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Giavanni Ruffin loves football.

He did everything he was supposed to: went to a college with a good sports program, played ball and played it well.

Unfortunately he also made some poor personal choices which resulted in getting arrested.  He was suspended from playing for a semester, the year he hoped to get picked during the NFL draft.  It didn’t happen.

For many, this would be the end of the dream.  They would wander off, get a regular job, and reminisce about what could have been.

Ruffin, on the other hand, upped his game.

He became a free agent, and then made a video that went viral and got his name in front of millions of people, including some in the business.  At this writing, he was in talks with some professional teams.

But let’s be absolutely clear about one thing: this video is meant to help Ruffin, not you.

It’s a creative approach to get noticed in an extremely competitive sport after he had already missed his best opportunity.  In that sense, it’s brilliant.  It’s a great example of how to use unconventional methods to get hired.

The problem with this video, and so many inspirational videos like it, is that it perpetuates a lot of myths that can be downright dangerous to those who get caught up in the rah-rah moment.

After coaching hundreds of unhappy people through career change, believe me when I say: the unstated assumptions and advice in this video can lead you seriously astray.

In this post, I highlight how these motivational messages can hurt you and how to stay on track to achieving your own dreams.

How well-intentioned advice sets you up for failure

In his blog post (where I initially saw the video), Jon Acuff points out

3.5 million kids play little league football in the United States.

1,696 people play football in the NFL.

Mathematically speaking, that means that 0.048% of the kids who put on a helmet in elementary school will put on one professionally.

So what about the other 99.952% of kids who don’t make it?  Are they failures?  Or just lazy?

No one says that.  Not out loud.  And I can pretty much guarantee that’s not what Jon Acuff meant when he wrote those words (I happen to be a big fan of his work and message).

But in a society obsessed with wealth and celebrity, success for many becomes a moving target they never achieve.  The message subtly works its way into your unconscious.

Inspirational videos often encourage unsustainable standards.  There’s the unspoken message that if you’re not number one (or in that 0.048%), you’re a failure.

The worst part is, we don’t even realize it’s happening.  We get caught up in the music and the high of the moment, thinking, “Yeah, I can do that!”

Then, when the demands for attaining the goal outstrip your ability or dedication, you blame yourself.  You don’t see it for what it is–someone else’s version of success.

These videos seem motivating at best or harmless at worst.  Unfortunately, it has the potential to erode self confidence instead of build it.

An alternative: Define success for yourself

If a genie gave me a size 4 body, yeah, I’d take it.  Ditto a million dollars and a big, glass house overlooking the Thames.  But that doesn’t make it a dream I’m willing to work for.  That makes it a handout I’d gladly accept.

But it’s easy to confuse the two, isn’t it?  If I daydream about wearing smaller pant sizes enough, pretty soon I’ll start giving myself a hard time about not achieving it.  I’ll eventually start to feel like a failure for a dream that wasn’t even mine.

What I tell my clients is to ask themselves: if I don’t achieve this goal, will I feel like a failure?

For example, if Ruffin doesn’t get signed with the NFL, is he a failure?

My guess is that most people would say no.  But try to get to the bottom of why.  Is it because he tried hard?  Or is it because, regardless of where he goes next, he achieved an admirable level of mastery?

Now apply the same idea to your own career and definition of success.  Understand what motivates you and makes you proud.  Define your core values and live by them.

The good news is that success is a lot more achievable than you think.

The dangers of extreme success

Many people are convinced that being at the top of their industry is, in fact, their dream.

In the parable in the video, the guru says

When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.

It’s really easy to watch the video and believe success means dreaming bigger and sacrificing more.

If you want to see where that kind of tunnel vision can lead you, watch this video where cyclist Sky Christopherson talks about how his Olympic mindset nearly killed him when he tried to apply it to the world of business.  It’s hard to imagine someone who used to be an elite athlete almost suffering from a heart attack, but lack of sleep and high stress can take anyone down.

But it goes beyond sports.  Celebrities give up privacy and the ability to trust people’s good intentions–everyone becomes a hanger-on.  Executives often climb the corporate ladder at the expense of their families.

I once heard Penelope Trunk say, “If you don’t want their life, you don’t want their job.”

When you start to think of it that way, true success (along with happiness and fulfillment) becomes a bit more complicated than most inspirational videos would lead you to believe.

An alternative: don’t just think bigger, think different.

If I tell you that there’s more to success than money or fame, you’ll nod your head in agreement. The question remains though: what more is there?

As an example, here’s how Ralph Waldo Emerson looks at success (with a hat tip to Jonathan Fields)

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.

That doesn’t mean Emerson’s definition is better than Ruffin’s.  The point is that success is personal.  No one can or should tell you how to define or achieve it.

Staying true to your own definition, however, won’t be easy.  You’ll constantly find yourself lured back to more traditional definitions, like by inspirational videos.

Resist that urge with everything you’ve got.

Instead, seek out inspiration that encourages you to live life on your own terms.  Build up the courage and confidence so you’re not driven to impress everyone but yourself.

But most importantly, don’t ever let someone tell you that you and your efforts aren’t enough to qualify as a success.

You get to decide that for yourself.

