November 30, 2009

The Motivational Speech that Wasn't

I love football movies.  I'm not a big fan of football, but I try to learn a bit about the game and watch with my husband sometimes just to be a good sport (no pun intended). However, I do love football movies and have watched just about every one that has ever been made.

The reason I love football movies is because, without fail, a football movie generally starts with an underdog, reveals said underdog's potential, creates a crisis to threaten underdog's success, then rallies the team via a great motivational speech by the coach who inspires the team to victory.

It's good. Formulaic, but so tasty and good.

I was raised in a "can-do" environment. The easiest way to get my mom to do something is to tell her she can't and she is compelled to prove you wrong. We were raised to believe we really could do anything we wanted to. My mother fostered in us the idea that we are limited only by the restrictions we put on ourselves which is a result of a weakness of the mind -- basically self-limiting dialogue such as "I can't" or "I'm not smart enough" or "I'm not graceful enough" or "That's a boy activity", etc. In our family you get called on it, challenged on it. My family does not allow its members to take the easy way out.

Probably to someone outside the family this sounds really horrible, but I've always considered it one of the greatest gifts my mother could give us. She considers adversity an opportunity to demonstrate her strength of will and her ability to solve problems. And sometimes I think that is really when she is at her best. Some people are just like that.

Because I admire those things about her and because I've reaped the benefit of this philosophy in my own life, it's an idea I want to pass on to my kids. They will be a step ahead of the crowd if they have good self-esteem, high confidence and some above-average problem-solving skills. In our day-to-day life I try to find opportunities to foster these skills.

The other day we were waiting in the Sonic drive-thru. Julius noticed a cool pen that was lying on the ground next to the building just a few feet away. He pointed it out to me.

I said, "Do you want to go get it? If you get it we can give it back to the lady at the drive-through."

"No. I don't think so."

"Why? You don't have to talk to her. I'll just give it to her and tell her we found it. Go on, do it."

"No. I think the police would see me and I'd get in trouble."

"For getting a pen off the sidewalk? No, that won't get you in trouble. You'd be trying to do something nice."

"Definitely I'm not doing it."

"Oh. Well, okay then.  I'm about to move up. Are you SURE you don't want to do it? I don't want you to be filled with regret once the opportunity passes..." Oh, I was so hoping he'd just do it. He's such a nervous guy sometimes.

"No, go ahead."

"Okay, but remember how proud you felt when you faced your fears at the water park. Remember how happy you were about that?"


"But you still don't want to go get the pen? Despite the fact that it would certainly be a good deed for someone and demonstrate how you would go out of your way to help a fellow human? Because, really, I don't want you to get stuck in a rut of mediocrity and apathy. The landscape is already crowded with people who don't care and don't make an effort to make the world a better place. We don't need to be another one of those people. Right?"


"So, think of the pen as a symbol of breaking free from focusing on the self and use it as an exercise to focus on others. And then we can tell your dad all about what a cool good deed you did, flinging yourself out of the car to save that lonely pen on the sidewalk."

"Um... no."


We sat in silence for another moment and the car ahead of us pulled away from the drive-thru window.

"Last chance. You sure?"

"I'm sure."

So, yeah, I have to work on my motivational speaking a little bit. Well, maybe a lot.


  1. It is funny how parents are so diffrent in this area. I don't remember every being motivated or encouraged. Maybe with school work, my mom was a stickler about that when we were small. She would tell me how smart I was. However when it came to what we could achieve, nope, nada. I think she was raised without that. It was just get a job or go to school. I learned by watching what others have achieved and going..hey I maybe I can do that. At 50 I feel I am just coming into myself. I think that what you parents gave you was one of the best gifts you can get. CONFIDENCE!!!

    If you need practice on your motivation speeches feel free to practice on me. :)

  2. I think your mother was right on!

  3. I came across your blog, and love this post! My mom was the same way - it has paid off to overcome adversity that life continually serves.

  4. That's a good speech - I am out of the car getting the pen, right now as we speak.

    I saw a tiny bit of an old Harold Lloyd silent movie called The Freshman last night. Looked very funny. Featured football. And motivational speeches, but the audience had to read them off cards in them days.

  5. haha ... today a pen on the sidewalk - tomorrow the world!

  6. I totally adore your mother right now.

    And I am SO all about the football movies. Actually - sports movies - all of them. I love love love.

  7. I have always told my kids "can't never could" :)

  8. oh, and ps. as someone who's worked the drive thru 10 gazillion times...I would have appreciated someone picking up the pen for me ;)

  9. It's amazing how on the subway someone will drop a glove or whatever, and everyone will just sit in stoney silence afraid to be that one to speak up. Of course, sometimes there are crazy people on the subway so you never know ;)

  10. You gave it your best try! Today a pen, tomorrow, who knows?

    You have a great mom, and YOU are a great mother.

  11. I love sports movies, but I am the last one to ever watch real sports on tv or go to a game, etc.

    I love your mom too!


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