The Secret to Staying Motivated (and Motivating Other People)


“Don’t be pushed by your problems; be led by your dreams.” ~Unknown

As the founder and owner of Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco, I’ve gone through my share of ups and downs over the past twelve years.

One of the hardest challenges I face every day is how to create motivation. How to motivate myself to keep going, even when things get hard. How to motivate staff to serve and lead with enthusiasm. How to motivate vendors to work with me. And the list goes on.

No matter who you are, everyone is trying to motivate someone. Parents try to motivate their children to practice piano. Bosses try to motivate their employees to work faster. People try to motivate themselves to lose weight.

Unfortunately, motivation sucks. It’s an external force that requires either a threat or a reward. But once that carrot or stick is removed, everything falls apart. Or it may work for a while, but soon you’ll need an even bigger carrot or stick to keep it going. It’s a downward spiral, like a car spinning its wheels in the mud, only to become even more stuck.

On the other hand, some people and social movements have such momentum that they seem to soar effortlessly. What’s the difference?

For us at Samovar, the secret is not an external force, but an internal superpower: inspiration.

How to Create Inspiration

1. Find a mission.

Inspiration is the fire that wells within. When you’re inspired, you’re filled with life. You don’t need an alarm clock to wake up; you wake up before the alarm ready to dive into a new day. When you’re inspired, you don’t need to be told what to do at work; you’re already thinking of ways to make your work even better.

How do you create inspiration within yourself or your company? It comes from doing something that matters, and knowing that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.

At Samovar, our mission is to create positive human connection. It’s not about selling tea; it’s about creating a movement. Find a mission that resonates deep in your heart, and you’ll find a deep well of enthusiasm and energy.

2. Share the mission, not the action.

It’s much easier to share a mission than make a demand. When I let go of the need to “manage” staff, and instead empower them to fulfill this vision, then the magic happens.

Instead dealing with of a bunch of robots that need to be monitored closely to make sure they meet the minimum work requirements, I’m surrounded by passionate ambassadors of the company vision.

Sharing a mission is also more effective than demands. My staff face a million different scenarios every day, most of which I can’t anticipate.

It’s impossible to make a protocol for every single issue that pops up. But if my team truly believes in our mission, they can solve problems creatively, using our core vision and principles.

3. Fuel your inspiration.

Inspiration is contagious. When you hang out with inspiring people, you become inspired. And unlike motivation, which requires increasingly bigger rewards, inspiration is a self-propelling force that grows bigger and bigger.

I also fuel my inspiration by reading books by inspiring people. Here are a few notable authors with insights on inspiration:

4. Breathe.

Sure, I still have tough days when I feel discouraged. But at those times I simply pause. I brew a pot of tea and take a few breaths (the word “inspire” comes from the Latin word meaning “to breathe”).

Breathing gives me space to reflect and remember. Every satisfied customer who leaves with a smile on their face, every staff person who shares their excitement about the connections they created, and every meeting I have with inspiring people buoys me up.

Find a mission and share it. Breathe it in, and breathe it out until it infuses every cell of your body. Soon you’ll be filled with life, passion, and joy that no carrot-or-stick motivation could compete with.

About Jesse Jacobs

As the rate of change moves faster and faster, we find ourselves rushing through life with less time for what matters most. Jesse founded Samovar Tea Lounge to help people experience positive human connection through the timeless ritual of tea. After 12 years and more than 4 million pots, they're just getting started.

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