This isn’t a self serving memoir, although a memoir might be something I would like to do in my future. Instead, I hope this article will serve to illustrate / help you to better understand the power of self-motivation. The premise being that if we can motivate ourselves then external motivators will enhance our drive toward excellence. I use my story because from a very early age I knew what I wanted to be a veterinarian and, in spite of some difficulties and setbacks, I achieved my goal.. It may be that my experience will provide enough clarity to verify the premise.
I was born to parents of modest income inWest Philadelphia. I sometimes would like to say “yeah, I grew up in the hood” but in reality I just grew up in a home where my parents cared about me, pushed me to be better when I wasn’t at my best and let me ride my bike without a helmet. My neighborhood was fairly integrated, meaning there were black people and white people living as neighbors. Many neighborhoods in Philly at that time were segregated. As a kid I spent as much time as possible outside playing with all of my friends. I could be found playing sports in the street, running around the neighborhood, sitting out on the porch steps late at night, playing monopoly and pre-pubescent games that my mom would die if she know I was playing J
It was a fairly normal existence from the way I saw it. But as I look back there were a few pivotal things that I believe made the difference for me. I will just list them in order of remembrance and not occurrence as I don’t think the chronology is so much important as is the activity. In second grade we spent the entire school year in North Carolina living on my cousin’s farms (The school district in Philadelphia was going on strike and my parents didn’t want us to miss school.) My Cousin Joe was always happy to let me help him take care of the animals, and I would help as much as I could. When I returned to Philly I went to private school through high school. My dad and mom were big readers and encouraged us to do the same. My mom always made a point to take us to the library often during the summers. I think I read every book that had anything to do with animals. It was through this extensive reading that I decided I was going to be a veterinarian.
During high school I started to see that things don’t always go as planned. All set for college, I was destined to do well at the University of Maryland and begin my journey to becoming a vet. However, only a week before enrolling I was told that there wasn’t money for me to go to school. Student loans and grants all fell through and my parents didn’t have the money to send me to college. Thankfully, with a bit of faith and lots of favors from family and friends I found a way to enroll. Once in college I found out quickly that maintaining good grades was way harder than I thought it would be. I had to work really hard to make good grades. In spite of all of my hard work I didn’t get into vet school immediately after completing my undergraduate studies as I’d expected. I received an invitation to attend a summer program for potential vet students (thank you Tuskegee University) . I worked hard in the program and at the end of the summer session was admitted into vet school. Today I run my own training company; I have worked for a variety of institutions, and have crossed paths with some of the most amazing people in the industry. I continue to look forward to new opportunities to make a significant impact for good in the lives of the people we have the privilege of working with.
In summary, the foundation of the motivational factors in my life is two-fold. First, as a little kid I already knew that I wanted to be a vet. I didn’t realize how hard it would be but I believed it could be possible for me. Second, I believed if I worked hard to move through obstacles and challenges it would pay off. In life people can be and do whatever they put their mind to. They just have to put their mind to something they believe in. Providing external motivators like bonuses, titles, autonomy, money and verbal encouragement are great, but they will never truly satisfy if there is no internal driver or motivator. If you are working with a person who seems to lack self motivation, take the time to help them find or rediscover what motivates them. Or, if you feel stuck and appear to have lost your internal motivator, make it a priority to find it because the reality is true for us all - if we aren’t self motivated, no amount of external motivation will ultimately satisfy. To discover our internal motivators, and help others find theirs is a significant key to unlocking potential and allowing our best abilities to shine.