COLUMN: Michael Levine works in public relations yet has become a highly effective motivational speaker. Allow me to confess to being positively affected by his presentation, which is no small feat when you consider that people often describe me as cynical and sardonic (when they are not waxing poetic about my vast talent and stunning good looks).

Levine has created successful media communication campaigns for a great number of characters and companies, including Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Sandra Bullock, Michael J. Fox, Demi Moore, Nike, Ozzy Osbourne, Pizza Hut, Prince, Sharp Electronics and Barbra Streisand.

Over the years, he has observed certain commonalities among those who are successful, and he passes these points on to his audiences using what can only be called a pleasant-aggressive approach. Which is to say he is confrontational but friendly. Or at least smiling. He takes delight in challenging audience members, individually and collectively, to reassess their lives and consider making personal and professional changes.

Doing Jail Time
Usually, when a citizen spends time in the Los Angeles County Jail, it involves crime and the punishment of incarceration. In Levine’s case, he was invited by Sheriff Lee Baca to visit and talk to the prisoners. A 20-minute video entitled “Sympathy for the Devil” is the result. In it, Levine is seen speaking in rooms full of dangerous inmates. Did he alter his style of presentation in this highly-charged atmosphere? Not a bit. He attacked their prejudices and preconceptions, just as he did in a recent appearance in a Beverly Hills theater.

The Three Os
No, one of them is not “orgasm.” According to Levine, successful people charge through life with three operative themes behind their every move: obsession, optimism and obligation. Yeah, I prefer orgasm as well, but do you want to be distracted or do you want to be triumphant?

Successful people operate with focus, intensity, and what Levine says is “a burning, maniacal rage.” (Yes, he delivers this line with a disarming grin on his face.) Successful people are obsessed. Thus, they are exciting to be around, although Levine admits they are not always fun to be around. But by managing your career as if your ability to breathe depends on it, you will almost always achieve more than people who think that “good enough is good enough.”

As for optimism, he readily admits that life is not easy and not fair, yet by seeking the best possible conclusion, you are more likely to reach it. Simply put, successful people truly believe in the possibility of success, which means they greatly increase their odds of attaining it.

Now we come to obligation, the most boring-sounding of the bunch. He spoke of self-obligation, as in getting things done, insisting on quality, demanding hard work of oneself as well as others, and being more concerned with where you’ll be five years from now than where you’ll be Saturday night. Yup, it means sweat equity is behind most success stories, but the effort will seem much more fun if it is accompanied by success.

There was more from the self-confident but also self-deprecating Levine, but see one of his presentations for yourself. I have exchanged e-mails with several attendees and every one of us felt an energy boost as the result of attending the presentation (and I assure you that I NEVER thought I’d be making such a statement).

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