Inch By Inch

1. “Look hard at the darkness and you will start noticing rays of light.”

— Judith Marlow

2. “You cannot control your thoughts, but you can control the actions they result in.”

— Iain Bradshaw

3. “Yesterday shines a light onto our tomorrow.”

— Leslie D’Souza

4. “Positive thoughts are their own reward. There is nothing you cannot achieve with positive thoughts.”

— Sook Yi Ng

5. “I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, lest I look at the pessimistic side and get consumed by it, never to come out.”

— Alyssa Amin

6. “Positive thinking will show you the path. Negative thinking will show you the obstructions on the path.”

— Roger Johnson

7. “Pessimism leads to pessimism, optimism to optimism.”

— Swami Charitranand

8. “If you make positive choices, the environment around you will respond and make your future choices easier, more natural, and more enjoyable.”

— Lee Chopra Bravinsky

9. “Positive thinking is more than just thinking. It is a way of life. Indeed, it is the only way of life. We have not been put on this planet to wallow in the misery of our negative thoughts. We are here to be positive, as being positive not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better.”

— Haruto Nagoya

Inspirational? Motivational?

What is wrong with Ankur? No satire? No sarcasm? No highlighting any absurdity? Has the 45 degree Celsius (113 F) heat in Gurgaon got to him?

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If you are one who looks closely at motivational quotes, you might find that none of the quotes bear any resemblance to anything said in reality ever and offered as motivational quotes. Would a close looker at motivational quotes notice, or care, even assuming there was a way of finding out? But, let me not over-reach. Let me add, ‘…and not seen by me.’ Who knows, motivational quotes of these exact words, words that I just conjured up by some mixing and matching and imagining, might be on offer as, well, motivational quotes.

Will the motivational quoters take me to the cleaners for playing with their words? Motivational quoters who? The attribution is to names made up by me on the spot, and  adding a sprinkling of names from around the world to give a global look and feel. Would a close looker at motivational quotes notice, or care? But again, it is entirely possible that there may be real people answering to these exact names, sitting with their lawyers at this very moment, waiting for someone to make up a name exactly like theirs and slapping that someone with a legal notice.

Hopefully, the combination of the exact motivational quote and the exact name will be too much of a coincidence for me to worry about.

There is a Nike ad doing the rounds these days with people, perhaps close lookers at motivational quotes, gushing over it. This ad has footage of famous athletes in slow motion, set to the beat of music. Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and several other American athletes who I could not recognise. The message, “You are never too far down to get up again,” or some similar words.

There was an ‘inspirational’ Coke ad that I received a few days back. With rave reviews from many people, perhaps close lookers at motivational messages.

Seriously, are these two different from millions of other ‘motivational’ messages and advertisements developed by millions of businesses constantly looking for ways to gain mind and wallet share of their target customers? Of course, they are, different. The athletes are different. The background score is different. The narrator is different. The wordings are different. So what if there is some music, some slow motion, some high-quality footage, some nice sounding words in a deep voice saying something that translates to, “Hey you consumer, you idiot. Let me mess with your emotions, get you to associate my brand with ‘positive’ feelings, and help you make me rich beyond your wildest dreams.”

You and I could write those words. And put together that footage. Someone like you and I has perhaps done it for these businesses. Don’t believe me? Check out the ‘motivational’ quotes earlier in the post written by me. I am sure any of us can conjure them up. But I assume many people would rather a consumer than a producer be. Watch a promotional video of a fast food or garment business that has some music, some slow motion, some high-quality footage, and an audio in a deep voice belting out an inane truism that they would never have known otherwise, like “You can do what you want to do,” rather than making the effort to do what they want to do.

And then, there is Al Pacino. Always Al Pacino.

During my corporate life many years back, it was inevitable that one participated in events known by various names like Workshop/ Training programme/ Outbound training/ Seminar/ Offsite, etc. There were many objectives for these events which I will not go into here, but one common theme running through each was that, as an outcome of the event, all participants should be able to make more money for the organisation that employed them and probably paid for their participation. And the methodology for training them to do so was also disarmingly simple. Showing an ‘inspirational’ clip from a Hollywood movie with Al Pacino. Always Al Pacino. Asking his team to “Claw inch by inch, play by play” in Any Given Sunday, or telling the jury “And that, my friends, is called integrity! That’s called courage!” in Scent of a Woman.

And we would spend the rest of the evening talking about how that video clip changed our life, which would change back to its pre-event shape the moment we hit the workplace.

Don’t we get it that it is a setup? We could have made anything happen. It was all in the hands of the makers of the movie. Al Pacino could have sacked his team and took on the opposition single handedly. And won. And we would have cheered and said it was such a great example of belief in oneself, no matter what the odds. He could have changed three players at the last minute and still won. And we would have cheered and said that it was such a great case study for future generations for ‘decision making under adversity.’ He could have debated with a referee on a technicality and held up the game for an hour to enable a key player recover from a bout of dizziness. And we would have cheered and said it was such a great example of negotiation skills. All to be shown as ‘inspirational’ videos at the next Workshop.

What is it that keeps driving people to consuming these ‘motivational’ quotes? Looking constantly for external motivation? Acting as super-spreaders and spraying these messages liberally amongst their near and dear ones, even not so near and not so dear ones? Is it an unwillingness to face up to what we may consider to be the unfairness and hard facts of our life? Lack of self-respect? Trying to get someone else, anyone, to solve their problems?

I am not an expert. In fact, I am pretty much out of my comfort zone here. I am not questioning the likes and dislikes of others. If reading motivational quotes and watching motivational videos is what sails your boat, who am I to complain?

In fact, if it is so good, why don’t we just get all the business corporations and all governments to stop doing whatever they claim they are doing, and just keep churning out motivational videos and messages all the time and the world will be a better place. Right?

What I am saying is that it does not sail mine.

The question is – Did it (the producing and consuming of the motivational) message make the world a better place?

 

14 thoughts on “Inch By Inch

  1. You had me ROFL! I have started clicking through when I see these high-brow messages telling me stuff any normal person already knows. “Too gentle to walk among the wolves”–or even the ducks. Come on!

  2. I was not R0FLing. I was cringing at the remembering of the start of every bloody staff meeting that began with our moronic nasty and hypocritical principal who thought he was being motiva tional. It brought back such gutwrenching memories of boredom

  3. Your motivational quotes and post made me laugh in a very positive way! 😀
    (Two of the best motivational quotes from Al Pacino-“Say hello to my little friend.” and “You’re out of order!”)

    • Thank you for pointing me to these clips. Scarface I had seen many many years back. He may not be the best actor, but Al Pacino has a flair for the dramatic. He would fit well in the highly dramatic Hindi cinema 🙂

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