Motivating the cynic

This column is being written shortly before I pack a bag or two and head south to BICSI’s Winter Conference in Orlando, FL.

Feb 1st, 2006

This column is being written shortly before I pack a bag or two and head south to BICSI’s Winter Conference in Orlando, FL. It’s the industry’s biggest annual event, and I suspect that, as usual, it will be time to go home again before I have the chance to speak to or meet with everyone I want to see.

By the time you read this, the conference will have been over for a few weeks, so I’ll take this opportunity to say if you wanted to see me but missed me, please call or e-mail. Critiques of the magazine, its contents, and especially its chief editor are always appropriate.

One aspect of a BICSI conference that I have come to enjoy is that each follows the same format and schedule. I know when the exhibits will be open, when the lunch-and-learn sessions will be held, and so on.

I also have come to expect the Wednesday morning motivational speaker. If the term “carpe diem” is ever going to be used at a BICSI, it will be uttered by this speaker, who challenges and encourages the audience to make the most of every day, every project, every opportunity.

I must admit I have greeted these speakers with skepticism at times. I remember one who said every day he wakes up and tells himself, out loud, “This is going to be a great day.” I sat there thinking to myself, “Of course it’s going to be a great day, for you. You woke up in a hotel room that somebody else paid for and ordered the most expensive breakfast on the room-service menu. Your responsibility is to stand on that stage and deliver a speech you memorized 10 years ago. And I have to believe you’re being paid four, maybe five figures to do it. Two hours from now you’ll be at the airport lounge, ready to fly first-class to your next destination where you’ll check into a hotel that somebody else is paying for, and make the same speech tomorrow.”

My goodness, I’m a cynic.

Truth be told, I have enjoyed some of these speeches and not enjoyed others. My primary issue with speakers like this has been that yesterday they made the speech to a convention of bricklayers, today they’re making it to professionals in the cabling industry, and tomorrow they’ll make it to a society of certified public accountants.

If they can provide some real-life examples from the cabling trade, I put some stock in what they’re saying.

This whole tirade about motivational speakers leads up to a recent conversation I had with a gentleman named Dave Sanders. I interviewed Dave for a story that appears in the Industry Spotlight section of this month’s issue (“Award-winning speaker carries message of professionalism,” p. 34).

We spoke on the telephone literally a continent apart (I was in New Hampshire and he was in the state of Washington), but despite that distance, his enthusiasm was palpable. I’m sure the miles of fiber-optic cabling between the telephones in our two offices had a lot to do with the tangibility of Dave’s positive attitude.

For a little while, listening to Dave reminded me somewhat of the “it’s going to be a great day” speech I heard years before. But for me, the big difference was this time I was listening to someone who has made his living in the cabling industry his entire professional career.

Dave has been through the all-night installs, unrealistic demands, industry downturns, and everything else that each of you can relate to-because you’ve been there, too. And he is just as enthusiastic about his work-about his industry-as anybody I have spoken to.

Dave emphasized to me that he doesn’t plug his company or its products in his speeches, so I’m certainly not going to do that here. But I will say that he, as an individual, personifies the spirit that groups like BICSI intend to achieve with motivational speakers.

So, if you are ever at a conference and either miss the motivational speech, or miss its point, look up somebody like Dave Sanders. He’ll be able and willing to trade industry war stories with you, and his positive attitude is contagious.

And we could all use a pick-me-up like that once in a while. Especially a cynic like me.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor patrick@pennwell.com

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