MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES ARE HARMING YOU [the problem with listening to motivational speakers/quotes]15 min read

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Motivational quotes are harming you in ways you cannot even begin to imagine. And before I state why, I’ll love you to observe the following quotes and tell me what you noticed.

  1. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” Versus “The best things in life are free”
  2. “You’re never too old to learn” Versus “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”
  3. “Fortune favors the bold” versus “Discretion is the better part of Valor”
  4. “I haven’t met a rich technician ” by Jim Rogers, versus “I always laugh at people who say, ‘I’ve never met a rich technician.’ I love that! It is such an arrogant, nonsensical response. I used fundamentals for nine years and then got rich as a technician. ” by Marty Schwartz
  5. “Diversify your investments” by John Templeton, versus “Concentrate your investments. If you have a harem of 40 women you never get to know any of them very well” by Warren Buffett

As you can see, they appear to contradict each other. 

But why?

I would tell you why. It is because life is so damn complicated and convoluted for any single rule to explain it.

I once wrote a short Facebook post explaining why the best advice can, often, be misleading

The thing is, we all want to hear the secret to success, or the cheat code to getting all the love you want in life, or the ultimate formula for getting to heaven, but all these are rarely the reality of things.

Like Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “there are no facts, only interpretations”

Nothing is solid. There are countless ways of becoming happy, or rich, or tapping into spirituality (if you’re into that kinda stuff), but it doesn’t mean they are the only way.

There is hardly a firm truth that can withstand all conditions and situations.

Like I pointed out in my first book (“5 years in School”), you cannot assertively say that formal education is the best choice someone can make in life, why? Because there are people who didn’t go to school who succeeded nonetheless. There are people with learning disabilities who would be literally wasting their time in school, and then there are also people who went to school and ended up losing their path (those who gave up their inborn talents and passion for some cooperate profession that they would end up cursing). 

In the book, I made the point that it was more about the person’s vision and mindset. There is no hard rule. Going to school indeed has its advantages, but so also does learning a skill or becoming an apprentice (i.e. not going to “school”). What matters most is how you can leverage your certificate, skill, or opportunities.

It all lies in the individual’s core drive.

Motivational quotes as you must have realized by now, are just one individuals’ point of view. If I turn a Billionaire by tomorrow and I then announce that one needs to do at least 100 push-ups each day to succeed in life, do you think that my “wise saying” won’t go viral? (especially on social media). Surely, it would. In fact, there is a quote exactly like that.

“The secret to success in life is dressing up your bed every morning”. Yeah, there it is

This is misleading because you can arrange your bed all day and still be a failure, whilst someone who hardly has time to comb his hair (like Albert Einstein) can still succeed.

What then is the issue?

Are motivational quotes all B.S spread about like covid-19 by social media? (and by B.S I don’t mean Bachelor of Science)

Well, maybe not.

THE PROBLEM WITH MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES [are motivational quotes effective?]

I’ll like to tackle this issue by highlighting some problems with motivational quotes and how they are presented 

Lack Of Context

The thing is, most Motivational quotes don’t give context.

What you would notice is that these “wise words” are spread around like gems of wisdom without considering the context in which they were said. Hence, the meaning is lost. 

Limitation in Language and Depth of Meaning

Another problem is that the human language is ineffective – no matter the tongue. It’s a flaw in human language.

Languages are an attempt to pass on one’s thoughts to another person. It is usually propagated via generally understood sounds, symbols, and gestures. However, what is usually propagated is ideas since feelings are harder to transmute. For instance, how do you tell someone that you love them? Words don’t just do justice, no matter how hard you try – maybe crying would be more effective.


This is why being live at an event, or seeing a video, is more impactful than just reading or hearing about it. Being life, or watching the videos, seeing the person’s facial expressions, tones, and gestures expose you to a richer and deeper “feel” of what the person is feeling as they speak.

That is why you might need a mentor to get a richer grasp of whatever you’re interested in. Studying has limits to the richness in quality. Being mentored is a whole level of education. 

The movie “Arrivals” highlighted this issue of ineffective communication. For instance, when I say I don’t eat ice-cream, what I am doing is trying to show you that an ice-cream once gave me a brain freeze which lasted for minutes – an experience so terrible that I shed tears and vowed never to take Ice-creams, ever. But you never saw that, all you heard was that I didn’t want ice-cream, and if I were your mentor or someone you’ve deified, you would most likely start abhorring ice-cream, as though it were a hindrance to your success or something. (PS: I don’t hate ice-cream)

The human language is extremely flawed.

If I stood in front of you fuming, you know instantly that I have murderous tendencies towards you, but if it were over a phone call, you could never tell that my silence was a life-threatening gesture to you. This is the same with guys calling girls who don’t like them at night. She might be rolling her eyes, and miming to her friends that you should get out of her phone, but you would never know because she is still nice enough to give you those one-word replies (like “K”, and “ya”)

Anyway, before I digress…

In light of this, you can now see that those short and catchy motivational quotes are not rich enough to tackle this whole context thing I’ve been yammering about for over 5 mins now.

Consider that entire books are written just to explore simple ideas such as what happiness is, what love truly is, what death feels like, and even what motivation really is. Yet, for some reason, we believe that a single piece of quote tying together the words “happiness”, “motivation”, and “death” is enough to educate us – to motivate us.

What is motivation in the first place? Is it a sudden rush of adrenalin, or an incessant desire to be like someone else? You tell me.

Munching on “wise words” without understanding the wisdom is dangerous, misleading, and demented. It is a whole lot better to read funny memes and view funny Tic-Tok videos than to gobble up motivation quotes you have no idea what they are talking about. 