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72 Responses to How Inspirational Videos Can Hurt You

  1. Jennifer —

    Yes! The Penelope Trunk quote nailed your premise to the wall. It’s so true, we get caught up in culture dreams.

    Recently I’ve taken to following a few minimalists — not because I wish to become a minimalist but because I’m inspired by their ability to slough off the unnecessary to embrace what is good and finest for them.

    Thank you for this balance. I find myself rooting for Ruffin and rooting for your sensibility too.

    Thank you!


    • It’s a good point, and one I should have emphasized. I’m rooting for Ruffin too. I’m just thankful I finally got to the point where I could acknowledge that the success he espouses, and that society is constantly holding up as an example, isn’t for me.

      And I agree too–I’m far from a minimalist, but I learn a lot from following them.

      • Hello Jennifer , I realize this post is 3 years old however i enjoyed this topic immensely , my view on this discussion is slightly different and i hope you find valid .

        inspirational videos,motivational speakers,stories of huge leaps of the human experience are not always meant to narrow our dreams or cause us to be sheep in a field of other sheep chasing the same dream (and thus are ineffective )

        these messages including Giavanni’s are meant to pull us out of where we are currently spending our time, and allowing us to see a new option that is specific to our dreams ( as is mentioned by so many of your readers) its the shake up ,the rattling if you will to allow us to remodel our habits.

        I see value in these as they allow us to see the greatness of who we can be.

        Often when i speak to groups and teams i tell them “THIS IS MY SUPERBOWL,THIS IS MY FINAL 4″ because living out my dream at MY highest level is success

        I realize that this is your message as well i just wanted to point out that we can “USE” these type of messages in a great way


      • On
      • August 1, 2014 at 11:25 am
      • Josh Sanders
      • Said...

      You guys are a group of idiots…. typical White America. I have been a coach for 30 plus years at the Div 1 college level and at the semi-pro level and you all have no idea what you are talking about point blank!

        • On
        • October 29, 2014 at 3:30 am
        • Judith
        • Said...

        thanks for saying that…… I get something totally different from his inspirational videos and blogs. He motivates me everyday to follow my dreams…….I would not want to be a person without glitter in my eyes, life would be boring!

  2. Jen,

    Thanks for being brave enough to call out the elephant in the room. Eloquently, as well.

    I’ve become aware for some time of a culture among many young, motivated successful bloggers. Most of them are young men hell-bent on changing the world. I call them “young warriors.”

    Sometimes, it’s obvious. Often, everything is visualized and phrased in all-out, battle language. Other times it’s more subtle, but the extreme success and mastery aspect is there.

    I say this with respect, because as with the minimalists, there is something to be learned from them. But I’ve had to develop a deeper discernment as to whether their philosophy and message really resonates with me, who is at a different stage of life and accomplishment.

    Getting caught up in the high energy of the rah-rah moment is addictive.

    But as you say, it isn’t really required for success.

    Thanks again for this brave post.

    • Thank you, Marsha. Living in La-La Land, the glitter can distract and blind me from what’s truly valuable. I applaud you and Jen (and many of her other readers) who seem to have a steel core of commitment to living truths that personally resonate. In other words, mille fois merci for reminding me to remember the wise words of the Bard:

      “This above all: To thine own self be true,
      And it must follow, as the night the day,
      Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
      Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3, 78–81

    • Thanks, Marsha. I found it wasn’t easy to voice this opinion. It almost felt like the blogger biting the hand that feeds her.

      I suppose views like this would be more prevalent in the young, because at that stage in your life, when you probably don’t have a family yet and time hasn’t started taking its toll on your body or health yet. But I don’t know if I would agree it’s a more male way of thinking. I suspect I would have said similar things at 22 (though I did join the military, so my view of the world is slightly gender skewed).

      So yeah, I agree. The video isn’t all bad, not by any means. And anyone who’s read my blog knows I’m a huge believer in hard work. But I think my audience tends to be people who are already working very hard–not just on their goals, but on enjoying the finer things in life, as one says.

      All that to say, thanks for offering your perspective as well. I’m so relieved this resonated with someone other than me!

  3. Very thought-provoking Jen. I get frustrated by the message “you can do/be anything”. To truly master something requires a tremendous amount of time, effort, discipline and sacrifice. Not to mention some luck and good timing thrown in if you are going for fame/celebrity.

    I love your comments about defining your own success and thinking differently about what success means. I decided to leave a highly paid job in hi-tech to teach sewing lessons. I have a mission: I want to excite as many people as I possibly can with a love of sewing. It is much less about the amount of money that I make, and much more about changing people’s lives. Showing them they CAN do something they thought was hard/impossible; they CAN create something unique and beautiful with their own hands; they CAN learn much about themselves in the process. My definition of success is my own!

    Thanks Jen!

    • Ah yes, the role of luck. I had that in this post at one point (when it was over 1400 words!). That’s a subject for its own post!

      I think there’s a key point in your words. There’s a difference between what you thought was hard/impossible, and what statistically IS hard/impossible. Encouraging the former is very different than pumping one up for the latter.

  4. First of all, what a great and well-timed post! I was honestly ruminating on what exactly “want” is, whether or not we should pay attention to it, and how we can use it to our benefit (if at all) late last night.

