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In It For The Long Run

Exercise And Entrepreneurs

If you've ever kept up any type of exercise routine, you know it requires discipline. You have to do it every day, regardless of how you feel. I see parallels between being an entrepreneur and working out. It's about endurance, patience, and pushing yourself. Building a business takes time, just like building muscles. Unless you have an inflatable muscle suit, you won't get muscles after one day of lifting weights. It requires discipline and consistency. Your first day of working out will be very different from your 30th day. It's about sticking with it, and having patience. When doing something new, it's more important to strive for progress over perfection. Recognizing that yesterday's results does not dictate today's performance.

Sticking With it

What about when you don't feel like working out? It's tempting to want to skip it. In fact, you can skip it. You see, it's a test of the will. Doing things that will benefit you, when you don't want to builds character. That's the true entrepreneurial spirit. That's what it means to be in it for the long run. Every day builds upon the last. Just like working out. The trick is taking the first step to do the work that day. Because once you get started, it's easier to keep going. Trust me, you will surprise yourself by how capable you are! In the same way, having a business or starting a business follows a similar philosophy. It's not about having the motivation per se, but rather having the will to keep going. Having grit. Some days, you won't be motivated. You'll feel stressed out and anxious. You'll want to quit. It's in those moments, when remembering your "why" is essential.

Intrinsic Vs Extrinsic Motivations

There are two different types of motivations that guide your actions: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivations are tangible reinforcement (either positive or negative) which cause you to do a task. Remember in school when you studied hard to do well on an exam? You studied to get good grades, (or avoid getting bad ones). That's extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation, is an intangible reward you get from doing something for the joy of doing it. Think back to when you were first getting your drivers license. Was the motivating factor to gain independence from your parents and do things for yourself? That's intrinsic motivation. Rather than doing something out of obligation, you choose to do it for it's own sake. Whereas extrinsic motivation focuses on reward or punishment, intrinsic motivation goes deeper into your values and vision. Keep in mind, you need both types. While many things are motivated by extrinsic factors, having intrinsic motivation is more powerful. Studies have shown that intrinsic motivation lasts longer and is stronger in the face of challenges. Which begs the question, how do you achieve intrinsic motivation?

Self-Determination Theory

The makeup of intrinsic motivation involves 3 key components: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy meaning you have a choice; competence meaning you have a good understanding of the material, and relatedness meaning you feel a sense of belonging in loving relationships. The theory follows that when these 3 elements are present, people are more motivated to grow and change. Psychologist Edward Deci defines intrinsic motivation as "growth oriented, in relation to ones propensity to learn and explore." This taps into your the psychological health and well-being. The theory follows that people gain motivation from being able to do things on their own, knowing it will make an impact. It's important that leaders and managers of a company understand this concept.

Creating An Optimal Work Place

Leaders must be well versed in the best way to motivate their team. Keeping in mind the self determination theory, this means finding a balance with autonomy, competence and relatedness. Ideally creating a workplace that is not overly controlling or pressured, provides ample opportunity for team members to grow and learn, and encourages a sense of belonging in work relationships. I believe this formula contains the secret to satisfied employees and increased work productivity. Looking at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, it taps into the top tier of self-actualization. Or put another way, becoming the best version of yourself. Imagine how businesses could be transformed for the better if managers focused on this concept.

How Apple Went From A Vision To A Cause

When a business has a clearly defined "why", their work has meaning. Their employees find meaning. A vision put into action becomes a world changing cause. Look at Apple. Steve Jobs set out with the intention of making computers accessible to people. That was the vision. But it didn't end there as we know. Apple adopted a phenomenon known as customer evangelism. They wanted their customers to not just buy Apple products, but to believe in them. Tapping into their intrinsic motivations. They did this by "selling a dream, not a product" as Huba and McConnell describe in their book Creating Customer Evangelists. The focus was on what Apple products could deliver to customers, such as increased productivity and creativity. The challenge was getting customers to believe in Apple. Perhaps one of the most famous Superbowl commercials was Apple's 1984 campaign. At the time IBM, was one of their biggest competitors. Their solution, portray IBM as "big brother", while positioning themselves as a female heroine (throwing a sledgehammer) that restores the power of independent thinking to a brainwashed army. You can watch the full commercial here. The point being, Apple had changed the minds of Americans and given them a cause to fight for. Freedom.

Your Why

In talking to business owners, I always ask the question "why did you start your business". It's interesting to hear their responses. Some say "I wanted to make money" or "I didn't want to work for someone else" others say " I wanted to help people" or "I want to change the world for the better". The former I'd classify as extrinsic motivators, whereas the latter are intrinsic motivators. Keep in mind, these are all good answers. The difference is the prolonged effect they have on the outcome. If money is the pure motivator, what keeps you going once you reach your revenue goals? What keeps your customers buying your products? Extrinsic motivation can only go so far. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation taps into your beliefs and values. I'd argue that it gives you a cause to fight for; a vision to aspire to.

In the tale of the tortoise and the hare, "it's the slow and steady that wins the race". Persistence in a word. It's not about being the fastest or the strongest, but rather having the courage to keep going. And finding a cause that motivates you to keep striving.


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