19 YouTube Videos to Motivate You to Achieve Greatness

Motivational Videos
(Image credit: Unknown)

In 1985, a travel agent called Mac Anderson had a simple idea. He compiled a series of “inspirational” quotations from books in his local library and asked a designer friend to turn them into posters.

It was a moment of genius.

When printed underneath arty photographs of soaring eagles, boats struggling on stormy oceans, or ants working together to carry a leaf, the dry words suddenly sprang to life. Local businesses fought to order them for their office walls. The word spread fast, and by 1988, Anderson’s new company Successories was turning over $75,000,000 a year.

Without wishing to burst your bubble, a picture of a waterfall and some deranged nonsense about “your dream” won’t automatically turn you into Richard Branson. So if you’re looking for motivation – to work harder, to lose weight, to change your life for the better – you’re going to need to something a bit more powerful.

To start you off, here are 15 things that might just give you the kick in the pants you need…

1. When you’re afraid of the task ahead of you... check out Philippe Petit, the man who defied death and gravity

“This is probably the end of my life to step on that wire…” Back in 1974, French tightrope walker Petit decided to take a stroll between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, 415m above the streets of Manhattan. This would have been hard enough to do even with the time to set it up properly and carry out safety tests, but he was doing it without permission, so the feat has an extraordinary “smash and grab” feel to it. Tired, underprepared and battling ridiculous odds, he simply went for it, and produced a rare moment in which flared trousers contained balls of utter steel.

2. When you’re looking for help and feeling alone… watch Derek Redmond’s dad help his son over the line at the Barcelona Olympics

Failing is bad enough, but failing in front an audience of millions is worse. When runner Derek Redmond snapped his hamstring during a race at the 1992 Olympics, he was a broken man, barely able to limp on due to the pain. But suddenly, in a moment worthy of the song “He Ain’t Heavy”, an older, fatter man jogs on to the track to help… The resulting cheers are bigger than any gold medal winner received. 

3. When you’re short on self-belief… watch the Millennium Stadium crowd sing the Welsh national anthem

You may not support the Welsh rugby team, and you probably won’t understand a word they’re saying, but this rousing anthem is sure to make your pulse shed a tear. Accompanied by a partisan crowd, the 15 players in the red shirt of Wales fill up as they summon up their granite determination. And it worked quite well on this occasion in 2013 – they went out and walloped the English 30-3.

4. When you feel like putting off going to the doctor… let Lawrence Dallaglio show you there’s nothing to be ashamed of

Videos featuring burly men bending over to have a “cavity search” aren’t everyone’s grande chai latte, but Lawrence Dallaglio’s appeal for Cancer Research is witty enough to make you address your own responsibilities towards the killer disease. At worst, the advice in it will afford you an insight into the rigours of prison life, but at best it could actually save your life. 

5. When you’re not physically suited for a task… watch Takeru prove that it’s all “mind over matter”

Weighing in at a mere 9st 2lb (58kg), Kobayashi Takeru would struggle to make a mark in most sports. But in the world of competitive eating you wouldn’t give a shrimp like him a chance, right? Well, think again, because for 15 years Takeru has been putting fatties to the sword. At his first ever tournament, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in 2001, he didn’t just break the record of 25 hot dogs, he doubled it. In fact, he ate so many that the organisers ran out of signs indicating his score and had to resort to hand-written scribbles. His other titles include the prestigious Glutton Bowl and the Gringo Bandito Taco Challenge, but perhaps the moment which really encapsulates how much this little man dares to dream came in a rare defeat. In 2003, he took on a 500kg Kodiak bear in a hot dog-eating face-off, losing by 19 but almost certainly exhibiting the better table manners.

6. When you’ve been written off… watch Beefy come out blazing

Rocky won the Oscars, but for a real-life sporting Lazarus moment, you can’t beat the 1981 Ashes and “Botham’s test” at Headingley. Fired as captain, unpopular with the selectors, and up against the mighty Australians, he came into bat with England following on and 500-1 against to win the match with the bookies. The rest is history. 

7. When you badly need to inspire some teamwork… watch the marching band pay tribute to Michael Jackson

Most students find it hard to get out of bed due to cider-related injuries, but the youngsters in the marching band of Ohio State University show what can be achieved by working together, including hours of practice to perfect this witty tribute to the moonwalking, monkey-owning King of Pop in under a week. Add in the fact that any task is made three times harder if you have to do it while operating a tuba, and you can see how impressive their feat was. And if these mere kids can do it with a little bit of determination, what can’t your team achieve?

8. When you think you’re down and out… fight back with Joe Simpson’s agonizing crawl against death

“I thought this is it. This is as far as this game goes.” You’re hard-pressed to criticise climber Joe Simpson for being so pessimistic, given that he was crawling along in a frozen crevasse with a broken leg, having had his rope cut by fellow mountaineer Simon Yates. The story of his amazing struggle to base camp, told in the movie Touching The Void, is a tribute to the power of the human will. Especially the bit where he has to overcome constant hallucinations about Boney M.

9. When you feel like chucking it all in… remember how close Stephen King was to failure

Stephen King was so disappointed with his first novel, Carrie, that he threw it away. The next morning, his wife was emptying the bins when she saw the manuscript and sat down to read it. While this says little for her housekeeping skills, it proved to be a fillip for the family finances. After it suffered 30 rejections from various publishers, the book was finally sold. A movie version and millions of dollars followed, allowing King to leave his teaching job and write full-time. 

