Trajectory Chapter 10. SUPER Motivation – The Desire to Feed Our Families

(This is Chapter 3 of Trajectory, the forthcoming book by Michael R.H. Stewart)


There is an overarching objective in today’s unpredictable world economy — as the owner, manager or employee in a small business – and that is the desire to feed our families.

There can be no shame in that.

Of course, under ideal circumstances this should not be at the very top of the entrepreneurial list.

As Guy Kawasaki is famous for insisting, if your primary goal is to make meaning – rather than to make money — all else will fall naturally into place.

Steve Jobs is famous for similar beliefs.  His desire was to change the world, not to own it.

I agree with both men entirely.

Current research suggests that we are making headway.  We entrepreneurs can take pride in the fact that in recent research being conducted by the Startup Genome Project it was found that:  “Most successful founders are driven by impact rather than money.”

However, this book is intended for the overburdened entrepreneur, not the successful founder.  This book is intended for individuals deeply involved in the search for accomplishment, not for those who have already achieved it.

So how do we accomplish the necessary, while aspiring toward the exceptional?


Make an Impact While Facing Reality

To completely ignore the present realities – to insist that we should be eleemosynary to the elimination of our basic obligations to those who depend upon us – is at best naivete and at worst the height of irresponsibility.  We must absolutely make an impact, but we must face reality too.

Let’s call this dual approach SUPER Motivation.

Having proclaimed a strong desire to get back to the salad days of Guy Kawasaki’s thinking before the world economy started to slide, let me say that for now at least, feeding our families should be a major concern of everyone involved in business.

Bear with me on this, because what I have to say in this chapter – however it is framed – may be the most important advice in this book.

In order to feed our families, it is first necessary to learn the mechanics of motivating people – encouraging them to do what needs to be done – to buy our products and services.

But equally important is the notion that in Social Media we should soft-pedal the sales message.  It should be decidedly in the back seat as we drive toward our objectives.

It is the great conundrum of business – how to motivate people, and in today’s world we must do so unobtrusively.

In this chapter, I will share the simple secret for getting this done.


Take the Money and Run

Take the Money and RunRemember Virgil Starkwell?   Probably not, I suppose.

Let me refresh your memory.

In the 1969 movie comedy, Take the Money and Run, Woody Allen played a hapless hero bent upon a life of crime.

He was not very good at it.

He tried to rob a bank by handing a too-hastily handwritten note to the bank teller at window #9.

The note was supposed to say:

“Please put $50 thousand into this bag.  Act natural.  I am pointing a gun at you.”

Sadly, the teller could not read his illegible note.

The teller asked, “I can’t read this. What is this?  Abt natural“?

Virgil responded, somewhat annoyed, “No it just reads, ‘Please put $50 thousand into this bag. Act natural. I am pointing a gun at you.’”

“Does it say, ‘Act natural’?” the teller asked.

Virgil responded, getting more than a little frustrated, “I, uh, am pointing a gun at you.”

“That looks like ‘gub’”, the teller responded.  “It doesn’t look like ‘gun’.”

Virgil was nonplussed.

The teller asked her manager to come review the note, saying “George, would you step over here a moment please.  What does this say?”

Now the manager was reading the note.  “”Please put $50 thousand into this bag and… abt?  What’s ‘abt’?”

(You can see where this was going, even if you don’t remember the movie).

“It says “Act,” Virgil insisted again.

Then the teller asked her manager “Does this look like “gub” or “gun“?

Virgil made one final attempt, repeating, “Please put $50 thousand into this bag. Act natural. I am pointing a gun at you.

Finally, both the teller and the manager saw the light.

“Oh, I see, this is a hold up,” the manager exclaimed.

“Yes!” Virgil said with victory in his voice.

“Well, you’ll have to have this note initialized by one of our vice-presidents before I can give you any money.”

Virgil got arrested and served his time, regretting that he had not stood his ground with the teller and manager.  He became very highly motivated not to repeat that blunder.


What’s the Point?

The point of retelling this story is not Virgil’s embarrassing plight.

Rather, it is to lay the groundwork for a later scene in which Virgil, now a convict on a prison chain gang for another crime, has become very highly motivated to prove his courage and resolve and not to cave in to the prison warden.

The movie narrator describes Virgil’s chain gang experience this way:

“The time drags by an endless grind of backbreaking labor.  Brutal discipline is common under the hot sun.  The men aren’t even permitted to faint without written permission.”

“Virgil complains and he is severely tortured.”

This is where the key to motivating people is described.

The narrator continues:

In the Pit“For several days Virgil is locked inside a sweatbox … (a deep pit in the exercise yard, topped by a steel lid) … with an insurance salesman.”

“Hi, I’m Joe Green, I represent Ajax and Widget Insurance Company,” the insurance salesman begins.  “I’d like to talk to you about a little insurance… You’re about 30, right?”

Virgil screams under his breath, barely maintaining his resolve.

“I think the best thing to do is get straight life then a little term… and… how about dental and medical?”

Virgil’s resolve begins to dissolve.

“We got a great deal on dental,” the persistent salesman concludes.

Virgil finally loses it.

He has lost his motivation completely, and the warden has won.

Fade to black.


A Pleasant Surprise

Having spent many years as a senior executive for one of the largest insurance companies on earth, this scene has always made me cringe a little.  But there was no denying that this torture seemed to work.

Is this the answer to motivating people?  To make the alternative too unbearable to contemplate?  Well, no, but it puts the subject in stark relief.

Motivating the prospective buyer has always been a necessary evil, whatever the means.

