Motivation is for Amateurs

January 26th, 2015

scalatoreTommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson recently completed an astonishing free-climb of the Dawn Wall, a nearly sheer 3,000 foot face of granite in Yosemite, one that is only slightly rougher than the granite countertop in my kitchen. It took them 19 days, and at one point Jorgeson tried and failed 10 times to make the crossing of Pitch 15. After the tenth try, he contemplated giving up but instead rested in his tent on the rock face for two days to let his fingers heal, and then made it on the eleventh attempt. Think about the magnitude of that—the incredible skill, sheer physical effort and the courage it took just to complete one section of 32.

At that point, was it motivation that got him through? I don’t think so. But who cares what I think? Here’s what Jorgeson said in a TV interview on the morning after: (it’s not an exact quote because I didn’t write it down) “What got me through was resolve. I would not accept failing.”

This wasn’t bravado after the fact—here’s what he said while still on the climb:

“After 11 attempts spread across 7 days, my battle with pitch 15 of the Dawn Wall is complete. Hard to put the feeling into words. There’s a lot of hard climbing above, but I’m more resolved than ever to free the remaining pitches.”

There’s that word again, resolve. How is it different from motivation?

  • Motivation gets you to the base of the mountain; resolve gets you to the top.
  • Motivation gets you through the first few weeks in January; resolve keeps your resolutions through December 31.
  • Motivation keeps your spirits up; resolve doesn’t care how you’re feeling.
  • Motivation is a glittering veneer that soon wears off under hard use; resolve is the iron core that remains.
  • Motivation can be fragile; resolve is antifragile because it gets stronger under pressure and duress. Like the calluses on a climber’s fingers, it gets stronger with use and challenge.

When I say motivation is for amateurs, it’s not that motivation is bad. Motivation will get you started, and an occasional refresher will recharge your enthusiasm. But when you’re attempting something truly difficult and worthwhile, there will be times when you hit a spot where motivation will not be enough, where all the best intentions you have won’t keep you going. That’s when you need good old-fashioned resolve. That’s where the pros come in.

Resolve may be easier to summon up when you have no choice, such as what Rob Konrad, a former Dolphin player who fell off his boat and swam 16 hours to shore, had to do. But the paradox is that you can choose to have no choice, if that’s possible. Jorgesen said he would not accept failing, and that choice left only one avenue open to him, to keep going until he succeeded.

There are plenty of motivational speakers, but no “resolve” speakers. That’s because resolve is not something you can have or show just by listening to someone else. It only comes from that voice inside you that refuses to let you quit. Resolve is what Kipling was referring to when he wrote:

“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them, Hold on!”


I hope you will never need resolve, because you only need it when times are tough—almost desperate. But let’s leave Jorgesen with the last word:

“I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.”

Making Meaning through Service to Others

January 14th, 2015

andyImagine waking up one day with a little tingling in your toes and the tips of your fingers. You might wonder a little about it, but shrug it off. But if a few days later you began noticing a weakness and a bit of klutziness in your limbs, you would definitely be concerned. Fast-forward a few days, and you’re lying in a hospital bed unable to move any muscle below your neck, and the doctors tell you there’s a chance your lungs will shut down too, and you would be terrified.

That’s what happened to Andy Coan a few months ago. Before that, he was a tremendously fit man in his mid-fifties, who looked like he could still swim a 100 freestyle in world-record time, just as he did as a high-schooler in 1976. His body had totally failed him, and he had absolutely no idea what to expect from this strange and savage disease called Guillain-Barre, which attacked his nervous system. Fortunately, he remembered that another swimmer, Rowdy Gaines, had gone through the same ordeal years before. We were able to track him down, and Rowdy gave Andy two things: useful information about what to expect, and–more importantly—hope.

That hope is what sustains him in his fourth month with the disease as he makes his slow and arduous comeback. He can move his legs somewhat and is relearning how to walk with a lot of support. His arms are all but useless. He can move his shoulders slightly, which is what he’s doing in the picture. When I visited him today, he was on the phone with a fireman who went through an even worse version of the disease (he spent four months on a ventilator because his lungs did shut down). The fireman told him that when he began his recovery, he could barely lift a three pound weight, and yesterday he benched 300 pounds!

That’s the kind of stuff that someone like Andy needs to hear, but it took a lot of trouble and some luck to find people who could help him like that. Now, besides his number one goal of getting better, Andy has another project in mind which sustains him. He wants to find a way—maybe through videos, a blog, and so on—to make it easy for others to get the information and the hope they need as quickly as possible if they ever get into the same situation.

What’s wonderful about listening to Andy describe his project is hearing and seeing the enthusiasm he has for helping others, and when he’s thinking about others, his own troubles are the furthest thing from his mind. To be clear: he knows he will get better eventually, but he doesn’t know how long it will take, and his rehab sessions are as tough as any workout he had back in the good old 10,000-meters-a-practice days when he was training for the Olympics. It’s not easy by any means, but there’s no feeling sorry for himself—because he’s focused on something bigger than himself.

Someone at the hospital today said “Everything happens for a reason.” That’s a cliché, and I don’t know if it’s true in the metaphysical or religious sense. But I am definitely sure that it can be true in a practical sense. Because when something devastating happens to you, you can choose to give it the meaning that you want to give it, and the service of others is about as fine a meaning as you can choose.

The list of ordinary things that Andy can’t do right now is long; but the list of extraordinary things is even more impressive. He can teach, and he can inspire, and that’s also about as fine a list as you can choose.

