“A Motivational Speaker for the Rest of Us”

Inspirational Motivational Speaker Shawn Ellis

If you want to become a motivational speaker, you’re going to want to become acquainted with–and quote frequently–this study:

In 1953 a team of researchers interviewed Yale’s graduating seniors, asking them whether they had written down the specific goals that they wanted to achieve in life. Twenty years later the researchers tracked down the same cohort and found that the 3% of people who had specific goals all those years before had accumulated more personal wealth than the other 97% of their classmates combined.

Maybe you’ve heard it before? It’s been quoted by such legendary speakers as Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, and the late, great, Zig Ziglar.

Yes, indeed. To be successful, you need to follow the ways of “the 3%.”

But here’s the problem: this study never happened. You can read it right here on Yale’s own website: “It has been determined that no ‘goals study’ of the Class of 1953 actually occurred.”

That doesn’t mean goals are bad. Goals are great. And I happen to love Tony, Brian, and Zig.

I’m not in the business of debunking myths. What I am in the business of is finding “real world-compatible” solutions for real people.

And this “3% message” clearly isn’t working. And you know it.

If it were–considering that thousands, if not millions, of people have now heard about the ways of the 3%–shouldn’t we now be talking about the ways of the 10% or 5% or at least 4%? In other words, shouldn’t we have made some progress?

To the contrary, research has shown that this message is more likely to make “the 97%” of people who hear it even more frustrated than they were before–because a talented speaker gets them get fired up about following the 3%, but then they realize that they’re no further ahead than they were before, and now they’re even more depressed and discouraged because they feel like they’ll “never make it.”

Oh, boy. I have a feeling this is going to get me in trouble with all of my “motivational speaker” friends!

For the record, I’m not trying to discredit anyone’s work. There is absolutely value in studying the ways of “successful” people and modeling their ways.

All I’m saying is that we also have to recognize this:

Goals don’t save you from the curveballs of life like disease, divorce, debt, layoffs, takeovers, and recessions. 

At least that’s my experience.

You need more than goals to “get motivated.”

When you find yourself facing adversity, change, and uncertainty, before you get fired up, you need to settle down. Re-center. Remember who you are and why you’re here.

Look back over your life and here’s what you’ll see:

While your plan may not have unfolded just as you had hoped, a plan is unfolding, and it’s a plan to make you better, stronger, wiser than you could have ever imagined. Everything has a way of working out–and you can’t argue with that, because you’re still here!

If you don’t believe me, pause right now and think about something that, when it happened, you thought there’s no way it could be good. Maybe you would have given everything to have avoided it. But now, with the benefit of perspective, you can see that had that thing not happened, had that person not have shown up, no matter how difficult it was, you wouldn’t be who or where you are–and who and where you are is good.

Can you see that?

Good! Then here’s the thing:

The value of goals is that they get you pointed in the right direction–if you set them correctly.

Goals are based on outcomes, though, and outcomes are out of your control.

You had a goal to knock out your to-do list today. But then you got called into that emergency meeting and had to spend the afternoon preparing a TPS report.

Since you only crossed off two out of the 10 items on your to-do list, does that mean you “failed”? No. You just got a different result than you anticipated!

What it really comes down to is changing how you look at things, and specifically:

The key is to shift your focus to what you do control:

How you show up.

How you respond.

One moment at a time.

Focus on those two things, and you’ll experience the best life has to offer, and life will get the best you have to offer.

You see, while there’s no way to know what the next moment holds, you always get to choose:

  • Will you show up with open awareness of what’s going on around you?
  • Will you show up fully present, ready to serve with all of your strengths, talents, and experience?
  • Will you respond in a way that is aligned with your goals, values, and priorities?
  • Will you respond in a way that is best for you, and for those around you?

If you do, you’ll find yourself living and working with less stress, more happiness, and higher performance…

And you will open the door to live in a state of gratitude–because you know that no matter what, this is going somewhere good. Not somewhere easy. Not somewhere absent of pain. But somewhere good. Your past proves that is true.

With this perspective, what you have is RESILIENCE. The ability to rise up and stand strong in the face of anything that comes your way. Again and again and again.


This is motivation for the rest of us. Motivation that is “real world compatible.”

Are you ready to bring it to your company and your people?

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