What’s My Motivation Here?

Many years ago I was talking to a freelance proofreader who was several weeks late getting a project back to me. She chronicled the various issues in her life that were keeping her from completing the job. She concluded by saying, “I really want to get this done. I feel extremely guilty I am so late.”

I replied, “Well, that just proves what a poor motivator guilt is.”

There was a very long, very silent pause at the other end.

I thought, Oh, no. I’ve really insulted her. That was way too harsh.

Finally she said, “Andy, that is so profound!”

I don’t recall if that conversation helped get the project unstuck, but a different sort of episode sticks in my mind.

Every three years InterVarsity Christian Fellowship holds a convention for fifteen to twenty thousand students. This past year, the evening meals were provided for all attendees–a massive undertaking. The first night things did not go well. Lines were blocks long with hour-long delays.

So, before the next meal, and with the permission of the facility managers, leaders of InterVarsity spoke to the wait staff. They explained what the convention was about–changing the lives of students, giving them a vision for serving the world, ultimately with a goal of changing the world. For that to happen, the students needed to be well fed and to get to the sessions on time.

That evening and for the rest of the convention, there were no delays at all. The wait staff had been struck by the huge vision and excited to see how what they did made a tangible contribution to achieving that goal.

Negative motivators–like guilt–may yield some results in the short term. Then again, they may not. But if it’s commitment, creativity and enduring results you want, there’s no substitute for going positive.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

3 thoughts on “What’s My Motivation Here?”

  1. Awesome post, Andy!
    I enjoy getting little bits of my old friend from the occasional “Andy Unedited” entries I read. But I don’t have the Facebook habit going yet.

    Hope all’s well down your way. You and I both have jobs, and that’s a biggie right now. Thank You, God! Mine is bigger than before, BTW – I was recently promoted to “Associate Librarian,” and full-time at that! I’m still working at the downtown library (“Pelli’s Palace” as some of us call it).

    Cheers and hearty best wishes to you and yours,

  2. Andy, I was there as one of the photographers. I even captured the food crew whooping it up on a later night, a tremendous change of energy and joy. I look forward to bringing a team down to see you soon!

  3. Andy, My husband Josh had the guts to head up the waitstaff this year, and was so grateful to see the change of heart from the serving staff! Perspective and determination make an immense impact on the value of our work. Thank you for the insightful look at the everyday.

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