Motivational Speaker David Major

Canadian Jewish News, Heebonics Section – August 7, 2007


By Shlomit Kriger
Special to the CJN

The room packed with hundreds of high school students grew silent as the baby-faced 5-foot-4 male stepped onto the stage. Sporting a T-shirt, jeans and his trademark Motivate Yourself bracelet, he held up a $20 bill and in a booming voice asked, “Who wants this?”

The audience cheered in unison.

He then crumpled the bill, threw it on the floor and began stomping on it. “I hate you! You’re a failure! You’ll never amount to anything!” Regaining his composure, he held up the bill again and asked who still wanted it. The students cheered even more loudly.

“Lesson number 1,” said 26-year-old David Major. “No matter what I did to this bill, you still wanted it, because it still has the exact same value. As you go through your lives, people are going to stomp on you, tell you that you’re not good enough, that you can’t make it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t… You have to always remember to listen to the big voice up here [points to his head] that tells you that you can.”

Major, a resident of Thornhill, Ont., is currently in his seventh year as a motivational speaker. He has performed across Canada, the United States and China, at high school assemblies, international leadership conferences, fraternities and sororities, and award banquets, entertaining and motivating more than 50,000 youth.

The youngest of two children, Major grew up in a Conservative Jewish home, with regular Shabbat dinners and community involvement. He feels his Jewish upbringing had some influence on his business. “With Judaism comes a sense of community and compassion, and that has influenced the way I conduct business,” he said.

Major is also passionate about promoting tolerance among all people, and one of his speeches deals specifically with the issue of equality and inequality. “The anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination that I’ve observed in many capacities over the years has made me interested in discussing diversity issues and being as equal as possible when it comes to everything,” he said.

“I think it’s hard to find jobs like this where at the end of the day you feel like you have moved the world a step forward,” said Major. “You’re not just spinning your wheels doing a mundane job that needs to get done. You’re actually making a positive impact on people. I always say in my speech, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ and I think that’s what I’m accomplishing.”

Major isn’t your average motivational speaker. He uses sound effects, monologues, rants and comedic messages in his speeches, always ensuring he engages with the audience. In former speeches, he performed the tune to “Baa Baa Black Sheep” with his armpits.

His schedule changes from week to week. Some months he’s out on the road, hitting various speaking engagements, while others he spends most of his days in front of his computer at home, corresponding with students, educators and other business contacts.

Major also produces Student Leadership Activities Magazine (SLAM!), an online publication written by and for students. He aims to use the magazine as a medium to help create an online community through which students can share leadership ideas and learn from each other. He is also planning on writing a book on leadership.

Getting about 6 1/2 hours of sleep a night, he tries his best to squeeze in quality time with his girlfriend, friends and family.

Major’s first motivational speaking gig ensued by fluke when he was a Grade 12 student at Thornhill’s Westmount Collegiate Institute. He and a few other students planned the first annual leadership conference at the school and wanted to bring in a motivational speaker. Unable to afford a professional, Major and his friend decided to give a mini-speech.

About a month later, another high school requested that Major and his friend present a speech for pay at a leadership conference. Surprised but flattered, Major and his friend jumped on the opportunity, and they garnered a standing ovation. Realizing they might have found a niche, they continued making speeches at various events.

After about a year, Major began doing motivational speaking on his own, part time, while studying political science and history at the University of Western Ontario. “It’s a really fulfilling job,” said Major. “I love the e-mails I get from students after I make a speech, and it’s great when I walk out of a school and about a dozen people are giving me compliments and thanking me for the speech. Some say I helped them see things in a different way or I really made an impact on them.”

Eager to touch more lives in a positive way, Major planned to pursue his business as a motivational speaker full time following his graduation from university. But a few months after his return to Thornhill, he landed a job as special assistant for community outreach for Thornhill member of Parliament Susan Kadis after volunteering to help her run in a federal election. So he eagerly took on that opportunity, but continued the motivational speaking work part time. Soon he was working 17 hours a day, seven days a week.

Last fall, realizing he had more passion for his work as a motivator than as an assistant for Kadis, Major decided to leave the political field and pursue his business full time. But he said working for Kadis was “the best thing that could have happened” to him. He learned a lot of the skills that he now better understands are crucial to running a successful business, including promotion and maintaining contacts.

Major said he also learned a lot throughout his high school experience that helped to shape who he is today. “I had changed so much every year in high school. In Grade 9, I hardly talked to anybody, was very shy and didn’t have many friends. I loved to get up in front of a crowd and perform, but in social situations I felt awkward.”

Major said that over the years, he gained confidence in himself and what he was doing. “I think it also helped me to see all sides of high school. That’s one thing I want to add to my speech. When many teens see me now, they think I’m confident and an accomplished public speaker, but that wasn’t always the case.”

For others thinking of pursuing a career as motivational speakers, Major said it’s important they enjoy the job, are willing to put in the hours needed to succeed, including travelling, and are okay with facing rejection. “You get rejected a lot more times in this job than you get accepted. You have to get a little bit of thick skin with it.”

For more on David Major, visit