The Uneasily Honest Reason Why Motivation Matters So Much.

Earlier this week, my friend, Mike Kunkle wrote a thoughtful post entitled, Sales Myth Buster: There ARE Limits To What You Can Achieve With Hard Work. Mike’s no potato-chip-munching-fool. He’s a talented senior executive who has enabled multiple billion dollar companies to achieve breakthrough sales success. His angle on the topic of “being motivated” is one that I often hear repeated — “enough with the fluff, just develop the right skills and you’ll be a badass”…  Here are my thoughts on that discussion:

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Who is to say what is “realistic”? Who gets to decide what “the facts” are?

Not everything is clearly black-and-white. Another set of words that is often interchanged with “being realistic” is the idea of “being reasonable”.

Stated differently —  if the facts indicate that a goal or conquest isn’t possible then it isn’t reasonable to challenge something that isn’t realistically possible. That’s the definition of craziness, right?

The only problem is that time and perspectives quickly change everyone’s view of what is reasonable and realistic.

Is it reasonable to rob a bank? Not when you have a six figure job, a promising future, and a beautiful family at home that adores you. But what if your family were kidnapped and you were told that the only way they will ever live is if you go to rob that back?

What is reasonable and realistic instantly changes. It can be a dramatic and instantaneous change.

Harsh financial problems, like what the global economy has experienced over the last decade, have made the idea off being reasonable and realistic improbably unpredictable.

Business leaders are doing things now that they would have never done before — entertaining strategies that would have otherwise been labeled unrealistic and impossible.

That’s important to note, because the idea of you staying inspired often comes down to what other people think is right for you.

In other words, if your goal is too high or your ambition too focused then you’re obviously not a credible person — because you don’t know what is realistic. That’s inferred. Sometimes explicitly stated by those around you.

But time and perspective have a unique way of changing that.

You would probably tell a 65 year old businessman whose restaurant just collapsed to go collect Social Security and live out his days dreaming about the good old times. After all, an old, broke person doesn’t have the stamina to go build a second act in business so late in life. That’s just not realistic at that age.

But then someone like Harland Sanders comes along who is faced with that exact scenario and builds a billion dollar corporation. If you were to ask him at 25 or 35 or 45 if he would likely end up building a billion-dollar restaurant he would have probably laughed at the idea.

But when circumstances forced the state of Kentucky to reroute the road that sent daily traffic passed his restaurant, he was forced to change his idea about what was reasonable and realistic.

Which brings us to the more important discussion.

How do you stay inspired and motivated when you do need to achieve an impossible task and you don’t already have the skills you need?

The intellectual argument against inspirational “mumbo-jumbo” is that if you just follow a series of steps and develop the skills you need you will achieve the results you want.

So instead of all the hype around motivation you should just follow steps and build better personal skills.

But, learning a new skill takes time. Lot’s of time, in fact. Research shows that it takes thousands of hours of deliberate practice to achieve rock star results.

Which leaves a very important question to be answered by those who make an intellectual argument against motivation: “What do you do if you need results faster than in a few thousand hours from now?”

That’s why motivation matters so much.

Because between now and thousands-of-hours-then you’re going to need to tough it out. You’re going to need to be more creative than you’ve ever been before.

You’re going to need to fight harder, work harder, and do things you’ve never ever done before.

Because learning new skills is difficult and guaranteed to generate more than a few failures, you’re going to be tempted more than ever to give up — thousands of hours too soon.

Skill, without will, isn’t enough to make you a superstar. Make no mistake — you need skills.

“Will” buys you enough time to learn those skills.

That’s the uneasily honest explanation for why it matters so much that you stay motivated.

It’s probably not reasonable to keep banging your head against obstacles as you learn the hard lessons that come with new skills, but it’s what superstars do.

Don’t give up because someone tells you that you aren’t being realistic.

Stay motivated and figure it out. The skills will come.

0 Replies to “The Uneasily Honest Reason Why Motivation Matters So Much.”

  1. I love you, Waldschmidt. This is why people follow you around. You could have probably taught Aristotle something about Ethos, Logos and Pathos. I enjoy your work, respect you tremendously, and am glad I spurred a Dan Waldschmidt post.

    I just want to be clear, Dan, that my message was not intended to be, “Enough with the fluff, just develop the right skills and you’ll be a badass.” I’m a big believer in motivation and cited “drive” as a top sales producer trait.