If you must consume your daily dose of motivation, then at least make out the time to look up the name of the person who said such, and read a book about them to understand their philosophy and ideas. Learn in totality what they are all about. 

I have consumed about 90 % of Mark Manson’s works. 30 of David Eagleman’s, 90% of Yuval Harari’s, 50% of Nassim Taleb, etcetera – at least of the works they have made public. I can now comfortably say that I understand the context of Mark Manson, David Eagle man, David Goggins, Yuval Harari, James clear, etcetera. As of the time of this writing, I am still on a mission to complete all of David Eagleman’s books.

And because I have read their works and have extensively watched their videos (and have even experimented with their idea), I now can in a sense complete their sentences for them – I can see the bigger picture.

I can say “stay hard”, and it would be all the motivation for the rest of the day because I’ve read “Can’t hurt me” by David Goggins, and just saying those words brings to memory all that I’ve learned from him – his stories, wisdom, encouragement and ideas bubbles to the surface of my consciousness the instant I say those two words, “Stay Hard”. 

But to someone who hasn’t read that book, it is of little weight. They could even interpret it as being cold to someone who is showing interest in them, whilst David Goggins wasn’t in any way referring to relationships.

Or when Mark Manson says, “stop giving a f*ck”, but means “care for the things that matter the most”.

Language is a very interesting subject that I cannot dive into…at least for now. But you should be conscious of this because you could read a paragraph and not realize that it was just a setup to clarify, expand on, or debunk something else.

Consider the songs “I’m not racist” and “Devils Work” by Joyner Lucas, and see how he uses “setups” to drive a serious point against racism and blaming God for all the problems in life, respectively. Whilst sounding like he supported racism, he flipped the idea on its head and wowed his fans.

Context is extremely important. Just try to phantom how many motivational quotes you’ve read this week alone, and marvel at how many you had no idea who the authors were, or where it was drawn from. 

The other day I saw a funny meme with the picture of an adult movie star which read “don’t stop when you are tired, stop when you are done”. Now, it is obvious what he was referring to – since I gave the context – but who could have told it was about sex? (sorry for ruining that one for you). Maybe the original author wasn’t referring to sex, but as you can see, how we interpreted it transformed its meaning drastically.

The interesting thing about all this is that these people who pump out these quotes don’t even sit down to understand what they are dishing out. It is usually just random people like you and me who are seeking clout who go about picking pieces of sentences that they thought sounded smart and then placing them on nicely designed backgrounds. Then they proceed to create a Facebook page, or open an IG account and then flood it with all of these, without even putting into account the context of these saying nor a link to find out more.

At least, insert a damn link to the full article. Oh, I forgot, Instagram doesn’t permit links, at least, not until you get like 10k followers.

Unsuitable and Unhealthy Medium

Ah, that is another problem. You see Social Media is not designed to educate but to entertain, to communicate with friends and families. It was not designed for lectures nor research.

In fact, social media is the opposite of education. It eats away at your ability to concentrate and fuels your mind with so much dopamine that you begin to find reality boring. It can be so poisonous to your brain that you would become incapacitated to read books or watch educational documentaries. 

It makes your mind constantly seek 15 seconds of funny and amazing. You miss the realization that most miracles take years – like watering a flower, or raising a baby, and watching it grow and transform.

Danger Of Deception

Another of my worries is the danger of deception 

For instance, most of the quotes attributed to Einstein are not he’s. Same with Buddha, and pretty much any other person you’ve seen their names scribbled under some quotes.

That aside, there is a danger of getting an unhelpful idea reinforced into your psyche by these “wise words”. Like those who tell you to forget about your relationships and chase money. For the love of fresh air, that is probably the craziest advice ever.

Having a relationship is not a ticket to poverty for goodness sakes. In fact, having a healthy relationship can lead to wealth and happiness. In what way do you think a partner who pushes, encourages, and supports you would simultaneously sabotage you?

Many ideas are either skewed or entirely wrong.

I remember joining a Nihilist group on Facebook in an attempt to understand the philosophy of Nihilism better – to observe what the life of a nihilist looked like. Well, it appeared that these set of people go about all day complaining about how life is meaningless and they wish they weren’t born. They go about quoting Fredrick Neichze and Albert Camus

As much as they have their reasons why they think life is utterly pointless, I came to realize that that mentality of constantly looking at life as one endless disaster is unhelpful and quite stupid, to be honest: If life was so meaningless, why not just end it. Why spend hours upon hours bickering about how it has no meaning, and still live it?


So, what does this mean for you who want to be educated, motivated, and on top of your game all day? Well, I’m glad you asked. 

The answer: Read. 

You must cultivate the habit of reading, and feeding your mind with rich and delicious knowledge. So that next time you hear someone say “know your onion”, you won’t think they are talking about Suya or Sushi. So that next time you hear “Blackswan” you would understand the gravity of what happened or might happen.

You have to callous your mind so that even though you get hit by a philosophy such as that of the Nihilist, you don’t just get sucked into their world of gloom and hopelessness, but rather realize that the universe has given you a blank page to write on – to create your own meaning. To value your family, and to go attempt making babies with latex on.

Stop getting off off motivational quotes. Go and study. Get a mentor and get your life together.


Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation”

Oscar Wilde

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Am I saying Motivational Speakers Are Useless or Frauds? 

Not really, as they can be quite helpful.

In fact, I have an archive of mine too @iamdickdavid

I enjoy writing long-form SEO content for self-help and personal development blogs. I can also do simple graphics design and copywriting. I’m an author, coach, logician, introvert, and storyteller. I love simplicity.

Get our free eBook on how to live a happy and meaningful life when you input your email now.

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