Last Thursday I spoke briefly at the annual kickoff event for Al Masaood Automobiles in Abu Dhabi. I have been working on strategy and leadership development with their top 3 tiers of management for about 6 months now. The kickoff event had two very interesting artifacts displayed around the room. On a large projections screen over the stage was the word MOTIVATION, and on popup banners around the room were the words: BETTER, FASTER, and STRONGER.
I was invited to speak about 90 minutes before I got up to do so. I was conducting leadership training in the same hotel, so I was on hand for the event. I walked on stage without any preparation at all, and I told great stories about meaningful management and personal strategies in business, but in the back of my head, I was thinking about the 4 words I was seeing throughout the room.
Presumably, this is a call to be better than before. Better than I was yesterday. Better than WE were yesterday, last month, last year perhaps. I definitely think we should be measuring ourselves against our own past performance, but there is something a little unnerving and a bit sinister in the word that I hadn’t noticed before. In order for me to be “better,” I would have to accomplish something that I had not accomplished before.
And there it was again… faster than I was. Faster than I’ve ever been, perhaps. For that to happen, I would have to run at a speed I’ve never run at before. I would have to achieve a new top pace for what I was doing… sales, marketing, accounting, cleaning, hiring, whatever I was doing in my corporate community, I would have to do it faster than ever. I had no frame of reference for what that kind of speed felt like, because, by definition, I had never experienced it before. All of my experience was instantly inadequate.
Stronger happens when we endure a challenge or ordeal that we’ve never endured before. In the physical sense, our muscles get stronger when through strain of use, they break. The healing is what makes them stronger. And again, none of my previous experience would suffice if I was to be at my strongest ever. My history was inadequate in this better, faster, stronger future that we were all being called to join in on.
It was invigorating, energizing, empowering, encouraging, and fun to be in the room with a couple of hundred seriously focused and passionate people, all cheering and chanting and finding in their connection with each other and their shared vision as a team: motivation.
And that’s when I saw it… the deficiency of the word: motivation. They’ll need more than that. You and I will need much more than that. To break my personal benchmark and become “better” than ever, to break my own speed record or my own strength and resilience record, I would need a word that was better, faster, and stronger than motivation.
When I’m training in the gym, running a race, or writing a new academic paper or preparing a new strategy, motivation is what gets me to the starting line, only discipline gets me to the finish. When I have hit my personal records, all of them, it was a matter of discipline. I intentionally chose behaviors that led to my personal success.
So yes, better, faster, and stronger are certainly possible, but I’m afraid the fuel of motivation is fleeting and weaker than what will be required to attain these new heights. It is the power of will, to choose over fatigue, over emotion, and over the silence or roar of the crowd, to do what you need to do in order to succeed in your chosen goal.
Better. Faster. Stronger.