I love sports—not enough to spend time watching hours of it, but enough to read about it and watch a few championship games.
Some of the greatest athletes in the world have a motivation to be the best in the world at their job—a drive that’s unparalleled.
But how does a person keep that motor revving at such a high level for extended periods of time? Loving your job isn’t simply enough of a motivator to complete your goals.
In the movie Rocky, the title character Rocky has a coach named Mick—a curmudgeon of an old man who gets every ounce of effort out of Rocky so he can eventually become a boxing champion (spoiler alert: he doesn’t become a champion until the second film). Mick knows how to push and pull Rocky—the right exercises and drills, what to say and how to say it.
We all have a Mick living inside us, and it’s the greatest athletes who know how to talk to their inner Mick so that he talks back. I call this, “learning to harness your motivator.”
For basketball players Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, they would remember slighted words spoken by an opponent and the next time they saw that opponent, they would compete harder than ever before against that opponent and succeed to unprecedented levels.
For some players their motivation is to help their family out of a desperate financial situation, for others it could be to lift up their entire neighborhood.
There’s so much to learn from the way these athletes approach their jobs to the way we approach our jobs, lives, and dreams.
It’s not always easy to stay motivated once we set ourselves on a certain path or paths: marriage, friendship, artistic pursuits, completing a long-held goal. But if we can harness our motivator, our inner-Mick; the determination… and achievement becomes manageable and tangible.
There are many reasons to set goals: altruism, fame, fortune, proving a person wrong, honor, and so on.
Harnessing your inner-Mick can be especially helpful if you dislike a certain situation you’re in—a crappy job, a bad friendship, a roadblock in your long-held goal. Asking “why am I doing this, and what’s my motivation,” can help (even in small increments) un-stick you when you’re stuck, provide the necessary mindset to go into a job you dislike while pursuing something you enjoy a little more, and even find the inspiration to stay or leave.
One caveat to this whole “Inner-Mick” analogy: in the film, Mick was a little verbally abusive to Rocky… you don’t get to do that to yourself. While you’re harnessing your motivation, it’s better to treat yourself kindly and say nice words, which are much more helpful than saying to yourself, “You’re nuttin’ but a bum.” (You had to see the movie to get the reference.)
Last week, while walking along the outside of Madison Square Park in Manhattan, a funny little thing happened. It was a hot, sunny day. There were very few clouds, save for the giant one directly above me and the rest of Midtown East/Chelsea… and then it started to rain. Not an incessant rain, nor even a scattered shower. It was like the cloud had to wring off a little bit after a quick dip in the pool.
Everyone around me looked up in awe, smiled, and went along their day, except one guy who and a confused look on his face and told me, “Dude, it’s raining.”
I had to stop right there and take a note. Weather is the great equalizer. It affects everyone no matter if you’re rich, poor, child, adult, etc.
When conversation gets awkward or when folks run out of things to talk about, the default topic is almost always the weather. In some cases when the subject is brought up, there are certain people who will get angry about what the weather is doing, a thing they can’t control, and they’ll let it ruin their day.
But there’s no escaping the elements. Rather, people bring tools with them to avoid the weather (an umbrella), or build tools to protect them from the weather (a storm shelter).
Because of the inventions of people who came before us, because of mentors, because of common sense; I—we get to choose how weather affects us. I didn’t bring an umbrella because I forgot to check the 36 hour forecast, I figure out how to remember to consistently check the forecast so I don’t get drenched on the way to work. The snow is interrupting my outdoor basketball charity benefit, I don’t get mad, we find an indoor court and move the game.
The weather is a great teacher. We are constantly having to adjust to the whim and will of mother nature but forget the things we’ve learned from her when its time to apply those practical lessons to life, business, creativity, etc. The simplest changes yield the biggest results (i.e. pop open that umbrella). Look to the skies and the temperature around you. How did you adjust last time? Is it time to bring out the raincoat, the snow shoes, or is it better to be huddled inside with some people you love?
I made a little boo-boo last week. I had a moment where I was wrong and in the follow-up, I had the opportunity to make a full apology… and I dropped the ball. I did eventually fix it and made it right—but the whole ordeal got a few of the rusty wheels to start turning in the old noggin. I had to write abut this.
First, a quick side note—I almost titled this post, “Admit it… You Were Wrong.” I was going to make it a general post but that seemed a little disingenuous. Apparently admitting you’re wrong isn’t an easy thing to do…
If an apology is warranted, there’s often the inclination to go straight to the half-arsed apology—“I’m sorry if I,” rather than “I’m sorry I did.”
On the New York City subway, whenever a train is stopped preventing you from getting to your destination on time, there’s nothing more annoying than hearing over the speaker system: “We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”
They should be sorry for the inconvenience or all inconveniences.
Take full responsibility if it’s warranted.
