Money, Motivation, Success and Who?
By Barry Maher
It was 7:30 on a Saturday morning, and I was setting up to do the opening keynote for the conference. For some reason—I have no idea why—the sound man thought his ten year old daughter would enjoy my presentation. He’d brought her with him to work.
Watching her father wiring this and plugging in that, the girl was soon as bored as only a ten year old can be. Eventually, she sauntered over to me.
“So who are you?” she demanded.
“I’m Barry Maher.”
Overwhelmingly unimpressed, she asked, “And who the heck is Barry Maher?”
“I’m the speaker.”
“Is that a big deal?”
I laughed. “Not apparently to you.”
“Not if all you do is speak. Everyone speaks. Even my little brother speaks, and he’s an idiot.” Sighing dismissively, she spun and walked away, in search of something—anything—more interesting.
“And who are you?” I don’t want to get particularly philosophical here, but obviously that’s the most basic question we all face.
So who are you? Aside from being CEO of Amalgamated Amalgamates, that is. If your self worth is dependent upon your work, I would suspect you might be heading for a fall, sooner or — at the very least — later, when retirement comes. There’s more to you than what you do for a living. Or at least there should be.
I’m not my job and neither are you. No matter how successful or how unsuccessful we might be at those jobs. We all know some big career successes who are very unsuccessful people. And some who are very unhappy. None of us should be surprised that there are some very successful and very happy people—great friends, loving spouses, wonderful role models for their children—who have never cashed a big paycheck.
“His picture hangs on every wall,” one self-described peon said of the company’s chairman of the board. “His name is invoked in reverential tones. But aside from making himself very rich, what does he really do for the world? Besides making it safe for one more set of unnecessary, environmentally devastating, energy wasting products.”
“He’s helping to perpetuate a lot of jobs,” I answered. “Yours included.”
“He is. But judging by the happiness the people around here seem to be getting from those jobs, they may not be eulogizing him at his funeral for that.”
A friend of mine once said of his business partner, “He’s given up his life in the single-minded pursuit of wealth. And now, wealth is all he has. So he obsesses about losing it. Since he never had a life, he has no idea of what to do with his money, even if he had time to enjoy it, which he doesn’t because he’s so accustomed to the treadmill he can’t even imagine getting off. Of course, the beautiful thing about the pursuit of money is that you’ve never got enough. So he keeps on chasing it, simply because he as no idea of what else to do with his life.”
I like money is much as anyone, more than many. And a big title impresses. (It especially impresses small minds, those we’re least interested in impressing.) But we should never forget, this is business: quid pro quo. We always have to measure the value of what we’re getting against the value of what we’re giving up.
Who are you? And who do you really want to be?