Personal Development Course
Becoming an Authentic MVP: Master the skills, attitudes, and discipline to be the Best in Your Business and Personal Life.
Lesson 5 – Finding Your “Why”
Please listen to the audio file first in each section as it contains greater detail than the written text. Then follow the instructions, if any, at then end of each lesson.
(Listen to Mp3, audio message 1, Your Magnificent Obsession)
In the first lesson this program, I emphasized that all enduring motivation must ultimately come from within the individual. That is why the words empower and envision are so vital to team performance. It must be your inner power and your own personal vision that propels you, not that of your leader. The success of your efforts depends not so much on the efforts themselves, but rather on your motive for doing them. In all of my research into MVPs in every profession, the key to their success was that they were motivated more by an inner magnificent obsession, a passion, than by any thought of profit or identity.
You may recall from history that the exquisitely beautiful armless statue of Venus de Milo was carved by an unknown sculptor. When a farmer dug up the soon-to-be world-famous work of art while plowing his field, a renowned museum curator sadly reflected what a great pity it was that the sculptor would never be recognized by thousands of admirers, nor would he or she ever know how valuable the statue became hundreds of years later. The farmer retorted that it must have been a labor of love for someone to be able to have envisioned such perfection and brought it forth with just a chisel and a shapeless piece of stone. “Just creating something of such quality,” said the farmer, “would have been payment in full for me.” You can’t commission a masterpiece. Human greatness can’t be externally motivated. It must be compelled from within.
Here’s a question: Would you be interested in doing my job? It involves flying almost every week to a different, crowded city, spending half your life waiting in airports, experiencing canceled and late flights, dealing with difficult, sometimes obnoxious people, eating in a hurry, being away from family and friends for long periods of time, and living out of a suitcase.
Or what about this job? Visiting some of the most beautiful, exotic places in the world, meeting some of the most interesting, engaging people, sampling different cultures and cuisine, making a positive difference is people’s lives, taking family members on fabulous vacations, and being paid extremely well. How does that sound? Well, the reality is that I have described my own career in different terms.
While I was researching one of my books, I came across a story about a productivity dispatcher who was sent to a building site in France during the Middle Ages to interview the laborers. The dispatcher approached the first worker on the construction site and asked, “What are you doing?” “What, are you blind?” the worker snapped back. “I’m cutting these impossible boulders with primitive tools and putting them together the way the boss tells me. I’m sweating under this blazing sun. It’s backbreaking work, and it’s boring me to death!” The dispatcher quickly backed off and retreated to a second worker with the same question. “What are you doing?” The second worker shrugged and replied, “I’m shaping these boulders into usable blocks, which are then assembled according to the architect’s plans. It’s hard work because the building is so tall, and the work gets very repetitive. But I earn five francs a week and that supports my family.”
Somewhat encouraged, the dispatcher went on to a third worker. “And what are you doing?” The third worker stood up, his sweaty face beaming with a smile. Lifting his arm toward the sky, he said proudly, “Why can’t you see? I’m building a magnificent cathedral!”
A magnificent obsession is the way you want to live, not just the things you want to own. A magnificent obsession is the person you want to be, not the title next to your name. A magnificent obsession is the mind-set that you have, not the diplomas or awards you earn. It is the worldview you claim as your own, not the collection of stamps on your passport. It is uniquely yours, like your fingerprint or handwriting.
Ask yourself this question: “If it weren’t for money, time and personal responsibilities, what would I really love to do with my life? Be specific. What do I really get excited about? Five years from now, what will my days and nights look like? How will I spend my time and with whom? Where will I live? What will I have accomplished? Take a look at your childhood dreams. What did you dream about when you were young?
Many of the high performance achievers I have studied overcame significant setbacks and learning experiences before they reached their goals and many found that the magnificent obsessions that had earlier in life were like buried treasure they had finally uncovered deep within themselves.
(Listen to Mp3, audio message 2, Finding Your Why)
I have a suitcase. In this suitcase there is a million dollars in cash. The suitcase is in an office building about an hour’s drive from where you are. All you need to do is meet me in the lobby in the next seven hours. If you arrive before the end of seven hours, I will hand you the suitcase, and you will be a million dollars richer. There is just one stipulation, however, and that is, if you are even one minute late, our deal is off, and you will receive nothing. No exceptions! With this in mind, what time would you like to leave? Most people respond by saying they would leave immediately. Wouldn’t you? So off you go. You jump in your car and start driving for the building. You’re excited and are already thinking about how you’re going to invest your million dollars.
Then suddenly the traffic comes to a complete stop. You turn on the radio and discover the tie-up is due to a series of freak accidents all around the building and there is no way to get there. Now what would you do? Would you give up and go back home? Or would you get out of your car and walk, run, commandeer a bicycle, hire a helicopter, or find some other way of getting to the building on time? I think so.
Now suppose that you’re driving to a hair or dental appointment. The traffic again comes to a standstill. Amazingly, there have been freak accidents around your beauty salon or dental office. What would you do in this case? Probably give up, go home, and reschedule (unless your toothache was unbearable)!
