On Motivation

“If you don’t have a dream, then you have nothing to work for, nothing to get up in the morning for, no reason…and no purpose to be. But friends we do have a dream and dreams do come true not because we keep believing but we keep working hard” – Kai Greene

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I’m starting this blog to share with you my outlook on balancing physical wellness with a career in today’s lightning-fast world.  I suspect I will go on to write about much more than that over time.  Ultimately, I have always offered my support and insight to friends and acquaintances who have come to me, and I finally feel it time to commit to cataloging my thoughts on the questions I’ve been asked, as well as my own thoughts on this insane world and how we try to balance with our lives.  I so strongly believe everything should be paid forward, and only ask you take anything I write as simply my opinion, and realize that I do not write a single word without serious care and scrutiny knowing I am sharing this with more than just myself.

That being said, I wanted to start this blog off on something much more abstract.  I wanted to start this all off writing on what I believe is the most fundamental element that we have control of in searching for success in our lives.  Motivation.

Motivation is the difference between waking up with your alarm, and slapping the snooze button until your life turns into a race.  Motivation is the difference between a New Year’s resolution becoming a part of your everyday life, or it becoming a running joke of accepting assured failure before you even take the first step.   Motivation is why so many of us sprout these beautiful, seemingly incredible ideas with such vigor and passion – and its fickleness is why we so quickly let them fall to the wayside to accommodate safe, warm, humble…and ever unchanging, monotonous realities.  I believe motivation is everything, and without it our dreams – the goals so vividly wild and incredible we (almost) dismiss them as unattainable – will, in fact, become unreachable.  Ultimately, I believe success is motivation, and without motivation there can be no success.  Some might disagree.

Allow me to deviate here.  The word success bothers me, or at least its interpretation does.  I feel as though ‘success’ has come to imply for many a set societal standard of an ever-lengthening financial or political finish line; an eerie outwards-facing-in measure forcing Generation Y and Z (and honestly, even X) into a rat race of peer one-upsmanship, and a blind pursuit of a fixed idea of what life is supposed to be, instead of what life could be.  Regardless, we can all agree success and its pursuit are incredibly important drivers of our daily happiness, self-worth, and satisfaction on this earth.  Yet I argue that because of this, we cannot allow success to be something that is standardized, but instead something unique for each of us.  It cannot be born into, won in a lottery, or gifted and be expected to yield the same deep-rooted fulfillment as when it is toiled after through a daily bout of effort, grit, and dedication that becomes a part of our personalities and who we are over time.  Success is something that becomes an internal acknowledgement of a pure pursuit towards anything of passion and belief.  It is something impermeable by outside judgment, a sort of peace rewarded after a long day, or month, or year, or life’s pursuit of a belief or dream – not of some expectation.  I hope some of you have been lucky enough to have discovered and committed to such a belief as you’ve progressed through life.  I’m not so sure I have yet.

But I’m rambling.  My bottom line is that without motivation, there can be no sustained success and fulfillment at the end of the road.  But look, what I’m saying here is nothing new to you.  I know you know what motivation is, I know you’ve felt it time and time (and time) again.  Whether having allowed it to yield success or failure, you have felt motivation.

Yet what I’ve come to realize is, so many of us don’t understand motivation.  Not how fickle and passing it can be if left uncultivated and uncared for.  Not how easily it can be extinguished as some passing spark of a dream, never to be rekindled again, no matter how hard we try.  And not how critically vital it can be if fostered, visualized, and made ironclad into a fact of life.  Motivation is finite, this is a fact, and it will run out leaving you empty-handed and unfulfilled – another thing I know we all have felt.  Simply put, it is a beast we must learn to tame if we wish to journey the places it can take us.  This applies to success, fulfillment, academic achievement, and financial, physical, or mechanical advancement.  While I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to focus on the fulfillment aspect of all this, motivation applies to everything currently outside our grasp.  In the simplest terms: everything attainable if the motivation is there.

