On a few podcasts, most notably Episode 20 with Gregory “J.R.” Tolver and Episode 100 with Jason Mayden, Priest talks about the influence his Mother and Father had on making him a better person, better parent and harder worker with a fire to be successful. For him and some of his guests, the influence of his parents was a positive one. He used their hard work ethics and the lessons learned from watching them live their lives as well as what was taught to him directly as inspiration to be even better almost in homage to them and to honor their efforts. It’s an uplifting and motivating story to be sure and Priest has achieved many of the goals he has set out for by being a great Father, Husband and a success in business with an incredible amount of drive and hustle to keep pushing himself further.
I wanted to write this because I had the opposite experience from my Father in particular but that motivation can be used in any way it is received to still achieve the same result. My Father was a prototypical screw up. Didn’t do well in school, joined the Marines because many of his family including his two older brothers had before. Had a major temper and got into fights and was insubordinate in the military and got a general discharge which was actually a gift from Uncle Sam considering he should have been dishonorably discharged and the difference allowed him to live much longer in life because of VA health care benefits. My Dad came out of the military with no real plan. He wasn’t a hard worker and didn’t head to work. He just drank a lot and then later got into drugs (some progressively harder). He drank and fought a ton and sold drugs to supplement his life.
He never really worked though and he wasn’t much of a Dad either. He didn’t like being around during certain holidays (his Father died around Christmas and he turned it into an excuse to disappear for the entire month of December every year) and would ditch for weeks at a time to be with his mistresses or his buddies. I had very little positive relationship with him but never kept trying to please him. I worked for every achievement I could in school… Straight A’s, local spelling bee champion and regional finalist, National Young Writer’s contest runner up, almost an Eagle Scout before I finished 6th grade in Boy Scouts. He would brush these achievements off as minor and not really impressive. When my Mom finally left him when I was 12, I saw him maybe 3 times until I turned 30.
I let my Dad’s negative comments (and violent tendencies) eat me alive during my teens and started to believe his expressed feeling of my unworthiness. I dropped out of school, started losing hope in my own education and skills and for a while I also had no future. And then something happened when I was 20 years old. My despair turned into fire and motivation. I had a son of my own. My priorities changed and I looked back at my childhood with an introspective view. There was no way I could be as bad of a father as he was to me. I was going to do better and while I’m at it, I’m going to get my life figured out and prove my Dad wrong.
In a short time I was locking down my Diploma, going to college, getting my driver’s license. I realized I had sort of wasted time in my career and now as a single Dad, I sort of had to figure out a pathway to success – so I took increasingly more complex temporary jobs where I could prove my skills and show the experience on my resume. I went from call center customer service to retirement rollover analysis to telecom business analysis to e-commerce analyst to online marketing specialist to business and innovation consulting. By the end of that, companies were asking me how they could be successful and innovative. I started off like anyone else basically, retail cashier but with hard work I pushed myself up a ladder that was missing a few traditional rungs.
I did a ton of that because I had a fire inside of me to improve myself. For my son but also in spite of my Dad. When I saw my Dad again for the first time in years, he again did not seem impressed by my successes. Instead he made the comment that he was extremely disappointed that none of his children went on to be professional athletes. I had given him another chance to try to clear my own conscience and because I had heard his health was starting to fall apart but I learned that nothing had change. He had no sense of remorse or ownership for how he treated others. When he passed away, I was the only one of my brother and sister that didn’t spend time with him during his last hours. He died, strangely enough, on my birthday ultimately always tying his memory to the time I think of myself the most.
So why do I bring this up? Because though we had VASTLY different experiences with our parents, Priest and I came to the same places in life because of our own drive, curiosity, fire, growth. You can turn negative motivation or positive motivation INTO that fire. In fact you can turn ANYTHING into that fire. Everything can be fuel if you choose to let it fuel you. It’s up to you to light the match. Motivation is the one thing we truly control. Outside forces out of your control can alter your path like socioeconomic background, racial biases, access to education and opportunities. You control your fire. You can use any sort of motivation you want positive or negative to drive yourself. From there, you set your strategy, you use your hunger to learn, your work ethic and you seek out your path. That could be finding your way into college despite a lackluster high school experience or starting a challenging career where you need to put in 125% to make it through every day as you become better at your job. Whether you’re proving someone wrong or validating someone’s faith in you by proving them right – you can control your motivation.
You’re not always going to be successful in your quest but the trick is as they say in football, to keep the legs moving and pushing forward for extra yards. Have solid goals, create checkpoints where you can assess where you are and where you want to be, feed your curiosity by selecting things you want to learn more about (never stop trying to learn!) and remember that mentors are a good thing. Mentors will help you with such assessments and help you figure out what you need to learn they’re there to help you direct that fire inside of you – you just have to start the fire and keep it going.