Most Powerful Human Motivators: Jim Rohn Motivational Speech8 min read

Full text of Jim Rohn’s motivational speech in which he discussed about ‘Most Powerful Human Motivators’


Jim Rohn- Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur, Author

In the first few pages of the book, by way of introducing himself, Mr. Herman declares that he is one of the toughest men on the planet, if not the toughest. And whether or not you are prepared to take his word for it now, as he tells you so, he is absolutely sure you will agree with him by the time you’ve finished the book.

And he’s right, by the time you’ve finished the book, you’ll know that over the course of these few hundred pages, you’ve been in the company of the toughest man on earth, physically, mentally and spiritually.

This was definitely a man with a very strong body and a strong character to go with it. had been born in Michigan, but he had moved to Russia during the 1930s when his father went there to work in a factory built by the Ford Motor Company.

, who was in his early 20s at the time, was also arrested for being politically unreliable and was sent to Siberia.

The philosophy of the Soviet prison system at the time was very simple. Prisoners were simply worked to death. In the Arctic cold of the Siberian winters and the mosquito-infested, unbearably human summers, the camp inmates were given one impossible task after another with inadequate clothing, impossibly poor equipment, and almost no food.

Faced with this kind of existence, a prisoner would inevitably lose his will to live, and death would occur not long afterward. was an amazing exception to this rule.

Though he had no real hope of a life outside the camps, though, he had nothing to live for in the sense that most of us are used to. There was something inside him that refused to be broken just out of sheer stubbornness, just out of sheer strength of character.

At one point, a special task was arranged for Mr. Herman, something that camp administrators were certain that he wouldn’t survive. Early one frozen morning, he was sent out into the forest with only a single guard accompanying him. And there he was shown several dozen full sized trees that had been cut down and stripped of their branches so that they could be used as telephone poles.

He was then ordered to single-handedly load the trees onto some railroad flatcars before the end of the day. It was literally an impossible task, like something out of a fairy tale or a bad dream. But Victor Herman did it. Somehow he did it. Simply because he refused to be beaten or to give up. It was a miracle, but it actually happened. It was a feat that dwarfed the accomplishments of any Olympic athlete. And as it happened, Victor Herman was in an excellent position to make that particular judgment.

Since after his release from the camps in the 1950s, he became the coach of the Soviet Olympic boxing team. The author of Coming Out of the Ice perform many heroic feats during his years in Siberia. But he considered the incident with the telephone poles to be his masterpiece.

As he worked, he was watched by only the armed guard, who just stood there silently throughout the day, probably half frozen to death himself and undoubtedly completely dumbfounded by what was happening before his very eyes when the impossible job was finished.

Victor Herman could not resist walking up to the guard and throwing his arms around him. This incredible display of physical and mental toughness simply had to be celebrated somehow, even if only with a Russian prison guard in the middle of a vast Siberian forest.

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As Herman described it, the guard allowed him a brief smile. And then the two men trudged back to the camp where Herman endured many more years of incarceration before his eventual release. His remarkable Olympic career and finally, his return to the United States after almost 30 years in the Soviet Union.

Victor Hermann’s amazing story certainly deserves to be told. And I believe there’s a great deal to be learned from his accomplishments. But it’s not what you might think. I’m not going to suggest that you can be like Victor Herman or that you should even try.

In fact, I think the value and the extraordinary power of his story lie largely in the differences between what this man accomplished and what we can expect of ourselves.

To me, the most amazing fact about Victor Herman’s survival is the fact that he found motivation entirely within himself.

Nobody cared whether he lived or died. He had no reason to think he would ever have a life outside the prison camps. It was made obvious to him throughout every minute of every day that his captors were simply waiting for him to give in and growing more and more impatient about it all the time.

To me, the fact that Victor Herman managed to maintain his will to live under these conditions of total isolation is even more amazing than the things he accomplished with his body. Very few people are able to develop this kind of intrinsic motivation.

That’s just an axiom of human nature. Most of us, virtually all of us, in fact, need reasons outside of ourselves in order to accomplish anything of significance. We can still be people of strong character, but we need something outside ourselves to help us become as strong as we can be. Just sort of wanting to be financially successful is rarely enough to make it happen. Just wanting to learn a new skill or give up a self-destructive habit or make some other major change in your lifestyle usually won’t cut the mustard.

But what if you had to get a large amount of money in order to afford the very best medical care for someone you love?

What if you had to learn how to speak a new language in order to save a family member who had been imprisoned in a foreign country?

Or what if you had to change your way of living in order to find a way out of some other life or death situation?

Your motivation would move to a much higher level. If you’re like most people, having to is a lot stronger than wanting to. But often and especially when you’re young that difference isn’t always clear until someone points it out to you.

In my own life, it was my mentor. The late Mr. Earl Shoaff pointed out the distinction between wanting to, on the one hand and really wanting to or even having to on the other.

By doing so, Mr.Shoaff did me a great favor. And after we talked about this, I felt for the first time I was really pointed in the direction of success. The way it happened is really very simple and straightforward. Mr. Shoaff simply took me aside one day and said, Jim, you have enough talent and intelligence to really accomplish a lot in life, but you just don’t have enough reasons to make it happen.”