In mid-April I was supposed to perform my show at a college in Tennessee. We had already reschedule once because of a calendar snafu. Just to be safe, I flew out to this school 36 hours in advance. Every single flight was delayed or canceled because of mechanical failure—to the point where I had to cancel my appearance at this school at the very last minute, something I’ve never had to do in the three years I’ve toured my show.
I was angry that the airline let me down. I felt awful that I let the school and the school’s event planner (a very enthusiastic, and now a very disappointed student) down.
First, I didn’t want her to think this was my fault but the airline’s and second, I wanted to see if we could reschedule for the fall of the next school year. I had to broach both of these subjects carefully.
So… I asked her for her mailing address. And I sent her a bouquet of flowers.
With those flowers I said two things, 1) “With this gesture, I want to show that I care about you, 2) “I’m sorry I picked a dumb airline, when all is said and done my absence is my fault.”
The blame game would get me nowhere here. I took responsibility and some extra care, and we eventually did reschedule my appearance at this Tennessee school.
Earlier in this week, while on a lunch break I was watching some South Park. It happened to be an episode that was parodying all of the national dialogue that occurred after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. On the show Stan asks his dad, “Is anyone going to help those people trapped on their roofs in Beaverton?” His dad replies in a serious deadpan, “That’s not important right now. The important thing right now is to figure out whose fault this is.”
Not a direct correlation to an apology, but rather further proof that the blame game gets you nowhere.
This idea of making a genuine and full-fledged apology is a difficult one, but instead of thinking of it as a chore, it could be seen as a tremendous opportunity to strengthen any kind of relationship—a political base, a friendship, spouse to spouse, business to client, or employer to employee.
Winning after betting on yourself.
One of the most uncomfortable feelings in the world is placing that bet… or even more so, placing that bet after having gambled on yourself and lost.
In absolutes, it’s difficult to say that taking a risk on yourself is the most uncomfortable feeling (being forced to watch a Honey Boo Boo marathon, anyone?).
It is a little easier to say that winning after betting on yourself is the best feeling in the world because it encompasses so many moments in life.
- Asking someone out on a date
- Quitting your job to start a new business
- Asking for what you want
- Becoming an astronaut
- Reaching out for help
- Saying “I love you”
- Saying to any amount of people “I made this for you”
It’s really difficult to place that bet on ourselves—in fact it’s a habit ingrained in most of us to not place bets on ourselves. “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not smart enough,” “You don’t look enough like the people on TV,” is just some of the bile thrown in our faces from a young age.
As is, you, I, we are simply enough to make and win that bet.
Even when you think you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve learned to tune those negative “not enough” voices out, every once-and-a-while they can make an unwanted appearance. It’s truly an ongoing and an never-ending process to find ways to keep the negative “not enough” voices at bay.
Calculate the odds. Insulate from huge losses. And know that sometimes it’s okay to take an enormous gamble. You could lose a lot… but you could also win big.
The good news on this kind of betting is that there’s no risk of addiction, ruin, and permanent defeat. The rules, unlike poker or roulette, don’t exist to prevent you from winning. The rules already in place are an opportunity for you to create the game that you want to play.
- Just because you can add spammy commercials and ads to your blog doesn’t mean you should.
- Just because you can charge me for refills of my drink without telling me doesn’t mean you should.
- Just because you can filibuster a proposal in Congress doesn’t mean you should.
- Just because you can legally pay a certain wage or compensation package… and not someone’s actual worth, doesn’t mean you should.
Absolutely no judgement on any of those scenarios above (though any one of them can be quite frustrating to deal with).
But the idea of “just because you can” is a shortcut, that invariably will not lead to long, sustainable success (of course, there are exceptions to everything).
- Find appropriate ways to advertise your service or generate revenue from your partners
- Open and honest is the best policy. The four extra dollars you make from me on this visit, doesn’t account for the fifty I could spend if I make a return visit.
- Try to find a compromise from the get-go instead of playing political maneuvering games. You work for the people and not the party or self-interest.
- A happy and healthy employee will produce a greater return than the pennies you’re pinching and saving.
Strategy that involves a win (even a partial one) for the other party, along with open and honest communication seems to be a bit more difficult and uncomfortable; but the way to plant seeds for multiple future wins instead of an immediate, sterile (unable to produce fruit or offspring), and singular win.
I saw a play over the weekend that had a whole slew of characters with nothing discernible at risk. Watching the show was like watching an animated Wikipedia page. The writer infused very little drama into the play and had the characters state what they wanted (good) but had them act in such a way that what they wanted didn’t really matter (bad).
There were no stakes involved.
As a writer, it’s important for the purpose of entertainment to ask while writing, “What is at stake if this character does not get what she wants? What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the best thing that can happen?” And simply by asking those questions, the vision of what to write becomes clearer and the act of writing becomes a bit easier.