    Secondly, I think you did a fantastic job of separating “want and desire” from “drive and motivation.” In particular this line stood out for me:

    “That makes it a handout I’d gladly accept.”

    It at once separates “want and desire” from “drive and motivation” and highlights how incredibly entangled these two concepts can become in both our minds and in our wider culture and discourse. To me, it’s the strongest line of your (very strong) post.

    Personally, I think a “want” or “desire” is much like hunger. We often focus on how will we satisfy that need instead of what we will do after that need has been satisfied. Perhaps we do this because of others; perhaps we do this because we’ve become accustomed to praising drive, ambition, and hard work. Yet perhaps we do this because the alternative — asking yourself what you’ll do after that want has been satiated–is not as clear-cut. It depends upon an individual answer, not a one-size-fits-most formula. And because of it, it’s hard to compress it into a 5 minute (or 50 second) inspirational video. It’s a hard thing to sell to yourself or to anyone.

    Motivation waxes and wanes. Drive comes in fits and starts more often than a steady hum. Yet want is constant. We’re always wanting–and because of that, we’ll always take the handout any day and confuse it with our drive and motivation. However if we pay attention, we can –with the help of others–learn to distinguish the two.

    Thanks again for your fantastic insight!

    • Ditto, Andrea. I think you helped tease apart that difference between want and desire better than I did. It’s a theme I’ve struggled with since my blog began, and I think is one of the fundamental issues for overachievers. I feel like I get closer everyday to getting the right balance.

      Thanks for the kind words. Your opinion means a lot to me. :)

  5. Oh, my. I’m not even sure where to begin, so I’ll start by saying thanks for this post.

    You summed up the battle that I’ve been watching (with bewilderment) some of my peers fighting – to be the boss, the daddy, the winner. The chosen one. With the built-in assumption, implicit or explicit, that anything else is failure.

    And now, I think I understand why they suffer so much for something that seems to me so pointless. I mean, I want to be successful, but I long ago defined that as “happy, healthy and able to support my family”. I don’t think I ever appreciated before how much freedom that self-definition has given me.

    • Yes, the near universal drive to be #1, at a time when we think everyone needs medals for showing up lest they feel bad for not winning, is telling. I suspect a lot of the practices we have in modern, Western society to make people feel good is actually backfiring. This is just one of the indications, to me anyway.

      Glad I could help you appreciate your own point of view. Now that’s victory! :)

  6. I like the angle you’ve presented. Many professions have a success rate like the NFL or NHL (slightly higher, but not much). Showing up is a big part of defining personal success. What do you think?

    • Yes, absolutely. Showing up, not giving up when at first you don’t, not letting your fear make all the decisions. And I think my reluctance to talk about this has been that, at the surface, this video advocates all those things. The difference in point of view is extremely subtle, which is exactly why I think it’s so dangerous.

    • On
    • October 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm
    • Benny
    • Said...

    I’m one that really liked that video the first time I saw it.

    I hope people who sees these types of videos know that sometimes a goal they want to achieve is just physically impossible. I’m not going to be an Olympian in 4 years in the 100m dash. Nor will everyone make the NFL. It’s not the end of the world though.

    I like it cause it shows that there’s so much work behind the scenes. NFL players get paid an insane amount of money and have fame. But there’s a lot of sacrifices. Training at a high level probably has been normal for them since high school.

    But when I see videos like this what I take away from it is the work that’s involved. I look at myself and think about my goals and wonder if I’m doing enough. He’s doing that much work just to try and make the NFL and may not make it. What am I doing?

    After watching him workout, I didn’t think I was doing enough! But it doesn’t mean I’m sacrificing my health either for it. There has to be a balance. Lots of actors and actresses sacrifice so much to be rich and famous. Then when they are famous, they end up in rehab, arrested, or divorced for the tenth time. Why? It’s cause they didn’t find a balance in their goals.

    So yes I want to work hard, but I still gotta have my sleep!

    I don’t know what other people think when they watch this video, but for me I applied the lessons I got from it, and applied it to what I was doing.

    • Benny,
      I agree with you. I think what I liked about your assessment of the video is that it highlighted that there’s often a gap between what we say we want and how hard we work at it. I know for myself, sometimes I’m not working as hard as I could not because I don’t really want something, but because I’m being undermined by fear. So that’s a case where, yeah, you watch a video like this and maybe acknowledge you need to step up your game and put yourself out there.

      Your point about actors and celebrities is apt. I’m still not sure if it’s a question of balance as much as it is clarity. Why does that happen so frequently? I think it’s because this big goal that they sacrificed for and thought would make them happy/worthy/loved, didn’t. Success at the wrong thing can destroy you. So maybe it’s actually fortunate that most of us don’t work that hard to make it happen?

      I’d love to hear what more you decided to do after watching the video, and how the video brought you to that conclusion.

      Thanks for speaking up, Benny. You know I’m a fan!

  7. Love it Jen. I notice on Twitter you mentioned it took you a few weeks to figure out why the video bothered you so much. It’s that patience and reflection that give depth and insights such as you’ve delivered here. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make patience and reflection go viral?

    • I love, love, LOVE the idea of making patience and reflection go viral. I’m gonna tweet that right now. Brilliant.

  8. Thank you, Jen, for pointing us toward the still Walden Pond space where we can hear the whispers from our heart of what’s truly important.