Note: If you have ideas for how Andy can spread the word and reach out to others who may be facing the terror of Guillain-Barre, please let him or me know, or share this with someone you think can help.

Focus on Others to Get What You Want

January 13th, 2015

MichelCatalanoWhen an idea hits me from three different directions at once, I should probably pay close attention—or at least write a blog post about it.

Last weekend, in reading The Obstacle Is the Way, by Ryan Holiday, I noted his advice that one way to make your personal fears and worries diminish is to focus on others. On Monday morning, I also read Mike Kunkle’s blog post about the servant approach to selling, in which he quoted Zig Ziglar’s line that “You get want you want in life by helping enough others get what they want.”

But the real kicker came when I read the morning paper, and came across a real-life demonstration of the power of focusing on others in a life-or-death situation:

Michele Catalano was at his print shop outside of Paris, when he noticed the two brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack approaching. He quickly told his employee, Lilian, to hide, and went to meet them. During the hour he spent with the terrorists, he managed to keep calm even as they asked him three times whether there was anyone else in the building. As he told the AP: “I stayed an hour with them. I was never scared, because I had only one idea in my head: ‘They should not go to the end (of the hallway) to see Lilian, that’s all.’ That’s what kept me calm.”

I don’t know if Mr. Catalano reads motivational books or blogs, but he instinctively took the best possible course he could have in deadly circumstances. Besides saving his employee, his cool demeanor is probably what led his captors to release him after an hour, so by focusing on keeping someone else alive he managed his own survival.

Hopefully none of us will ever face a situation like that, but the idea of getting what you want by focusing on others has immediate application in sales and in presentations. In sales, focusing on what you can do for the customer rather than on what they can do for you will put you in the right problem-solving mode and make it easier for you to come up with good answers. One reason is that it’s generally easier to think clearly about someone else’s situation than on yours.

Focusing on others is also helpful in delivering presentations, especially if you suffer from pre-presentation jitters. Take the attitude that you have an important message that will help your listeners get what they want, and that outside focus will take your mind off your own internal state and make you more confident at the same time.

Terrorism is the ultimate selfish act—being so wrapped up into your own goals and twisted passions that you are willing to hurt and kill innocent people. We may never understand what drives some people to commit such heinous acts, but fortunately we each have the power within us to be part of the response—to think more of others and less of ourselves.

Amp Up Your Sales by Reading this Book

January 8th, 2015

Amp-Up-3D-coverI strongly recommend that anyone in B2B sales read Andy Paul’s book, Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions, but you won’t find a traditional review here, the kind in which I summarize the key points in the book.

Instead, I will focus on and develop one of his fundamental principles that I personally found to be a compelling and different angle, one which I plan to pursue in my own sales efforts.

In a nutshell, Paul’s key theme is that how you sell is more important than what you sell, and how is based on three principles:

  • Make selling simple
  • Be super-responsive
  • Maximize selling time

I was especially intrigued by his emphasis on responsiveness; while I certainly won’t do justice to it here I will inject my own interpretation.

Nathan Bedford Forrest once said that the key to military tactics was to get there first with the most, and Andy Paul follows squarely in that tradition. Responsiveness is information + speed, and it’s important because selling is about answering the questions and providing the information the customer needs throughout their buying cycle to make their decision. The salesperson who supports the buying process by helping them make the right decision in the shortest time possible will win. This requires a prompt response to requests for information.

What does prompt mean? I personally would have thought same day would be fine, but Paul suggests within a half hour if possible. The reasoning is that customers need a certain amount of information in a certain order to make the right decision, and they have different needs depending on where they are in their buying cycle, so the best time to add value is when they ask the question or request the information. At the very least, you differentiate yourself from the overwhelming majority who won’t respond as fast as you will, and that sends a powerful message about how you will handle their business if you win it.

There’s a much more powerful yet subtle reason why responsiveness works, which Andy demonstrates through a series of graphs which depict the amount of value being delivered to the customer throughout the sales process. At each point, such as initial contact, discovery and presentation, the buyer has a need for some information which they will then digest prior to the next point in their buying process. For big B2B sales, it’s not realistic that the customer will identify a problem, gather all the information they need to solve it, evaluate alternatives and make the best decision at one time. It’s a process that takes time, and information gathered at each stage is used to shape the next set of questions and necessary information. The real power in responsiveness is that if you are the first to respond, you may have already changed the information they need by the time your competitor responds, so that they are playing catchup. By the time they respond, their response is not as valuable to the customer as it would have been; it may even be irrelevant.

Although he doesn’t call it that, Andy is describing John Boyd’s idea of the OODA loop, which was initially applied to air-to-air combat. OODA stands for Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action. The competitor who gets inside the other’s OODA loop dictates the fight, because by reacting faster the first time he’s in a better position to react even faster the second time, and the cumulative effect can be transformative.

It’s important to keep in mind that responsiveness does not mean simply reacting to customers’ requests for information—at every stage you have the option and ability to ask your own questions or provide different insights in order to reshape their buying vision. If there is a shortcoming to the book, it’s that, although he touched on it at several points, Paul could have emphasized this more.

I also would have liked to see more citations. Andy mentions several articles and studies which add credibility, but it would have been helpful to know how to find those for further reading. This is probably just me, because I study this stuff; if you simply want good solid sales advice you probably can take it at face value and not worry about it.

There’s much more to Amp Up Your Sales than what I’ve covered here, of course, but just that alone would make it worth reading the entire book. I urge you to respond quickly and read it as soon as possible—unless you’re one of my competitors.