The Root of Motivation

March 19, 2014

Brian Tracy on the root of motivation

What are the psychological roots of motivation? Find out what best-selling motivational guru Brian Tracy has to say about the psychology of motivation and how managers can unlock the secrets to creating passionate, engaged employees.

The purpose of business is to get the highest ROE (return on equity) from the amount of capital invested in the company. Your goal as a manager is to get the highest ROE (return on energy) from the people who work there. What is the most effective way to motivate someone? You can’t motivate someone directly—all motivation is self-motivation. But as a manager you can remove the obstacles that stop them from motivating themselves. You can create an environment where your employees naturally become self-motivated. You start this process by removing demotivators.

There are two major demotivators in life and work:

  1. Fear of failure. This is the greatest single obstacle to success and achievement in adult life. This fear serves as a form of paralysis and holds people back from taking risks, volunteering for new responsibilities, or extending themselves in any way.
  1. Fear of rejection. This fear of rejection is also a fear of criticism, condemnation, or censure—the fear of making a mistake and being dumped on for it.

Successful organizations and managers are those who consciously and deliberately remove these barriers. They make it all right to fail or to make mistakes. They make it clear that nobody gets rejected, dumped on, criticized, or threatened with retaliation for making a mistake. The best managers create an environment where people feel free to be the best they can be.

There are many ways to eliminate these fears and to foster a constructive, positive environment, but the key to success is the nexus between the manager and the employee. When this relationship is positive and supportive, then performance, productivity, and output of the individual will reach its highest level. If this point of contact between the manager and the managed is negative for any reason at all, performance and output will decline. A negative relationship with the boss will trigger fears of failure, rejection, and disapproval. So focus on your relationship with your employee and on removing fear from your office environment.

Scott Adams on Understanding Basic Human Psychology

For practical, proven methods to reduce fear of failure and rejection check out Brian Tracy’s book Motivation. Adapted from Motivation (The Brian Tracy Success Library, AMACOM Books, 2013).

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About The Author

BRIAN TRACY is the Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. One of the top business speakers and authorities in the world today, he has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 5,000,000 people in 5,000 talks and seminars throughout the United States and more than 60 countries worldwide. He has written 65 books and produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on management, motivation, and personal success.


  1. avatar

    I disagree. Healthy fear is actually a positive motivator in the work place. Accountability is necessary for a productive environment. Clear cut examples of authority should also be made out and made apparent once someone is hired. Illogical process practices and the feeling of under appreciation are the worst demotivators. Typically passing the buck and giving employees too much work is the main reason why someone would leave. It also degrades employee return on energy because they are tired all the time while working. These companies need to hire additional employees for new tasks.

  2. avatar

    The two major devotivators:
    #1 is fear of failure, and
    #1 is fear of rejection.

    I’ve worked at a few places that used to say things like this all the time.

  3. avatar

    Brian,I agree with what you have written but would add to the list. For me the biggest demotivators(in addition to the ones you have written) are 1: mediocrity 2) two sets of rules for employees.

    Both of the these along with your listed items led me to start my own company. My career choices always had me select ‘safe’ positions with large employers. Having gotten past the ‘fear’ factor of failing – I still ran into working with demotivated people in my new company.

    Large employers are full of mediocrity – it is very difficult to stay motivated when ‘that’s no my job’ is the montra of many fellow employees. Management grows to accept that – all employees are the same no matters what they do to motivate them.

    The ‘two sets of rules’ is along the path as mediocrity but slightly different. We all know the ‘special’ employees – the ones who show up for work late, take 30 minute breaks, two hour lunches and are out the door -when it fits there needs.

    Enough of the negative-I’ve got to get back to finding a different opportunity to continue pursuit of my goals.

    Thanks for what you have written.

    Best Regards,

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