    • On
    • October 9, 2012 at 10:32 pm
    • Jeanette
    • Said...

    Sorry this is so long…it struck a chord with me.
    I wholehearted agree with your response to the video voiceover Jen. Thanks for posting. I have nothing against someone training hard to achieve a dream. But I don’t agree with the whole message expressed in the video.

    I know how it feels to push so hard that you lose track of time and forget to eat and don’t slow down enough to sleep. In my opinion, this is a recipe for health problems. One can not tolerate this approach for too long without paying a price. No dream is worth that. Without our health what do we have?

    Dedication, commitment and focus are important in life for sure…as is believing in yourself and developing necessary skills for improved performance and success. However,  if you have to neglect or harm your mind, body, heart or spirit to achieve a dream, something has gone awry…and to me this is not true fulfillment.

    I’ve been a work addict so I know all about driving and pushing oneself. In the past, when I engaged in life this way, it was because I felt flawed inside and didn’t think I was good enough just being myself. I pushed for a perfect performance so that I would feel admired, accepted, praised and so that I could impress others. Problem was that my happiness was dependent on others approval of me. And it was fleeting since it wasn’t internalized. During the times that I didn’t get the accolades that I craved, I would be devastated for awhile and feel depressed. Then I’d resign myself to push harder the next time. Major yo-yo life with an endless cycle of self abuse. 

    I’ve learned to become suspect to my inner motivations when I feel the urge to work through the night or ignore my hunger pangs. We can create a gradually expanding success in life in all the areas that are important to us without doing damage to ourselves and our loved ones along the way. There is nothing like a good night of sound sleep and enjoyable, healthy playtime with friends and family! ♥

    • Yeah, I speak to this affliction from experience myself. Sometimes, our voices get lost in the noise of the rah-rah. Glad we could connect and help each other feel understood and okay.

    • On
    • October 10, 2012 at 1:50 am
    • Carmelo
    • Said...

    Jen … this is so great. Why do we tend to resist this common sense advice? We instinctively know this to be true yet we idolize people who have “conquered the world” and we want to be them!

    Well, society, hollywood, and gurus themselves foist this upon us. There’s failure and then there are the world beaters. There’s no “second place” there’s no middle ground. No? ha! If that’s they case, like you say, only 0.048% of us can be happy! Hogwash.

    Fortunately, I went through the exact same scenarios with my son, a basketball player where the odds are even worse.

    But, that’s the society we live in that only recognizes the best of the best and the top 0.048% And it makes the rest of us miserable or even self destructive.

    And it also turns us into Guru Addicts: following experts at the expense of our own truth, power, and knowledge. and all that results in is more followers. Pity.

    • Good point about guru addicts. I think it’s also what makes career changers uncomfortable and scared to change. They worry they have to be gurus before anyone will hire them/follow them. And to some degree I suppose, that fear is grounded. But I also like to think that those aren’t the people you want to work for/serve any way. :)

  9. Pingback: Why The Source Inspiration Doesn't Matter

    • On
    • August 20, 2013 at 1:01 am
    • Max Thorunn
    • Said...

    The video isn’t meant to be taken literally. You don’t literally have to get to the point of “not breathing.” The point is to believe in something and not let the naysayers get in your way. That .048%, yeah it’s small, but that’s the point, otherwise it wouldn’t be the NFL. The video is telling you that if you want to be that .048%, you can’t let anything stop you. It’s about overcoming, and if you see failure along the way, you brush it off and keep going. But the point you miss is this – even if you don’t make it, you can look back and realize that you did everything that you could to get there, you didn’t make excuses, and in that fact alone you have achieved success. While you touch on that in the last paragraph, you overlook the fact that most everybody, that 99.952%, doesn’t go the extra mile to get what they want.

    • Max
      I agree that there’s a lot to be gained in putting your full effort behind a dream. I don’t dispute that at all. But I do think this continues to pedestalize (if that’s a word) extreme achievement. It makes people feel bad if they aren’t aiming for that 0.048%, and frankly, I don’t believe most people want the life and the sacrifices that come with shooting that high. In fact, I’d argue many don’t even want the life of the 0.048% once it’s obtained. That level of accomplishment requires an intense and exclusive focus. There’s very little time for relationships, for hobbies, for travel–many of the things that have proven to increase our levels of happiness.

      Our culture is obsessed with traditional success, and I believe it’s harmful–psychologically, emotionally, and physically. Are there many who don’t work very hard? I’m sure that’s so. I keep hearing about the 5 hours a day people spending watching TV or playing video games, so I know they are out there! But this blog is primarily for high achievers. What I see is people working very long hours, to earn money and prestige for a lifestyle they don’t completely want, because deep down they don’t feel good enough. Because they are scared they won’t be valued without those high level achievements. Consider this passage from the book, “The Price of Priviledge” (a book I highly recommend):

      “America’s newly identified at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, well-educated families. In spite of their economic and social advantages, they experience among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, and unhappiness of any group of children in this country.”

      What’s the cause of this surprising epidemic? We are overly concerned with “the bottom line,” with how our children “do” rather than with who our children “are.”

      You are not your achievements. Your level of success is not your achievements. That’s the message I think people need to hear but aren’t, in part because of videos like this.

