I’ve been thinking a lot on the subject of motivation – both finding it and maintaining it – lately. So today, I want to go a little “Dr. Phil” on your asses. Hopefully, if you’re struggling to gain traction or maintain momentum on a project, you’ll find the following information helpful.
As many of you know, I was traveling for my day job this past weekend and got to spend four days in New Orleans for our industry’s big trade show. The trip and the city were fantastic – if it wasn’t for the crazy, insane heat, I’d move down there in a heart beat and spend every day eating beignets and drinking hurricanes. 🙂
On the Saturday of our trip, my coworker and I wound up with some unexpected free time, so we decided to take a bus tour of the city. We went through the French Quarter, the Garden District, City Park and, of course, the Lower Ninth Ward – the area hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In case you missed the news coverage (or if you’ve forgotten in the years that have passed), this area was buried under 22 feet of water immediately following the storm and the failure of the levees. Barges that were left in the canal swept into the neighborhood, destroying homes and community buildings – many of which remain abandoned today.
It was an emotional experience for me for a couple of reasons. First, it’s incredibly difficult to witness the damage left over from the storm without imagining how devastating it must have been to be living in the area at the time. Believe me – it leaves you truly grateful for the things you have, no matter how much or how little that may be.
In addition, the visit was very meaningful for me because my grandmother spent a few months in the area immediately after the hurricane kit working as a Red Cross Mental Health Program supervisor. Essentially, she was the person who counseled people who had just lost everything on how to get the services they needed and how to start rebuilding their lives.
I’ve always been inspired by her example, and hope to be as involved with community service as she was when I make the leap back to self-employment again. I miss her dearly, so it was a special opportunity for me to visit an area where she devoted so much time and energy.
But what really stood out to me was something the tour guide said during this leg of our trip. He was very blunt about some of the political and economic circumstances that prevented (and continue to prevent) the rebuilding efforts from being completed – including the fact that tourism is a major driving force in the region, and that people (like me and my coworker) want to see and experience the devastation that occurred.
In a sense, there’s little motivation to rebuild when the area continues to profit from the tourism dollars generated by the still-extensive storm damage.
Now, obviously, the situation is about 100 times more complicated than that, and I’m in no way, shape or form saying that the only thing holding the area back from rebuilding is tourism dollars. There’s a huge mess of other factors at play, including poorly allocated relief funds, faulty homeowner insurance policies and a large percentage of the former population that simply isn’t interested in returning.
However, the statements made by our tour guide really highlighted what, for me, represents the true challenge of motivation – identifying stakes that are high enough to necessitate a change.
In New Orleans, the tourism dollars generated by storm-ravaged areas – as well as the ever-present threat of the next big storm – mean that the stakes simply aren’t high enough for many people to return and rebuild.
But New Orleans isn’t the only place we see this struggle. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight and failed, it’s probably not because you didn’t sincerely want to lose weight. It’s just that the stakes of giving up immediate gratification pleasures (like cupcakes and afternoons spent lying on the couch instead of jogging) don’t outweigh the payoff you might (or might not) earn down the road.
Compare the person who’s just losing a few pounds to impress an old crush at a high school reunion with someone whose doctor has told him he’s a few months away from dying of a heart attack at his current weight. It’s not that both people don’t genuinely want to lose weight – it’s just that one person has significantly more invested in bringing about a change.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, it’s especially difficult for internet business owners with day jobs to overcome these motivational hurdles, as the stakes to our success really aren’t that high. Sure, we might say that we hate our day jobs or that we’d be so much happier if we were working for ourselves, but at the end of the day, there’s still going to be a steady paycheck coming in – whether we work on our businesses or not.
This is the reason you see so many successful internet business owners who attribute their achievements to losing that day job in the first place. When that steady paycheck stops coming in, the balance shifts. Now there are real stakes at play, and these business owners stand to lose much more by not trying at all than by trying their hardest to succeed.
So then, the struggle for success isn’t just finding and maintaining motivation. In a sense, motivation is an artificial construct that we use to promote positive behavior, to varying degrees of success. Instead, the challenge is ensuring that the stakes attached to our actions are high enough to trigger actual investment in a project (whether it’s weight loss, internet business or whatever other mountain you’re trying to climb).
When Jon and I were leading the 2011 Community Marketing Challenge, we saw every participant go through this same struggle. We all had other commitments and responsibilities, and we all had periods of high and low motivation. But what was interesting to see was that some people overcame these challenges, while others decided to leave the program for various reasons.
Jon and I spent a lot of time thinking about what stakes and motivations separated the people who finished the program from those who didn’t, and we talk extensively about the lessons we learned on staying dedicated to a project in the 2011 CMC Course, which we’re releasing tomorrow. I hope you’ll pick up a copy, especially if you’re struggling – or have ever struggled – with maintaining your investment in a project.
And just in case you missed the announcement last week, please be aware that we’re releasing a special coupon code tonight to members of our email lists. If you aren’t already signed up, please take a second to fill out the following form to save almost 50% off the list price of the Course:
But before you get access to the course, I want you to take a few minutes today to think about the projects you’re struggling with and to objectively look at what the stakes are for you for taking action compared to doing nothing. The results might be surprising, but it’s not until you figure out what you’re truly up against that you’ll be able to move forward and put together a solid plan for success.