Before you earn an audience, users, paying customers, investors, shareholders or employees holding you accountable to your work, you often find yourself alone and unmotivated. Unless you popped into this world as a self-starting anomaly, waking up and getting to work on something that doesn’t exist yet and that no one else cares about can feel like forcing children to eat broccoli. It helps to have business or creative partners on the project with equal or greater investment in the outcome – and sometimes that’s all you need. But even partnerships lose steam and it helps to have someone else on the outside to push you.
You may need a creator buddy: someone you never want to disappoint and who also has his or her own personal projects in infancy. Someone outside your field with whom you can learn from each other. Between the two of you, schedule regular check-ins to set goals and debrief accomplishments or failures on a regular basis. Weekly or bi-weekly works best, nothing too involved. Encourage each other to set goals you both can realistically achieve in that time and hold each other accountable. Send text messages to touch base in between. Whatever helps to keep you both on the tracks and moving forward. Before long, you’ll find yourself accomplishing more – if only in fear of disappointing your buddy if you fail.
Sounds too simple, but the work you need to do today is difficult enough. Avoid overcomplicating it with crazy motivational regimens. Find a buddy that can pull you out of isolation and give you the push that you need. He or she will appreciate it as well.
Setting out to build a business or project for the money is a huge risk – a bigger risk than building something meaningful that can make the world a better place. What happens if you seek a capital return and come up dry? What do you have then? Sadly, you have nothing but a lot of wasted time and energy. What if you build something that makes a difference, but still does not pay out? At least then you can be proud of building something great. Never do things for the money – you have everything to lose. Do things for the challenge, the value to the world, and for yourself. Build something you can be proud of, something rewarding in and of itself.
Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” It’s all about attitude and what you take personally. If you don’t let things bother you, life rolls on pretty pain-free. I do not promote ignorance, however, so people with an inherent “whatever” attitude disappoint me with how disconnected they are from the people and issues around them. You need to care – often care a lot – to make a difference in this world. It takes the balance of a monk and the stamina of an olympian to put your heart everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s exhausting and you need to make sure you stay in good shape to keep the balance alive. My brother said it well: “If you don’t have the energy to be positive, it’s impossible to be positive – your health is your first priority.” Your reaction to life depends solely on your frame of mind. If you are mentally or physically beat to hell, it’s pretty difficult to muster a positive reaction to anything. Make a point to sleep well, eat well and take real breaks. Take care of yourself. With a healthy mind, you can meet life with a healthy attitude and virtuous reactions. Otherwise, you will foster an exponential geyser of negativity that will only drag you down and keep making life worse.
Inspiration is rare and must be acted on as soon as it rears its beautiful head. For me, inspiration tends to come at night when my head is clear of the day. When that happens, I’ve developed a rather unhealthy habit of staying awake to see it through. While I have no intention of encouraging insomnia, I urge you not to waste one of life’s most precious resources. See your inspiration through. Never miss the opportunity – even at the cost of a night’s sleep and rough next day. More often than not, it’s worth it.
Do you even know? No one can genuinely create a sense of urgency without cause or reason. Everyone is competing against the clock (we’re mortals, after all), but why? For what reason? Is it a race? Against whom?
If you have a clear opponent to beat, that’s easy. Wave the enemy’s flag in spite and embrace competition as a positive energy in your organization or life. Move forward and fast, as if it were a fun game.
If you are a startup or non-profit without grasp of a market, what are you competing against? Most small organizations compete against sinking bank accounts. Young companies not yet cash-flow positive must sweat their burn rates and execute on their vision before running out of money. If the money drain is your greatest enemy, make a big deal about that, too. Don’t hide it from your people; share the bank statement with managers if you want them to understand that particular sense of urgency. They will understand.
You cannot motivate people from scratch. You can only give them the tools, information and environment to hopefully inspire them to motivate themselves. As a leader, you must know what you are competing against. And do not forget to share that information with your people who suffer the whip every day.
…with genuine passion as your alley. Your passion must be sincere; you will not overcome the steepest obstacles if you merely lust over the hype train. With a true fire burning at heart, nothing can stop you. The destination may look or feel different than you projected, but the passion helping you get there will not let you down.
If you do not believe in what you are doing, you are unlikely to succeed. No level of responsibility, compensation, or flattery can change your mind. Only you can tap into the higher context of your personal values and goals. Only you can know what makes your heart tick. Figure out what you believe and you can find your place in the world. If you truly believe, nothing can stop you.
I’ve been blessed with momentum in my life, due largely to the fact that my parents never really said “no” to me. They never told me a cardboard spaceship couldn’t break orbit; I had to learn that the hard way. They let me make my own mistakes at my own pace and on my own accord. At a young age, I was allowed to dream, face the limitations of my dreams, and solve my way around them on my own. Nothing stopped me – unless I accepted failure as a lesson. As I got older, I continued to push the ball forward. The momentum continued to the point where “no” was never an acceptable answer. I let nothing slow me down.
You are only as strong and resilient as your dreams. You only have one life; don’t take “no” for an answer.
Deliberately procrastinating the bad may hamper your ability to completely enjoy the good by the thought of the less favorable ahead. You risk spoiling the good for no reason (or at least enjoying it less than you could otherwise). Get the chores out of the way first (homework or Brussels sprouts), and save something to look forward to. Convince yourself that you are earning the dessert at the end of the meal. You’ll appreciate the victory even more.
Let’s face it: you are not proficient or informed about hundreds of thousands of things. No single person knows everything or masters every skill on the planet. There are countless battles you cannot win. That’s difficult for many people to hear, especially me; I am as competitive as they come. But you must face the facts and learn to let go. I am not very athletic or musical; I tip my hat to and tap out of matches with people who are. Choose your battles wisely. Know what battles are worth fighting. Know what battles you stand a chance to win. Invest yourself completely. Focus on meaningful, personal battles. Discard and ignore the rest. It’s far less stressful and humiliating to accept failure before you actually fail.