That simple writing exercise reminds me to continuously find and figure out what the stakes are in the major (and minor) decisions that I make in business, life, love… and anything in between.
What’s the best thing that can happen if I do X? What’s the worst thing that can happen if I do X? Why? How? And then what? And then what? And then what? … and so on.
Without having anything at stake when setting an intention, it renders our goal(s) impotent. Working at and defining what the stakes are when taking action on something, is like putting rocket boosters on your heels to propel you toward your desired goal.
The wallpaper on my laptop reads, “What you allow is what will continue.”
For the past year, I’ve had this statement as a backdrop every time I sit in front of my computer. A gentle reminder that, “Dude, if you don’t like what’s going on in your life, your business, your creative world—don’t sit in it, find a way to alter or change it.”
Easier said than done. Most agents of change come into one’s life in the form of an unavoidable crisis or at least by force. As long as we maintain the basics—a little cash in the pocket, a good meal once in a while, and maybe a single day off—we hold off on making changes for another week. I’ve been there: a relationship that lasted five years too long, a working situation that should have been quashed soon after it started. It was safe for a time to be in those places, but they eventually outlived their usefulness. By allowing those conditions into my life, they would continue on and soon kill my spirit (and almost did in a very big way).
Depending on the circumstances, finding the will to change one’s own situation could mean tremendous upheaval or it could simply be slight adjustments that make a world of difference. Change requires planning and testing… and action.
Sometimes (almost always) your planning and testing fall short. You fall flat on your face and can lose time, money, and sleep. You’re left to scramble and figure out how to “MacGyver” your way toward your desired outcome.
You may not be as “safe” walking this tightrope toward the change you desire… but you certainly are free (not “freer” but simply “free”). Your efforts as a change agent for self, will be regarded and duly noted by others—and will allow them the audacity and courage to become a change agent for their own self.
Perhaps you’re super self-aware and already work hard at making the necessary changes in whatever quadrant of your life you need. Maybe you’re not. Maybe I needed to re-learn this lesson… and so I thank you for indulging me this opportunity.
Choose yourself. Nothing is impossible. Slip that little apostrophe in and add a little space: I’m Possible. Damn it, it’s the truth.
In mathematics there are “conditional statements” identified by the presence of the words “if” and “then.”
There are similar conditional statements that we make in life, in the goals that we set, and the ventures we take on.
- “If I get $10000 of funding, then my business will be a success.”
- “If I can just get a meeting with Ms. X, then my idea will be legitimate.”
- “If I can just get a boyfriend, then I’ll finally be happy.”
- “If I can get on Broadway, then I’ll get my star turn on a TV the following year.”
The problem with conditional statements (if, then) in real life is that the road to success or the end goal we desire is rarely so linear. “If X happens, then I’ll get Y.”
And in the process, we only ever really pursue X and never really Y (that piece of the puzzle we truly desire—more so than X).
Back to those hypothetical conditional statements above:
- You want your business to be a success? See what you can do with $5000.
- You want your idea to be legitimate? Test it out in the world before bringing it to Ms.X. In fact, Ms. X will probably find you if the idea is legitimate.
- What can you do to cultivate happiness right now, without a significant other?
- How can you start pursuing a TV role without already having the penultimate Broadway gig already under your belt? A web-series? Networking?
Making conditional statements can be a difficult habit to break (I, too, am a work-in-progress on this).
It would be dangerous for me to make the absolute statement, “If you continue to make conditional statements about your success, then you’ll find yourself sitting inside a metaphorical waiting room your entire life.”
But if I don’t end the article with a big bang or sensational declaration… then how will you ever remember what I wrote? (See what I did there )
Now that I have your attention with those two asterisks in the title, please see the definition of aristocracy that came across my desk this week.
** “I believe in aristocracy, though—if that is the right word, and if a Democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.: ~ E. M. Forster, from Two Cheers for Democracy
We should ever strive to be an **aristocrat in our every dealing, whether in our sales, our marketing, our partnerships, or with our loved ones.
How much more could we achieve individually and collectively when we apply this definition of aristocracy to ourselves? How much peace would we find? How much rest?
The aristocrat, the plucky, give extra of themselves—their brain, their time, their love.
Some might say that in the world of business, this idea of an aristocrat could be a little too romantic—but I’ll retort that this kind of chivalry is not yet dead.
The test is not whether you can make “it” happen—whatever your “Holy Grail” happens to be. The real test is actually a three parter:
- Perseverance and endurance. No explanation needed there.
- The route to get to your Grail will not be a circuitous one, nor will it be a well-paved path. Will you be willing to learn to swim, deep-sea dive, swing from vines, or drive an ATV to get to your destination?
- What will you do with your Grail once you attain it? Is the Grail the same one you thought you’d be holding when you first set out on your journey? Are you a different person now because of everything you learned while blazing a trail to your Grail? What’s your next move?