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It’s 3:00am on a rainy Monday morning in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and I am thinking. I am thinking about the word ‘motivation.’ What is it that motivates me to work forty hours every week building my company or studying entrepreneurship (after I finish my studies)? What is it that motivates young entrepreneurs?

There is surely great power in motivation. Without it, our Freudian id would be ever conquering, and we would sleep and vegetate all day. But there is something that drives us entrepreneurs. There is some little voice, perhaps our superego, that makes up get up, put on clothes, and then lead, build, innovate, execute, and inspire for the next fifteen hours. Discern one’s core motivations and you’ve found the heart of his or her being.

Is money a motivation? Well, it is for nearly all of us. But it is by no means the most important motivation. We actually prefer the thrill of the venture. We hope to do something noteworthy. A desire for respect motivates us. A thirst for achievement motivates us. The desire to excel, an internal drive to pursue and attain challenging goals, to reach our full potential, adds to the pot. Finally, the desire to innovate, to create, to make the world a better place and improve the standards of living for all by providing better and higher quality goods and services surely is core.

What is my motivation? Well, on page one of ‘The Lifetime Goals of Ryan Allis’ it states “Goal Four: Create a lasting foundation that will encourage education, reduce poverty, improve health, better economic conditions, encourage entrepreneurship, and prevent corruption in developing nations.” In all honesty, this is my biggest motivation. I hope to follow the paths of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Soros, and Gates.

I realized about three years ago that few persons in this world have the opportunity that I do growing up in a supportive middle class American family. I hope to ensure the same opportunity I have had; the chance to receive a good education, to have good health care, to be well-fed, to live in a country with a vibrant economy and relatively non-corrupt political system, and to start a business is made available to all. A huge goal, but I think it can be done.

As an aside, I have included the opportunity to start a business for a reason. Entrepreneurship and the ability to fairly easily start a business has given my life great meaning and possibility. I am now a Chief Executive Officer, a business owner. I have something that is mine. Something to live for. Something to build, to create, to craft, to own, to watch grow.

However, few people in our world have the opportunity to start a business. One of my role models, the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto did a study a few years back. He and a small team set out to find out how long it would take to legally start a simple business in Lima, Peru. To get the legal paperwork done to establish a shop with one sewing machine without making any bribes took 289 days and cost $1,230 – 31 times the monthly minimum wage. Though surely not all persons want to, the ability to easily set up a legal business is essential to building a world of prosperity.

What are my other long term goals? I presently have four in all. The other three include 1) write a book that sells 1,000,000 copies, 2) be the founder/lead entrepreneur in a company that goes public, and 3) win the Nobel Prize in economics.

These goals motivate me to get up every morning and learn, lead, and work. Three years ago, I had none of these goals and hence, none of the motivation. I was fifteen and going through that rough period of adolescence it seems we all go through. If I had had the experience then to know that anything in this world is possible, that I can make a difference, that I can do meaningful things, that life wasn’t just an endless cycle of waking up, going to school, studying, smoking marijuana, and going to bed, I surely would have been more psychologically healthy and motivated. I was lucky in that I was getting still good grades in school, taking some enlightening classes, and had supportive parents. Without, I may not have made it as I had no goals or underlying motivations that could give my life meaning. I had yet to realize the extent of opportunity and possibility this world has.

Presently, I am more motivated than I have ever been before. I believe this motivation is directly correlated by the extent to which I am doing what I love. I am building a company. I am working as a research assistant for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology Venturing. I am the Vice President of the Carolina Entrepreneurship Club. I am doing an independent study in entrepreneurship. I am taking MBA classes on venture capital and legal issues for start-ups. I am studying economics. I am following my bliss and doing what I love. I am striving to reach my goals and I am highly motivated. Do you know what your goals are? Are you working tangibly and proactively to reach them?

No matter your age, if you do not have a framed and very visible listing of your goals and what you want to accomplish in your life, I challenge you to stop what you are doing for the next 45 minutes and write them down. Create your own mission statement. Define who you are. Know what you are striving for. Discern your core motivations.

On a final note, I was fortunate to attend a private reception last week with renowned venture capitalist Tim Draper. The one thing he said that has stuck with me most was, “Give it that extra 10%. Everyone gives up at 90%, not realizing that the true benefits, the true gains come from that extra little effort, that extra ounce of proactive diligence, the writing of those thank you cards, the reading of that extra book each month, the calling on those last prospects, the preparation for your next day.”

Get out there and give it all you got. You’ve got one life to live. Better make it rockin’. Make your goals. Find your motivation and core reasons for being. Then give it your all plus that extra 10%. And in the end be happy that you made a difference, accomplished something meaningful to you, added value to the world, and had fun all the while.

– 4:48am on a now snowing morning in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

This Young Entrepreneurship article was written by Ryan P Allis on 2/9/2005

Ryan P. Allis, 20, is the author of Zero to One Million, a guide to building a company to $1 million in sales, and the founder of Ryan is also the CEO of Broadwick Corp., a provider of the permission-based email marketing software and CEO of Virante, Inc., a web marketing and search engine optimization firm. Ryan is an economics major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is a Blanchard Scholar. [learn more.