Two of my peers and I spent the whole Wednesday at a Power Within, which was stopping by in Toronto.

I have, we could say, a __skeptic’s__ view of self-help literature, so I must admit I entered the convention centre with no particular expectations. In the end, I did enjoy the outing very much. Being able to dissect and examine the various presentation styles was worth it alone.

*Jessie Holmes* (A+ for being funny) – Our MC for the day, she started the day right with a Celine Dion impersonation (“I still love Canada, I only moved as far away as possible!”). Even sang “Love Can Move Mountains”.

*Les Brown* (A+ for delivery): The only true honest-to-God-I-make-a-living motivational speaker, Brown hit the floor running with a loud, boisterous voice, witty dialogue and interesting personal stories, mixed in with the fervour and fire of a Sunday preacher. It really wasn’t what he said – ambiguous advice and pleasantries – but how he said it. Choice quotes:

“Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality!”

“If you’re the smartest person in your group, you gotta get a better group! If you’re hanging out with nine broke men, you’re gonna be the tenth!”

*Tim Sanders* (B) – Yahoo! alumni who was here to promote his latest book, The L Factor. No, not that L; this L stands for likeability. The basic lowdown is to not treat your peers and subordinates like dirt.

*John Wood* (A, because deeds speak) – Microsoft alumni who told his tale of forming __Room to Read__, a charity that sets up libraries, schools, and female scholarships in developing nations. Oh yeah, he has a book to: Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. He got the most applause because of his actions rather than his gift of gab. He made three interesting points:

* In most places, there is no public education system, and families usually can only afford to send one of their kids to school. Wood is convinced is that this pragmatic economic response is how sexual inequality begins; the eldest son is typically the lucky child, and how can a boy not form a prejudice as he watches the girls work the fields from his classroom?
* He runs his charity like a business: donors are treated as investors and as such are given detailed monthly reports on where their money went.
* The first thing most charities buy with your money are $75,000 Land Rovers. __Room to Read__ hires local motorcyclists to transport people and material, saving money and contributing to the local economy as a result.

*Belinda Stronach, MPP* (D for being somewhat presentable) – Nervous, peered at her pages, and picked at the podium with her right hand. Good thing the podium was glass or she would have been holding a chunk of laminated particleboard by the end. Told of the two most difficult decisions of her life: leaving Magna to run for political office, and defecting to the Liberal Party. But I think the audience found it difficult to be sympathetic to this millionaire heiress.

*Michael Eisner* (B for showing a clip of Who Framed Roger Rabbit) – His credo is to obsess over details (he confusingly dubs this “micromanagement”). As evidence, he showed the opening scene of the Lion King, with a vocal soundtrack that seamlessly transitioned from English to Zulu to Korean thanks to Disney’s scrutiny in finding near-identical voices for each of the film’s localization. Unfortunately, that was it.

*Sir Richard Branson* (U for Ummmm…) – The highnote of the show turned out to be the downer. He couldn’t say three words without ummming and errrring. He’s obviously a smart man however. Some of us suspected he’s had too much Bollinger’s, or Nyquil, or both.

So do I feel the power within? Sort of. I’d like to close off this lengthy entry with Frank Tibolt’s words: “Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”

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