Face of Quality: Motive Counts

January 28, 2010
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The most successful men and women in all walks of life achieved their greatness out of a desire to solve a problem, to fulfill a need or to express something that had to be expressed. The key to those successes is that the people were motivated more, at least in the beginning, by what was needed, or by what they felt they had to do, rather than by any thought of profit.

At a quality society meeting the other day, I had a chance to talk with a person who sold life insurance. The woman told me she was thinking of leaving the life-insurance business and doing something else.

She asked my opinion of a good business for her. I asked why she was leaving the life-insurance business, and she said that she wasn’t making any money.

“I try to sell it,” she said, “but nobody wants to buy it. It has always been a tough business, but since the recession, it is harder than ever.”

I suggested that maybe her problem was that she was more motivated by a desire to sell rather than by a desire to help people solve their problems.

The average family does not have enough life insurance: this is a problem. In trying to solve this problem, she might be more successful selling life insurance.

The success of our endeavors depends not so much on the endeavors themselves, but rather on our motive for doing them. It is the motive that makes the difference.

A person says, “There ought to be a lot of money in children’s books. I will write one.” And then the person is disappointed when it is rejected or doesn’t do well on the market.

Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling were motivated to write their great children’s stories out of their love for children. Their books and stories will last indefinitely, continue to earn money and will be remembered for years to come.

The greatest writers, the greatest quality professionals, the greatest companies-the greatest men and women in all walks of life-achieved their greatness out of a desire to solve a problem, to fulfill a need or to express something that had to be expressed.

This is not to say that people or companies do not earn a lot of money for what they produce, because they do. But in many instances, the key to their success is to be found in the fact that they were motivated by what was important to them or by what society needed, rather than by the thought of profit. This is the actual secret-the key to profitability.

The person going into the restaurant business, for example, who does so with the determination to serve the best food in town, has more chance of success than does the person who goes into the business solely to make money. It is a matter of motive, of emphasis.

You will find this true in every walk of life, every line of business, every job of every type and description. There is nothing wrong with making money. It is a celebration of outstanding service and success. This is why kids mow lawns, and why millions of people get up every morning to go to work. But success and money cannot be sought directly. They are effects; the cause must have a powerful motive behind it.

Both William Shakespeare and Cecil B. DeMille were successful and became wealthy. Separated as they were in time and talent, and in many other ways, they both were motivated by the same thing: to produce the very best and to express the best that was in them.

What is your motive? You might do well to consider that money may not be the primary driver for success. It is worth considering your motives and putting them into perspective.

To read even more from Jim, read his weekly blog, Jim’s Gems.

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