One of my favorite movies of all time, Jerry Maguire, features Tom Cruise as an agent with a major sports management firm. He’s enthusiastic, successful, a great negotiator and people like him. But it begins to dawn on Jerry that there’s something wrong with what he’s doing, and not long after a troubling encounter with the son of an injured athlete he represents, Jerry has a serious crisis of conscience.
In the midst of a sleepless night, Jerry is inspired to write a mission statement (which others refer to as a memo) calling on himself and his colleagues to think more about the long-term welfare of the clients they represent and less about immediate profits. He wants to motivate them to change their approach to doing business.
While everyone around him applauds the sentiment, Jerry’s superiors think his ideas are bad for business; Jerry is fired, and, rather than standing in solidarity with him, his “friends” in the firm scramble like sharks to claim Jerry’s clients.
At the end of his last day, the only people who are motivated to join Jerry as he strikes out on his own are staff accountant Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), a single mother secretly in love with him, and Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a football player whose pride and arrogance have gotten in the way of his reaching his potential, and getting a new contract. Jerry is able to inspire him to play with more heart, and he gets a new contract as a result. He in turn is able to inspire Jerry to lead his personal life with more heart, and he finds true love with Dorothy.
We often confuse inspiration with motivation. They are similar in nature, but originate in separate places.
Motivation is external and is born from circumstances. Jerry was personally touched, and thus inspired, to give more personal service after the troubling encounter with the son of the injured athlete he represented.
He became motivated to write a mission statement in hopes that it would motivate his co-workers to change their business philosophy. It failed because they were clearly more motivated by large commissions.
Most people are motivated to work because they have bills and must pay for the cost of living. This is external. But there are those who quit their jobs and pursue what they love because meaningless work costs them their happiness. This is internal.
After seeing Jerry Maguire I was motivated to tell others about what a good movie it was, but I was inspired by Jerry’s conviction in his altruistic beliefs and commitment to personal service. The film motivated some people I know to pursue careers as a sports agents. It also inspired some people I know to write mission statements of their own.
Motivation is concerned with the achievement of an end result. Inspiration is concerned with emotionally sparking a process that leads to an end result. They often work in tandem: inspiration as the key which turns the ignition and starts the engine of motivation.
Many people are “inspired” to do great things but often lack the motivation to capitalize on that inspiration. In Jerry Maguire, Jerry’s dismissal motivated him to start his own firm where he was forced to put his mission statement into action.
We often hear the expression “self-motivated” without giving much thought to what it really means. People who are self-motivated are adept at finding motivation to get things done. Some focus on rewards of getting things done. Some focus on the repercussions of not getting things done. Either way, self-motivation requires the ability to be self-directed in putting forth actions that bring about a desired end result.
I prefer the term “inspirational speaker” to “motivational speaker.” I find more satisfaction in my speaking engagements when someone says they were inspired by one of my talks. It means I connected with them emotionally. I don’t believe that any speaker can motivate anyone to do anything, but an effective speaker provides food for thought and inspires people to become self-motivated.
I’ve found that reasonably intelligent people can get motivated by data and facts alone, but everyone – regardless of intelligence or academic background – is susceptible to inspiration. When you want to be inspired, you can find inspiration just about anywhere. All it requires is that you be receptive to it and use it to motivate you. Doing so may just change your circumstances, if not your life, the way that it did for Jerry Maguire.
Gian Fiero is an educator, speaker and consultant. He is affiliated with San Francisco State University as an adjunct professor, and the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) as a business advisor where he conducts monthly workshops on topics such as business development, career planning, public relations, and personal growth.