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Michael Phelps, Sarah Palin and others tell Baltimore how to "Get Motivated"

Michael Phelps and emcee Kari Michaelsen in Baltimore. His shoes were really big, hers were really gold. (Photo by Fern Shen)


Baltimore’s celebrity population boomed briefly yesterday, as Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Oher, Michael Phelps and other famous types appeared before a throng of about 11,000 at First Mariner Arena to talk about “motivation.”

Flinty former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs told them about setting small, achievable goals, affable Olympian Michael Phelps told them about not slacking off and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told them about not looking back.

“I want to go through life looking through the front windshield,” Powell said, gesturing toward a metaphorical rear-view mirror. “I can’t change anything back there.”

Great advice if you’re going to try and succeed at football, swimming or rallying the nation for a bloody, unprovoked war and then being able to sleep at night!

How is it that Tampa-based Get Motivated Seminars Inc. was able to offer so much A-list oomph (Palin’s actually was delivered live via satellite) for just $4.95 per person?

Sure, there were premium seats for $225 a pop but they also offered a super-bargain group rate — entire offices attended for just $19.

The answer lay in the tables covered with clip-boards and registration forms and staffed by smiling sales people waiting for participants to emerge at the lunch break after a morning of inspirational speakers urging them to put God and family first, have a purpose in life, work hard and . . . try and make a killing in the stock market!

Attendees streamed out of their seats and pulled out their credit cards to sign up for a two-day investing workshop, sponsored by Wealth Magazine, which they were told was worth $1,995 but, “for you today” would be only $99.

Only $99! The Wealth Magazine workshop registration form. . . .

People rushed to fill out the forms with name, address, and credit card number. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Most also expressed interested in the speeches themselves, saying that their main goal in coming was to pick up some tips to help them do better in their businesses in a bad economy.

“Hopefully – we’re all in sales — this will help us in our work,” said Scott Schuppert, of Martin Supply Company, on Loch Raven, a sign, screen and digital printing shop. He, colleague Kelly Dunlap and five others from the company were attending the day-long “Get Motivated Business Seminar.”

The recession was definitely part of why Priscilla Hayford’s employers gave her and her co-workers a day off to “Get Motivated.”

“With the economy, we’re trying to find innovative ways to keep our company moving ahead and cut costs,” said Hayford, an IT specialist for Bethesda-based Coventry Health Care.

Baltimore Get Motivated attendee Priscilla Hayford. (Photo by Fern Shen)

So this cost-cutting includes layoffs?

“Yes, it has entailed eliminating positions. This means, you’ve gotten your team as lean as you can and so you have to make sure the remaining people are able to do a lot, to multi-task,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure out how this thing today is going to really help, but I’m willing to find out.”

Diana Fender and Linda Hershman, who sell real estate and manage properties in Frederick, said things were slow in their businesses and they mostly came to get a little motivational boost from their favorite speaker, Zig Ziglar.

Diana Fender and Linda Hershman, of Frederick, were looking forward to Zig Ziglar. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Having been to a couple of previous “Get Motivated” seminars, Fender said as a result “now I do stock trading.” Hershman said she hoped to use the lessons on motivation to help her in the other work she’s taken on recently, serving as a weight loss counselor at Jenny Craig.

“They just want to keep eating!” she said. “If they blow it on one day they give up and blow off the whole week!”

Be upbeat, not “a wet diaper!”

Hometown hero Michael Phelps, winner of 14 Olympic gold medals, had some insights Fender would do well to take back to her Jenny Craig customers.

With his mom looking on from the front row, the lanky Fells Point resident talked about the famous five-year, Cal Ripken-like period during which he never took a day off from swim practice — not Christmas, not New Year’s, not his birthday.

“We figured, there’s 52 weeks in a year, if (other) people are taking a day off every week, that’s 52 more workouts we have on them,” he said. Considering it takes two days to get back up to speed after taking a day off, he observed, those other swimmers are blowing off a lot of potential work-out opportunities.

“You get in a rhythm and it’s easy,” he said. You do a month straight, two months straight, and after a while you don’t even notice it. My body gets up at the same time every day.”

He explained what motivates him to get up to that cruising speed and stay there: “I hate to lose.”

Other more concrete tips about incentivizing people were offered by speakers. Former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, for instance, favors offering little rewards for hard work in practice. Players with multi-million-dollar contracts were suddenly knocking themselves out for relatively cheap items like Sony handheld recorders and reclining chairs.

“I found out these players would kill for a La-Z-Boy,” said Gibbs, who said he rebuked his recruiting staff whenever they brought in moody players:
“I’d say ‘Quit bringin’ me wet diapers!’”

The crowd attending 2010 Baltimore Get Motivated seminar. (Photo by Fern Shen)

Re-mastering the Universe

Meanwhile the 73-year-old Powell’s motivation for continued success seems to be the existential dread of life after fame, mornings over coffee with his wife Alma, life without his own 757.

Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch (since he said lots of nice things about improvements to the Baltimore city public schools and leadership and welcoming immigrants to America and looking people in the eye, even the people who park your car, and treating them like human beings) but Powell’s lecture-circuit shtick yesterday leaned HEAVILY on self deprecation along those lines.

• “I won’t be getting up at 5:30 in the morning anymore,” he recalled telling his wife, the first day life after stepping down as Secretary of State. “I won’t be leaving you at 6:30.” Upon hearing this, he said imitating her look of horror, “she froze.”
• “Every president, king and prime minister was calling me asking me to come visit or wanted to come and see me,” he said. “One day you are the number one diplomat in the world, and the next day — you ain’t.”
• “They took my plane…They gave it to Condi and now Hilary’s got it.”
• Retiring from your job “can be debilitating, it can be a little bit depressing….I said to myself, ‘How will I fill this need?’ I bought a Corvette!”

"I miss my airplane!" former Secretary of State Colin Powell said. Jokingly? (Photo by Fern Shen)

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