    • On
    • September 6, 2013 at 11:39 am
    • Jerry Can
    • Said...

    Hate Penelope Trunk. Talk about unbalanced.

    Also, you may have a point about whom Ruffin’s video is intended to help, but is not this article intended to do the same thing?

    • This article is intended to inspire, but the fundamental message is different. I believe success is personal. The life that makes me feel rich and successful may not be the same life for you.

    • On
    • November 7, 2013 at 1:40 am
    • Ryan
    • Said...

    This article is ridiculous, i think that you are one of the people who were not willing to work hard to get what you want, so you are now way to old to achieve you goal and which leads you to write a stupid article like this basically telling people to not try and achieve there goals, obviously only the top 1% or less make it but those top 1% are the ones who put in the hard work and never stopped until they attained what they wanted

    I am disgusted and you should be ashamed of yourself

    • On
    • November 7, 2013 at 1:44 am
    • Joe
    • Said...

    Jenn you are not a believer who is now old and only wrote this article because you never got to achieve your dreams
    This annoys me
    The video is inspirational as it makes people believe in there dreams, if you do not believe you will never achieve your goals


    • On
    • November 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm
    • Jackson
    • Said...

    I am disgusted by this article. ALL of you people putting down these videos. Just go have a damn circle jerk. You are the most pessimistic people I’ve ever met. So what if a lot of these kids never make it to the pros. These videos can still inspire kids and adults to set other girls. You all are ridiculous.

    • On
    • November 18, 2013 at 10:47 am
    • James
    • Said...

    Yea, totally agree with what Ryan and Joe said. I believe that people should try their best. Even if they do not reach their intended goals at the end of their lives, at least they looked back and said they have done their best. More people are slacking than working hard, so the video actually benefits society and tell kids to stop lazing around.

    • On
    • December 5, 2013 at 7:20 am
    • Chris
    • Said...

    Hi Ms. Gresham

    Thank you for your perspective on this video. After watching it, my response was quite different. However, I am very happy to hear a different point of view…especially if it makes me think.

    After viewing the video, I felt it was a good motivation for many. I did not take it literally and think about making the NFL or achieving exclusive success. Instead it made me think am I doing all to reach my full potential.

    Hopefully this young man is attempting to do just that. The individuals I work with are not in danger of working too hard or failing to sleep. They are more likely to not dream at all, or fail to see their own self worth. I doubt this video will change their success trajectory, but with other interventions and encouragement perhaps it can provide some short-term value.

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the response. I agree, there are many for whom motivation seems to be lacking. The lack of motivation we see in underachievers often comes from a sense of hopelessness or learned helplessness. I’m not convinced this is the healthiest way to get them past that though. I’m not averse to people trying to change their life trajectory–far from it. I just don’t think it’s helpful to wrap your self-worth up in the outcome. Pursue what you love, but enjoy the process. If you don’t make a goal, the problem isn’t necessarily that you didn’t try hard enough or you didn’t want success badly enough. Some things just don’t work out. I certainly admire what Ruffin is trying to do, whether or not he makes the NFL.

    • On
    • December 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm
    • Ignatius
    • Said...

    This should be changed to How Inspirational Videos create a hater

    • On
    • January 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm
    • Jared
    • Said...

    All I see on here that people bashing on this guy is old people that didn’t have enough motivation to try and live there dream and have no faith in anything , this guy has helped so many kids and I might sense alittle bit of jealousy of someone bettering them self everyday while you sit at a desk and have nothing better to do then try and make it seemed like cashing your dream and working hard doesn’t exist , if people listened to you there wouldn’t be any sports at all let alone people working hard to be successful , this is nothing but a jealousy made article by someone who has no idea what there talking about and has no idea what hard work is because they probably were just handed everything that they have now

    • On
    • February 3, 2014 at 9:44 pm
    • John
    • Said...

    wtf giavanni ruffin is a motovator. I play rugby and I got asked to come out for a tryout with the ontario provential team and I got cut at the last second. I was heart broken but then I found out about the video and I watched it over and over again and I decided I wouldn’t let that one moment hold me back from my dream so I worked as hard as I could and the next season I got asked to tryout again. And in that tryout I just kept asking my self how bad do you want it?. And I made the team as a starter. You are wrong because this video is what made me to be the person I am today.

    • On
    • February 4, 2014 at 10:10 am
    • Ponderthis1
    • Said...

    Just Maybe…
    The 1696 people who made it in the NFL or the One in the World who wins that Gold Medal…use a video and it’s content like this as the necessary mind food needed to reinforce That

    • On
    • February 11, 2014 at 9:26 am
    • Richard
    • Said...

    Boy!! This some real trash goin on up in here!

    • On
    • February 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm
    • Truth
    • Said...

    Googled Giavanni Ruffin and it led me here.
    One of the most profound reflections I’ve known.
    Thanks for lighting up here and reminding me the truth of human success.

    • On
    • March 11, 2014 at 6:18 am
    • Alanna
    • Said...

    Get your life together. You don’t make unattainable goals. You find something you can do…even if it’s “farfetched” and you strive. Eric Thomas makes videos all over youtube with just himself and other stories like Giovanni. The people who didn’t make it to the NFL honestly simply were the ones he is not talking to. The people who give up. Maybe if some of those same kids who gave up had heard the message some would be there right now.

