Racing to Win?

By Barry Maher

People frequently ask me how they should motivate themselves. If they don’t understand what motivates them, I’m not sure why they think I might. But it seems to me that if you want to motivate yourself, you’ve first got to decide what your goals really are. If you don‘t know where you’re going you might end up somewhere else. That quote comes from the immortal—if somewhat deceased—manager of the New York Yankees, Casey Stengel.

When I was in the corporate world, one of my people told me once that his goal was to have the number one office in the division.

“No, it isn’t,” I said. “Your goal is to be number five.”  Endeavors

“What? How do you know what I want?”

“Just a dumb guess. It’s the same dumb guess I make when I’m following a guy up a staircase and he stops at the second floor rather than continuing to climb. I figure that his goal was to get to the second floor. When I see a sprinter run full speed down the track for a hundred yards then stop—and he’s a big strong guy and he’s not pulling up lame—figure his goal was to run 100 yards.”


“Obviously,” I agreed. “Now, Perry, I’ve never seen you pull up lame, but I do see that as long as your office is in the top five in the division you never even bother to run. If you drop to sixth, seventh or eight, it’s a whole different story. You’re doing more promotion; you’re doing more training; you’re generally working a whole lot harder; you don’t play golf on Friday afternoon . . .”

“I don’t pla . . .” he started, trailing off when he saw that he was about to toss away any remaining credibility.

“Once you get back up to number five,” I continued, “it’s back to business as usual. You’re comfortable with your income, you’re comfortable with your standing. So no matter what you might think your goal is, Perry, it seems to me your real goal is to be number five.”

Likewise, it seems to me that if you want to know what your real goals are, look at what you do. Where are those activities likely to get you?  If that’s not your real goal, it might as well be.

Tip: If you’d like to be an immortal like Casey Stengel, the best time for racking up the necessarily accomplishments is prior to death.

There’s nothing wrong with not racing to win. Nothing at all. It’s a choice we can make and it’s a perfectly legitimate one. There are, for example, a virtually unlimited supply of human activities I’m not willing to put in the time, effort or devotion necessary to be the best at. I just don’t want kid myself about what I’m doing. Or where I’m going to be when that particular race is over.

If we really do want something, don’t we have to be willing to do all the things that it takes to make it happen? And we’ve got to provide the motivation ourselves, the constant motivation, to make sure those things get done.

If you’re not motivated, hey, maybe you simply don’t really want it.

© Copyright 2009 Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates, Las Vegas, Nevada


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