The debate has always been how to motivate the buyer, without permanently destroying the rapport between buyer and seller.

Of course, there are answers to this marketing conundrum.  Marketing texts are full of them.  Business schools delight in explaining theories and possible approaches.

The Motivated BuyerBut here’s the pleasant surprise, provided by the miracle of Social Media.

Here is the punch line – the advice I promised you before telling the story of Virgil Starkwell.

Because in Social Media you have the gift of very large potential numbers, it is no longer necessary to motivate people.

The secret is simple and powerful.

Instead of motivating people … find people who are already motivated.

Do this, and you will no longer have to drag your potential buyers up the steep cliff to where your products reside — they will scramble to the top themselves.  Give them what they want and need and they will do the difficult climbing mostly without you.


The New Motivation Model

What can we learn from Virgil Starkwell and his unfortunate hold-up note?

MotivationWhat can we learn from the pit in Virgil’s exercise yard?

What can we learn from typical marketing approaches that attempt to motivate our potential buyers, even when that approach seems not to work?

The simple answer is this – motivating buyers is a thankless, ineffective and inefficient process – so don’t do it.

Don’t do it?  How else are we to progress in our businesses?  No one enjoys the process, but isn’t it essential?

Ask yourself this important question:  Is traditional marketing still relevant in today’s world?

Let’s take a step backwards in time to see where this motivational process came from – and let’s check it for reasonableness in today’s world.

In 1890, American transportation was in a state of flux.  There were over 13,000 businesses that sold various accessories for the “carriage industry.”  A famous example was the buggy whip manufacturer.

One of the stalwarts in the buggy whip trade was William Durant — who ultimately founded both General Motors and Chevrolet. He worked for a carriage maker, and was one who spoke out against cars as being “smelly, noisy and dangerous.” But when he realized that the world was moving towards them, and that his current company wouldn’t be able to adapt due to preconceived notions about product, he jumped ship to Buick.

Before this important choice, he could have taken two approaches.  He could have ignored the fact that the American transportation industry was changing fundamentally, as he continued to beat a dead horse with his buggy whips.  He could have continually upgraded his buggy whip, his marketing material, his sales force and his motivational techniques.  He didn’t.  He chose to adapt instead.

There have been many examples in our history of choices similar to this one.

The steamship and railroad companies — successful for decades when they had a virtual monopoly on moving the public from one place to another — when faced with the advent of the commercial airplane could have easily clung to the status quo as they sailed and steamed away from reality and into obscurity.  Some did, but many did not.  They chose to adapt instead.

The software and computer industry — having not existed at all a few decades before — when faced with the advent of the DOS operating system, Windows and Microsoft, could have easily clung to the status quo as they clicked and whirred away from reality and into obscurity.   Some did, but many did not.  They chose to adapt instead.

These were monumental paradigm shifts in buyer preferences, but did we learn from them?  In some ways we did, but in important ways we did not.

We still believed, and we continued to teach in our colleges and universities, that motivating the unwilling buyer was still the key to successful marketing.

We believed that marketing was a push technique.  If you continued to bombard your buyer with the reasons to buy your product, irrespective of his wishes, you would eventually prevail.

It was just a matter of modifying the sales pitch, we stubbornly believed – we just needed to be sure our brochure said “gun” instead of “gub”.

It was a continual unwelcome message, but like placing the buyer in a pit with an insurance salesman, we believed that he would eventually give in.  The alternative – staying in the pit listening to an unwanted sales pitch – would eventually wear the buyer down.

The dominant sales thinking was simply, never accept “no” for an answer.

Today we have seen a paradigm shift that makes the aforementioned market changes seem trivial by comparison.

That shift is Social Media.

Importantly, we suddenly have the luxury of a virtually unlimited source of motivated buyers from around the world.  We need not motivate a small group of potential buyers, because we can accumulate motivated buyers in large quantities simply by casting a much larger net.  They are out there waiting, eager to buy our products and services; we just need to find them.

Marketing in today’s Social Media world, is or should be a pull technique.  If we simply learn to listen to our potential buyers – if we learn to give them what they want instead of what we want to sell them – motivating the buyer will no longer be necessary.


Social Media Has Changed Everything

Products and services change, economic environments improve or get worse, but it is a rare event indeed when everything changes at once.

Social Media is one of those events.

Social Media is neither a tool nor a vocation, as it is often mischaracterized.  It is a complete paradigm shift — if ever that term was appropriate.

Old solutions have become obsolete.  Old approaches have become irrelevant.   Old methods — even those memorialized by the passage of time — have lost their effectiveness and efficiency.

Social Media requires a new mindset — new principles — new ways of doing things.

Most important among these changes is the fact that motivation of the buyer  has become less of a nightmare and more of a blessing.  It is no longer necessary to cajole and convince.  It is only necessary to locate and inspire.




About Michael R.H. Stewart
"Give me faith, freedom, resources, and a little time ... and I will make things happen that matter." Michael R.H. Stewart is a respected Internet executive with broad experience in all aspects of online business, with an emphasis given to social networking development, and company management. He has over 131,000 engaged Twitter followers. He enjoys 22 years of direct experience with corporate, entrepreneurial, governmental and non-profit clients, having advised them on all aspects of their online initiatives. Prior to his Internet career, he served as a Senior Vice President of AIG Marketing, doing business in 135 foreign countries as well as the United States. Stewart is an experienced public speaker and communicator, with worldwide experience; an expert on corporate branding; an accomplished writer, a creative thinker and problem solver.


One Response to “Trajectory Chapter 10. SUPER Motivation – The Desire to Feed Our Families”
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