“All in the game yo, all in the game.”

For some strange reason I’ve always believed everyone was motivated intrinsically. I’m not sure where this came from — my Dad’s work ethic most likely. He was a hardworking, self-motivated man. From my perspective, it wasn’t about personal gain — it was always about doing the right thing.

In turn, I worked hard for him. Not to prove my worth, but because I wanted to please him. When he asked me to do something, I ran and did it. Of course my hardworking work ethic paid off — not only when I worked for him — but in other pursuits as well.

As a paramedic/firefighter, I was wholly motivated to do the right thing. My goal was to be the best paramedic — not for personal gain, but because I believed in the vision of providing quality emergency medical care to the people we served. Often I would find myself at odds with coworkers and supervisors. I never really understood why they would stand in my way. I was motivated, sincere, and seriously looking for creative solutions to improve the profession and the care we delivered.

Over time, I chalked it up to ignorance and laziness. I needed a label to make sense of the resistance. Of course, I realized that some of the impedance was caused by my own weaknesses. I knew I wasn’t a good communicator; I knew I was too stubborn; I knew I was too serious and task-focused; and I knew I wasn’t taking the time to grease the skids with friendly banter and a positive personality.

After a time, even in a serious leadership role, I realized I couldn’t play the game anymore. I saw that my vision wasn’t necessarily shared by my peers — and I moved on.

“It nearly killed me and it nearly killed them.”

Within time, I was pulled into a new profession and a new vision on how to save the world. As always, I poured my heart and soul into this endeavor. Of course I met resistance, but I ignored that and pushed forward. People ask my about my 13-month leadership role in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I tell them: “It nearly killed me and it nearly killed them.

Soon we moved on to something more in alignment with our dreams. Our time in Colorado Springs was awesome. We made a difference in the lives of many. Sadly, the corporation, at large, didn’t appreciate the things we were doing. I ignored the naysayers, but they pulled the plug. Once again I was left confused and discouraged. Once again I sought a label to make sense of it all. Once again I saw people who lacked imagination and courage. We moved on.

I clung to my vision on what the future should look like. Interestingly, I found a group that appeared to share that vision. The key word there is “appeared.” It soon became apparent that they shared aspirations, but not the will to actually push forward with the work. To them, it seemed easier to get rid of me than to actually step up. So they did.

I was left broken, messed up, discouraged, depressed, and very angry. I struggled to get out of bed — let alone understand what happened. I knew my leadership failed me, but I couldn’t understand why. Why would they so quickly dismiss (fire) a guy who is so solidly motivated? I was confused, but I continued to move forward — albeit slowly at times.

Soon, I found myself once again in a leadership role in a new career. But that time was short-lived. Soon I found myself back in the streets as a minion. Once again, I was confused, discouraged, and angry. I moved on — but still seeking a label and a story to make sense of the situation. Why would “they” not support a guy who is highly motivated, creative, and seeking to improve things? Not for personal gain, mind you, but for the sake of the profession, for the people served, and for the betterment of humankind?

Even in my current role, I walked in thinking everyone else was intrinsically motivated for the good of the cause. I quickly found out that my ideas and questions were unwelcome. I withdrew, and quit participating.

I know there’s a balance, because I see it when I swing past.”

Over the years I have swung from deeply committed and driven to make a difference, to apathetic wandering. I know there’s a balance, because I see it when I swing past. Trying to stay on the balance point is a lot harder than it looks. When one finds the balance point, it seems as if someone wants to kick them off.

Recently I’ve found myself riding the wave just fine. I’ve had time for family, work, God, and others. I’ve been rested, spiritually healthy, and emotionally at peace. And then yesterday, in the most subtle way imagined, I found myself being gently kicked in the crotch. It crept up on me, but soon I began to realize that once again the ugliness of corporate power and control was swallowing my vision and purpose.

After spending a quiet time of private reflection, I now see the that my previous interpretations were not as accurate as I thought. The story I was telling myself, about ignorance, cowardice, and lack of creativity — well, that is just part of the story. For the most part, it’s about power and control — those that have it create fear in their minions. Those without power and control learn ignorance, and lack creativity for their own survival.

“I now see the that my previous interpretations were not as accurate as I thought.”

One truly does need to look out for himself — and has to understand that most people aren’t going to give permission out of a sense of intrinsic rightness — rather, they need deeper motivations. Bribery, exchange of favors, and retribution go far in this crazy, corrupt world we live in.

While I don’t plan to lose my values and intrinsic motivation to do the right thing, I do plan to be less naive in my idealism.