Motivation: The Hungry Cat

I have always been fascinated by people who succeed despite themselves.

Super Salesman

Mac, the Super SalesmanMac was just such a contradiction. He was a wildly successful appliance salesman who made a humdrum appearance, had very little product knowledge, disparaged customers, and was pathologically incurious.

What made Mac successful?  I found out when he had a stroke and came back to work before he could talk.  Lacking speech, he smiled, nodded. gestured and listened to customers, then led them by the hand to a washer, dryer or range, and proceeded to smile, gesture, and pound on the product, until the customer said “Yes.”

Woody Allen famously said “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  I’ll buy that if by showing up he means consistently, persistently, and relentlessly.  Mac did that, but so do a lot of marginally successful people.  The secret of Mac’s outsized success was hunger, motivation, drive.  Mac wanted to succeed, needed to succeed, dreamt of success as teens dream of sex.

Bill, the Chain Store MagnateChain Store Magnate

Bill White, who built and owned a chain of stores, had the drive.  A recluse, so removed from reality that he spoke in an eponymous dialect, he was a notoriously poor judge of people and a micro-manager who never learned to delegate.  Bill’s speech erupted in flows of spittle when he was angry or excited. Not a plausible candidate for success, but he had the drive, the self-motivation.

Mark, the Real Estate TycoonReal Estate Tycoon

While Bill had an Ivy League education, Mark missed out on college but nevertheless cobbled together a billion dollar real estate business that only stopped growing when his one-man band reached its scalar limits. Mark didn’t actually count the paper clips, but he hoarded and controlled an eclectic variety of staples from stationery to shingles. An asocial character with a learning disability, he rarely said hello, please, thank you, or good job, but could charm a snake when driven. No lack of motivation here.

Super salesman, chain store magnate, real estate tycoon.  These are just a few of the successful misfits I’ve known and been amazed by.  You can probably point to politicians, performers, priests and professional athletes whose success would be surprising if they didn’t have the hunger, the drive, the self-motivation.

The Hungry Cat

Charles Tandy, of Radio Shack fame, told me once I wouldn’t have to worry about anything else if I just “hired the right cat.”  From the likes of Mac, Bill and Mark, I learned that the right cat is a hungry cat.  Success isn’t in the details, it’s in the drive, the self-motivation.

First published as The Hungry Cat on Lou Bruno’s Blog

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