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Personal Excellence: What's Your Motivation? (Part 2 of 3) By David Cole

The scene from "Biloxi Blues" where Matthew Broderick's character kept asking, "Is the heat getting hotter?" was looping in my mind. Indeed, the surface of the sun may well have been a cooler place to spend the day.

I was standing at the base of the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt. I had just been to the Valley of the Kings and Queens, marveled at the treasures of civilization's cradle, and was having a great time with my wife and college buddy. I was constantly intrigued during my stay, but my experience before this colossus of geometry was sublimely spiritual.

As I marveled in serene wonder, a ruddy Frenchman approached me. He and I, on that cauldron of a plateau, shared a moment of awe. The Frenchman asked, half rhetorically, "How could so primitive a people build such a magnificent and enduring structure?" He explained that he was an engineer and understood the immensity of what stood before him. How indeed was this accomplished? Thus began an exchange that has stayed with me, over a decade hence.

"Gods", I answered, "gods".

"What do you mean?” he mused, genuinely interested.

"Well, the pharaohs were these people's gods, and their gods were their lives. Their place in this life and the next depended on their service to the gods. Slave labor was used, to be sure, but even those forced to contribute to this work did so because their lives--and afterlives--depended on it."

"But", he protested, “we have so much more advanced technology, and we have yet to duplicate their feats."

"Sure, but we aren't as motivated, are we"? Was I having an insight, or was the heat getting hotter? "In many ways, science and exploration are our 'gods'", I offered. "In service to them, we've altered genes, split the atom and explored the moon. We've performed deeds just as inspiring as building pyramids without bulldozers. With the proper motivation, we can do anything."

"I suppose you're right," was his uncertain reply.

"Oui. I suppose so"

As the sun hit its zenith for the day and my fellow traveler wandered off to cool down, the meaning of our chat hit me. From that ancient place a perspective came. Life is a worship of sorts; a constant testimony to what we believe in and what we believe is possible. Those beliefs drive us to do everything in our lives. Motivation, then, is intensely personal. It's all about you--your priorities your goals, your passions, and your rewards. Essentially, I discovered, no one can motivate you. Others can merely affect the conditions through which your motivations are realized.

If Denzel Washington were to perform by reading the back of a cereal box, I’d probably pay to behold it. He’s just that good of an actor. Yet even an accomplished actor needs a script from which to work. A good script provides not only the current action but a "back story" that lets the actor know why he or she behaves as he does. Without this direction, even the great Denzel's immense talent would be a rudderless barge drifting into the ether. His effort would be for naught because he wouldn't know how to act.

The world is full of opportunities, but sadly, only a minority actually takes full advantage of them. So many of us react and respond but don't have a clear plan for our lives. Many of us do not even know how to start. This is why there are so many poor, unhappy, and benighted people, even in the midst of a world full of abundance, knowledge and love. Are you one of those who "don't know how to act?" Where's your script? Do you have a back story? What, my friend, is your motivation?

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