Tony Hsieh started his first company at age 22 and two years later sold it for $265 million. In 1999, he became CEO of Zappos, a fledgling online shoe store.
His vision was (and is to this day) to make Zappos the ultimate online shopping experience, starting with unmatched customer service. If you don’t like your shoes, Zappos pays the return shipping. If they don’t have what you want, Zappos staff will help you find it on a competitor’s website.
That’s a phenomenal commitment to customer service and one that requires exceptional employees. To that end, Zappos does not train its people to do a job; it teaches them to buy into a vision, an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.
According to Hsieh, it’s the difference between “needing to motivate people to get things done” and “inspiring them to want to do things beyond expectations.”
Inspiration, not motivation: that’s quite a concept and certainly one that is foreign to the corporate marketplace. But, if Zappos’ success is any indication—annual sales reached more than $1 billion in just 10 years—Hsieh is definitely on to something.
The Difference Between Motivation And Inspiration
So, how is inspiration different from motivation and what does this mean to your direct sales business? To answer that, let’s start with some definitions. Motivation comes from the Latin verb moveo, which means to “move, stir, set in motion, disturb.”
Note the emphasis here on doing, on taking action: move, set in motion. Motivation has a goal orientation, the goal being to move away from something (a type of pain) or toward something (a form of pleasure).
We typically allow fear and desire, which are great motivators, to dictate our actions. We show up for work because we are motivated by the fear of not getting a paycheck. We might work overtime or get a second job because we’re motivated to buy something, a larger house for example.
Motivation always has the short-term goal of getting or avoiding something. Inspiration, on the other hand, isn’t goal oriented; it’s spirit oriented.
Although the modern definition of the root word, “inspire,” closely resembles that of “motivate,” its origin is quite different. “Inspire” comes from the Latin word inspirare, which means “to breathe in.”
The result of inspiration is not an activity; it’s a transformation. When we are inspired, it is because something we see, hear or otherwise experience connects to us at a deep level, a spiritual level. That something may be a song, a story or an idea.
What This Means To Your Direct Sales Business
In direct sales, our inspiration typically comes from other people. Something another person says—often it’s their personal testimony—infuses life into us. We breathe it in and it changes us.
Motivation, on the other hand, is temporary, fleeting. Motivation can help you get the job done, but it fades and needs to be replenished. Zig Ziglar, who touched millions of lives with his motivating and inspiring teachings, was often asked how people can become all charged up during one of his seminars, but soon after fall back into their old habits and thinking patterns.
“Isn’t their motivation permanent?” they would ask him.
“My answer is ‘Of course motivation is not permanent,’ said Ziglar. ‘But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on regular basis.’”
People who are not passionate about what they are doing, who are not inspired, require continuous external motivators. In the corporate world, this is the employee who only works hard when the boss is watching.
In direct sales, it’s the networkers who are determined for a while, but just a while. Their business is a series of starts and stops.
Janice calls her sponsor in a frantic state. “I just heard Lydia made a new level,” she says. “How did she do that so fast? She hasn’t been in the business half as long as I have. I need to get moving!”
Over the course of the next two weeks, Janice makes 10 prospecting calls and sets two appointments. Lydia’s success has clearly motivated her and Janice has a sense of urgency about building her business.
But in a matter of days, the urgency wears off. Janice gets distracted. The activity in her business trails off… and eventually stops, just like it always does.
In time, something else will come along to motivate Janice and spur her into action once again, but only briefly.
Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that motivation is a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite necessary. Both inspiration and motivation are important. Inspiration touches the spirit, but you need motivation to get you moving.
You need both.
The point here is that you need to know which one is in the driver’s seat of your business. The motivated networker needs frequent jump starts. The inspired network marketer has an internal ignition switch.
That ignition switch resides within each of us; it just needs to be activated.
Know What’s In The Driver’s Seat
Is inspiration driving your business? Are you inspired to go beyond expectations, like the staff at Zappos? Or, are you more like Janice, who needs something external—a fellow networker advancing past you, for instance—to get you moving?
The networker who says “I just need someone to motivate me” is looking for another person to provide what she must supply herself. If you find yourself saying such a thing, it’s a clear sign that you need to change how you think.
You need to find your inspirational ignition switch and flip it on. Staying motivated is hard work; it’s even harder when you’re not inspired. Only when you have something burning inside you will you stop relying on people and things.
So, what is this source of inspiration? Where do you find it? If you haven’t already figured it out: it’s your Dream.
In our book, Build Your Team, Build Your Dream, my co-author Dave Bradley and I explain how your Why can be either a Need or a Dream (see figure). If your Why is an urgent need, for instance needing more money to make the mortgage payment, motivation is quite sufficient. You have a crisis; no inspiration is necessary.
But, remember that motivation is task driven. It helps you get the job done. What happens once you’ve met the goal, once you’ve saved your home and you’re out of financial crisis?
And what about the direct sellers who still have a full-time job but dream of financial freedom? They aren’t motivated by a loss of income or some financial crisis. What drives them?
It has to be inspiration; there is no other option. You must be driven by a Dream. This business always comes back to the Dream.
This is exactly the reason you need to surround yourself with people and teachings that inspire you. You absolutely must have a personal development program. This regiment should include inspiring stories of people who have done what you are trying to do.
Ziglar was a strong advocate of what he called “Automobile University,” using your daily commute to listen to encouraging personal development programs. He credited his time spent at Automobile University for much of his own leadership development. You should enroll, too.
Inspiring Your Team
You must also change the way you think regarding your team, particularly if you are someone who is used to giving orders. Your job is to inspire people, not motivate them. Bosses motivate; leaders inspire.
Author Bob Nelson puts it this way: “You get the best efforts from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.”
Think for a moment about how you interact with your team: are you lighting fires beneath or building fires within?
The best direct sellers aren’t necessarily experts on their products and services. They may not be the best at drawing out the marketing plan. Rather, the most successful people in this business are the ones who inspire, who infuse life into other people.
They have a Dream and they can communicate it with compelling vision. They encourage others; they tell them they can do it, too. They have unwavering character and are exceedingly selfless. Others look at them and say, “Wow, I want that kind of life. I want to be like her.”
Can that be said of you? When your team looks at you, do they see someone chasing a Dream? If not, you’d better make a change. An organization that is not running on the Dream is on its knees.
Let others be motivated by fear or desire. The world is content with a carrot on a stick. Not you. You are going places. You are inspired.
You are chasing your Dream.