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Giving success another shot

By ALICIA CALDWELL, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 16, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jon Gruden is a proven leader in the locker room, but Tuesday afternoon he tested his motivational rap on an arena full of business executives, salespeople and office workers.

Dressed in a pinstripe suit and white T-shirt, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach told the cheering audience at a daylong seminar at Tropicana Field to work hard, surround themselves with enthusiastic people, never give up and, as he told his team so often, "pound the rock."

"If it works for us," he said in a gravelly voice, "it'll work for you."

Gruden's speech, peppered with references to linebacker Derrick Brooks and this year's Super Bowl victory, might not have produced such an enthusiastic response if delivered outside the Tampa Bay area. He made few overt attempts to relate his coaching wisdom to corporate life. But fellow speakers more than made up for Gruden's inexperience at selling life lessons.

The coach's appearance was the final act of a daylong program infused with Christianity, patriotism and pumping music suitable for aerobics. Many among the roster of speakers urged the audience of about 25,000 to find their inner power -- and to sign up for more seminars and books.

The "Get Motivated" seminar is part of the comeback attempt of Tampa motivational guru Peter Lowe, whose operation tanked spectacularly last year when speakers went unpaid and event attendees claimed Lowe failed to deliver famous guests.

A ticket to Lowe's event Tuesday was billed at $225 if purchased at the door. But organizers enticed attendees to the Trop by offering an advance purchase deal of $49 for an office of up to 10 people. They came in droves, causing heavy traffic on downtown streets leading to the dome.

Though the audience responded enthusiastically at times, some said the program had the feel of an infomercial.

"I hate to pay money to get a sales pitch," said John Bryan, a St. Petersburg City Council member who was in the audience waiting to hear former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. "I'm just looking for ideas and so far I haven't heard any."

Giuliani, who remains a popular figure but has taken some criticism for making a lucrative career out of his role after the tragedy of 9/11, walked onstage at Tropicana Field to Frank Sinatra's New York, New York. Red, white and blue confetti swirled around him.

He spoke about six principles of leadership, tools he said he relied upon to deal with the terrorist attacks in New York. They are: having core beliefs and sticking to them; being an optimist; having courage; preparing relentlessly; being humble enough work as a team; and communicating well, which he called the spoken form of the previous tenets.

"You do all five of those things and communication is just speaking to people," Giuliani said. "It's not magic."

Zig Ziglar, a career motivational speaker, spent more than an hour telling people the key to success is to be a decent human being. Respect your employees, he said. Tell the truth. Don't be racist or sexist.

"Fear inhibits," he said. "Joy frees. When we do the right thing, joy is part of our life."

At the end of his presentation, Ziglar encouraged participants to buy his motivational cassettes, compact discs and books. Packages ranged from $69 to $699.

Robert Davis, 43, who owns a small pest control company in Tavares, said he had never been to a motivational seminar before and this experience surprised him. He expected a more hard-charging business approach.

"He was essentially talking about integrity," Davis said. "Honestly, if all of us were more responsible in business and personal life -- do what we say we're going to do -- it would make a huge difference. How could you take that the wrong way?"

-- Times staff writer Scott Barancik contributed to this report. Alecia Caldwell can be reached at or (727) 893-8145.

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