Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

May 19, 2014

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:


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.

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.