Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

Motivation and momentum are one dynamic duo. It’s a lot easier to stay motivated than to get motivated again. The same is true for momentum. Maintaining momentum is a picnic compared with restarting it.

Comfortable in your job? Things look rosy? Tempted to ease up on the throttle and coast a little? Pinch yourself!

When I need motivation, I remember a story from Jane Goodall, the naturalist trailblazer and gorilla champion, who told a fable that her mother used to read to her and her sister.

“The mighty eagle is sure he will win, and majestically with those great, strong wings he flies higher and higher … Gradually the other birds get tired and start drifting back to the ground. Finally, even the eagle can go no higher … but that’s all right, because he looks down and sees all the other birds below him.

“That’s what he thinks, but hiding in the feathers on his back is a little wren … and she takes off and flies highest of all.”

That’s the danger of coasting, not giving it your all.

Even when winning, people can coast. I was at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China for the men’s 100-yard dash final. Usain Bolt from Jamaica blew away the field and won in a world-record-time. However, I couldn’t help but think how fast he could have run because he coasted at the end and looked around at his competitors.

That’s surely not his style, meet after meet. You don’t have to tell Usain Bolt that competition is always against tomorrow, not yesterday.

When you have momentum on your side, keep rolling. You have to learn when not to take a break. You also need to know when trying is utterly useless. Manage your motivation in an energy-efficient way.

When I was a young salesman, among the many lessons I learned from a seasoned pro was when to call a time out. Inexperienced salespeople have a tendency to celebrate a victory by goofing off for a while. That was exactly what I was doing one afternoon. Coming off the golf course I ran into the old-timer who was a competitor from the envelope wars.

“Charlie, I only hope the big order you just landed wasn’t one of my customers,” I said.

“Hell, no. I couldn’t sell a box of #10 envelopes to a chain-letter freak.”

“Then why are you out here beating the daylights out of the ball instead of beating the bushes?”

“Because when you’re cold, you’re cold, and when you’re hot, you’re hot. I need to loosen up a little. I need to get that win streak going again.

I thought he was nuts not to be out calling on customers. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was the one who had his priorities wrong. In sales, athletics, gambling and the stock market, we calculate success by percentages. But by focusing on the percentages, we lose sight of the way those percentages are achieved. They’re not earned in an orderly way but in streaks, in stretches and in bursts.

A tremendous baseball player will hit .300, which means he gets three hits every 10 times at bat. That’s seven or eight hits a week. Many weeks, however, that great hitter won’t get his seven or eight hits. He’ll get two or three. He’s in a slump. Other weeks, he’s on a hot streak and everything seems to fall in for a base hit. The ball has eyes, eluding every fielder. He’s able to count the stitches on the ball as each pitch comes to the plate. That’s the week he gets 12, 13 or 15 hits and becomes a .300 hitter.

The great athletes can’t explain their hot streaks any more than they can explain their slumps. But one thing is for sure. The smart ones never take themselves out of the lineup when they’re “in the zone.”

The eternal optimist Yogi Bera, New York Yankee great, said: “I ain’t in no slump … I just ain’t hitting!”

If you’ve ever been in sales, think back to the best streak you ever had. What did you do differently that week?

I don’t know if ball players or salespeople are more superstitious than the average person. The successful ones in each field tend to look at the conditions that were present when they were on a hot streak. They try, try, try not to change them.

Mackay’s Moral: Maintaining motivation takes no vacation.

About the Author

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.