What’s the difference between these two situations? It comes down to why. I firmly believe that if the why is big enough, the how will be taken care of.
This compelling why will usually be connected to a magnificent obsession, which becomes your personal mission statement. It will be the basis for your long and short term goals, priorities, energy and staying power. MVPs are able to identify and tap into the power of a compelling why, especially when the roadblocks to achievement are the greatest. Yes, we all work to make ends meet. But life isn’t just surviving. It is thriving and arriving at your chosen destiny.
(Listen to Mp3, audio message 3, Running Your Own Race)
One of the best interpretations of winning I have ever seen is a fourteen-minute sales training film that AT&T has allowed me to share through the years in my seminars. The film recounts the running of the autumn marathon in a small town in Brown County, Somewhere, USA. Over one hundred runners are entered in the race, but we focus on only three of them. There is a young woman whose goal for the day is to better her time by at least a few seconds. She knows that many of the marathoners can beat her former best time of three hours, fifty-three minutes. But she’s hoping that today she can do at least 3:50 or 3:51. Next we meet a young man who looks hopeful but not completely confident. His idea of success is simply finishing the marathon, something he has never done before. He isn’t interested in running a 3:53 or even a 4:53. For him, success will be crossing that finish line and knowing that he has what it takes to complete the twenty-six grueling miles. Our third runner is a young man who has come to “‘go for broke.” He is not sure he can win, but he is intrigued by reaching down deep inside to see how good he really is. The gun sounds, and all three runners break from the starting point with the dozens of others in the race. Soon they spread out along the highways of Brown County and settle in to run at their own pace.
Who wins the race? Not one of our three runners. A stranger, new to the area, crosses the line first. But does that mean all the others have lost? It depends on how you want to look at it.
Externally, there can be one official winner who breaks the tape, but internally, the other runners know they win, too. The finish line that really matters is not the one drawn across the road back in town. Each runner has a different finish line–the goal each person has set. All three of the runners on whom we have focused have won, as well as the dozens of others who participated. The woman did better her best time by a few seconds; the man who just wanted to finish did; and the man who wanted to see how good he was pushed himself to a new level. For all three, the race was a process of achievement, of reaching an objective and creating the potential to move on to an ever-greater goal. No runner is a loser. They all know the real prize in the race is not first place, but the race itself. They feel that special exhilaration, that refreshing high that comes from knowing they have done the very best they can do.
(Listen to Mp3, audio message 4, Breaking Invisible Barriers)
Although there are certain “physical” limitations to performance, most “limits” are psychological and self-imposed, caused by feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy. Over time we all learn to lower or raise our expectations of ourselves based upon our environments and experiences. Successes give us confidence. Disappointments and failures become thorny reminders that history is bound to repeat itself.
When I was a boy I used to enjoy going to the local county fair to see the “flea circus” that was always a hit with me and my friends. I couldn’t comprehend, at first, how those tiny fleas could be trained to hop and jump around on miniature trampolines, trapezes and
not leap out of their little arenas that had no ceilings. I found out from the man that put on the show that, for a couple of weeks, he kept the fleas in a cardboard shoe box with a lid on it with pin-pricked holes so the fleas could breathe. Fleas normally can jump to a height of several feet, however the “circus” fleas continually hit the box lid and soon learned that six inches was their maximum limit. When the lid was removed, because they had been trained to lower their expectations, through frustration, they didn’t even attempt to jump out of their circus arena which would have been no problem.
We humans certainly are more intelligent than fleas, however behavior patterns seem to be consistent no matter the species. First we observe role models. We imitate their behavior. Through repetition, the imitation becomes habitual like brushing our teeth, or driving our cars.
If the feedback is negative and painful, we reinforce our failed attempts and settle for mediocrity rather than face future challenges and possible setbacks. If the feedback is positive and accepted as “target correction,” we are motivated to try a different approach and keep reaching for our highest aspirations. Subconscious reflections of past mistakes, fears of future failures and fears of the unknown tend to act as ceilings or lids on our achievements.
Here’s the good news. While visiting Sea World many times with my grandchildren in my home town of San Diego, California, my grandkids were amazed to see four-ton killer whales jumping in formation out of the water and over a rope positioned ten feet above the surface. We learned from the trainers that they begin by placing a rope on the bottom of the pool and rewarding the Orcas with mackerel and tuna when they pass over it. Incrementally, the rope is raised until it is completely out of the water, and the killer whale is required to jump out of the water to cross over the rope. Just as the whales are encouraged through positive reinforcement, people also respond to rewards, appreciation, recognition and praise. Unlike animals, however, we humans have the power to choose and control, to a large degree, the conditioning of our lives.
Always remember. Expectation is equal to motivation. You will be motivated only to attempt that which you expect to be able to achieve. Losers are motivated by the penalties of failure. Winners are motivated by the rewards of success. Expect more of your children, your teammates and yourself. You may not always get what you want in life, but in the long run you will get what you expect.