The life of an eagle chick. It’s a cosy, comfortable existence.
Until the day when the mother decides it’s time to learn to fly. One by one, she picks her chicks up, and drops them out of the nest. It’s a 50 foot drop.
Hurling towards the ground with no flying experience, the chicks face a simple choice. Learn to fly, or die. Most of them fly.
Motivation. It’s the buzzword these days. Everybody’s looking for the magic formula. Everyone wants more of it. Everyone wants to know the secret.
But, in my opinion, the key to the motivation puzzle is simple.
If you lack motivation, your life is too comfortable.
Think the eagle chicks are motivated to fly? Damn right they’re motivated to fly. Every nerve, every muscle fibre… every resource they have is devoted to flying. Why? Because it’s fly or die.
They’re put into a situation where they’re forced to succeed. Success isn’t just an option. It’s a NECESSITY. And guess what? It works. Eagles fly.
But left alone, baby eagles won’t learn to fly. Because in a comfy nest, with all their immediate needs catered for, why would they want to? Where’s the motivation?
For humans living in the developed world, is our situation really that different? Food on speed dial. Water on tap. A roof over our heads. The comforts of TV, Netflix, videogames, social media and an infinite world of information at our fingertips. Life is comfortable. Too comfortable. And just like the eagle chicks, unless we kick the comfort, we’ll never spread our wings.
Comfort is a curse. With one hand, it lures us into thinking life’s all fine and dandy, whilst with the other it saps our life force, preventing us from truly becoming the strongest versions of ourselves. The damage only becomes apparent when you take a step back 10 years down the line, and realise that you’re the same person in the same situation as you were back then.
“Nothing great was ever achieved in comfort zones.”
Alexander the Great, conqueror of the world by age 30, was confronted with the following problem. When he had the enemy army surrounded, his trapped enemies would fight to the death, inflicting massive casualties on his own forces. How could he trap his enemy without losing his own men?
The solution he devised was simple. He offered his enemies a way out.
When his enemies were trapped, he ordered his men to make a corridor into which his enemies thought they could escape. When offered this “escape”, his enemies became as passive as lambs. And like lambs to the slaughter, Alexander’s army would wipe out the opposing army with no resistance at all.
When we tread the comfortable path, we’re just like the soldiers lured by Alexander the Great’s death corridor. We give up the fight within us, and we only notice what’s happened by the time it’s too late.
But when we purposefully put ourselves in situations with no easy way out, amazing things start to happen.
Take the story of Bill Gates. When he found out that a company had a “personal computer” but needed “basic software” to make it a reality, he phoned them up and promised to deliver the software, despite having no such thing. But, by putting his reputation and career on the line, he forced himself to succeed. What came of it? Microsoft.
Leonardo Da Vinci had spent his entire life in Florence working as a painter. But when he moved to Milan to work for the Duke, he sent a letter of introduction ahead to introduce himself as a military engineer. By putting his name on the line, and abandoning his artistic success in Florence, he forced himself to succeed. Da Vinci then went on to invent mechanisms centuries ahead of his time. (And paint the Mona Lisa, the Last supper….)
Both men put themselves in uncomfortable situations, and amazing things came of it.
From my own experiences I can relate to the magical results of forcing yourself to succeed.
I’m a student, and having studied abroad in my penultimate year, I was enchanted by this quote:
“Money doesn’t make a millionaire a millionaire. A millionaire is a millionaire in spite of the million pounds in the bank.
Take away all their money, all their connections, and move them to any city in the world. Within a year, they’ll make it all back again.
Why? Their value is within. The skills, the knowledge and the character traits acquired along the way truly make a millionaire a millionaire. Money is just a by-product.”
Now, I’m no millionaire, but I was eager to test this definition of success. Could I be successful in a city I’d never visited before?
To test my mettle, I flew one-way to Madrid with only 2 small bags and a month of living expenses. My prior Spanish language experience consisted of one year in high school 4 years earlier.
Basically, very little Spanish, very little money, no friends, nowhere to live, and no job. But there was no way I was going back.
What happened? I found an apartment to live in with 8 Spanish speakers, and after 18 days of intense Spanish study in the local library, I landed a journalism internship working in one of the coolest parts of the city, despite having no journalism experience.
I met some truly special people, learned to speak Spanish, and discovered the power of words.
Looking back to those 4 months in Madrid, I ponder, how did I get so much done? Work full time, study Spanish, build up my website, explore Madrid, socialising, working out… Procrastination wasn’t even an issue.
Yet here I am back at university, and procrastination is public enemy number one.
Because my life is too comfortable.
If you need motivation, your life is too comfortable.
So, if you’re lacking motivation, force yourself to succeed. Find your “cliff”, jump off, and learn to fly on the way down.
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