Amotivational speaker without any motivation is a perplexing situation.
But that’s exactly the position Colwood resident Steve Donahue found himself in when, after about 15 years on the job, travelling from corporate event to corporate event, he suddenly realized he didn’t care about what he was doing anymore.
“It was like Groundhog Day, I told the same story 1,000 times probably,” Donahue said. “One day I wake up and I realize I hate my job. A motivational speaker, and I hate my job. See a little problem there?”
This problem led to a trip half way around the world and ended with the documentary movie Take My Advice, I Can’t, which will have it’s world premier screening at the Victoria Film Festival on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 9:45 p.m. at Empire Capitol 6 (805 Yates St.).
Looking for a new direction, Donahue decided he would rather be a bestselling author. He wrote a book based on his lecture, which revolved around a trip he had made across the Sahara desert at the age of 20.
Expecting a hit, Donahue himself purchased 10,000 copies of Shifting Sands to sell. He sold 200 copies. He went bankrupt. He hit a low.
“Nothing less than a complete disaster literary-wise, in North America,” Donahue said.
Out of curiosity Donahue started calling around to see how the international copies of his book had sold. Most countries reported similar numbers. Russia: 200 copies. Turkey: 180 copies.
Then he found out his book sold 80,000 copies in South Korea and was a bestseller.
For the film Donahue visits Korea to meet his readers and try to figure out why his words touched people there when it sold so poorly everywhere else.
He said people there told him the book gave them hope, that it helped change their lives.
“They would have tears in their eyes when they would tell me what the book had meant for them and what it had done for them,” Donahue said. “I was just stunned, it’s never happened to me in the past.”
Donahue also went back to the place that started it all: the Sahara desert. At Campbell’s insistence Donahue retraced the adventurous steps he had taken as a youth.
“It’s very, very moving for me. There’s a scene in the film where I just break down,” Donahue said. “If you tell a story enough you lose the memory of the actual experience. You only remember the story you’ve told. And when I got back to the Sahara it all came back to me like it was yesterday.”
The Victoria-based director of the film, Peter Campbell, said it was Donahue himself that drew him to the project. He followed Donahue through his trips to Korea and the Sahara, and said the experience was incredible.
“I thought the idea was fabulous,” Campbell said. “I’m really happy with the show. Three years in the making and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to premier it here in our hometown.”
The experienced changed Donahue’s life. He has since written a second book specifically for Korea, entitled 6 Ways to Follow Your Compass, another bestseller. He also found a reinvigorated passion for motivational speaking and is once again giving lectures in the hopes of helping people to change their lives.
Tickets for the screening are available at victoriafilmfestival.com.