made me cry. You ask me, they deserved what they got. Nobody can be that old and that content. They wouldn’t cut me a break, I’m telling you. Well, scratch Oklahoma from next year’s circuit.

You can contact Mark at mark@fromtherooftop.net.



  1. Now that's something I can do! No, I don't motivate, but I do make a mean salmon patty.

  2. You're gonna hafta give me your recipe. In fact, post it if you will. I've never tried to cook any. Sounds like something best cooked outside on a Coleman stove. -- I fried flounder yesterday and had to light those scented candles all over the place. I'm a real doober.

  3. "They don't call 'em carnivores cause they like ferris wheels"... that's funny, Moke. I agree with you about the "All You Can Eat" places.