    • On
    • March 12, 2014 at 1:53 am
    • Tyler
    • Said...


    This blog is absolute garbage and quite honestly what I see wrong with society today. You are basically sayin it is okay to be sub par, much like those participation trophies they give to children these days so “everyone wins.” You have completely missed every idea and core value of this message. The values are hard work, dedication, commitment, motivation, determination, and dreams. You have pretty much taken a pure strong message of get off your butt and go get it and twisted it to your own crap words of “oh you tried? You didnt get it? That’s ok. You should still be happy!” What?! Life is hard, it doesn’t hand out participation medals when you drop out of school cause you can’t get the grades or you lose your job for poor performance. And I suppose my main beef with this is due to the fact this message has changed thousands of lives, including my own, for the better. Making me stronger, more determined, more motivated, more passionate than my oppents in my sport, than the nursing tests that I have to take, than the financial struggles that I face. These ideas and values have made me successful. Not your fake world ideas of “oh it is okay to be sub par.” And by the way you can be whatever you want, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You want a dream, go get it. Don’t you ever tell a child your views, you will infuse them with weakness and that is not okay.

    Over and out.

    The guy that never gave up even when it wasn’t enough,
    Former 2x world champion kickboxer,

    • On
    • March 16, 2014 at 4:55 pm
    • danny
    • Said...

    How much do you want to bet that someone read this and lost motivation? Who says you can’t do something? If you put in the work someone else isn’t willing to, then why can’t you make it? You are basically saying its bad to dream big, just stick to being mediocre. You make it seem as if someone should just give up to begin with, as in whats the point in this. You just ruined someone’s dreams i can guarantee you that much.

    • On
    • March 22, 2014 at 2:48 pm
    • joe
    • Said...

    This article blatantly says that a youth student or player cannot dream too big and cannot do whatever they set their mind to. Great messages to send to the future leaders of our world.

    • On
    • April 18, 2014 at 11:52 pm
    • Ryan
    • Said...

    Don’t be a dream killer.

    • On
    • May 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm
    • jon
    • Said...

    everything you said was on point, but i like to think it gives kids like me hope, hope to be something more then what the average people, which in motivation videos like eric thomas he doesnt do it to get discovered he did it to give 13-18 year olds hope to not be average, some people are alergic to average all eric thomas is trying to do is get us to be up to our best ability. which i think helps us that believe in making your own destiny. to make it the best destiny anyone has ever seen. you have to work hard to be sucsessful no one will be sucsessful without hard work! and those videos help me believe that i can work just like them the ones everyone looks up to.

    • On
    • May 16, 2014 at 12:08 pm
    • jon
    • Said...

    i bet your one of the people that missed their oppertunity to successed in life

    • On
    • July 20, 2014 at 11:51 am
    • Stop
    • Said...

    This is an amazing video. Just because you failed, doesn’t give you the right to say this is dangerous to people. Its dangerous for quitters like you

    • On
    • July 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm
    • Grant
    • Said...

    You know, you are weak. You need to realize these videos, these speeches, these words can transform someones life. There is nothing admirable about accepting being average. I believe anyone out there that takes this to heart can accomplish their dreams. Being average, keeps things the same, choosing to be above average changes the world.

    • On
    • August 4, 2014 at 10:07 am
    • John Cortez
    • Said...

    The writer of this is a women and easily shows why women aren’t as successful as men.This is exactly why you won’t be remembered as great.You are a failure in the sense that you didn’t make you’re dream a reality and are trying to destroy others dreams.It is a difficult path to take but if one makes it then it was all worth the sacrifice in the end.

    • On
    • August 14, 2014 at 11:33 pm
    • Danny
    • Said...

    If you are satisfied in where you are that is fine by me, but when you say these videos are hurtful to someone rather than helpful you have another thing coming. You have become complacent. That is the worst thing possible. Stating someone should not work to there full potential, is ludicrous. If someone is going to do anything in there power to get what they want, leave them be. Whether they sleep only 5 hours a night or 12, it is not up to you to determine how hard they should work, what they should do, or how they should do it. You should be proud but never satisfied that is how i see it. This article angered me in how a kid or teen may have read this and now believes that his dream is completely useless. so thanks for your contributions to society Jennifer…

    • On
    • September 1, 2014 at 9:16 am
    • Jay
    • Said...

    What a ridiculous rant. People are suppose to have big dreams. Peopele are supposed to push themselves to be greater than they thought possible. So you would take a million dollar house or a size 4 body but you would dedicate your time and effort to it? So thats not a vision for you, great, but why try to treat it as those goals are a waste of time. The pursuit of those things may be someones joy.
    I understand the message of not tearing yourself down and beating yourself up too much but not to the extreme of it is ok to accept failure. When you come up short and you evaluate the situation, if in your heart you know you gave it your best shot, you put in the work, you put in the effort….then you can take pride in what you’ve done. But if you havent the youb need to take some personal responsibility and decide what isbimportant in your life and what you are willing to do next time.
    Just because the odds of something are daunting doesnt mean you dont go after it if you want it. You just have to he smart. 1000s of college players never play in the NFL but that is no excuss to not have a degree that you can use when you finish. So go after your dreams but have options and be smart.
    The attitude of this blog is why we have millions of undeserving people on wellfare and hand outs. Hey its to hard to get a job, “its ok the odds of getting x job is .04% so its ok to let the govt take care of you” Ridiculous. Get off your ass and make and chase a dream. Maybe your dream is to be a great mom or dad, or be coach, or mentor. Maybe you enjoy writing or painting, the odds of being famous in either fields is daunting but if it is what drives you then never let stupid people pull you down. They dont just give out success butbyou can earn it!!!