    I just disagree with the angle that motivation and hard work is always enough. That was my point, and it led into the topic of top sales producer traits, which was the real point of my post. Sometimes, hard work and motivation is enough. Sometimes, it’s not. It’s dependent on a lot of factors and context.

    In my blog post, I use the example of the first few weeks of American Idol, where you see the folks who don’t make it. Developing past tone-deafness to become a pop recording star is not a goal that will achieved with any amount of passion or hard work. The raw ingredients are missing, to build on.

    Pit two equally-talented (or even unequally-talented people, but with the right traits) against the same goal, and the one who works harder, will likely win. But if the raw materials (traits) are not there, or the behaviors/learned skills can only stretch so far, sometimes there are real limits. Hard work, dedication, commitment, will and motivation can push people pretty far, as your post suggests… but it’s not always enough. I have physical limitations that will prevent me from being a sub-4 miler. Doesn’t mean I can’t run, exercise, or enjoy sports. It does mean I won’t be an Olympic runner.

    So, please – to you and your readers – don’t hear what I’m not saying. Saying that there are limits, and that for some things, a certain level of talent or proclivity is required, is not a pitch against motivation or hard work. Motivation and hard work will accomplish amazing things. And, sometimes, they’re still not enough. 😉

    Stay the course, Dan. You motivate me.

    1. Yeah. You didn’t make that “enough with the fluff, just develop the right skills and you’ll be a badass”… comment — but it makes my position better if I control the conversation, Mike. 🙂
      I’ve been thinking about this topic for some time now. Your post actually got my thinking about “WHY” motivation is so important.

      There is this unspoken (and often spoken) mantra that process matters most: “just follow the process and all will be well”. From getting a job, to working from home, to selling a multi-level-marketed product, to taking over the territory of the last superstar sales rep — there’s a difference between the plans that should work and those that do work.

      Skills do matter. A lot. You can’t be a lazy idiot and achieve wild success. It takes will to create skills.

      It’s a good discussion. Glad you kicked things off, Mike…

      1. Been thinking about this, too, Dan, from a slightly different angle. Your process comment jogged it.
        When I want to achieve something personally, I write it down and put a tremendous amount of energy into it, in a variety of ways. I fire up the motivation, the commitment, the hard work, the relentless focus, the fun of doing it and making things happen. When I coach individuals, I try to find their spark and get them to do the same.

        But if I’m trying to move the needle in an organization, and move the performance of the big bucket of middle performers up a notch closer toward the top 20%, I simply haven’t found that to be as effective. Or perhaps more accurately, I haven’t found it to be scalable or sustainable. Maybe I haven’t figured out what you have yet, so I’m not going to say it’s not possible, but that hasn’t worked well for me (and early on in my career, I did try).

        When I’m trying to drive large-scale organization performance, I’ve had a lot more success with top-producer research, hiring the right people, sales process, sales methodology, effective learning systems, sales coaching, systems, tools, compensation, and the gaggle of organizational performance methods that I have at my disposal after years of doing this work. I create and execute a logical, scalable, replicable plan. It also helps to have a relentless focus on the customer, being easy to do business with, killing the senseless policies or blocks that get in the way of people being successful and serving customers, and truly caring and being authentic… many of the other things I like about your work. But for me, it’s the organization behavior approach that has gotten me my biggest results, in those cases. Sometime, offline, I’d like to have a conversation with you about all this and trade perspectives.

  2. I love you, Waldschmidt. This is why people follow you around. You could have probably taught Aristotle something about Ethos, Logos and Pathos. I enjoy your work, respect you tremendously, and am glad I spurred a Dan Waldschmidt post.

    I just want to be clear, Dan, that my message was not intended to be, “Enough with the fluff, just develop the right skills and you’ll be a badass.” I’m a big believer in motivation and cited “drive” as a top sales producer trait.

    I just disagree with the angle that motivation and hard work is always enough. That was my point, and it led into the topic of top sales producer traits, which was the real point of my post. Sometimes, hard work and motivation is enough. Sometimes, it’s not. It’s dependent on a lot of factors and context.

    In my blog post, I use the example of the first few weeks of American Idol, where you see the folks who don’t make it. Developing past tone-deafness to become a pop recording star is not a goal that will achieved with any amount of passion or hard work. The raw ingredients are missing, to build on.