I’m writing this post (and any that may follow it) through the lens I know best.  Until recently, everything I knew of motivation was tied to physical wellness and scholarship – a direct result of my definition of success being shaped by the collegiate system and growing up overweight and bullied throughout elementary and middle school.  I carried some very deep demons that I was so incredibly fortunate enough to recognize did not have to continue dragging me down into some dark place, but could be harnessed into a fuel of sorts.   Learning to channel raw and bruised emotions into something I could so clearly see in front of me every morning when I woke up and every night when I closed my eyes to go to bed.  A conception powerful enough to overcome temptation, sickness, and the all-too-human instinct of short-term gratification.  A vision ironclad enough to withstand and drown out the siren calls beaconing me to unwind or revel every night with friends whom I truly adored (and I am certainly not suggesting these actions are detriments to success, I would have been equally crushed without them).

I imagined what it would feel like to take steps on Stanford grounds, which classes I would take, how I would have to buy more layers to deal with that chilly (but not-so-chilly) climate.  I closed my eyes and saw my quadriceps striating, felt my calves separating, my abdominals cutting through my thick, genetically stubborn skin.  I visualized those emotions and that dark-rooted motivation into something bright, beautiful, and most importantly tangible…and I did not (under ANY circumstance) let go, because it was far too valuable for me, and because I also visualized, with equal clarity, losing it all again.  This was my answer to feeling good about myself, something I had wanted since I was ten, and I would NOT let go.  That drive was ironclad.  That drive is what I encourage you to seek.  I now am…

Until recently, my motivation was unstoppable – the path to success was coming easy, because motivation came easy.  Then something happened.  It wasn’t until I began working when I started to struggle with what had come so naturally for the past seven years.  With a full time career came a substantial loss of control over my own life.  Things I was so easily able to account for and plan around in pursuit of my dreams were no longer in my hands, but variable and subject to change on a daily basis.  My world of structure and discipline shifted.  Going from twenty-two years of shelter, structure, and a societally defined path of education to the professional world where nothing is certain is an incredibly hard adjustment for some to make (and I warn anyone preparing to make that change who is reading this to be cognizant of this as you move forward).  Everything changed and it almost broke me, and I quickly realized how fragile I still was.  But as time passed, as with almost all things, I learned to adapt and build my own structure once again – granted through much more toil and quite a bit less sleep.  Yet, in doing this, I found a new strength I never knew I had – an independence and a will bred by something deeper than old pains and demons.  Emerging from those first difficult months of my career, it became clear to me that I finally did feel good about who I was.  And with that, I realized that my motivation was bread through bitterness and spite, not happiness and fulfillment.  But that realization changed everything.

I no longer carry the same unwavering determination driven by those dark feelings – for that I am grateful and feel so freed.  But on the other hand, that determination really was unwavering – I used to be unstoppable.  Today, I’m still working towards finding a new, healthier, and sustainable balance between motivation, work, and success.  I don’t restrain myself anymore from an impromptu Thursday happy hour, but by the same token, I tackle the workweek with a religious precision and schedule that allows me the time to do so without sacrificing the goals I still wish to meet.  I still desire, with more than anything in my heart, to find myself at Stanford where I can foster a career in venture capital – a place where I can dig my fingers into the motivation of other hopefuls and help foster their dreams.  I still desire to fight in the cage.  I still desire to gain a physique sponsorship.  But I do so now out of passion and challenge, not of spite and grudge.  The difference is something I struggle to describe through writing, but I no longer feel trapped by having to prove something.  What I wake up for every morning and put myself to bed early for every night is for my own success, and my own fulfillment.  Nobody else’s.  I believe that is happiness.  I believe we are all capable of it if we understand the power of motivation, and the power of visualizing it until it’s tangible and ironclad.

I hope you all find your motivation.  Your success and fulfillment.  But above all, your happiness.

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