Merriam Webster defines motivation as “the act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something” or “a force or influence that causes someone to act.” In psychological terms it is defined as “the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behavior.” It is what causes us to act and behave in ways that help us reach our goals. This involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior.
But why do we need motivation? Why do we need someone to spark our fire to chase our goals and dreams? Shouldn’t we just innately want those things? Sure, but it is easy to get bogged down in the day to day humdrums of life. And there can be other factors that are out of our control that cause us to lose sight of our aspirations. Maybe you can’t find the job you want. Maybe you can’t find a job at all. It might be that you are having family problems or things aren’t going well in your personal life. In times like these, sometimes all it takes is a small act to get us back on track, but when you are already down in the dumps, it can be hard to find that spark within.
That’s where motivational speakers can play a huge role in helping everyone reach their goals. A motivational speaker is someone who makes speeches that are intended to motivate and inspire their audience. They use their passion and own determination to help others find their own motivation. We’ve rounded up some of the absolute best motivational speakers that everyone should listen to at least once to help them become even more motivated to reach their goals.
Leslie Calvin Brown was born in 1945, alongside twin brother Wesley, in an abandoned building in a low income section of Miami, Florida. He was later put up for adoption and found a permanent home with 38-year-old single women, Mamie Brown. As quoted in one of his speeches, he was declared “educable mentally retarded” in school when he was young. With the help of his mother and one of his high school teachers, Brown worked hard to get past this. And get past it he did. Today, he is one of the most famous and renowned motivational speakers on the planet. In additional to being a motivational speaker, he might be best known for his political career as a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives. He is also a popular business resource that has counseled people from Fortune 500 companies. But his motivational speaking is where he really stands out. His speeches focus on how important it is that you believe in yourself. “Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.” He also speaks on how people don’t set the bar high enough for themselves and how important it is to dream big. “Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.” This real life story of someone achieving so much when it seemed impossible for him to do so has gained him a passionate and loyal fan following.
Eric Thomas is another world-renowned speaker that is extremely passionate and inspirational. Thomas had a rough childhood growing up in Detroit. Never having a relationship with his father growing up, he was raised by his mother until the age of 16. After an argument with her and his stepfather, he dropped out of school and lived homeless on the streets for two years. He was persuaded by a preacher to go back to school. He started going to church, where he met his wife, who also encouraged a college education. It took him 12 years to obtain his undergraduate degree. Now he is a published author, speaker, pastor, and Audie Award Finalist. While he owes some of his success to his YouTube promotion, most of it comes from the passion that he puts into every speech. You can see and feel it every time he steps up to the microphone. He has been nicknamed the Hip Hop Preacher, and has been known to be extremely blunt. “When you want to be successful as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”
Nick Vujicic was born in Melbourne, Australia, with Tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs. As you can imagine, not having any arms or legs has caused him to struggle mentally, emotionally, and physically. Many people faced with this disorder would give up and not work to truly push their abilities, but not Nick. He has overcome his struggles and even started a non-profit organization, Life Without Limbs, at a young age. After graduating from college, Nick became a motivational speaker and, in 2005, he was nominated for the Young Australian of the Year Award. Since then he has spoken to over 3 million in over 60 countries. His speeches teach the importance of determination, never giving up, and self-worth. “It’s a lie to think you’re not good enough. It’s a lie to think you’re not worth anything.” He lives his life with joy, and it is shown every time you see him. He is funny, with a good sense of humor, even poking fun of himself and telling jokes in his speeches. Quitting is not in his vocabulary, and he believes nothing is impossible. He tells us that he even keeps a pair of shoes in his closet, because he believes in miracles. He also stresses the importance of focusing on what you can change in life, instead of what is out of your control. “The challenges in our lives are there to strengthen our convictions. They are not there to run over us.”
Zig Ziglar was born in Alabama as one of 12 children. When he was just five years old, his father died of a stroke and, unfortunately, his sister passed away just two days later. He attended the University of South Carolina and was part of the V-12 Navy College Training Program before serving in the United States Navy during World War II. After serving in the Navy, he worked as a salesman in multiple companies before working his way up to Vice President for an automotive performance company. He began speaking at seminars, and then wrote his first book, “See You at the Top.” Over the course of his career, he traveled over 5 million miles across the world speaking about life improvement and how to cultivate the energy of change. “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” In addition to being an incredible motivational speaker, he was also a talented author, in which his legacy lives. Ten of his 28 books have been on various bestsellers lists, and he has been translated into more than 38 different languages. He died from pneumonia in 2012. “You are the only person on Earth who can use your ability. It’s an awesome responsibility.”
John, or Jim, Rohn was a very successful and influential motivational speaker and author. His rags to riches story was one that helped people connect to him and his personal development message. He started out his career being a salesman, but, after being mentored by some of the company’s founders, he built one of the largest organizations in the company. He went on to become Vice President before the company went out of business in the early 1960s. He was then invited to speak at his Rotary club, and he then started speaking more and more all over the country. He spoke of his own personal story and on his personal development philosophy. “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” In addition, he also mentored several other influential speakers and authors, such as Mark Hughes, Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield, of the Chicken Soup book series.
Tony Robbins has been regarded by millions as one of the greatest motivational speakers of all time. Robbins grew up in poverty and left what he describes as an abusive and chaotic home at the age of seventeen. While many motivational speakers are mostly fluff, Robbins understands the psychology of success. He starts his speeches with basics; what you want to accomplish and why that is important to you. Then he goes into details on his personal beliefs and techniques, and concepts of how you can accomplish them. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” While Robbins doesn’t like being tagged as a motivator, because he believes he is much more than that, he has grown into one of the most well-known motivational speakers in the world. He has been honored many times, including being named one of the Top 200 Business Gurus by the Harvard Business Prep and as one of the Top 6 Business Leaders in the World by American Express. “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a famous bodybuilder, actor, model, director, producer, businessman, investor, and politician. He was born in Austria, where he served in the army at the age of 18. At that time it was mandatory for all 18 year old males. However, while serving, he would find the time during training and drills to fit in his own workouts. Also, while in the army, he snuck out of the camp he was in, and competed in and won the Junior Mr. Europe contest. Due to his bodybuilding, his fame and popularity skyrocketed. He went on to the film world, becoming one of the most well-known actors of his time. “For me, life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.” But he didn’t just stop there. In every field that he has ventured into, he has applied his beliefs and principles, and has achieved more success than most can even dream of, including becoming the Governor of California. His success can be traced back to his determination and belief in himself, which he has instilled in many people through his speeches. He inspires people to be different and unique, and to live out their full potential. “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
Dr. Wayne Dyer is not only an influential motivational speaker, but also a highly successful author. He was born into poverty and worked endlessly to overcome this to live his dream. “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. What has to be done, it’s always your choice.” He started out his career as a high school guidance counselor in Detroit before becoming the professor of counselor education at St. John’s University in New York City. At the core of his speeches, his motivational philosophy centers around the idea of self-actualization. His positive thinking and motivational techniques attracted many types of people and huge attention. He also focused a lot of his time on helping people get rid of guilt trips, which he referred to as an unhealthy immobilization in the present due to past mistakes that can cripple the personal development of people. “When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”