This week I came across an interesting account by entrepreneur Noah Kagen. He shared the experience of walking out of a Tony Robbins seminar. Kagen’s comments were honest and heartfelt. They were a mixture of applause and shock which gave rise to a nagging thought.
I have never been one to partake self-help or motivational material. Yet, I find the writing interesting and I enjoy their observations. I enjoy studying it, looking for the magic pill to make motivation or inspiration grow.
What is Motivation?
What motivates one, may have a different effect on another. The same goes for inspiration. While reading a new book recently, I shared a couple of passages I thought were motivating with my wife. To my dismay, her response was the polar opposite of mine.
These experiences caused me to look at motivation differently. I started looking at the motivation industry and how big it is. There are thousands of motivational speakers, books, and videos. YouTube is filled with motivational videos like this one, which is one of my favorites:
While reviewing many of the titles, I found there were few new ideas. Themes like hope, overcoming fear or breaking bad habits were consistent in every search result. These results caused me to question if any of this stuff works, and if not, why not. For someone seeking help trying to run a new online business, this was distressing.
I decided to talk to some friends who chase the latest fad diets or motivational talks. I asked them why they keep consuming the material when they don’t seem to apply the information. The answer was always the same—it makes them feel better. While they might not have done much with the information, it gave hope that change was possible.
I began to wonder why we consume this stuff when in reality we aren’t going to do anything with it. This bothered me. Is all this motivational stuff like a drug that makes you feel better for a minute, but never gets you anywhere? Is it a placebo to make us think we are improving our lives when actually we aren’t? Could it be that we misuse the terms motivation and inspiration?
Generally, outside forces drive motivation. Something in the environment pulls us towards a certain behavior. When you say you aren’t motivated to work out, that means external stimulus isn’t enough to get you off the couch. Motivation is more like a momentary spark, triggering an action.
What is Inspiration?
Unlike motivation, inspiration comes from within. Inspiration is like a fire burning inside of you that pushes you forward. It is a connection inside of you that stimulates and heightens your sense of being and drive. Inspiration makes you come alive.
Therein lies the problem with much of the self-help stuff available. Often, we ask ourselves the wrong question before the start. The wrong question causes us to look for the wrong stimulus.
The Answer in a Parable
Consider the parable of the young man who climbed a high mountain to visit with a wise monk to learn the secret to success. The monk asked the young man to follow him back down the mountain. When they came to a stream, the monk waded in and asked the man to join him. The monk then grabbed him and held him underwater for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he let the struggling young man up.
When the young man could speak, he screamed at the monk, “Why did you do that?” The monk replied, “When you want success as badly as you wanted air, you will find it.”
Start the journey to self-employment by asking what it is you want. Then ask if you want it as badly as you want to breathe. Once you understand that, finding inspiration is easy. This helps you avoid the motivational “junk food” that only provides momentary motivation.
I have read self-help books my whole life. I guess I always wanted to feel good, but looking back I wonder if I ever did anything with the information I had. Then I had kids. I was always looking for ways to be a better parent. I did my research and found many different philosophies when it comes to parenting.
My Motivation or Inspiration?
My motivation came from my kids—outside stimuli—as Jeff so eloquently put it. I had to come up with something that would not only benefit my children but would help me hang onto my sanity for as long as possible.
I discovered that my kids not only gave me the motivation, but they also provided me with inspiration. Because of the love, I had for my children I was willing to learn what was necessary to be a better parent. I immersed myself in books and assimilated the information to form my own philosophy on parenting.
Maybe it is an outside source that leads us to water, and maybe it’s the inspiration that makes us drink. Perhaps motivation has to lead us to the great fountain of knowledge but if we are not inspired to drink what good was the motivation? Like Jeff says, “Motivation is more like a momentary spark, triggering an action”. If inspiration comes from within, then where do you find it? If you stand at the edge of a body of water, glistening in the sunlight, the beauty of it probably won’t inspire you to drink.
My Answer in an Example
Let’s say that you’ve been hiking up a steep mountain all day. You only brought enough water to make it to the top, because you were told there was a lake at the top where you could refill your water. However, your water runs out nearly two miles from the summit. It’s a hot day and you’re tired. You are motivated to make it there because you’re thirsty. You get to the top of the mountain and sure enough, there is the lake you were promised.
Do you need the inspiration to drink? No, it’s much more than just being motivated or inspired, you want it because you need it. Just as the young man in Jeff’s story, the young man needed to breathe. So my theory is, when you’re thirsty enough, you’ll look for the water, and when you find it you’ll drink.