There is no sense addressing motivation without acknowledging there has to be a link between what you feel and what you do. You can feel that your life is important, that you’re not going to live forever, that you have one chance on this rock. Yet if it doesn’t translate into action then it’s all feel-good nonsense. A silent prayer would do you a lot more good.
How do you make life an open highway?
What makes you more than a face in the crowd?
How do you make sure you live while you’re alive?
A spin on capitalism. Your own application of capitalism. A personal capitalism where you drive your own top line revenue, so-to-speak. I’ll spell out some steps on how to do that, but first a riff on capitalism.
Capitalism made America the richest nation in the history of the world. Capitalism is why you have a smartphone, why so few of us till the soil, why we can and do buy bottled fruit juices. Capitalism is what makes people from around the globe think that if they could get here they might be able to live a middle-class life and that their kids might become rich. Americans forget that.
Assume you were a company rather than a person. Every company knows that revenue forgives all sins. High quality companies are always on the offense. They want more offense. Are you on offense?
I don’t want to be the guy who directly equates the accumulation of money as the barometer of success. That is not a cause, it is an effect. It is an effect of living below your means and investing the delta. Not saving it; investing it. Topic for another day.
Praise, thank you’s, and recognition all act as a form of money. Napoleon said a soldier will fight long and hard for a bright piece of ribbon; Twain said he could dine for two weeks on a compliment.
Recognizing others, irrespective of where they fall in your orbit, for a job well done is always a good move. When was the last time you told your boss she did a good job on something, a polished presentation, or a well written memo? Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion is alive and well. Every action has an equal and reverse reaction. You tell a colleague he did a fine job or he looks professional and crisp, or he handled that hard situation gracefully, and you are building a form of wealth. You are building your topline.
As an aside, I am compelled to stress that praising mediocrity is to be avoided at ALL costs. It dumbs down standards, it makes you look a fool, and worst of all it has a tendency to breed.
When I refer to making of your life that open highway, of not being a face in the crowd, I envision positive reinforcement for positive behavior. That is the angle of capitalism to which I refer.
Do you contribute to a work culture? Almost anyone in the workforce does. In workplace culture, there should be a financial element. Incentives work. This article length does not allow for a deep dive, but suffice it to say incentives work. So, I am focusing on attitude, and how your attitude can be deployed.
We recently celebrated Thanksgiving and I’ll use the Pilgrims’ experience to illustrate the nature of several points outlined above.
First, understand the pilgrims trip was funded by investors in London led by a guy named Weston. The Pilgrims needed to pay off the debt and the Mayflower Compact among other things bound the Pilgrims to work collectively to meet that debt, to pay Weston back.
Some Pilgrims did not work as hard as others- hey, everything was owned communally! So that did not work. While some worked diligently, slackers did not see the need. William Bradford and others tore it up and reconstituted their colony so that one earned what one worked for. You will grow more corn if you get to keep more corn. You will build more houses if you get to own more houses. Socialism did not work then and it does not work now (Satellite views of Indian reservations illustrate this well. Communal reservations are brown; those with private property rights are green. This is not difficult folks!)
And by the way, Thanksgiving was not about thanking the natives for saving the Pilgrims. It was about thanking God for his provenance. George Washington’s Thanksgiving declaration makes that clear. I think it is also easy for us to misunderstand Washington’s knowledge of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims got here in the early 1600’s and George was in the next century. For our Founding Fathers this was not ancient history. They felt a connection. Their concepts of limited government, their fear of mob rule (democracy was equated to mob rule until about 1840), their intense desire for private property rights all are uniquely linked to capitalism and how success for our nation germinated.
Back to you- back to how you can leverage the power of this virtuous cycle available to you. Be positive, be productive, be fresh, and be enthusiastic. Let these terms act as the filter for all you do. Then you are on offense. Then it is your life. Then life is like an open highway.
I will close with two suggestions. One, watch a Bon Jovi video of It’s My Life and crank the volume. Belt it out. Yet know that the feeling in the silence of your heart, that soaring optimism, is not your life. Action is what separates achievement from the lack of achievement. Plenty of folks belt out the lyrics with gusto but when the song ends, the dream ends.
Secondly, commit to filtering your behavior to be PPFE, to create a storefront and to train your brain to be positive with yourself and others, to be productive with your days, with your hands and with your brain, to be fresh, and to be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is the special sauce of PPFE. It is what makes the waitress appealing, the DMV clerk efficient, the boss special, the colleague valued, the husband a love story.
You are only on this rock one time. It’s your life. This is not a read-through, it is not a dress rehearsal.
In closing, the impact you have on others is how you emerge from the crowd. You die two deaths: at your last breath and at the last breath of that last person you really touched. Go catch someone doing something right.