Life or Death

The other day I had an interesting conversation with Kyle, a co-worker of mine. We had talked about motivational and inspiring authors several times in the past, so it wasn’t abnormal when he asked me if I had heard of a certain guy who had transformed himself from a 300-pound couch potato to US Navy SEAL and world-class ultra-marathon runner. I had not. After telling me the story, Kyle made a very interesting statement.

“It would be so awesome to have that kind of motivation, you know?”

“What kind?” I asked, arching an eyebrow.

“You know, the kind where you realize you have to do something or you’re going to die.”

It took me a moment to come up with a response. It’s not the kind of statement that is necessarily refutable; surely survival instinct plays a huge role in the attempts many people make to improve their lives. But to my mind this was a bit different.

“That’s true” I said eventually. “but all motivation should be like that.”

That sums up my idea about motivation: it must ultimately begin with the desire to improve your current condition or situation. Whether for something urgent like a life-or-death situation, or something non-urgent like putting in the effort to finish an important work project early, that desire to improve your circumstances is ultimately the same thing but with other drivers acting on it. Motivation + Survival will get you through a natural disaster. Motivation + Reproduction will get you into a relationship. Motivation + Avarice will get you into stock market speculation. Focusing strictly on the motivation, though, it’s all the same thing.

It’s obviously a very important thing, but I wanted to stress to Kyle that he didn’t have to wait around for a survival scenario to experience this kind of motivation. In the case of the converted ultra-marathoner, I believe that what drove him on to the great heights he has achieved and what was truly enviable was the moment of discovery. Realizing, after a lifetime of self-doubt and self-defeat, that he could actually lose 10 pounds after all. And then 150 more. He could actually run a mile, and then 150 more. In fact, turns out his body had basically won the ultra-marathon genetics lottery; he just needed to discover it.

Once you can imagine something better a month, a year, a decade in your future and really sell it to your own mind, the motivation you feel is no less potent than if a gun was being pointed to your head. In fact, it is more so. The really amazing stuff starts to happen when you get into the world of Motivation + Discovery; therein lies no limit.

Photo: David Goggins