You can’t make people do things.
Well; you can; but they won’t be happy about it.
And so, if we are to produce something worthwhile and be happy doing it, pushing from behind simply does not do the trick.
Push a mule from behind and it will demonstrate perfectly that law of physics. For each action on earth there is an equal and opposite reaction.The mule will very likely refuse point-blank to move.
But suspend a tasty snack inches from the nose of a mule who has no reason to suspect he will not get it; and he will follow that snack to the ends of the earth.
Thus, a clever man creates a desire for success in another which just happens to coincide with his own.And lo! Man-made synchronicity.
The man who taught Alexander The Great, leader of the known world, had simple words to say on the subject. Aristotle wrote a book on ethics and dedicated it to his son. I feel in my bones that I know why he did this. The motivation and ethics of little boys – it is both art and science. If you do it right it is the pinnacle of achievement.
I know this because I live alongside Big Al, the four-year-old with motivations which change by the millisecond.
So this is what Alexander The Great’s teacher has to say about the whole business: “All men seek one goal, success or happiness.”
Aristotle’s most famous writings on ethics are said to have been based on lectures he gave at the Lyceum, dedicated to his son Nicomachus. Had I been sitting in the Lyceum the day he delivered this pearl of wisdom I might have coughed politely and raised my hand. “Er, Mr Aristotle,” I would have piped up preppily, “I think you’ll find that’s two things.”
Happiness is not success, nor is success happiness. But both are very nice indeed, and both were on the mind of the small boy who arrived yesterday morning for two hours of action.
Big Al, my four-year old nephew, was coming to play, whilst his father took his sister swimming and his mother visited my mother in hospital.
I chose that bastion of additives and black hole of pocket-money, The Sweetie Shop. On the way to the Sweetie Shop we pass spectacular playgrounds, so that if Al’s short-lived motivation should waver we have an understudy goal in the wings.
Felix, my eight year old son, loves sweetie shops too, and playgrounds. And Al loves Felix. In fact, in the tradition of little boys, he worships grown-up boys and will follow them to the ends of the earth.
But was that enough to guide us through our odyssey?
I threw in a set of wheels for good measure. The most ancient wobbly scooter you can imagine, made some time in the 1960s, red metalwork, yellow wheels.
And just before we were ready to go – with our coats on and one foot out of the door – Felix asked if he could bring Macaulay the dog.
Had anyone ever packed more motivational punch than me, this Saturday morning?
We set off walking: Al working the scooter, Felix leading the dog, the sun shining brilliantly, the daffodils nodding gently.
The playground is not far away: we stopped. I was bequeathed coats, dogs and a scooter; and waddled around after Al trying to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. He never did. Al bounces.
And then onwards, with the processed sugar ever beckoning. But the carrot had changed: Al didn’t want the scooter any more.
Fortunately, Felix did. For who can resist a set of wheels and a downward slope?
Felix jumped on, and whizzed off, an eight-year-old human carrot, and Al flew after him shouting encouragement. My heart almost stopped when I saw them heading for a great concrete downward spiral path, a chance to plummet without brakes and really do some damage. The dog and I broke into a run: but Felix was hurtling off oblivious, and Al after him.
I need not have fretted. They had a blast. So far I had not had to carry the scooter, or indeed utter one word of motivational encouragement.
Sweeties and another playground later we were ready to come home. The scooter was losing its lustre for Felix: until he decided to harness the dog’s fervour. He looped the lead on the scooter and Macaulay became a trusty cart-dog, puling the scooter along with Felix as passenger.
Felix did not lose his lustre for Al, however. It will be some 20 years before that happens.
And so picture a boy on a scooter, tugged by a trusty terrier, and a little blonde assistant running behind, with every inch of his energy, all the way home.
The epitome of both success: and happiness.