The Blue Bengal was our inheritance. It had a giant steering wheel with the gear shift on the column, no power steering, and driving it dislocated my shoulder. It called out to a teenage boy, and we had one. They were made for each other—both totally unique.
Josh could make that car do anything. One busy Saturday he took it downtown and entered the twisting driveway of a parking garage. Halfway up the ramp, with several cars stacked up behind him, the Bengal stalled. Josh got it started again, but it wouldn't shift into first. With the honking becoming louder, and his face getting redder, he leaned all his weight on the gear shift and forced it to slip somewhere inside, allowing the car to drive forward. Later he realized he'd created a new gear. From then on Josh was the only one who knew the combination. The Bengal was his.
An email the other day asked, "What motivates you?" I'm like the Blue Bengal. A bunch of people who expect me to go forward, all waiting for me to get in gear—that motivates me.
The same email asked, "How did you motivate your kids?" I thought of another story about Josh.
But when he said he wanted to take gymnastics, I put him off. We had all these other lessons lined up; it was too dangerous, expensive and inconvenient. One morning he found the Yellow Pages and sat down with the phone. Later he asked again, with specific details. He'd researched it all, found a gym and arranged to clean it on Saturdays to pay for lessons. He planned to ride his bike about 6 miles each way a few times a week if he had to, and told me the route. "So, can I, Mom?" Josh was thirteen at the time and totally self-motivated. Because it was his idea, we didn't have to coax at all.
So, my answer to the second question comes from Harry Truman: "Find out what your kids want to do, and then advise them to do it."
What the Blue Bengal lacked in fine-tuning it made up for with enthusiasm. It eventually gave out enough sparks to set the road on fire! Josh has done the same thing. In my experience, when someone is motivated, the best thing you can do is get out of their way.
~Use a story to answer the question: What motivates you?"