A Big Idea that connects everything

MONDAY, 25 JULY 2011

The last few days I’ve been thinking about motivation, the “Why?” of which Dennis Becker speaks in 5 Bucks A Day Revisited (the follow-up to his classic how-to-make-money book).

Already on the plane back to Johannesburg I realised that I didn’t have an answer ready. Of course there are things I can mention that occasionally motivate me, but I know what we’re talking about here – a reason that propels you forward.

Perhaps it was because I was sitting against the wall of a house on the Highveld, on a cold July afternoon, but I thought, it’s like I don’t care. I know there are people who are propping me up – especially my most beloved, but how much will I mind if they let go? Will I survive? Sure, for about two years, maximum three.

That should matter, shouldn’t it?

And I am happy. I am loved, and I love. It does matter after all that I am alive …

Am I asking the wrong questions?


Hong Kong Airport

I often look for a single tree trunk to hang my skins on, one thought or slogan that will bind everything together.

Maybe there is something like that for me; maybe not.

What I already know is that you fight for things: to stay on your feet; to stay alive; to improve your quality of life and that of your loved ones, and in the end to do more than just survive for as long as possible.

A struggle, therefore, as has been pointed out earlier.

(So, no trunk for the skins, because it’s a struggle? Or, your skins over any branch that can take a skin … And yet all your skins hang in a single enclosure: STRUGGLE.)


It is sometimes as if I am waiting for a Big Idea before I take action. Not an idea of what to do, mind you, but a motto, an idea that I can print out in title case and paste on my kitchen wall; something that will tell me every time I look at it, or on days I forget, exactly what I’m doing.

What am I doing?




* * *

Do the ideas above qualify? Kind of, for practical purposes.

The situation can be compared to a crowd waiting for the Great Orator to arrive to stir them into action, so that everyone can march away, fist in the air, ready to do what they already know they should do.

What very few people know, though, is that the Great Orator is nowhere to be found.

Then someone else jumps on stage. He shouts a few instructions and pumps his fist in the air. The crowd responds. The man on the stage again shouts the same instructions. The crowd responds again.

Then people start reading between the lines: The Great Orator isn’t coming.

As the news spreads through the crowd, the man on the stage again shouts, clenched fist in the air. This time the replies are few, and scattered. Again, he shouts, fist in the air. A few more attempts, and the crowd stirs again, as if they realise: If The Great Reason Why They Are There is himself absent, then the guy on the stage is certainly better than nothing.