10. When all hope feels lost… watch Liverpool come back from the brink in Istanbul

Whatever team you support, every fan warms to a Cinderella story. And Liverpool were certainly the neglected servant girl in the 2005 Champions League final. Three down at half-time to an illustrious AC Milan featuring Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko and Paolo Maldini, they were as good as beaten. But the 30,000 travelling fans sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” on a loop, and the team found some belief from somewhere. You know what happened next, but it will lift you every time…

11. When you’re blaming everyone else instead of taking responsibility… read a poem that’ll give you the backbone of an ox

Invictus isn’t just a film about rugby starring Matt Damon and his unconvincing Seth Efrican accent. It’s also the name of a poem written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley. Unlike most Victorian verse, it has two merits – first, it’s really short, and second, it’s entirely free of wishy-washy sentiment or stuff about daffodils. This is a pithy hymn to the virtues of self-respect, taking the good and the bad that life throws at you, and proudly dealing with the consequences, even if they lead to hell. As well as giving us the phrase “bloody, but unbowed”, it contains the memorable lines, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”.

12. When the whole team needs picking up off the floor… listen to Al Pacino rally the troops

To the foreign eye, American football is a game where the players run around for three seconds and then take a five-minute break to chat about what just happened. But to the natives, it’s a matter of life and death, and their commitment to it has never been more passionately expressed than in the movie Any Given Sunday. Al Pacino, looking a bit like a raisin with sideburns, gives it the full Winston Churchill in the locker room of his failing team, and sends them out fired up to vanquish the opposition. “We’re in hell right now, gentlemen, and we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back.” You will cry.

13. When you’re hopelessly outnumbered… let Henry V get your heart pumping

For all his puzzling jokes and over-dependence on the word “gadzooks”, the Bard was second to none when it came to writing a good battle speech. This one, his most famous, celebrates Henry V’s victory at Agincourt, and it’s even got Brian Blessed getting his war on with an axe. Marvellous.

14. When you just can’t get passionate about the task at hand… try staring down the haka

New Zealand is a small country, with a population of just over four million people, but they are pretty much unconquerable at rugby. Their fierce will to win starts before kick-off, when they perform the haka, a mixture of chanting, dancing and homicidal threatening that was originally used a preamble to Maori warfare. While it’s probably not best to actually squat down and do that throat-cutting gesture with your thumb, it certainly won’t hurt to watch the All Blacks prepare for work. If you can find a tenth of their intensity, you’ll be kicking down doors to get the job done.

15. When you’re facing impossible odds… watch this buffalo take on a pride of lions

“Nature,” opined Woody Allen, “is just one big restaurant.” And the animal wearing all the napkins at the best table is, of course, the lion. So when a pride of four lions decide to snack on a small buffalo, you’d be forgiven for expecting things to quickly look like a butcher’s shop window. But, brilliantly, this time a hero steps up and manages to fight the big cats off, despite only being a lumbering vegetarian itself. Even the stony-hearted German holidaymakers who are filming the fight give a cheer when the calf survives. One to watch before you face up to any David-and-Goliath situations.

16. When your opponent is bigger you are… remember…

… “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Never has this adage been more clearly illustrated than in this MMA scrap, where one wrestler is nearly FOUR times bigger and heavier than the other. It looks like all the behemoth has to do to win is fall on his opponent, but the titch never gives up and emerges victorious to the commentators’ disbelief. The lesson is simple – don’t despair, and you may surprise everyone, including yourself.

17. When you don’t fancy going to the gym tonight... watch a video that really ups the stakes

Half fitness video, half horror movie, this motivational film stands apart from the competition. Instead of scenes of beautiful people working out to soft rock in a spotless gym, it offers a grim message that could only be scarier if they had Vincent Price reading it out. Though a bit disturbing, the message will certainly be enough to get you off the sofa and into your Nikes. 

18. When you think you can coast through your job... remember it’s a dog-eat-dog world

There are good bosses, there are bad bosses, and then there’s Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. The film, based on David Mamet’s earlier play, is set in a struggling sales office and shows just how desperate men can get when there’s money at stake. Brought in to motivate the staff, Baldwin delivers the sort of homicidal pep talk that Pol Pot’s speechwriter would have rejected for being “a bit on the hard side”. But his tactic – the best salesmen gets a Cadillac as a prize, the second best gets a set of steak knives, and everyone else gets fired – certainly succeeds in rousing the tired staff out of their complacency.

19. When you need to make a stand… watch Peter Finch reach the end of his tether

Sometimes, it’s better to speak your mind and damn the consequences. You might get dumped or lose your job, but if they were making you angry that was going to happen soon anyway. So do it on your terms, and enjoy the feeling of going down in flames like Peter Finch in the 1976 film Network, in which he plays a newscaster raging against “the bullshit”. Who knows, if you put enough passion into it, you might even inspire some “sheep” to go along with you…

See more like this in the new issue of Coach magazine. To find out where you can grab your free copy, click here

Coach Staff

Coach is a health and fitness title. This byline is used for posting sponsored content, book extracts and the like. It is also used as a placeholder for articles published a long time ago when the original author is unclear. You can find out more about this publication and find the contact details of the editorial team on the About Us page.