Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Motivation – Purpose & You

(This is the final installment of a three-part series on motivation.)

A co-worker that I had the pleasure of working with a few years ago asked his children the following question on a daily basis: What have you done today to make the world a better place? I ask myself the same question and reflect upon my years of experience as to what I’ve done to make this world a better place.

Daniel Pink, author of Drive—The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, believes that “It’s our nature to seek purpose.” A cause larger than self for what we do is purpose. Pink says, “The most deeply motivated people—not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied—hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves.”

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to help train a battalion of soldiers at Ft. Hood for a wildland firefighting assignment. As I talked with the soldiers, I was amazed to hear fear in their voices. These were individuals, many of who had returned from Operation Desert Storm, had a perception of wildland fire portrayed by major media outlets. Men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for their country found difficulty in facing fire. The purpose to defend their country from a human threat was not easily transferable to a naturally occurring threat.

As wildland fire leaders, we should respect our subordinates by getting to know each one and looking out for his/her well being. Do you know the purposes behind what motivates your subordinates? Do you know the purpose behind what drives your agency or organization?

In conclusion to this series, here are a few motivational resources:

RSA Animate – Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us – this YouTube video is an excellent capstone for bringing the series together. (My apologies for those readers restricted from viewing YouTube videos.)

Mind Tools™ Newsletter 181 – dedicated to boosting motivation skills. Included in the open forum are a few articles of merit to wildland fire leaders:

Look at your leadership as a wildland firefighter. How has your leadership made the world a better place?

Serving with Purpose – A Wildland Fire Example

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with North Zone Fire Management through the Leadership in Cinema program. Beyond their contribution to that program, NZ Fire is committed to doing a great service for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. In response to the Foundation’s assistance to one of their own, NZ “reversed tool” and has made it a crew purpose to support the Foundation. A quick look at the Foundation’s website shows that many others have acted in kind.

If you have an example of living and working with purpose, share your story here.



Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive--The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books.

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