Motivation and inspiration – knowing why they’re different makes all the difference

18 April 2024, Thursday

Sport is the arena of the modern day gladiator. And just as Roman intellectuals, businessmen and political leaders delighted in observing and cheering the athletes of their era, so do their equivalents today. Not just as an escape. There are many life lessons to be drawn from the playing fields. Which is one of the reasons why Biznews pays more than just passing attention to Sport. In this insightful blog, Rob Opie, an author and personal brand specialist who spends much of his time working with athletes, takes a look at South Africa’s match-winning strike bowler Dale Steyn.  And shares how we can learn from his example of being inspired rather than motivated; and reflects on this public example of how effective a human being can be when they are on purpose. – AH

By Robert Opie*

As an author and speaker, I am sometimes introduced as a motivational speaker. Nothing could be further from the truth. Motivation is a word little understood by nearly all. It implies that a person is trying to get another person, or team of people, to do something that they do not really want to do.  That is just a waste of human time and human energy. It can only have short term benefits and usually comes at a cost called additional monetary incentivisation. Then what next, as more money is thrown at the problem. Inspiration, on the other hand transforms performance to sustained higher levels of human greatness.

It comes when you marry the power of an individual brand like BRAND STEYN, with that of a team brand like BRAND SOUTH AFRICA. No individual can rise to the level he showed in Port Elizabeth, unless both brands are ‘in sync’ and on fire. This means, he is acting out to his highest possible values, and when one does this, no motivation is required .Nothing can be more important to him ‘in the moment ’. In his head there is an orchestra. And it’s not just some of the orchestra’s players are virtuosos; a lot of them are. How they interact is what makes Steyn what his is. There is a confluence in his brain, his person, his world, his purpose and goals, his culture and his country most of all. He is inspired to do, requiring no motivation, maybe just a little guidance  here and there, from his ‘inner circle ‘of mentors.

Bafana Bafana however, is a totally different ball game .Each individual within the team cannot see and garner the value of representing one’s country at its highest level. There is no unity of purpose. And this has resulted in an ‘everyone for themselves’ culture, demanding more motivation, more money to make the effort to play for one’s country.  It’s called a culture of entitlement and instant gratification created by no unity or purpose. Demands are relentlessly made by all. It’s a sad day when this type of situation gains momentum, and is not addressed by its leaders, coaches and mentors. Mentors are those who have gone before, who have their charge’s best interests at heart. They can guide champions and ensure that their Game Plans are “made of the right stuff”, as they move from good to great to greater. Most important of all, mentors are often best placed to restore balance and paint the bigger picture of life – that life is indeed bigger than sport –  money should never climb to the top of one’s hierarchy of values list .In any case human greatness never goes unrewarded .

Steyn, I am sure has some potent mentors in his ‘inner circle’, that he falls back on. He’s inspired by purpose, not motivated by money. No money would have made Steyn bowl as he did in Port Elizabeth. He had a point to prove about self pride, team pride and of course national pride. In life it’s called in sync. In sport it’s called in form ‘. Everything falls in place, even when the ball reverses, like it did in PE.

Businesses can learn from sport stars like Dale Steyn – as inspired individual brands, in tandem with inspired team brands, can make all the difference – that ultimately counts at the bottom line. And that is where the money lies.



Beware the individual or team driven by higher purpose – driven by meaning