Motivation and Flawless Execution


“A great idea,” writes Jeff Haden, “is only great when you execute that idea incredibly well.” Execution matters. But, what about the motivation to execute? How do you find the ‘where-with-all’ to get moving toward achieving a goal? Should you go to Youtube and watch a Tony Robbins video? Or, maybe you should invest the time and money to go to a Tony Robbins seminar and do a fire walk? The short answer you would get from Jeff Haden – a ghostwriter, speaker, contributing editor to Inc., and ‘serial achiever’ – is a big fat ‘NO.’ Now, to be clear, I’m not interested in making an enemy out of the six-foot-seven gazillionaire Tony Robbins. Haden, author of The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Set Themselves Up to Win, does a much better job of picking a fight with him than I could. So, I will let Haden draw Robbins’ fire.

Please don’t hurt me Mr. Robbins.

Haden’s argument is simple: You can’t buy motivation. It doesn’t come in a bottle. You can’t download or stream it. You might get a quick hit from someone like Tony Robbins. But, it won’t last. Real motivation comes from within. And here’s the kicker – motivation isn’t something you are necessarily born with; it isn’t just about some mysterious ‘grittiness’ within; motivation arises from process. What!? Process!? Yep, it’s true. Motivation comes from establishing a process and then executing it. Forget about the goal, just execute the process every . . . single . . . day. Motivation is all about the power of habit.

It’s worth quoting Haden directly – “If you want to stay motivated, if you want to stay on track, if you want to keep making progress toward the things you hope to achieve, the key is to enjoy small, seemingly minor successes – but on a regular basis.” For Flawless Execution ‘Aces’ this should sound familiar. For an individual with a personal goal to achieve, every day has a repeating course of action. Every day has its own small, iterative mission objective. Completing the tasks today leads to success tomorrow . . . and so on, until months or years later the goal is achieved.

We love process and cycles at Afterburner. That’s what Flawless Execution is, a cyclical process for success. Flawless Execution doesn’t need a motivational ‘jump start.’ Sure, we have professional speakers that are motivational, but that’s not the real value. The value is in the process our speakers, facilitators and consultants use as the centerpiece of all we do. It’s that process that creates the virtuous cycle of success. A team just engages in the process and the motivation to succeed arises as a product of that process. Bam! That’s it.

I never believed (at least not as an adult) that motivation is something one can find extrinsically. I stopped listening to music during my workouts last year. It was an experiment to see if I could reach the same levels of physical exertion and speed as I could listening to AC/DC (good motivation, right?). I broke a personal best last week sans good Australian rock and roll. (No offense to Australians or rock and roll intended). So, when I heard about Haden’s new book, I picked it up as soon as it hit the shelves. I was not disappointed.

I was already a devotee to process before reading Haden’s book. But, I did come across a new idea that I hadn’t considered before – serial achievement. Haden breaks it down. If it takes about ten thousand hours of deliberate practice to become a master of some skill set, then it takes a commitment of about seven years to achieve mastery. That means, that our lives provide us five to ten, seven-year periods to master different things. Anyone that follows a process can become a serial achiever! Now that’s motivating!

The Motivation Myth is a life-hacking manual for the anti-hacker. To rephrase, there are no hacks to success. Stop looking for hacks. Just establish a process to succeed and execute it. The process is the hack. The motivation for success arises as a product of executing the process. It’s a virtuous cycle. All that aside, Haden’s writing style is a joy to read. His witty, self-effacing prose is punctuated with some salty language, too. Gotta love that!


Reference material: THE MOTIVATION MYTH: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win
By Jeff Haden (Portfolio Penguin, 2018)