How do You Challenge Yourself?

April 14, 20150 Comments

imageLet’s assume you want to grow your business. Maybe you want the skills to transition to a new career. Suppose you want a better personal life than you had last year. Those aspirations can be the seeds of motivation. But none of those things will ever happen without motion of some kind. But what are the steps for following through on an improvement plan like that? It’s a little easier to advance an idea if you a self-motivated person. But what if you are someone who needs a boss or a coworker to kick you into action? No worries. Sometimes motivation is built in. At work, the motivation takes the form of a sales deadline, an emergency hiring, a pay raise assessment, a new title, or…the night sweats of fear when you suspect somebody is gunning for your job or your company’s market share is eroding. If none of the ‘built in’ motivators are present, I suggest having a “device” to keep you on track. I’ve always worked for myself; which means I’ve had to be responsible for my own paycheck. So, I’ll tell you what I do.

First, I have trained myself not to daydream for fun. If I think about something I want, I automatically think about what I’ll have to do to make my dream become a reality. I write down the goal and then make a list of what I think I need to do to accomplish that goal. As I learn more detail I evolve the list in a sequence of events.

The second thing I do is ‘create a deadline.’ When I was young I had a boss at a clothing store that lectured our sales team, “The minute I tell you about the commission goal, you start daydreaming about what you’ll spend the money on. Daydreaming is useless! Don’t dream unless you have a deadline for achievment.” He was right. A goal without a deadline is just a dream. So I decided not to waste my time on a dream unless I gave it a deadline. The deadline gave me a completion date to work toward. (I played college football and we didn’t win unless we got the ball into the End Zone more often than our opponent). We all know people who start a project but never finish it, right? It’s because they haven’t given their project an ‘end zone.’

Third, if I didn’t have a goal I would invent one to keep myself motivated. I’ve bought homes that were too expensive so that I would have to work harder to pay the mortgage. Soon, the mortgage was easy to pay. If I happened to be offered a big opportunity I would automatically say, YES!” Here’s an example. When I became more successful as a stand-up comedian, a television executive approached me, “I saw you do your little act on TV. Do you think you could produce a 30-minute weekly comedy show for us?” I didn’t hesitate, “Yes, I can.” But even then I knew there had to be a deadline for completion. So I asked, “When do you want to shoot the pilot?” The executive said, “Four weeks from today.” I said, “We will be ready.” I had no idea what to do but I had the luxury of four weeks to learn the TV production business. I immediately called some funny friends together and we figured out what it would cost, the staff we would need to hire, and how to write that much material.” That “pilot” was shot on time and under budget. We turned that “show” into an Emmy® award winning series that launched the successful careers of at least a dozen of us. It was a good opportunity and we all refused to fail. The pressure of completing that dream, when attached to a deadline, made it happen.

I guess the final question could be, “Why do I have to motivate myself at all? I make a good living and I just want to have fun in my time off.” You’re right. If your life is perfect right now – and as long as you die by Tuesday – your plan is rock solid. But if you want better – if you want more free time or more money – more status or more philanthropy – then stagnation and status quo are not your friend. Motivation is only valuable for people who care about improving life for themselves and others.

Ross Shafer is the co-author (with Michael Burger) of the new book, ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY – Bulletproof Tactics for Putting Yourself in High Demand. He is also the author of Nobody Moved Your Cheese, Are You Relevant, Grab More Market Share, and The Customer Shouts Back. Ross is a busy keynote speaker, author, and Emmy winner for his work as a comedian, talk show host, and writer. Learn more about Ross at: www.RossShafer.com

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