Thursday, January 8, 2015

Motivation Comes in Many Shapes


MOTIVATION: The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

The big thing about humans, we're moody -- some a little, others a lot. One day the energy flows and we're ready to tackle life's problems like the Green Bay Packers. The next day, something's upset us, made us want to slack off a little, complain or even feel sorry for ourselves. It happens pretty much to everyone.

But as a writer, I really need to write every day. I can't wait for motivation in the form of inspiration or anything else. I need to write on the mediocre, busy, troublesome and totally gruesome days, or nothing would ever get done with my name on it. I'd finish a new book every decade. Thus, self-motivation is important to me. If I don't work through those bad days, fight on when I'd rather be in bed watching Star Trek reruns, I might as well take up painting.

So how do I motivate myself? Well, there's always the wife. If I did nothing around the house for too many days in a row, she'd either throw me out or nag me to death. This is why some guys secretly call their wives "The Whip." Also, the cat keeps me hopping, the self-centered furry beast forcing me in and out of my chair all day answering her latest whim, coming inside for petting, or going back outside to chase rabbits.

But my best self-motivation technique is to get angry, information I picked up accidentally one day coaching baseball. Yup, nine and ten year old children taught me that self-motivation is a lot like love -- some is better than others, but it's ALL good.

I coached Little League baseball over a span of six years and two sons. (My daughter said she'd quit if I participated.) My teams were always about having fun and learning the game's basics, not winning or pressuring the kids to perform. There were seasons when we did make the playoffs, some years in which a couple of our boys made the all-star team. But our players knew very well -- and their parents appreciated -- our team's focus was on having fun. (During the final inning of one championship game, the score tied and the game too tense, I stopped play and walked onto the field for a meeting. Everybody joined in the pitcher's mound huddle, even our three outfielders, the boys on the bench and the umpire. When there was total silence, I said, "So where are we going after the game -- ice cream or pizza?")

Okay, back to the motivation story: One year we went most of the season without winning a game. My boys were having fun, but they weren't very good or even dedicated. A bunch of wild fourth graders -- including my own -- is what I had for a baseball team that season. Near the end of the year we played the undefeated champions of our league, and I heard one of their coaches tell his players before the game, "We could beat these guys with our hands tied behind our backs."

I was incensed and called a rare team meeting minutes before the game. I told my kids what I'd heard. I told them I didn't care if we won or not, but said we should try our hardest, show the other team they couldn't win with only one hand. Make them play their best to beat us, I said. "Win or lose, let them know they were in a baseball game today." Parents told me later I was fired up when I spoke, and it turned out my little speech fired up the boys. We played our best game ever. We hit, fielded and ran the bases like a championship squad -- they grabbed line drives out of the air, chased down long fly balls near the wooden fence, made perfect throws and batted crucial hits with men on base. In short, those boys played the game of their young lives, and -- in a result that shocked the whole league -- we beat that undefeated team. It turned out to be that team's only loss all year. It was more than a wonderful moment. I still remember the excitement and pride my boys felt that day. It shined from their eyes. Pretty sure pride was shining in mine as well, because clearly my impromptu, anger-fueled motivational speech changed our season for the boys. We all learned a lesson about trying our best.

Ever since, I've understood the importance of motivation in human lives -- especially my own -- and I've never forgotten how the bad actions of otherwise good people gave those boys and me a reason to perform at a higher level.  I mean, anger made me a better coach because for the first time all year, I gave the team an uplifting speech. I believe what this all narrows down to, if and when someone makes you mad, see if you can't use that anger as fuel for something good.

So where do I find anger to motivate my writing on those darker days? Easy. I already mentioned the wife and the cat. Then there's the internet, television news and certain friends I can call on the telephone. Quickest of all is to look up the infuriatingly gigantic online sales numbers of a certain celebrity writer. I spent a few days with the man once and found him antagonistically smug.

Bottom line, I'll repeat: Motivation is a lot like love. Some is better than others, but it's all good, and we should latch on to the stuff however we can.

This was a guest post from my creator, Jack Getze. He is today greatly unmotivated.

4 comments:

Dana King said...

Thanks for giving Jack a platform, Austin. His point is well taken.

When I was in college studying music in Pennsylvania, there would be weekend mornings where the temperature would be down near single digits and I wouldn't feel like getting up early to practice, pulled the covers back over my head to sleep off last night's beer. Within a few minutes that little voice would start. "Somewhere, someone you're going to have to audition against just got out of bed to practice." And I'd get up.

And the bastard still beat me. I'm glad it worked out better for your kids.

Jack Getze said...

Thanks, Dana. Your story was inspirational. I almost got out of bed.

LuAnn Braley said...

Back in my younger days, I was in only slightly better physical shape than I am now. But still I thought I should participate in this 30K (~18 miles) walkathon. Thank goodness I brought along a tape player and some changes of socks. The first half wasn't so bad. The 2nd half got harder and harder. At the end I was sliding my feet along the ground, concentrating on just getting the one foot in front of the other and to not stop.

Later that night, I went to a work party for a family that was moving out of state. As I walked down a hallway where people were sitting, I had to ask them to move their legs because I could not pick my feet up to lumber over them.

Some days we will be 'greatly unmotivated'...and that's ok once in a while. Tell Jack he's already ahead of the game because he's written a guest post on your blog. :O)

Oh, and Austin, your lawyer was totally worth it! ;)

Austin Carr said...

Hey LuAnn, thanks for mentioning the lawyer. Zimmer is supposed to give me a finder's fee.