In The Huddle with Fran Tarkenton

Hard Work Wins. “Motivation” Doesn’t.

Have you ever been to a big motivational conference? One where all the big speakers are lined up, and the crowd goes wild for every line? I’ve seen a lot of these in my life in business, and participated in my fair share.

These gatherings seem so impactful—it’s all high-energy, get everyone excited about what the organization is doing, inspire people with great speakers and engaging stories. It’s really something to see. But here’s the other thing about them: they usually don’t have much impact on results.

When we participated in these kinds of events, it was often a great experience. The people were clearly excited, everybody was “on fire” to do this or that, and then we would look forward to big growth in sales and results. But the growth never came. Business after even the biggest, most successful events was the same. Flat. No change, no matter how people looked at the conference.

Put simply: motivation, feel-good events, inspirational speakers, don’t solve problems.

You don’t solve a problem by listening to a speaker and clapping. You don’t make a difference with just crowds and pomp and circumstance. What makes a real difference is action, and the fundamentals of a good business—and a good life.

The roaring crowd looks like a great sign for a business. A far better sign is honesty, transparency, and a focus on helping other people by providing value. When people tell the truth, talk honestly about what they are doing and want to do, and the ways they can help one another, that is when things get done. A business grows when the people that make up the business focus on the fundamentals, and dedicate themselves to finding solutions to their problems.

The big crowd isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but to be successful, you need so much more.

“Motivation” doesn’t work. There are no silver bullets. There are no shortcuts to success. But with hard work and strong guiding principles, you can accomplish something. But too often, people fall for the get rich quick scheme, the fad diet, the miracle solution to all our problems. We could avoid a lot of problems if we remember that just because something sounds good, it won’t work if it doesn’t involve hard work, perseverance, honesty, integrity, and transparency.

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June Vendetti

Motivation is good, if the subject pertains to the type of job or career you’d like to have. The way our job market is now, it is very difficult to get motivated about anything!

Lynn M

I love – enjoy and respect the backbone that standing tall and working creates. I was born poor. Quite poor. I am no longer poor. I attribute that to several positive attributes: 1) At about 18 years old, I looked around and said ‘I don’t like this being poor’! ‘I know what poor feels like – this is not how I will spend the rest of my life’! 2) It’s about attitude. Setting goals. Moving where the jobs are. And working, sometimes 1, 2, 3 jobs at a time to fully support myself. Making more Right Choices – than Wrong ones. And fully realizing that, ‘If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes’. I had to change a lot. 3) I attended countless seminars, motivational lectures/speakers, etc. I took the Best and left the rest. It was up to me – I adopted and grew with the attitude – ” the glass is… Read more »


My favorite motivation was a boss. I worked part-time at a newspaper and he did not brow-beat, threaten or intimidate.
He simply worked along side everyone with a cheerful, how can I help attitude. He knew how to do every job and
constantly went from one employee to another helping everyone out while being so optimistic and full of energtic enthusiasm. I only worked there for a short time but I know he was a true Christian because he had such a servant attitude. He had a big influence on my life and I know anyone who worked there felt the same way.


“In order to get someplace you have never been or obtain something you have never had, you will have to DO something you have never done”. It is the “DO” not the motivation that obtains the objective!

John Kwaczala

Not a Fran fan, nor a sports fan and I have been to many motivation meetings. Fran is correct, they are a waste of time and company resources. The meeting benefits only those folks who do the speaking and get paid big bucks. Like having a politician come to speak at a college telling lies that you have heard before when they were in office.

Joe Derus

Ask any coach if motivational speeches work… Of course they do, not 100% … But the few who grab onto the message and put it to work succeed… Bottom line out work the other guy

Tom Buenavista

Mr Tarkenton’s piece strikes a chord. A familiar chord. Of course he ought to know. The fact that he played football in that key position of general, makes him instantly credible. In the line of scrimmage I can remember him surveying the defense formation. At the snap of the ball he has to move. He is very motivated to play but that is never enough. He has to move. Take action. Decide. Audible? Run… throw… What was the play that he called? No matter. He must deliver. Win. Motivation without action is no more than daydreaming; telling fish stories. The Good Book tells the story of the sower… “and some seed fell on rocky ground… where the soil is thin… the seeds sprouted quickly but soon died because the roots had nowhere to go to be nurtured.” Such is the picture when people gather in these huge auditoriums to be… Read more »

Ivan Berry

There is also the side issue of the commercial aspect to motivational speakers and organizers: so often the business of motivational organizations is the profit they derive, despite the less than beneficial results to a firm or oganization that hires them.
I too have been subjected to many of these motivational presentations, be they sales, quality, production, quota oriented or others, so many that it’s impossible to count, and nothing ever covered stayed with the participants much past the cheering and hand-clapping. Afterwards it was just back to business as usual.
Kinda reminds me of those Christians who show up for Easter Services and then go about their lives seldom if ever attending until next Easter. Feels good while it lasts, though.


I have to largely agree with Mr. Tarkenton on this one. Motivation, in and of itself, does nothing to actually achieve any results. It is merely the starting point from which you can work to achieve your ultimate goals. In addition to motivation, you need a realistic plan. Talk to people who have done what you’re trying to do, if you can. So-called subject matter experts, who can offer practical advice and steer you clear of potential pitfalls you might not think of on your own. If you don’t have access to such people to talk to, then use your local library or on-line resources to research everything and anything on the subject you’re interested in to learn as much as you can. We live in a age where there is tons of free information readily available to us, so we shouldn’t be afraid to use it. Next, write the… Read more »