Carrot or Stick?

When it comes to any discussion on motivation, even though I’m aware that some people might respond to the occasional stick, I’m more of a carrot person myself. In this I’m at one, I think, with anyone who really knows anything about people. Even Sir Alex Ferguson, renowned for his reported “hair dryer” treatment of players is quoted as saying that “Well done” always got the best response.

In my case the difference for me was highlighted by the 12 years I spent in the army, where any love that was shown tended to be towards the tougher end of the spectrum. Yet within 7 years of leaving and my first forays into community activism, I found myself doing things that I’d previously only dreamt about; and being rather good at them. Something that I hadn’t hereto experienced. Years later, I realised that those people saw more in me than I saw in myself and that they trusted me. More than that, they expected of me and I now realise that I thrive under those circumstances. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that it’s no coincidence that those early days, in the mid 1970’s in Harrogate, have led me to where I am now. Not that it’s been easy but, as my lovely wife says, “Your perseverance is amazing”. Interestingly, I don’t see any of it as perseverance but just the need to keep going. After all, is there any alternative?

Well, that “keeping going” is finally starting to pay real dividends for me. You see, for many years I never thought that I’d ever write a book. Yet here I am with the draft of book 4 completed, at a rather opportune time. You see, I knew that I could write a good fundraising letter or a report but,a book? It was the difference between a 6 mile run and a marathon; a real step up in terms of effort. Well, I did that twice during my middle 50’s; 3 hours 46 minutes for the first one and a little over 4 hours a year later (please excuse the boasting).

So what is all this leading to? Well, this week I e mailed that manuscript to a friend whose opinion I value. His comment that “You’re an incredible writer”, stopped me in my tracks. It was praise of the highest order and it spurred me on; once it sunk in. This person who didn’t believe so is, actually, quite a good writer. Who’d have thought it?

Yet that individual response is important as it can bear fruit on a broader scale. At which point, I have a question. Do those who run the country really believe that the best results are achieved by penalising those who already experience hardship while rewarding those who don’t? Well it doesn’t and that’s something to the detriment of the whole country. No wonder there seems to be real pessimism in the air. Give me the carrot any day.

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