Mailvox: where to find motivation

AL is seeking to get out of a rut:

Do you have any words of advice or inspiration for someone in their mid-20’s that feels the drain of being stuck in a rut?  I’ve found myself and others around that age stuck in the same sort of endless downward spiral.  The stress of work and trying to “make it” simply makes it seem too hard to work on the things necessary to get out of the rut.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever been in a situation like that, but I am sure you’ve observed others that have been.  Hell, I get the impression more than a few of the Dread Ilk find themselves in such a mess.

I think that most people start to lose any sight of their dreams at this point in life, or when they are 35 or 40 always wished they had made a few moves to change their situation when they were 25 and still had time.

Is it the economy that’s really making things hard?  Is it just a lack of motivation?  I don’t know what it is, but I’m determined to get out of this and I’m sure others that read Vox Popoli feel the same.

It is always hard to separate the urgent from the important. My rule is to always devote at least 15 percent of my work time to things with long-term possibilities. Such as, for example, my fiction. It’s not my job, it’s not my career, and it’s not a reliable way to make a living, but every book has upside potential, however remote the odds, whereas the average contract job that pays the bills does not.

It’s so very easy for hard-working young men to simply put their heads down and think that by working hard, they will naturally get ahead. But we’re not living in a Horatio Alger novel and it doesn’t work that way anymore, in part due to the economy, in part due to the feminized workplace, and in part due to the increased societal imbalances of wealth distribution due to increased government intervention in the economy. Those who win, win bigger now, but fewer people win.

One of the factors in the mid-life crisis AL mentions is the realization that time is running out and one’s options are increasingly limited. There is no more time for mistakes, for finding yourself, and for screwing around, what you do will dictate the way you will live for the rest of your life. And the sooner you understand that, the more time you have to actually do something, to take several chances, to fail, to fail again, and then to ultimately succeed.

Failure is the norm. I can’t stress this enough! You’re usually going to fail, so fail as fast and as often as you can, because failure is the seed for future success. By the same token, because it is the norm, it is nothing to fear. Nothing! And each time, you learn more and you learn how to go about the next opportunity more effectively.

I can’t tell AL how to motivate himself because everyone is motivated differently. Motivation tends to be related to how we surmount our natural weaknesses. Because my primary weakness is laziness, I tend to be most effectively fueled by negativity and by competition. For example, I very much doubt I would have been driven to make VP a more popular blog than Whatever had the competitive comparison not been repeatedly waved in my face. There were days when I didn’t feel like blogging, there are still days when I don’t feel like it. But I do it every single time, and fortunately, the motivation will be there as long as Whatever is deemed to be a competitor of some kind.

It’s the same motivation I draw upon on the soccer field when it’s the second half, I’m worn out, I’ve just sprinted 50 yards down the sideline to be cut off by the sweeper, and I look back to see an opposing striker and the left midfielder marked by our right defender at midfield as the goalie punts the ball towards them. Part of me is arguing, quite logically, that I’m too old and too tired to run, and it’s not as if the World Cup is on the line anyhow. And then I hear that snarling voice inside saying “that’s my guy and that motherfucker isn’t going to score on my fucking watch!” And then, somehow, the energy to run back magically appears. Which is why, in ten games this season, (five of them defeats), no left midfielder or outside defender has scored a single goal. I don’t think I’ve even allowed a single uncontested shot from that side, with the exception of a free kick resulting from a defender’s foul.

But that’s my motivation. I know what it is and I know how to draw upon it. AL has to figure out what works for him. Maybe it is praise. Maybe it is money. Maybe it is a sense of serving others. Maybe it is social status or even just pure envy. It can be positive or negative, but it has to be identified before it can be purposefully utilized. If AL is determined to get out of the rut, he will get out, he simply has to determine what gives him the strength to run when he would rather walk.