Mickey Mouse Motivation: When Insta-Wisdom Goes Too Far • Dan Fries

Mickey Mouse Motivation: When Insta-Wisdom Goes Too Far

It began about 6 months ago.

What started on Twitter quickly spread to Instagram, and now Facebook.

It’s the commoditization of inspiration, and it seems like everyone is taking part.

First it was celebrities, then fitness gurus and now marketers. All of whom clamber for eyeballs and attention by posting motivation images with overlaid text.

Once a sucker for these kinds of accounts, I eventually grew inspirationally jaded and unfollowed them all. But the Insta-wisdom creep found a way back into my feeds, as close friends started hopping on the band wagon. My fitness coach, once content with posting gym selfies and #foodporn, was quick to start posting the quotes. Recently, he posted a job opportunity for a social media marketer, who’s sole purpose was to find which quotes-on-images got the most attention.

Then, I started seeing fellow digital nomads posting travel photos overlaid with quotes. If the pristine white beaches of Koh Lanta were not quite perfect, surely some big white letters would make them so.

The last straw was internet marketers like this guy literally “quote-jacking”: taking real quotes from other people and using it as marketing collateral. Ick.

neil patel jacks elon musks quote


There are even entire social media accounts which, not linked to any real person, send out endless streams of “Insta-wisdom”. Last I checked, the hashtag #inspirationalquotes has almost a million posts.

When I read these quotes and see these images, I get a spike of inspiration. A small emotional jolt of dopamine or serotonin or something that temporarily makes me feel good about myself. Do I actually do anything with that feeling? Not really.

But the feeling is addicting. And it gives us a sense that we’re moving forward, accomplishing something, being a better person, when in fact we’re just seeing a quote on the internet.

Sure, there are probably many people who truly do improve themselves after getting a motivational kick in the butt, but they’re the exception.

Still others defend the trend:

There’s already evidence of a backlash. While her fellow celebrities posted Taoist axioms at the start of the year, Beyoncé uploaded uncaptioned pictures of herself in a Buddhist temple in Cambodia, as if to say, ‘Silence is golden.’ And Alexa Chung posted an image that simply reads ‘inspirational quote’. Most of her followers enjoyed the little dig, but one said, ‘What’s the point in mocking people who aren’t writers and find peace in beautiful words? Not everyone has life completely figured out like you.’

While others recognize the shallowness of being inspired by someone else’s daily image quote:

But there’s always Unspirational for spirit-shredding truths. ‘You’re not #blessed you’re #obnoxious’ one post reads. Another, ‘The story you think is funny is unbelievably long and boring.’ And my favourite, ‘You’re only as deep as your most recent inspirational quote.’

The problem

Look, there’s nothing wrong with being inspired and motivated. Even if that feeling doesn’t actually lead to any sort of meaningful action, it’s probably a better use of your time online than watching porn.

That said, Insta-wisdom has the potential to do harm.

Take, for example, a recent question from one of Elliot Hulse’s fans:

“When asked a question a few weeks ago by a young man at my Non Jobs summit, he stands up and begins to explain how he started on his journey to become a stronger version of himself. But through the advice of one of our favorite YouTube-Instagram motivational celebrities – many of you may know who it is – but I won’t reveal the name here. Go to sleep later at night, midnight…stay up late, crush it, grind it, be a warrior. Then way up earlier than 5 o’clock. Then the man says, Elliot for the past year I’ve been sleeping for less than 5 hours a night, and I’m dying here.

He started to explain all of the symptoms that he began to have since he began cutting back on his sleep, because he took the advice of a motivational mush mouth who told him not to sleep at night because successful people don’t sleep. ‘You gotta want it so bad, that you don’t sleep at night.’ This is the type of advice you get from mickey mouse motivators on Instagram and YouTube.”

When and how did internet celebrities gain foothold with the “Sleep When You’re Dead” mantra?

Performance brand Natural Stacks recognizes the asinine trend:

This creeping deprivation seems to be inextricably tied to a belief that sleeping is just another way of burning daylight – that we could be working, playing or doing anything else. That getting plenty of sleep is unproductive, lazy and the domain of the chronically unambitious.

As does Strength Camp coach Mark Novak:

There’s a lot of talk out there about sleeping faster, and not sleeping at all because you grind so hard, and being so hardcore because you don’t sleep at all, and getting up before the butt crack of dawn because you’re grinding and hustling and going balls to the wall as a grind hustler.


I get it. You have so much to do and are so passionate about it that the universe bestows supernatural energy upon you so that you may bless the world with your grind lifestyle message.

Well cool your jets Arnold Schwarzenegger/Corey Gregory/ET the Hip Hop Preacher.

(I love all these guys by the way…please don’t hurt me Hip Hop Preacher)

Corey Gregory almost stopped deadlifting cause Nas told him that ‘sleep is the cousin of death”

We need our sleep. We needs it.

Especially if we want to be stronger.

I have just uncovered evil plot that started with Arnold which is now being carried about by Corey Gregory and ET the Hip Hop Preacher! They want to sleep deprive everyone so that they can become the most swollen of all! I knew it!

Basically if you want to be functional you need to sleep. It will make a huge difference in your quality of life, and your overall strength. Harvard said that.

When the peddlers of motivation start giving genuinely bad advice, it’s time to take a step back and reflect on whether the motivational and inspirational quotes do more harm than good.

Elliott’s reply is on point:

a SLEEPING Warrior is a strong warrior…

He honors his mind and physiology enough to support it’s repair and growth by sleeping 7-10 hours per night.

I bet you won’t hear most other Internet Gurus tell you that sleep is for the strong.

Instead, they tell you that you need to hustle (or “crush it”) even more, and sleep / rest less.

But however you slice it, that sounds like masochistic torture and mental slavery to me.

Inspiration is fine, but sleep deprivation has real, bad consequences. It affects us and the people around us.

So next time you get inspired or motivated by a quote online, ask yourself: “What is this actually saying? Does it make sense in light of my own experience? Why or why not? Do I believe what this person is saying? If yes, why? Is it because other qualified people trust him or her?”

Coupling inspiration with a process of thought makes the quotes real and actionable in the context of each of our lives. #realtalk #lifequotes #inspiration