There is a famous quote, captured so beautifully in wall-mounted, framed photos in offices across America. The Successories brand of motivational and inspirational products has made a fortune over it and similar products and while many people think they are corny and stupid, I find these phrases captured in artistic photography have a way of capturing the strength and promise within all of us and the methods, sometimes reasons, which bring out that potential. I have not purchased any of these products but often find myself remembering the ones that I have seen and which have resonated with me. There is one phrase in particular that came to mind this week.
I am in the eye of what appears to be one of those few storms that happen in all of our lives. You know, those moments that we feel deep in our stomachs may change the course of our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The proverbial forks in the road that keep us up at night, unable to eat, and overly irritable. These several words–and the images they conjure–are one of many sources of inspiration I will need to weather this storm. Far from the sole, or even main, source of confidence; they nonetheless help me understand an essential part of the human condition.
The Successory reads:
“Every morning in Africa a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest Lion or it will be killed…. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Lion or a Gazelle when the sun comes up… you’d better be running.” – Charlotte Wrestling
My applicable twist on it goes like this: Human beings are motivated by two things, hunger, and fear.
Hunger metaphorically and literally drives us. We hunger for success and fame. We hunger for achievement.
Hunger drives us … Metaphorically.
My wonderful mother once proved this, admitting to me that she was driven to provide more for our family on those nights in which, after she’d first allowed us– her three children– to fill our stomachs, there was no more food left for her. (Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!).
Hunger drives us … Literally.
Ray Lewis, one of the best linebackers in NFL history, also confirmed how powerful this fear motivator can be when he told the story of his card workout. Surrounded by crime and poverty in his childhood neighborhood and determined to use sports (he was also an elite scholastic wrestler), he asked his mother for a deck of playing cards. Every night, he’d go through this deck doing push-ups and sit-ups, performing repetitions that matched the value on the pulled card each time (he assigned larger values to the face cards). To this day, entering into his 16th season in the NFL, he still does this workout. And the motivation to provide a better life for his family is still the driving force.
Hunger drives us … Figuratively and Metaphorically.
Fear has a similarly effective way of pushing us. More primal in nature (flight versus fight), it is a fundamental part of our human makeup. While the fear of death that humans felt thousands of years ago was very real, the modern equivalents– fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of rejection–are just as powerful and damaging. Kids are driven to do well in school out of fear their parents will be disappointed or they won’t get into the college of their choice. Professionals spend hours working on presentations and bettering their craft for fear their companies will find someone younger, smarter, or more talented. And athletes prepare out of fear they will lose. And out of fear of what loss might mean. Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame football player that dominated his opposition for the better part of a decade as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, went so far as to personalize the fear on almost every play. Known for his fearlessness in going over the middle to catch passes, he revealed a telling truth. He was indeed worried about getting hit by guys bigger and stronger than he was when going into the heart of the defense. Who wouldn’t be? But, as he admitted, he had two choices. Either go over the middle. Or go back to the ghetto. An integral part of three Super Bowl Championship teams, his fear of failure and a return to poverty far outweighed his fear of bodily harm.
Fear drives us … Figuratively and Literally.
Not only are these two motivators–Hunger and Fear–natural and inborn, I would argue they are what make people great. I think if you dove deep into the minds of the successful; whether they have highly achieved in sports, business, entertainment, or academia; you’d find either a deep hunger for success (for a host of reasons) or an unrelenting fear (of, among other things; failure, ridicule, or embarrassment).
So with my mind swirling and heart racing, heightened anxiety and worry pushes me forward. This storm I’m currently in, one which I’m confident I’ll look back upon in several years with fondness, is what motivates and drives me. I know I have work to do because…well, because nobody is going to do it for me. I’m fearful that I won’t get through this storm. And if I don’t, indeed, get through it, my family won’t eat. And if that doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning, nothing will!
(image courtesy of PhotographersDirect.com)