    Pit two equally-talented (or even unequally-talented people, but with the right traits) against the same goal, and the one who works harder, will likely win. But if the raw materials (traits) are not there, or the behaviors/learned skills can only stretch so far, sometimes there are real limits. Hard work, dedication, commitment, will and motivation can push people pretty far, as your post suggests… but it’s not always enough. I have physical limitations that will prevent me from being a sub-4 miler. Doesn’t mean I can’t run, exercise, or enjoy sports. It does mean I won’t be an Olympic runner.

    So, please – to you and your readers – don’t hear what I’m not saying. Saying that there are limits, and that for some things, a certain level of talent or proclivity is required, is not a pitch against motivation or hard work. Motivation and hard work will accomplish amazing things. And, sometimes, they’re still not enough. 😉

    Stay the course, Dan. You motivate me.

    1. Yeah. You didn’t make that “enough with the fluff, just develop the right skills and you’ll be a badass”… comment — but it makes my position better if I control the conversation, Mike. 🙂
      I’ve been thinking about this topic for some time now. Your post actually got my thinking about “WHY” motivation is so important.

      There is this unspoken (and often spoken) mantra that process matters most: “just follow the process and all will be well”. From getting a job, to working from home, to selling a multi-level-marketed product, to taking over the territory of the last superstar sales rep — there’s a difference between the plans that should work and those that do work.

      Skills do matter. A lot. You can’t be a lazy idiot and achieve wild success. It takes will to create skills.

      It’s a good discussion. Glad you kicked things off, Mike…

      1. Been thinking about this, too, Dan, from a slightly different angle. Your process comment jogged it.
        When I want to achieve something personally, I write it down and put a tremendous amount of energy into it, in a variety of ways. I fire up the motivation, the commitment, the hard work, the relentless focus, the fun of doing it and making things happen. When I coach individuals, I try to find their spark and get them to do the same.

        But if I’m trying to move the needle in an organization, and move the performance of the big bucket of middle performers up a notch closer toward the top 20%, I simply haven’t found that to be as effective. Or perhaps more accurately, I haven’t found it to be scalable or sustainable. Maybe I haven’t figured out what you have yet, so I’m not going to say it’s not possible, but that hasn’t worked well for me (and early on in my career, I did try).

        When I’m trying to drive large-scale organization performance, I’ve had a lot more success with top-producer research, hiring the right people, sales process, sales methodology, effective learning systems, sales coaching, systems, tools, compensation, and the gaggle of organizational performance methods that I have at my disposal after years of doing this work. I create and execute a logical, scalable, replicable plan. It also helps to have a relentless focus on the customer, being easy to do business with, killing the senseless policies or blocks that get in the way of people being successful and serving customers, and truly caring and being authentic… many of the other things I like about your work. But for me, it’s the organization behavior approach that has gotten me my biggest results, in those cases. Sometime, offline, I’d like to have a conversation with you about all this and trade perspectives.

  3. What happens when you had and have the skill, but you lost the will through a series of life’s untimely events. How do you turn it around?

    1. You start small. You take baby steps. You take back control step by step by step.

      Make no mistake — it is never easy. And you sound tired and bruised already.

      But you can do it, Paul. You can get your mojo back. I suggest you go hit something. 🙂

      That’s always a great way to get started.

      Dan

    2. don’t let office terrorists win. You have everything you need. Seeing that you have what it takes,especially if they are trapped in an 80’s formulaic selling pattern will definitely start them sneering. Don’t worry about what they are doing–Focus on growing yourself and your customers and it will all turn around.NO ONE learns without failure and the only people who don’t fall are the ones sitting on the couch. GO GET EM!!

  4. What happens when you had and have the skill, but you lost the will through a series of life’s untimely events. How do you turn it around?

    1. You start small. You take baby steps. You take back control step by step by step.

      Make no mistake — it is never easy. And you sound tired and bruised already.

      But you can do it, Paul. You can get your mojo back. I suggest you go hit something. 🙂

      That’s always a great way to get started.

      Dan

    2. don’t let office terrorists win. You have everything you need. Seeing that you have what it takes,especially if they are trapped in an 80’s formulaic selling pattern will definitely start them sneering. Don’t worry about what they are doing–Focus on growing yourself and your customers and it will all turn around.NO ONE learns without failure and the only people who don’t fall are the ones sitting on the couch. GO GET EM!!

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