Finding your drive
JULY 16 — My colleague told me about the time she showed her report card to her older sister. She had landed in the worst class of her standard and the sister, in the haughty, know-it-all manner that older siblings use every now and then, expressed astonishment at her predicament. From that point on, my colleague said she worked harder and never dropped from the best class ever again.
It was a passing mention, an anecdote of her childhood. But it stuck with me how that small exchange led her to do better in school. It’s amazing how we often find motivation and drive in mundane things, where other people may not.
In my own school years, especially during primary school, we had motivational talks and seminars. I hated them. I understand why they might help some students who need a little push to do a little bit better in school. Maybe some students need a kick up the backside so they don’t waste their school years and regret it decades down the road.
But they didn’t work for me. To me there’s something off-putting about people in nice suits pumping fists onstage while demonstrating a number of unnatural ways you can use the word “great”. While the motivational experts did their best to get me worked up for the next big national examination, I’d yawn inside and wish that I was playing Super Mario Brothers video game at home instead. I’d still be wasting time, but at least I’d have fun jumping on walking shiitake mushrooms and flying tortoises.
The reason I didn’t connect with these motivators was that most of the time they were pushing the wrong buttons. It boils down to what we personally care about. Everyone finds that little extra push in different things; what drives me may not mean anything to you.
If you try to get out of bed this morning by telling yourself that a huge pile of work is waiting, you’ll probably be Googling “original excuses for being late to work” later. But if you tell yourself that you need to earn money to feed your crippling Iced Caramel Macchiato addiction, you might even back-flip out of bed at 6am sharp without an alarm clock every day.
Indeed, the right motivators keep us going no matter what we’re doing. Maybe you’re passionate about what you do at work and dream of someday making it big in your industry. Maybe your workplace has a great Internet connection for your daily fix of funny cat videos on YouTube. It varies from person to person but with every person it’s always something that person cares about.
One of my favourite Simpsons episodes is about motivation. In “And Maggie Makes Three” (season six), Lisa and Bart ask their father Homer why there are no baby pictures of Maggie, the youngest in the family.
Homer then tells them about when he finally got to quit his hated job at Mr Burns’ nuclear plant and proceeded to get his dream job: working at a bowling alley. But his wife Marge later got pregnant with their third daughter Maggie, and when Homer found out he was not enthusiastic about it. The added commitment meant he had to abandon his dream job and go back to the nuclear plant in order to make enough money for his family.
And he did. Mr Burns, ever mean at heart, made Homer beg for his old job back and gave him a plaque saying “Don’t forget: you’re here forever.” Unhappy, Homer nevertheless fell in love with his daughter Maggie when she was born. Back to the question, Homer explains that Maggie’s baby pictures are where he needs them the most.
At the very end we finally see what Homer meant: he put the pictures at his workplace. They are positioned all over the plaque Mr Burns gave him, making it say “Do it for her” instead. While Homer’s boneheaded idiocy makes us laugh every episode, in this episode we get a glimpse of his personal motivation deep down. He sticks to a job he hates for the sake of his daughter and family.
But that’s Homer. What drives you?
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.