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Your Motivation Is Not Going To Be Enough

February 25, 2016

I didn’t want to write this blog post. It’s not that I dislike the topic, I just wasn’t motivated to sit down and write. I used to think that there was something wrong with me. Like a lot of people, it’s hard for me to get motivated. Yesterday, I had an epiphany. I don’t need motivation. In fact, I’m pretty sure that motivation is highly overrated. It’s like the starter on a car. The starter is a simple motor that runs off the battery. It’s whole job is to get the engine to turn over so the car can run. It’s that noise you hear when you first turn the key, but before the engine kicks to life. 

Ninty-nine percent of the time, your starter is doing nothing while you are driving. In fact, if you have ever had to push start a car, you completely bypassed the starter. You substituted someone huffing and puffing behind the car for that simple motor. 

Motivation is like that. It might get you moving, but it won’t keep you going. I needed motivation three years ago to start this blog. But, that “Let’s start throwing my thoughts into the void and see who listens” motivation is long gone. And yet, everyday, Monday-Friday, I show up and write. That’s not motivation. It’s something else. 

The Hunt For Red October” is one of my favorite movies. Captain Ramius is explaining to his officers  why he chose to inform Moscow of their intention to defect.

When Cortez reached the New World, he burned his boats. As a result, his men were highly motivated.

Motivation gets you to move. It inspires action, and like a burst of adrenaline, it gives you the energy to start. I’m great at starting things. I have a dozen story ideas, two books, countless house projects, an exercise regime and a whole head full of ideas. I know I could start on any number of them. I’m motivated. But, motivation, like adrenaline, wears off. There are certain things I haven’t started on because I know I don’t have the energy to finish them. And that’s not a bad thing. 

Living with adult ADHD for decades, I’ve come to know myself. I know that I only have time to focus on two or three things, big things, in my life. I love storytelling, but I skipped my Toastmaster’s story telling competition this year. Last year I won a couple of trophies for my “Rubber Car” speech, but it took a lot of time. I could have entered the competition this year. I was motivated, but I have some other things I want to do that are more important. (Okay, probably pretty arrogant to think I’d win, but it was a really good story.) 

So, if motivation isn’t what gets me out here everyday writing, what is it? 


I realized recently that if I choose to do something and commit to it, there is nothing that will stop me. That doesn’t mean that I will master whatever I’ve set out to do. I can play basketball for six hours a day and I’m never going to get into the NBA. But, we don’t have to master everything we attempt. I’m not really a runner, but if I set out to run, I’ll fall over dead before I drop out. (Staring Into The Abyss

Paul Newman was in a movie called “Cool Hand Luke.” If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” it came from that movie. His character picked a fight with the biggest guy in the prison. The big guy knocked him down easily. Newman got back up. The big guy knocked him down again. He got back up. This continued with the gathered crowd eventually begging Newman’s character to “stay down.” Eventually, the guy he was fighting also begged him to stay down. Newman could hardly see and could barely lift his arms, but he continued to struggle back to his feet. Eventually, the big guy just walked away. Newman’s character won the fight, not because he beat the other guy, but because he refused to let the other guy beat him. (Watch the clip here.)

Our challenges probably don’t involve getting literally knocked down again and again. And they may not even involve getting figuratively knocked down. Our enemy is not the guy who wants to stop us, the enemy is when we decide to stop ourselves. When we keep on going, even when it’s boring, even when the fun is gone, even when our motivation has left us, we keep putting one foot in front of the other, one word following the next; it’s in those cases where our determination to never quit kicks in, that we succeed. 

Determination trumps motivation. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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