I'm not sure what I was expecting. Certainly I knew the day was about motivational messages. I'd convinced myself however that it was an exercise in being open to ideas. That being an active seeker of knowledge is a helpful shortcut to ambitious result. I hold that that's true. We can and should find mentors, tutors and learn from them. Why reinvent the lessons offered by those more qualified than you? But immediately upon sitting in a room full of thousands of the converted I felt more like I was at a snake oil sales session than a genuine information gathering opportunity.
The first speaker wasn't amazing, but interesting. A retired military officer that told stories and promptly tried to sell his financial advice and book. The second a real estate agent that had a genuinely rocky life followed by wealth that she wrapped up with no explanation of the middle. You know, the part where she turned early challenges into rock star success. I suppose the tedium of the explanation wouldn't have held the crowd. She too had a book. Next up a very engaging financial guru that had me doing some serious thinking about my investment strategy (or lack thereof) and sitting bolt upright in my seat. He promised not to sell to us, had people running round for 20 dollar bills in real time and then promptly wrapped up with slideshows of his big house, fancy cars, polo team and hunting lodge. He frequently referenced Warren Buffet though obviously he wasn't him. Finishing up he had a third of the audience literally sprinting to the back of the room to buy a $7500 workshop that was on sale for the next few minutes for $250.
I get it. We need to make a living, myself included. There is nothing wrong with the sale. But it's the multi-level marketing feel that turns me off. The buy now or lose your chance atmosphere. The cliche stories of rags to riches. You know the one, a hard start, a chance meeting with an inspirational person, a dramatic turn around, a bankruptcy, health issue, marital problem (or insert other tragic event with barely held back tears) followed by abundance and riches. The whole middle part gets skipped because it isn't sexy. You can't sell toil and struggle, nobody buys it.
I regret missing Tony's talk but I couldn't bring myself to return. It was that feeling of throwing good time after bad. I'd wasted a few hours, why go all in for more? Thankfully I'd bought my ticket early at a discount, I can't imagine the people that had paid for VIP access at ten times the price. Maybe that amplified the delusion. Maybe they know something I don't.
For years as a photographer I've taken workshops from highly successful mentors. One thing that always resonated deeply with me was their sincerity. Their desire to give back to others, to help you to learn. It always felt genuine. A couple of them are still friends today and I feel warmly about them as people. I'm not saying this crowd isn't the same, but I definitely sense a price of admission. A cult like buy-in. I'm not big on walking on coals, chanting, or being a true believer in any sense. I don't suggest that those that subscribe to those practices are wrong, it just doesn't sit well with me.
Lately I've been thinking about a different approach. It's not overly sexy but I'm pretty sure it works. The best people I know at any discipline, whether it's photography, running, triathlons, being a student or an entrepreneur are all lunch box people. They treat success as the conclusion of toiling at work day in and day out. They show up, put in the effort little by little and ignore the swings between failure and success. I'm sure there are overnight successes, natural born athletes and lucky rollers, but I'm not familiar with them. I'm more comfortable anyway with the lunch box crowd. I can relate to them. Putting in the work has never been a problem for me though I admit to a disastrous attention span.
On the bus while going home from yesterday's event I sat beside a sketch artist drawing people in pencil that he had seen. I asked who he was drawing on the bus and he said nobody, that he drew people he had seen 3 or 4 days ago, but that had finally resolved themselves in his mind. He felt comfortable in public spaces surrounded by people, and drew on them for inspiration if not exact replication. I feel the same with the art of photography, I could really relate. But mostly I could relate to his version of inspiration. The one that isn't marketable. The one born out of 12,000 sketches in a pile of books at his home. It's something I don't wish to buy anyway, motivation is fleeting. It comes and it goes. You can't purchase hard work. You either do it or you don't. You show up or you don't.