    • On
    • September 3, 2014 at 1:20 am
    • Liam
    • Said...

    Will all due respect Jennifer if every individual went through life with the pessimistic mindset that they will never be ‘successful’ how would any being of humanity progress? With every task you initiate in life is it not set out with an end goal? Every decision in life has a consequence as a result of its action. If man strived for nothing he would progress to nothing and as a result be just another number in the system. While I do believe that due to an ever growing population it is increasingly hard to become noticed, I know that each day I strive for my dream I am closer then I was the day before am I not? Every task requires a goal; from washing the dishes the goal is to make them clean, for working extra hours you are increasing the amount of free time for later. Every facet of life involves a common goal and if individuals become undriven to reach their desired goal then what would man have to live for?

    • On
    • September 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm
    • Sean
    • Said...

    I think it’s worth noting that at the end of the video he says that when no one has to pay you a dime to do what you do, then you are truly successful, which I think is a good message and what people really should take away from the speech.

    • On
    • November 26, 2014 at 6:28 am
    • John H.
    • Said...

    I should’ve known a woman wrote this article.

    • On
    • November 26, 2014 at 7:36 pm
    • Will
    • Said...

    Just follow your dreams, because if not, you will ended up here writing nonsense blogs about how other people works harder than you to achieve what they really want.

    • On
    • December 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm
    • Zachary
    • Said...

    I understand everyone’s claim. However, I believe, you have to try harder to find the negative in this motivational message, that to find the good. I am a 29 year old high school teacher and coach. I fist saw one of Mr. Ruffin’s videos when it was showed to a group of students. The core message stuck out to me, so I later watched the video again, at home. I have a goal to reach. It is not try to make it pro at the age 29, but I wanted to change my body image and regain some of the athleticism I had in college.

    I purchased one of his 3 dollar wrist bands so I would have a daily reminder to, “Don’t say it, live it” and “take no days off.” Since then, I have excised out regularly and I am feeling so much better. I miss days of full work-outs, and that is okay with me. I can always do something, no matter how small or brief, as long as I move forward.

    We all know you don’t have to be a professional athlete to be successful. My third string guards (I coach basketball) are expected to give 100%. Everyone was not given the same measure of talent. However, everyone has the ability to give something 100%. So with that in mind, everyone can be successful.

  10. Not everyone’s going to make it. It’s impossible. Suck it up. The point is not that everyone who works hard makes it. The point is that everyone who doesn’t work hard fails to achieve greatness. You may never play in the NFL. It takes more than hard work, dedication and talent. Ask those terrific athletes with NFL level talent and drive who’ve had injury derail their careers.

    For those of you who’ve failed to grasp it: the video isn’t all about sports. It’s about reaching for greatness and success in any quest, and what it takes to summit the mountain. Persist. Look at successful business owners who’ve failed, yet learned from failure, bounced back, and succeeded later.

    In today’s instant gratification society, far too many individuals have lost sight of what success requires and how long it may take to get there.

    • On
    • January 2, 2015 at 1:52 am
    • Antonio
    • Said...

    I like motivational videos and the positive message they have. You’re right, that only 0,048% can play in the NFL and you have to look at the bigger picture (after a holistic consideration you can decide). But next to that example, it can help in daily life. Not only at your job, but also in your private life it’s necessary to work on yourself – in my opinion. With a little more effort you can improve step by step. I don’t speak about earning a billion dollars, becoming a CEO, etc. but little goals, e.g. learning the basics of a new language, trying a new sport. I also agree, that such extreme examples, like in this video, can lead to negative consequences, but in the end it’s everybodys personal choice. I guess, they than need to learn a lesson out of this (fame isn’t everything, losing friends because of all the training, …)

    • On
    • January 5, 2015 at 2:26 pm
    • Will
    • Said...

    You actually think this guy put this video together to get noticed for the NFL? If only it was that simple. Trust me, no one involved in this video had hat intent. It just doesn’t work like that.

    • On
    • January 11, 2015 at 3:14 pm
    • Luke
    • Said...

    Greatness does not always equate to fame and fortune. Those who work hard are succesful wether the world knows their name or not. Look at some of the great martial practioners in the world. Only if you train or follow said arts would you know their name. If you dedicate your self to what you want to acheive and strive hard to acheive it, leaving no stone unturned then this will be your legacy. It isnt about how much money you take with you when your gone, its not about what the public say about you when your gone, it is about how the people close to you feel when they remember your life and what you did.

    • On
    • January 15, 2015 at 7:15 am
    • bmalisius
    • Said...

