New Year's is all about resolutions and resolve and motivation. Which leads me to a day years ago when I was in Phoenix to address a conference at a huge resort. Killing time, I had happened upon a seminar for motivational speakers led by a motivational speaker. I hate motivational speakers. This was a level of hell that not even Dante had envisioned.
You've seen them. The creepy Tony-Ziglar-Deepak-Robbins live-in-the-moment and hug-your-family con artists who tell us, "Don't stress out over the small stuff."
Motivational speakers are paid gazillions to tell you what you already know. Of course you leave feeling transformed into a self-actualized-in-touch-with-yourself-alpha-zen-totally-together-human who could conquer the world until you get into your car and the idiot honking at you to hurry it up and vacate your parking space makes you count the seven ways to kill a stranger and the three steps to hiding a body.
By dinner time you spill wine on your $27 tie and you have completely forgotten eight ways to find your inner bliss because all you to want find is a paper towel dispenser that actually works, the waiter for the check and your Prozac.
My dad, one of the most dynamic motivational speakers of his time, could have earned at least $100,000 for his pep talks today. They were peppered with gems like "stop whining and shut your pie-hole" or the powerful "Can't you do better than that? Oh, I forgot. You're an idiot."
He would ask us to examine our lives by asking us "Good God! Do you like living in a toilet?" or by posing the timeless spiritual question "Can you think of somebody other than yourself - just for once?"
His talks had different themes that would make excellent Power Point presentations. My all-time favorite was "Get your act together or I'll come over there and get it together for you and it won't be pretty." That was particularly inspiring.
He was only outdone by the greatest motivational speaker of the '70s, Dean Wormer of Farber College, an electrifying speaker who is best remembered for saying to a young Mr. Dorfman in "Animal House," "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." His books and audiotapes are not on sale in any lobby.
Motivational speakers often will share a warm, encouraging message, based on a story of overcoming great obstacles. Here's one I love to tell my kids. "Listen, when I was your age we didn't have a roof over our heads, or clothes on our backs or, for that matter, fire. I grew up naked living in a cave, and we didn't have fire so I had to walk 40 miles both ways, to the nearest volcano to cook cave rats, dodging pterodactyls and saber-toothed tigers and you know what? I was grateful for cave rats."
My youngest son said I should call my book "Seven Gems of Worthless Advice." I gave him a copy of my new CD, "Give up Right Now - You're Wasting Your Time."
If it wasn't for motivational speakers, I would have never learned that prosperity is just around the corner, that you shouldn't let negative thinking bring you down or that every day above ground is a good day unless nuclear armageddon has finally come and some clown has locked the bomb shelter door from the inside and he can't hear you screaming.
Count your blessings, make your own luck, dream your dreams and list your life goals on yellow sticky notes on your bathroom mirror.
Here's some sage wisdom for you in 2013: Think positive, and never let yourself get trapped in a motivational speaker's talk. Dare to accept responsibility for your life, dare to love, and dare to ask the motivational speaker where the exit is located. And If you want a trust-building exercise, join the Amish and raise barns.
Maybe it's me. I'm fairly happy because I'm convinced the light at the end of the tunnel is a runaway locomotive and laughter is the best medicine if morphine is out of your price range, and you really must stop and smell the lemons. And when life hands you roses, make lemonade. Check, please. And does that include my suite and travel expenses? Happy New Year and good luck.
Email Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons: email@example.com