I recently participated in a discussion on initiative and motivation; the discussion revolved around both the types of initiative and motivation as well as how that could advance career, help in finding and keeping a job. However the conversation quickly turned to acceptance of current trends in interviews, current practices in hiring, acceptance of the dysfunction that is present in society today. Yet when someone offered many counter arguments saying that sometimes it isn’t a lack of initiative or motivation but a lack of functionality, they were met with a barrage of accusations implying laziness, implying a lack of willingness to strike out on their own as opposed to seeking the help of career professionals to, in essence, do it right the first time and avoid mistakes, implying there was something wrong with wanting, requiring and expecting competence and function, to say nothing of law abiding hiring practices and professionalism. The views held in this discussion highlight several problems rampant in today’s world. The problems seem to begin with the fact that we have lost our constructive discontent; it is now ok for things not to function. The escalating unfairness in the world is now perfectly desirable; unfairness not only in employment hiring practices, but unfair decisions within the justice system, the lunatic unfairness in public schools and colleges. We have shifted the majority of the responsibility for procurement of information, success exc. from the professionals to the consuming public, whether you are looking for help from a not for profit entities, state agencies or simply trying to interact with your physician or the cable company; it now falls to the consumer to essentially, know everything. We preach acceptance rather than change so much that not only is it no surprise that we have a list of shyster mortgage lenders, a bill that was put forth to stop deceptive credit card practices, that getting a job has gotten even more difficult than ever, but that it only seems to get worse.

The consequences of this pervasive mentality is an insidious, if unconscious, insensitivity particularly to those looking to acclimate themselves to the job market and the working world. Returning to the initiative and motivation discussion I was privy to, the factors above directly tie into the ideas enforced in this conversation; many times not only was it extremely antagonistic to those who made valid counter arguments, it seemed to make excuses for other entities blatant, obvious mistakes; it blamed those with opposing views for not taking the initiative, for not taking that extra step to find what they need. The problem with many of these motivation and initiative speeches, lectures and discussions, including this one, is that they don’t take into account that many of the consuming public may not know where to turn or who to look to when finding what they need; it doesn’t take into account the variations in people’s lives. For example, the proliferation of the internet has only fueled the push for do it yourself information gathering, do it yourself service, do it yourself medical knowledge, even do it yourself specialist contacts along with the thinking that anyone can find anything; however that doesn’t include older American’s, those with little or no computer access and even less knowledge. It also discounts the stages people find themselves in throughout their lives, the difference between the naive high school graduate, someone in their 30’s or someone in the last stages of life. The more disturbing issue is these type of forums erode the implied responsibility of agencies and professionals; it makes initiative and motivation a one-way street on the part of the public. It does not answer the question of where is the initiative and motivation of sales people to sell the consumer the proper product or answer their questions so that they get a repeat or life long customer? The lack of motivation aimed at the consumer is why we have the federal government intervening with both the mortgage crisis and the credit card companies, because neither were motivated enough to educate their public on the basics of an adjustable rate mortgage, or basic credit car polices- neither were government officials motivated to address the issue until much too late according to popular opinion.

It becomes particularly appalling with job placement agencies, assisted housing complexes and other services who repeatedly refuse to add on the extra paragraph of information to any of multiple conversations had between public and professional to prepare and assist those they deal with; in fact, those facilities designed to help the public find a job, stay off the street, gain healthcare are all too often the most guilty of this behavior. Handling these type of situations brings another valid point often ignored by those giving these discussions, even those who ask questions may not get the full picture of what they need to know, though they get some information they may not get all the information they need to make an informed decision or the best choice for them. Believe it or not, this can have devastating effects; it can topple the career goals of someone starting out, if they are given the wrong information by an agency or many of them, it can be even more detrimental to those middle agers and retirement age persons still looking for or needing to work, needing housing, needing medical care, trying to pay their taxes, it can leave people without the things they need. Too many of those preaching this kind of motivation have forgotten there is a reason we have professionals; it is not just because we cannot operate on ourselves if we need surgery, we cannot diagnose our own medical issues, we are rightly discouraged from defending ourselves in a court of law, but because financial professionals know things the public doesn’t, tax laws and tax codes change often, many times access to social services like job training and health care programs require the involvement of an agency not just a member of the public walking on off the street and asking for X, Y or Z. A further irritant to the those who hear these lectures and the larger situation is money; many people cannot afford the expertise of for profit employment and testing agencies, tax preparers, financial advisers, so they must depend on the free and not for profit services available. Not only that, but no matter how many harrowing stories these speakers tell about the multiple times they attempted to finish a degree, go up against a particular agency to gain assistance in returning to work, research experimental treatments for their disease, it doesn’t mean if someone else tries the exact same thing or their own variation that it will work for the speakers audience, or that what is occurring now is right or doesn’t need changing.

The reality is speakers like those conducting the interactive discussion are just a continuing symptom of a national problem, we have been indoctrinated with acceptance so much that the discussion never begins with acknowledging the dysfunction; the initiative and motivation never really extends to how the other parts of the equation should be held responsible as well, never is it mentioned that they too have obligations. Organizations that see and deal with these constant injustices, discriminations and down right illegalities refuse to use their influence to change the climates their clientele find themselves in. We truly have lost our constructive discontent; the higher up any ladder you go we have lost our initiative and motivation to change things rather than slop through the mess of just trying to get what we need. Agencies like those mentioned have forgotten their mission to try to improve things for their consuming public; the reality is they are more in need of the initiative and motivation lectures they dole out than those who have taken the initiative to show up to hear someone speak or participate in a class, who continue to look for work rather than collect a welfare or social security check, who make the best out of what they have, who took the bold step of asking for, or seeking, any help at all. The truth is it is no one with the power to change things for the people they serve has the desire to do so; the reality is initiative and motivation alone doesn’t cut it without resources to back it up. This doesn’t always mean money; sometimes it means business contacts or a particular doctor someone working in an agency office happens to know, tax loopholes or rebates only known to those in the business, calls and paperwork that can only be done by agency professionals.

The cold hard truth that must be realized by these lecturers is that a positive attitude and a look on the bright side mentality may carry you far, but not all the way. If we want people to have motivation and take initiative, then we have to functionality and information has to be readily accessible. The other fallacy to these glorified chastisements held in arenas, lecture halls, community centers and classrooms is the whole of the speech does nothing, absolutely nothing to address what happens when initiative and motivation fail; it does nothing to advise people what to do when they have exhausted all reasonable and even the unreasonable options. It does not address what happens when, with the unfair hiring practices, interview procedures and plain illegalities in employment, people still do not have jobs, no matter how good their résumé’s looks, no matter how many applications they put in, no matter how many letters they write to companies they want to work for, when experience and expertise work against you. There is nothing said about what you do when there is nothing else you can do and even the experts like those giving these lectures agree with your assessment. And what these lecturers fail to understand is that if people always have to go the extra mile, always have to have you act together while even professionals do not, always have to wage war just to function in life, getting a job, getting healthcare, getting assistive resources in housing or other services, intrinsic or extrinsic motivation, internal or external motivation it will wear out, people will run down. It is rather like the runner who ran from Athens to Sparta and in his exuberance ran back again; we all know the story. Upon completion of the task he fell down dead; there is a lesson there, a far more powerful and profound one by any estimation.