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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  • Yeah, creating your personal vision and mission statements are great ways to fuel your inspiration as well as gaining clarity in what you want to accomplish in your life. Stephen Covey referred to this as “beginning with the end in mind” – to self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals.
    Really interesting to see how you guys work at the Samovar Tea Lounge, Jesse. Thanks for sharing!

  • Alexey Sunly

    I love it! Very well put together plan of action to keep yourself on track 🙂 Most business owners try to control too much, so great advice and great list of resources!

  • Meridith

    Well you have certainly succeeded, whenever I head north to San Francisco, I anticipate the Samovar experience. The minute I enter, your staff are so kind and gracious, and I’m an older woman dining alone. Everything on the menu and every tea is sublime and I leave relaxed and at peace. Good for you!

  • Thank you so much for your book recommendations, it’s always good to have lot’s of happy, positive books around – just for the those little down moments – you can give yourself a little mental pep talk!

  • Rollie Jackson

    I think breathing is probably the most important part of this entire process. While searching, finding, and fueling your mission are important, they can’t be done without a clear mind and that’s what it takes first and foremost to get the motivational fuel going. –

  • Ben Goodrum

    Love this! Totally resonate with it. I speak in schools about motivation through inspiration, how when I left school and university I really started learning because I found things that inspire me and make me feel alive.
    It’s a real boost to read articles like this, to see that other people are thinking and feeling the same.
    If interested, check out my website 🙂

  • Excellent piece. I find that reading motivational books and listening to motivational and inspirational speakers motivates me. I think we have to take responsibility for our own motivation and inspiration. Waiting to be inspired is a dangerous game. It’s far better to engineer your own motivation on a daily basis.

  • Tim

    How do you find the mission?

  • Shaambhavi Pathak

    While I am impressed by your list, however, I believe a family is a person’s biggest support to stay positive. There is a lot of encouragement that a family can give to an individual. This will help him see his goals clearly.

    There are other things besides family. Read on to find more here:

  • Lisa Michele Fonseca

    Love this! I think very often people show up for work to work – they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing other than for the paycheck. And now, I have my own business and I can feel myself getting sucked into the gotta do more, gotta meet more people, etc. and losing sight of WHY I gotta do what I gotta do. Thanks for showing me how to get refocused! I know my work is important and I have an important message to share – now just need to continue to work to get the word out! (: Thanks for a truly inspiring blog!

  • Backyard Brand

    The search for authenticity, and the results of that, inspire me. So does the artist Claude Monet because he seemed driven by that search, too. Tim, Monet says, “It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.” I just finished an eBook based on 7 ways Monet helps us convey our authenticity. Here’s the SlideShare version of that

  • epepota

    This is awesome!

  • rashed

    1. I tink this concept will work fine if you implement in a smooth way