You're not going to believe this story, but I had great conversation with a writer from The New Yorker, Andrew Marantz, about the importance of delaying gratification--while on a cruise ship.
So how do you motivate people when they're hanging out on a cruise ship, or even back at home enjoying the conveniences of modern life? How do you get people to set aside present comfort for long-term success? I talked this over with Andrew who was there to write an article about our cruise for Men's Journal.
Delaying the now for what comes later.
Andrew thinks the key to success is seeing the rewards of what you're doing, even if you're not enjoying it at the moment. "I think the reason that people stay in a zone has to do with bridging the gap between what comes later and what happens now," he said. "Anyone who has a career, a job, a passion, an interest, a hobby, whatever--it's not what's in the moment. There's something tomorrow; there's something next week. There's something more important than immediate comfort."
It's a lot like long-distance endurance racing. You're pushing through, and it teaches you that "this too shall pass" and how you're feeling right now isn't how you'll feel tomorrow.
Andrew thought a lot about this during his career as a writer. "It's weird that the thing I say I'm most passionate about, the thing I say I enjoy doing the most, I often don't enjoy doing at all. Because, writing anything, when you sit down to do it, you have the blank page, and it's terrifying. It's exhausting. And you think, 'this is never going to work.'"
"But having that thought didn't make me stop writing," he said. "It made me think about why I do it. And it's because you don't have to enjoy something every second for it to be worth doing."
So what's the key to ignoring that short term pain to achieve a goal? One of the things that keeps me going is "future memory"--when I finish racing, my brain gets flooded with endorphins, the natural runner's high, and the feeling programs me to want to do it again. But is it really all about chemicals, or is there something more? Even if Spartans could get the same chemicals in a test tube, I think we'd still race.
What keeps us driving for success? I've talked to a lot of people about this on the podcast.
Andrew said that for him, it's all about reaching his own expectations. "Someone can give me just as much money, just as many accolades and awards, they can come up to me and pat me on the back--not that this happens to writers often--but if I don't think [what I wrote] was good, then it's not going to mean that much to me," he said.
I agree with Andrew. The drive, to be the best writer, athlete, parent or entrepreneur, has to come from within. If you need that external pat on the back, you're in trouble. Whether you're in the arts or in a race, it's up to you to cross that finish line.
How do you figure out if you're meant to be an innovator or a virtuoso?
What kind of drive is necessary for success? One of the things Andrew and I talked about was the difference between being an innovator or a virtuoso. Andrew thought that virtuosos are a lot like Spartans, drilling and drilling until it's nearly perfect. An innovator, on the other hand, has other ideas...
It was funny he mentioned that. It reminded me of this really smart woman from Wall Street who became friends with the owners of the Red Sox. She'd never been to a baseball game before but she immediately looked at the field and asked. "Why don't they run to the left?"
"That's a really good question," said the owner.
The point is that innovation isn't by itself more or less important than being a virtuoso. Andrew and I agreed that most people are a combination of both. At the core, it's all about motivation. Getting motivated has been driving me crazy for my entire life. Not because I'm not motivated, but because I'm super motivated and I have no patience for people who aren't motivated.
Going above and beyond
I know a 29-year-old mother of four who gets up at 4 a.m. and goes to the gym, then comes home at 6 to get the kids up, dressed, fed and then home schools them. In the evening she puts in more time working out. Her father was a military officer. What motivates her? I asked Andrew. Was it upbringing? Biology? Environment? A combination?
"In the end," said Andrew, "it's all about thinking how you're going to feel at the end of the day. You have to learn to associate your results with the choices you make each day."
It's those choices that add up to success.