When I heard that something clicked inside my head, this was truly a key insight, a turning point in my life.

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I had always doubted if I had enough ability to be successful. But suddenly I realized that having enough ability was not the problem. The problem was having enough reasons. I’m no Victor Herman. And frankly, I doubt whether you are either. We don’t have the willpower to achieve success in a vacuum. As if we were standing out in the middle of a Siberian forest loading logs.

We need all the help we can get in terms of motivation. But, of course, different people are motivated by different things.

I’ve read a number of studies on motivation, and the ones I’ve found most convincing have isolated four main factors as the most powerful human motivators.

I’ll go through them one by one, and I urge you to listen to them carefully. Think about how you can put them to use to help you to accomplish your goals. And if you’re in a managerial or leadership position, think also about how you can use them to help motivate the people you’re supervising.

These are the real factors that make people get off their behinds and do things. These are what works when wanting to just isn’t enough. These are the true reasons for believing something is worth doing. And then for actually doing.

The first great motivator is recognition from peers.

When soldiers in wartime give up their lives during combat, why do they do it? Is it because of patriotism or belief in the cause they’re fighting for or fear of court martial if they do otherwise?

Perhaps all of those things play a part. But extensive research has shown that what really motivates a soldier to fight will in combat is the desire for the respect of the man who’s fighting right beside him.

This is much more important than medals or other forms of public recognition, which, in the confusion of wartime, are often given to the wrong people anyway. And what motivates soldiers in combat is only an extreme version of what motivates salesmen on the floor of a car dealership, or students in a classroom, or a team of lawyers trying to win a case.

I don’t know if this is still done, but for many years, the players in the National Football League used to select their own all-star team at the end of each season.

I was always interested and rather amused by the differences between the player selections and the all-star team picked by the fans or sportswriters. And I’m also certain that the honor of being selected by one’s fellow players meant a lot more than any sort of recognition from someone sitting up in the grandstand with a hot dog in his mouth.

Quite simply, recognition from peers is a truly powerful motivating force in any human activity.

The second important motivator is recognition from respected experts or authorities.

I can tell you that in my own life, this has been an extremely important factor. Mr. Shoaff, whom I mentioned a moment ago, was someone that I respected from the first moment I was introduced to it. And he was also someone whose respect I desperately wanted to earn.

Has there been someone like that in your life or is there such a person in your life right now?

Don’t hesitate to politely approach them and introduce yourself. Unless you happen to catch them at a particularly difficult moment, most successful people are eager to help others and to pass on what they’ve learned. Sure, I was apprehensive about meeting Mr. Shoaff when I first saw him, but I shudder to think what my life would be like if I hadn’t done it.

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Family is the third great motivator.

And in many ways it’s really the most powerful. Although the approval of peers and experts may be most important in your career, in your life as a whole, nothing can compare with the importance of your family.

An experience I had a number of years ago was a good illustration of that principle. I had just finished giving a talk before a group of entrepreneurs up in Minneapolis, when a young man approached me and asked me for some advice about achieving financial success. As I always do, when asked for that sort of advice, I began with a couple of standard straightforward questions.

The first one was how much money would you like to make annually? When I asked this question, I want to see whether the person has given enough thought to his goals so that he can come up with a specific figure.

That’s a much better sign than someone who just says, ‘I want to make a whole lot.’ But this fellow was even more specific and focused than I could possibly have expected. I need to make at least a quarter of a million dollars a year for the next 10 years, he said, without a second hesitation.

‘And why do you want to make that amount?’ I now inquired. This was another standard question of mine, and once again he answered immediately.

Mr. Rohn, he said, “ten years from now when my kids are old enough to enjoy it. I want to take my family on a trip around the world that they’ll remember all their lives. The trip itself will last for twelve full months with no expenses spared. And in order to save enough money to make it happen, I will need an annual income of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the next decade.”

There were literally tears in his eyes as he said this, and although I haven’t heard from him since then, I have no doubt that he’ll achieve his goal. This man was working because he desired to give his wife and children a lifetime’s worth of priceless memories. And if that isn’t a reason to believe, I don’t know what is.

The fourth and last achievement motivating factor I want to mention is closely related to the desire to benefit your family. In fact, you could say it’s a desire to benefit the whole family of man. Let’s call it the impulse toward benevolence, toward sharing your wealth and wisdom with the world.

When we look at the four important motivators I’ve just discussed, what do we really see?

The thing that I immediately notice is that they all involve other people, whether it’s peers, mentors, family members or simply fellow members of the human race.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?

In order to be successful, you need this very internal, very personal, very unique thing called strong character. But in order to acquire that innermost quality and set it to work, you need people other than yourself as reasons to believe.

Maybe that’s not true if you’re the toughest man on Earth. Maybe then you can do whatever needs to be done just because you set your mind to do it. The thing is, though, there’s only one toughest man on Earth at any one time, and I’m not the one.

And I’m kind of glad about that, too, because needing and working for other people is really what’s made my life worthwhile. And I’m sure you feel the same way.

– Jim Rohn