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April 2009


It’s been a Budget week and most commentators seem to think we have reached the end of an era: the New Labour project has ended, and we are in a new period. Well, thank God for that is all I can say!

The news can be unremittingly bad – we start inhaling the atmosphere of crisis! Very soon we lose all hope for the future; then, Why bother? sets in.

Truth is: motivation is like a muscle – use it or lose it. The strange thing is most people understand that they need to exercise, but share no concept that keeping on top of their motivation is equally important. The proof of that statement comes really from the world of sport: we can see – visibly – the competitor or the team that is beaten before the event even starts. The body language says it all; and they all look as if they want the game to be over as quickly as possible because … they want to get away as quickly as possible. Champions, on the other hand, relish the moment: they know they are about to prove themselves – think Chris Hoy – and they are so motivated.

What then do we do? Well, what do most people do? They hope vaguely that they will be motivated – and you know what? That’s all it is, a hope – a vague hope.

Instead, we should benchmark our motivation and our motivational levels. One thing I say to staff when I go in to mentor them is: make sure every month, at the end of the month, you ask yourself, How motivated have I been this month? And give yourself a percentage score. If, I say, that score falls below 80% three months in a row, you have a problem and you need to take action, otherwise you will become just like the plummeting share prices we have seen on the stock market recently.

But knowing how motivated you are at the end of the month is not enough. You need to create your own Personal Motivational Plan. And this requires that you know your motivators and FEED them. That’s right – feed the little piranhas; they’ll love you for it.

The trouble is: most people don’t even know what their motivators are! I kid you not. My company, Motivational Maps Ltd, has had something like 200 management consultants/coaches doing a Motivational Map – many experts in the field of personal development. But even experts in the field of personal development sometimes don’t know what motivates them. If you don’t, go to and try a Personal Motivation Profile.

Once you know your motivators, then create your plan around rewarding yourself accordingly.

I know my motivators. Despite the political and economic bad news, I feel very bullish – in fact writing this Blog is symptomatic of just how positive I feel. My number one motivator is what we call the Creator – the need to innovate. And with it goes the motivating pleasure of getting your name on the created product! A whammy!!

James “the Creator”




We don’t know a lot about the life of William Shakespeare, which is surprising. When you consider how well documented some of his contemporaries were, when you consider that he was living well into the age of print, and when you consider how prolific and great a writer he was, then it most certainly is surprising. Even more when you consider how many books have been written about that life that we know so little about. (My favourite is possibly Ian Wilson’s: Shakespeare: the Evidence).

In fact to is because we know so little that has led to the cottage industry of ‘Shakespeare did not write his plays … Bacon, Marlowe, Oxford [fill in the name] did’. These theories are fascinating but certainly false; there is plenty of evidence that Shakespeare did write the plays he is credited with, and nobody at the time suggested otherwise. I cannot claim to have read all the authors of the absurd ‘Shakespeare didn’t write brigade’, but I have read several. One underlying argument of such works invariably seems to be: Shakespeare could not have written the plays because his social background and his education, or more precisely his lack of education(he didn’t go to Oxbridge). It sounds plausible until you realise it is just the pretentious snobbery of the English class system asserting itself – trying to re-claim this darling for its own.

And that’s the trouble – as Professor Schoenbaum observed in “Shakespeare’s Lives” – everyone wants to claim Shakespeare for their own, and re-make him in their own image. My favourite Shakespeare biography even, by Ian Wilson, argues Shakespeare actually was a Catholic, and – guess what? – Wilson is a Catholic!

Perhaps this is why Shakespeare is so motivating – quite apart from his sublime works – because what little we do know of his actual life can be interpreted in so many ways, and can almost exactly fit the gods of our own mind.

In the Tao Te Ching it says that ‘the way that can spoken of is not the way’. The way of Shakespeare’s life seems almost equally unspeakable, and unwrite-able (though many try). That is his mystery – and our motivation – as we keep trying.

Shakespeare says in Hamlet: There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so



Welcome to the Spring – that is how the world feels today. Here in


the sun is shining and I have been in my garden for an hour practising Chi Gung. Plus, of course, it is the First of April.

This will not be everyone’s experience today – for some it will be very different. But all of us, I think, have those moments in our life when looking forward is very good and very exciting.

Today, however, was even more different. I had a strange ‘blast from the past’ that I found extremely motivating. Some weeks ago a business colleague invited me to join Facebook: Naturally, I had heard a lot about this ‘social network’, not least because my son is on it! It seemed a product for ‘young’ people – not one for me. Naturally, how wrong could I be?

Immediately, my friend Pic found me – then linked me up with someone I taught 25 years ago – Richard Bowen. Richard sought me out and gave me some fantastic feedback on my teaching of – specifically – Tennyson all those years ago. Richard is now a successful journalist, and frankly my contribution to his success is very very tiny – he has done what he has done. But, to know that one’s small efforts are still remembered and valued after such a long period of time is – simply – wonderful.

And all of us, I guess, from time to time, discount the importance of our own contributions to the human race and other people. Richard, when I left him, was 16 years old – he’s now about 40! Who has he helped and supported – left small traces that have contributed? Most of the time we forget and don’t know.

So, as Spring begins, perhaps too a time for reflection – who did we know then? What did we do? How has that helped? And as the memories come flooding back, we perhaps will feel renewed motivation to carry on. For the truth is – although I am a motivational specialist – see – I find myself more motivated now than I was before; yet, if you had asked me before how motivated I was, I would have said, “100%”.

Thank you Richard – I am now 200% motivated towards making a difference! And as Tennyson said, or nearly did: ‘we need to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield’!