Motivational seminar lands in Baltimore

Michael Phelps, Colin Powell, Joe Gibbs, Zig Ziglar take the stage

May 04, 2010|By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

Fireworks exploded. The Olympics theme song blared, and audience members rose to their feet. The tall athlete strode to the center of the arena. Before taking the stage, Michael Phelps stopped to kiss his mother seated in the first row.

No, he wasn't accepting another gold medal.

The swimmer from Baltimore, dressed in a gray suit and lavender tie, was one of the celebrities headlining a touring motivational business seminar that came to the city Tuesday. Phelps told his now-familiar story of setting a goal as a child and sticking to it, allowing him to surpass his wildest dreams. He and coach Bob Bowman devised a plan to gain an edge over competitors by training seven days a week, a rigorous schedule that he adhered to for five years. Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.

A crowd of office workers, business owners, retirees, job seekers, attorneys and single working moms, among others, filled about two thirds of First Mariner Arena for the day-long Get Motivated Business Seminar. Among those preaching the power of positive thinking: former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, motivational guru Zig Ziglar, businessman Steve Forbes, Baltimore Raven Michael Oher and live, via satellite, Sarah Palin.

"My whole career started from one dream as a 7-year-old kid," Phelps said. "I always wanted to do things that nobody had done. I hate settling for second best."

Phelps, billed as a speaker on "competitiveness" has appeared at several of the daylong events, a program that travels to 25 cities a year for large arena shows and promises to teach attendees cutting edge business skills, expert sales training and wealth building strategies through a blend of classroom lecture, inspirational speaking and infomercial complete with pitches to buy books and follow-up training.

Palin, the former vice presidential candidate and best-selling author, began touring with Get Motivated a couple of months ago. She planned to address topics ranging from how to balance personal and professional priorities, to overcoming obstacles with creative solutions and "how to have grace under fire."

"She connects with the audience," said Tamara Lowe, co-founder and executive vice president of Get Motivated Seminars Inc. "She talks about values and talks about leadership and the future and the economy, the issues facing Americans."

Past speakers on the circuit have included Margaret Thatcher, actor Christopher Reeve, celebrity financial advisor Suze Orman and actress Goldie Hawn, who talked about "how to achieve happiness."

Joseph E. Linhard, president of Linhard's Auto Repair and Towing in Hunt Valley, took time off from his business to attend his third Get Motivated seminar in Baltimore.

"I like people who are positive and successful, and it reinforces some of what you think," said Linhard, who said he picks up leadership tips that help him in his business and as a boy scout leader. "Things do go wrong, but this is the time to be strong and not give up. You get a lot of things to drag you down, and you need things to keep you up."

Linhard said he found inspiration from Powell, 73, who peppered his talk about leadership with self-deprecating anecdotes about transitioning from public to private life. He joked that he's learned about "texting" and Facebook just to keep up with his teenage grandson and had to adjust to flying commercial after having his own private jet.

He said he sometimes reminisces about days when "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."

Get Motivated, based in Tampa, got its start in 1987, co-founded by husband and wife team Peter and Tamara Lowe. At the time, Peter Lowe ran sales training seminars, and his wife was a public speaker. The business grew from a few small seminars to 25 per year at large arenas as well as hundreds of small events. In 2009, Tamara Lowe wrote Get Motivated about how someone's

"motivational DNA" can help overcome obstacles.

As one of the speakers at Tuesday's event, Tamara Lowe often turned to herself as an example, saying she had been a "drug addict, drug dealer and dropout," in her younger years and that she and her husband started their business with no money or investors.

"Don't worry about what other people think," she urged the crowd, after also urging everyone to buy a copy or two of her book online (at a discount for audience members). "Winners take action. Losers make excuses. Get out there and take action."

Alyson H. Kingree, of Jarrettsville, an audience member who has worked in the banking industry for more than two decades and was recently laid off from her job at GE Capital in Hunt Valley, returned Tuesday for her second Get Motivated seminar.

"What I find motivating is when you hear about adversity that (people) overcome," said Kingree, who said as a job seeker she found hope in Gibb's discussion of the importance of picking the right people, both in sports and business, and hopes employers who hear the message would give her a chance.

"Pick people who care," he had told the audience. ""They'll come early and be the last to leave."

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