    “There’s no guarantee that because somebody Is knocked down on their luck they can never come back. Who can guarantee that you can’t make it, that you can’t have your dream? Who can guarantee that you can’t do what you want to do? No one can do that. No one can predict that.” -Les Brown

    • On
    • February 2, 2015 at 3:10 am
    • Tarran Kent-Hume
    • Said...

    Hi Jen,

    Thanks for this post as it does help to have a reality check and make you pause and reflect on what and why we do what we do.
    There is a realty that most people are average by definition yet much of this comes from simply a lack of courage and more often than not fear of the what’s and if’s. This clip and many others like it help others and me included in understanding that there are other out there who are able to not listen to those negative influences from friends or work colleagues or most main stream media who want them to remain the same and with there group because of what it says about them mostly. But following your dream or vision is a bloody tough thing to do and whilst it’s good to read something like this as it affords balance to your mindset I believe we are inundated with so much negativity that this is in actual fact the balancing part. Thanks for sharing as it’s thought provoking!

    Cheers – Tarran

    • On
    • April 16, 2015 at 1:12 pm
    • william
    • Said...

    what a negative post on something amazing :(

    • On
    • April 19, 2015 at 9:47 am
    • Unknown
    • Said...

    I find this article to have a slight pessimistic undertone. I understand the intended message, but the overall theme seems to be “only set your sights on achievable goals”. If many great innovators, businessman, politicians/leaders, etc…shared in this same philosophy, we would not have near the advancements in technology, economics, civil rights/racial relations, etc…that we do today.

    I subscribe to the ideology that failure is a part of success and while we may not obtain our initial vision, if we set our sights on the “perceived unattainable”, at the very least we’ll still achieve things far greater than had we only set “reachable” goals. The real message in the video is that with self belief, sacrifice, discipline, intelligent action, hardwork and dedication, you can achieve success. And I think that’s a very positive and powerful message that should be celebrated, not cautioned.

    Yes, we might fall short of that big dream, but failure is just a checkpoint on the roadway to success. In the same way we mature from adolescent to adults, we mature in our professional lives as well and we constantly redefine success. Although Bill Gates has reached the pinnacle of what most would consider success, I’m certain his ambition and definition of success has changed from when he initially embarked on his journey of “the unattainable”. In essence, I’m saying I feel it’s 100% ok and even necessary to shoot for huge goals and to draw strength, inspiration and motivation from other people/sources for as Steve Jobs famously said, “the people crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that actually do…”. Again, I understand your intent, but I respectfully disagree with your message.

    • On
    • May 6, 2015 at 8:21 am
    • Matthew
    • Said...

    This video is inspiring but isn’t about just NFL players reaching their dreams. It applies to prepping for the job interview, studying for the MCAT, putting in long hours for whatever you love.

    Also, because the messed up the statistics, everyone keeps saying .048% chance. That’s amazing chances! BUT, unfortunately the math is wrong. Let’s say 3 million kids grew up playing football and 1700 were in the NFL like you quoted at the top of this post.

    That turns out to be 0.00056% chance. Be sure to critically read something before spreading it.


    • On
    • June 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm
    • Marcus
    • Said...

    This is seriously flawed and jaded logic.

    Of the 3.5m little league kids, how many are still playing by the time they get to high school? Did they devote their lives to achieving that goal, but ended up failing? Unlikely. A better metric would be the # of players that play at an elite collegiate level, i.e., Division I NCAA, and possibly only those at powerhouse programs, as those are the primary contenders for NFL spots. Its highly unlikely that the wide receiver at Princeton is vying for a spot in the NFL. Using those more appropriate metrics, the success rate is likely not even close to 0.0048%. I’m sure its still pretty slim, but just pointing out that the author references a statistic that is very clearly biased and used to support a not very strong point.

    What’s more, is that your proposing that all of the people that don’t arrive at a certain destination had devoted their lives obsessively to getting there, but fell short. In my opinion, the people that devote their lives obsessively to achieving something, usually end up doing so. And motivational videos aren’t the danger, its the jaded people along the way trying to convince those striving to reach their goals to give it up and join them in the land of those that settle for mediocrity.

    “I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”
    ― John D. Rockefeller

    • On
    • July 8, 2015 at 7:07 am
    • d
    • Said...

    this has got to be a joke. but jealosy of a work ethic or sad you didnt reach your own dreams is obvious in this article. get up and do something with life instead of writing about someone else

    • On
    • August 14, 2015 at 12:41 pm
    • Santos
    • Said...

    Although this post is several years old, I feel compelled to reply anyway. Although I probably agree with your main conclusion, I hate how you unfairly twist & attack inspirational videos like the ones of Giavanni Ruffin or Eric Thomas (the guru).

    You say: “There’s the unspoken message that if you’re not number one (or in that 0.048%), you’re a failure.
    If I daydream about wearing smaller pant sizes enough, pretty soon I’ll start giving myself a hard time about not achieving it.”

    However, that unspoken message only exists in your mind. To illustrate: I watched the same videos and this thought has never even occured to me.
    Similarly, that you start giving yourself a hard time about not achieving your goals, is your own choice. These are youw own weird interpretations of those inspirational messages.

    Please don’t blame your own neurotic behaviour on what other people are saying, just to generate more clicks on your website. My opinion is that a better title for your article would have been: “how your own thoughts can hurt you”