Recently, Ellen DeGeneres started her opening monologue by saying “My haters are my motivators.”

This was in response to a group called One Million Moms who threatened to boycott JCPenney Stores after Ellen was appointed as its spokesperson. Click Here for an update.

I thought Ellen’s quote was great. First of all it rhymes, so it’s fun to say and sticks with you. But more importantly, the phrase got me thinking …

Is it positive to be motivated by something negative?

What should motivate us?

Should we take time away from investing in the people who accept us, to try and win over those who don’t? Or prove to them they’re wrong? Or does being motivated by our opponents make us change makers because we turn the situation into an opportunity to create awareness; we acknowledge a gap in knowledge that can be passed down from generation to generation?

Ellen Degeneres - Who Is NOBODY?If you think about it, we all have people who doubt and judge us because they don’t understand us. So if that disconnect can fire us up to do good things, does the source of our motivation matter?

David Beckham draws a crowd

Fast forward to the Rogers Centre on Wednesday, where I was struggling to see David Beckham do a corner kick through the streamers … and beer cans.

45,000 people packed a sold out stadium (drawing a larger crowd than 90% of British football clubs who have soccer as their primary sport, and more than double the turn out for your average game at BMO Field) to see the footie match between LA Galaxy and TFC; a team that sold out its season tickets five years ago on the same morning David Beckham was added to the MLS Roster. There’s no denying his presence was the big pull. In fact, Canada.com stated:

… Superstar midfielder David Beckham, an English international (was) essentially doing MLS a favour by playing there and giving it some international pedigree …

In yet, the most cowardice of acts was committed. A beer can shot anonymously from the bleachers with the intent of hitting Beckham. And like any playground, in any country, the crowd quickly divided into it’s usual controversy-driven divides.

Bullying is everywhere

First came the followers, identifying their presence by launching more beer cans. Many of which missed their target only to hit fellow fans below.

Then came the bystanders, trying to be invisible; watching, waiting and hoping it would all go away. But actually enabling it at the same time. As noted in an earlier post, bullying generally stops in less than 10 seconds when peers intervene on behalf of the victim.

Finally, there were those of us too far away to know exactly what happened such that none of us broke off into any of the above mentioned splinter groups. When we found out we could only feel embarrassed that we were part of it by hosting this event.

I looked at my neighbour and said: Love is much like hate. Each is a strong emotion.

What do love and hate have in common?

Everybody at the game specifically bought tickets to be there. This was not an assignment for a required course.

It seems that they love David Beckham so much that they hate him. Perhaps they admire him so much they are jealous of him?

Scientists prove it really is a thin line between love and hate. The same brain circuitry is involved in both extreme emotions – but hate retains a semblance of rationality … Whereas in romantic love, the lover is often less critical and judgmental regarding the loved person, it is more likely that in the context of hate the hater may want to exercise judgement in calculating moves to harm, injure or otherwise exact revenge … The findings could explain why both hate and romantic love can result in similar acts of extreme behaviour – both heroic and evil. – Professor Semir Zeki of University College London

The event was best summarized by David Beckham himself, when interviewed by Sportsnet:

Tonight was a great atmosphere. The majority were here to enjoy the spectacle. It’s a shame some people spoiled it. It’s disappointing kids (had to) see it … but it was a great atmosphere.

He’s right. It is too bad kids had to see the bullying reinforced with every beer can that found itself on the pitch.

Beckham earned his stripes. Former manager Alex Ferguson has reported that Beckham:

… practiced with a discipline to achieve an accuracy that other players wouldn’t care about.

Here is my favourite example of that accuracy, the day Beckham became a household name:

Even as a TFC supporter, it was satisfying to see what happened next.

Were Beckham’s haters his motivators?

Beckham sent a beautiful corner kick through the air to teammate Landon Donovan who tapped the ball into the back of the net. LA equalized in the dying seconds of the game.

Hopefully when kids saw Beckham’s assist it helped to squash any approval around the bullying by beer-can-throwing adults.

Beckham took that hate and bent it. He turned it into something positive.

And that’s when I had my answer and even more love for the sparkly-eyed Ellen DeGeneres. Every difficult situation is an opportunity if you stay true to yourself.

We must always be honest

If we are true to ourselves, rather than trying to be everything to everyone, there will always be people who love us and those who will hate us. We need them both to draw out the best in us. Love and hate are the ying yang that encourage us to continue to define and become who we are with the chance – if we’re as brave as Ellen and Beckham – to be change makers while we’re at it.

And now a song about the importance of being yourself:

What song is your biggest motivator?

Change starts with kids.

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