How To Be Motivated By Strength Rather Than Insecurity

I’ve been talking about why and how people stay and leave organizations, so the unique retirement letter outgoing Google CFO Patrick Pichette wrote and posted to Google+ caught my attention.

I was particularly struck by this admission:

I am completing this summer 25-30 years of nearly non-stop work (depending on how you wish to cut the data). And being member of FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers, it has been a whirlwind of truly amazing experiences. But as I count it now, it has also been a frenetic pace for about 1500 weeks now. Always on – even when I was not supposed to be.

In case you’re considering FWIO membership (or wondering how you got in), here’s how it works: You’re successful at what you do, which leads to psychological rewards, however you measure them­—­approval, comfort, security, ego or purpose. You conclude, “I get these rewards because of what I do.” And that leads to this terrifying thought: “if I don’t continue to succeed, I am at risk of catastrophic psychological loss.”

emotional businessman

For example, a close friend of mine runs a successful events-based business that measures their success on how many people attend the events. He scheduled a well-known speaker from out of town to keynote a recent event. He promoted the event, sent out invitations and prayed. And very few people came. The result for him, when he’s really honest, was intense shame.

My business utilizes Dale Carnegie Training materials and methodology to help people and companies grow. Every month, a report is sent to all 200 of us around the world who run businesses that provide Dale Carnegie Training. For me, this report, which ranks each business by performance, is a tool of ego and insecurity. The fleeting circumstances of success are always before me, making me aware of the thin line between winners and losers.

Have you ever experienced deep insecurity from the prospect of failing?

Maybe it is a noble fraternity that drives progress in the world. Maybe Google wouldn’t be Google without insecure leaders who apply relentless efforts to not fail. Members of the FWIO channel their insecurity into “motivation” and anxiety into “vision.”

But what if we could live from a place of sustainable strength, where motivation and vision came more from internally rather than externally defined value?

The FWIO is noble because it’s authentic and biased toward action. But I propose we get over ourselves to unlock the chains of insecurity.

How do you manage your membership?



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  • Pat Griffin
    March 19, 2015 at 9:52 am

    For many of us, the way out of the FWIO only comes when we face a situation that forces us to recognize our powerless-ness; something that regardless of effort on our part was going to go in a direction we did not desire. It is while facing something of that nature that one has to choose whether or not to judge him/herself on outwardly observable metrics or inwardly known character. In the end, one realizes that membership in the FWIO can be terminated at any time by a simple decision to no longer live one’s life based on what others think of you. And the good news is – they weren’t thinking of you anyway; they were too busy maintaining their own FWIO membership by thinking of themselves.

    • Matt Norman
      March 24, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      Pat, that’s so well said. Thank you for your insights about recognizing our limits, knowing where to root our value and remembering that other people aren’t thinking about us anyway.