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Motivator's Message for the $8,000 or $40 Audience: Believe It's Possible

December 29, 1985|LIZ McGUINNESS

Lou Tice remembers the old days teaching psychology and mental health and coaching football teams at Seattle's Highline and Kennedy high schools. That was his life for 13 years, beginning in 1959, when schoolteacher salaries, he recalled, started at around $8,000 a year.

Lou Tice still lives in Seattle, and is still a teacher, of sorts. But those $8,000-a-year days are long gone. Now it's more like $8,000 per appearance when he confronts a "class."

In fact, said Tice on a recent Sunday afternoon visit to Orange County, he would be making that amount the very next day--for just 40 minutes of formal presentation--when he was to address a group in Chicago. Besides that, he would be whisked away to Chicago on a private plane provided for his convenience.

"It's a long way from being a schoolteacher," admitted Tice, smiling only mildly at his own small jest, which wasn't really meant to be funny.

A Serious Man

Tice, a seemingly unassuming man--the kind who leans forward, looks you in the eye and listens intently while you are talking--is quite serious these days about making the most of his teaching skills--and about making money. He appears to be accomplishing both through his own Pacific Institute, which he and his wife, Diane, founded in 1971.

The Seattle-based firm has become a multimillion-dollar operation by taking Tice's motivational message--one he first wove into his high school teaching--and offering it to the world of business, largely via the medium of videotape. It is a message with definite similarities to that of Orange County's own the Rev. Robert Schuller (and Tice does not object to the comparison).

In Tice's program, business people are encouraged to boost their own self-images, to get into "possibility thinking," to be "accountable" for their own progress, to set goals and visualize themselves as successful in meeting them and to screen out the negative thoughts going through their heads. Tice doesn't claim to have thought up the techniques himself, but he does claim credit for polishing them up and making them appeal to business.

Drop in Absenteeism

"Client companies without exception report positive results in the enhancement of employee morale, creativity and production, not to mention a dramatic drop in workday absenteeism," proclaims one institute handout, with an enthusiastic display of its own self-image building.

But on this particular Sunday afternoon, Tice was in Orange County to let Southern California know about his latest expansion step: the introduction of a series of motivational videotapes with a similar message but aimed at a new market--the families of the world.

Although corporations hand over a minimum of $15,000 for Tice's videotaped basic "Investment in Excellence" curriculum, and the total bill can run into six--even seven--figures, Tice said, the new series of videotapes will be a "capsule form" of that curriculum and cost $39.95 a tape.

"The next 10 years of my life will be dedicated to bringing all of the information that corporations spend hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars for right down to moms and dads, so they can afford it and use it inside their families," he told the 250 or so people in his audience, mostly adults who had taken his course and brought their families along to hear about the new project.

Tice called on the children's story "The Wizard of Oz" to explain some of his points. Facing his audience wearing a brown sport jacket, dark brown pants and a striped brown tie, Tice suggested that there are lots of "wizards" out there ready to influence unwary youngsters: teachers, television, older children. . . . He said some of those are negative wizards, those who "instead of giving heart, take heart away; instead of giving brains, tell you you're stupid; tell you that you're not pretty, tell you that you can't turn out for this, tell you that you won't amount to that."

But there also are positive wizards. Like the Wizard of Oz, who gave the tin man a "heart" through the guise of a clock and gave the cowardly lion courage through a medal. These are the people who affirm the positive for those around them, Tice said. And that is a role, he added, that parents must play for their own children: "Anything less than that is negligence on your part."

Right Stuff, Wrong Stuff

Words are powerful tools, Tice said. Tell a child something enough times, and it comes true, he said. "So, what we want to do is to (tell) those of you that are here--moms and dads and youngsters--that it's important to be careful what you tell yourself . . . and be careful about whom you listen to and what other people tell you because if you get the wrong stuff into your mind, your life isn't going to turn out very happy. But if you get the right stuff into your mind, your life can be very successful and very happy."

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