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Saturday, July 11, 2009


"When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, 'It's in the script'. If he says, 'But what's my motivation?', I say, 'Your salary'".

- Alfred Hitchcock

What is it that motivates us? Is there in fact any one "thing" that motivates us all? I don't know. For me, there are times when nothing what-so-ever motivates me; at those times I have more in common with a carbon rod than any sentient life-form. Yes, sometimes motivation is, shall we say, an elusive quantity.

Now I do find that when I am unmotivated, sometimes the best thing for me to do is to simply do something. Sometimes I just need that ever-so-slight push to get me going. Simple. huh? Well not so fast, as that "little push" is harder than a Geometry proof to come up with; sometimes it's nearly impossible to find. Bottom line: motivation is a tough one for me.

So anyway, here are a few things that probably should motivate me, and how I think I react to them on a scale of 1 (not motivating at all) to 10 (highly motivating).

Independence (10) -
I find the concept of being dependent upon someone else to be repugnant, and I say that as someone who as been there. Much of what I've done in my personal life over the past ten years has been squarely aimed at become more independent. I've walked down a path where I've come to realize that dependence is a license to feel bad and be disappointed. Now this isn't to say that I don't think I can trust anyone, because that definitely not the case. There are people I trust, and trust deeply. However, for me to freely give and accept that trust, I have to know inside of myself that I don't need it. It's like a gift: giving a gift because you want to is always better than giving a gift because you have to. For me, being independent liberates me from the notion that I interact with others because I have to. It's not a perfect motivator, but it seems to work for me.

Morality (9) -
I don't know if "morality" is the right word, but it's as good as any that I can think of to describe the notion of trying to do the "right thing". For me, whether at work or at home, I always am asking myself if a particular course of action represents "the right thing" to do. It's a delicate balance, because sometimes you have to do something that can make one person upset but another person happy. Now I'm not claiming that morality is just about popularity, because it isn't. I've made more than a few very unpopular decisions in my life, but I'd at least like to think that when I did, it was to serve the betterment of a higher purpose.

Helping Others (7) -
I like to help other people. Sometimes that means just listening. Sometimes that means more than that. Interesting, huh? If you knew me at work, you'd think that I was basically this cold, almost unfeeling "thing", but one of the reasons why I continue to do what I do is because I get a genuine thrill out of making some small aspect of a person's job easier. The same thing holds true outside of work. The '7' note above is something of an aggregate. as there are some people for whom I would do anything to help (more like a 10) and there are others...a very, very small group...where I'd have to think first about throwing them a life-preserver.

Money (7) -
Money is something of a motivator, but not a complete one. One of the things I've learned working in the business world for these 23+ years is that there isn't a straight-line correlation between hard work and compensation. There simply isn't. I know some folks at work who both out-rank me and go home at 4:10pm each day, without fail. I also know some folks who earn far less than me who seem to work non-stop. For me, it's always been something of a delicate balance between what I think I'm worth and what others who do similar work are being paid. Put another way, money is a motivator to the extent that I think I'm being compensated "fairly". Note the quotes, as "fair" is a relative term.

Learning (6) -
I truly enjoy learning new things. Sometimes the process of learning can be complex and convoluted, but never-the-less I do enjoy and am motivated by the prospect of learning new things

Power/Control(5) -
I don't desire much in the way of control over others. That kind of thing is over-rated. It's also very tiring. The kind of "power" that I want has more to do with an ability to be able to control these things around me that impact me.

God (3) -
I'd like to start this out by saying something about my "relationship with God", but yet I can't, as that would seem to imply something that I don't know exists. The frustrated Scientist in me always wants some proof that God exists, the other part of me thinks that this is why we have the concept of faith (so that we can in fact suspend the need for proof). Regardless, I can't say that the concept or being of God is much of a motivator. That's not to say though that I am not a moral person, because I do think that I am, and I do think that someone can be morally upstanding and not be a believer in God. I don't know if I'm that far down the road yet.

Fear (2) -
Fear is a motivator for all of us I suspect, but I can't say that I do many things out of fear. That I will say is a benefit of getting older: you just seem to fear less, maybe because you get closer to the only thing that there really is to fear in life: death.

Popularity (2) -
To say that I don't care what others think would be wrong, because I do. However, to say that what others think motivates me to do certain things would be an out-and-out lie. I will always do what I think is right before I'll do what I think is popular.

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