Three connected stories.

In 2009, just after the financial world had collapsed,
and shortly after a banker had been reported in the newspapers as having spent just
over £43,000 on champagne for a private party in London, the millionaire
chairman of a private equity firm called Permira became an overnight hero of
mine.  Damon Buffini had taken his
partners on a 3 day conference at a luxury hotel in Surrey, where a group of
them complained about the food that the Michelin starred restaurant in the
hotel had served up.  Mr Buffini went
into the kitchens that evening and asked the cooks to serve up burgers the
following night, whereupon  he stood up
and gave his partners a severe dressing down for being so spoilt and not knowing
how lucky they were.  Mr Buffini himself,
now a multi-millionaire, whom I have since met, was raised by a single mother
on a Leicester Council Estate and had not forgotten.

In yesterday’s papers there was an article about Kumar
Sangakkara, a 37 year old Sri Lankan batsman, who has just scored his 11th
Test Match double century at a remarkable career average of 58.66.  Having previously decided to give up his
glittering cricket career at the end of the current series, he is now
rethinking his retirement on the grounds that one more Test Match double
century would place him alongside Sir Don Bradman, the greatest batsman of all
time.  Son of a lawyer, schooled at one
of the most prestigious private schools in Sri Lanka, whose cricket ground (at
which I have been fortunate enough to play) is also a Test Match ground, a
chorister and violinist, all of Kumar’s 3 siblings also had national
honours.  He grew up with an extremely
privileged background.

Mother Teresa, one of the best known names of my
childhood, a Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary, lived most of her
life in Calcutta.  She was, by any
standards, a truly remarkable lady, devoting her entire life to helping the
poorest of the poor.  In 1950 she started
a mission in Calcutta whose aim was to care for, in her own words, “the hungry,
the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people
who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society”.  By 1996, 46 years later, she was operating
517 missions in more than 100 countries, still as devoted and caring as ever
and still with her single unwavering focus on the poorest of the poor. 

In their own completely different ways, these are three
remarkable people.  My question is
this:  what motivates them?  And what motivates successful people
generally?   And why is it important to ask?  I make some assumptions here, but for the
majority of people, one usually has to go back to childhood to get to the
source of someone’s motivations. 
Buffini, of private equity fame, clearly never forgot his childhood on
that Leicester Council Estate and never took his later success for granted –
did his motivation come from a deep seated, even angry, determination to escape
a poor upbringing?  Sangakkara, the Sri
Lankan batsman, on the other hand had a golden, privileged childhood.  Did his motivation come from a desire to live
up to expectation, to not let his successful parents and family down?  Mother Teresa had a calling from God, a deep
religious conviction which undoubtedly gave her the strength and the motivation
to achieve all she did against all the odds. 
The link between these three disparate people is that they were
motivated to their core.  Other forms of
motivation might include a desire for some sort of immortality (such as artists
and authors might seek through their work); or a fear of failure brought about
by something in one’s own history; or a sibling or wider family rivalry or even
enmity that leaves one determined to outcompete the other; or perhaps the need
for acceptance amongst one’s peers, when one feels on the outer. 

What do you think your own motivations might be?  Or if you feel demotivated now, what might
they become?  You don’t have to be
motivated, but don’t expect life simply to come to your door if you are not.


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