How Do You Motivate The Unmotivated?

I have shown that video to my kids several times and told them I will always be the guy who comes out of the stands to help them stand up when they fall. Every time we discuss it I tell them I’ll give them a hand up but I expect them to finish the race.

Some of these conversations have led to some of my favorite moments with the kids and I can say without question that I have learned as much about life from them as they did.

During one particular moment I mentioned to my son that this video is used by many different people and organizations to motivate people to never give up. I also explained that sometimes when you see such a video it is worth learning more about who is pushing it and why.

That is not just dad the writer searching for the backstory but a teaching moment that is supposed to help them be cautious about what sort of messages they accept.

We live during a time when it is easy for marketers to dress their messages up in fancy clothing and make the impossible and improbable  seem rational, plausible and possible.

I don’t want them to turn into cynical skeptics who believe that people are always trying to put one over on them but I don’t want them to be easy marks either.

How Do You Motivate The Unmotivated?

School is back in session and the kids are enjoying the return of homework and studying.  We haven’t reached the point where anyone is cursing the amount of homework they receive or questioning the value of what they are being asked to do.

Flip through the pages here and you’ll find a post or two where I question the value of homework and ask questions about the benefits of what they are being asked to do.

I asked many of the same questions when I was a student but now I look at things not just as a parent but as a writer/marketer. My job is to motivate people to take action based upon the content I produce and I have been doing it for so long that work seeps into my personal life.

Some of that is because I find it interesting to try and figure out what combinations of words and images will convince people to take action and what won’t.

For example some of you might have noticed the Ice Bucket Challenge is starting to show up all over the social media platforms we frequent.

This particular challenge is supposed to generate awareness of  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and from what I see it seems to be working.

The idea of having a bucket of ice dumped across my head doesn’t hold any interest. It sounds about as pleasant as stuffing a rabid honey badger down my trousers but if I have learned anything about what works in marketing/social media it is to not let my personal preferences drive all of my decisions.


Because even though I may dislike the idea tons of people don’t and it would be foolish to let my distaste be the reason not to promote something that works.

Let’s circle back for a moment to homework.

When the kids ask me why they have to do it I like to have a reasonable answer for them but sometimes I look at what they are asked to do and inside my mind I think, “I have got nothing.”

Sometimes I tell them it doesn’t make sense to me but they need to do it because it affects their grade. It is not my favorite answer. It is lame and it is weak.

If you look at the quotes I shared you’ll find one from Einstein that is appropriate, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

That is one of my favorites because of its practicality and utility. It is applicable in all walks of life. It is much easier to encourage people to respond to a call to action when you understand what it is you are asking them to do.

That might sound ridiculous to some of you but trust me I have read copy where it was clear to me that the writer didn’t understand what they were writing about.

About That Video- Finishing The Race

There are two things that I love about that video. I appreciate seeing Derek Redmond’s father come out of the stands to help his son. It is what parents do but what I liked best was seeing Redmond not give up. I love watching him hop his way to the end.

It wasn’t one of those made for television moments where somehow he comes back to win the race. I saw it as an example of real life and I want my children to learn from it.

I want them to see that falling down doesn’t mean you quit or give up. It just means that you might need a moment to pick yourself up and dust yourself off before you go finish the race.

There is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with success after failure and life lessons that cannot be learned any other way, but that is a post for a different time.

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  1. Pingback: How to Motivate People- 29 Reasons You Shouldn't Read This Post - Joshua Wilner

  2. thejoshuawilner August 28, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Michelle_Mazur Thanks Michelle. Hope you are having a great day.

  3. Paula Kiger August 15, 2014 at 4:00 am

    Wells aid, Josh, and I sure wish I knew the answer (re: motivation and homework!). With my daughter (older), my challenge has been shutting up and letting her find her drive. With my son (younger) it’s a struggle to get him to crack a book. And as a tenth grader it is long past the time I should be helicoptering the homework process. // I love that video (and I love the fact that you talk to your son about why certain messages are presented the way they are). This dad/son image will stay with me over the weekend, for sure!

    • Joshua August 15, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      Hi Paula,

      Most of the time my kids are pretty good about homework, probably better than I was or at least at this point they don’t search for shortcuts the way I did.

      You touched upon the big challenge, helping them find the drive to push on themselves.

      They are getting there, I see real signs of it but sometimes I wonder if I am doing a proper job of it. But I figure if I don’t have the occasional bout of wondering if I am doing it right than I am probably in need of taking a hard look at things.

      Never hurts to do an internal review from time to time. Hope you have a great weekend.

  4. Jens-Petter Berget August 14, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    I’ve watched that video many times, and it’s awesome. I don’t have an answer to your question, other than it’s easier to motivate people if they can «feel» your passion. It’s not just about words and explaining things with using the «perfect» logic, I’m motivated if I feel passion.

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