maslow pyramid



As seminal as Maslow’s theory on the human motivations is, I would like to submit that it is at the root of the frustration experienced by several people, rich or poor, in today’s society. When the desire for success becomes codified in the quest for things and an elusive self-definition, there is a big problem.
Incidentally, I doubt if any of the people – Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass – profiled by Maslow in arriving at his postulation, was primarily motivated to become what they became because of their pursuit of those motivations.

My study of highly successful people has demonstrated beyond doubt to me that they are motivated more by a desire to make an impact in their world than by any mundane survivalist or acceptance motivation. As a matter of fact, on their way to the top, they suffered setbacks and rejection. But they went ahead nonetheless because their desire to make a contribution dwarfed the voices of naysayers around them.
So, whatever kept them going when others motivated by the desire for love and acceptance would have given up in the face of bare-faced rejection must be more than Maslow’s Motivations.

I was privileged to sit with an elderly mentor of mine about seven years ago. He is a multi-millionaire now in his eighties. The first shocker I got was seeing his phone. It was a Nokia 3410, an antiquated phone even at that time! I could not help but ask him why he didn’t carry a more expensive phone that fitted his status and could help him simplify his life. The answer he gave me would probably be the subject of an entire write-up. I asked him if he had a drive and a deliberate desire to become as rich as he was. He looked at me pointedly and said, “To be honest with you, it was not my ambition to become rich. But one thing was certain. I did not have the privilege of education beyond the elementary level and I was determined that all my siblings would go to school to any level they desired. Ditto my children.

I was determined to give them the best that I could afford without cutting corners. I knew that would not be possible on a salary, so I had to put my best into life to make the money that would make that possible. The rest as they say, is history” Today, he sits atop the Board of many businesses. He lost quite a lot of money in the process of his journey to his present state – at a point he lost five million pounds sterling in one investment in the eighties! – but he never lost his drive.
As materially endowed as he is, he has no airs around him. Or how would you describe the recently deceased Truett Cathy, proprietor of Chik Fil’A, the largest privately owned fast food chain in the USA? Until his death, I learnt that he was a Sunday School teacher in his church! His view of wealth was that it must never be a pursuit. Rather, it is simply what the universe gives you when you have sufficiently provided a solution to enough people’s problems.

For this reason, if and when you have it, you must have an acute sense of stewardship to the Creator of all things who thought you worthy to entrust it to you! As at the time he died, over one thousand of his employees who hitherto had no hope of university education had become graduates through the scholarship scheme he instituted for employees who desired higher education! He was motivated by the desire not to be anything but to make a difference to humanity in fulfillment of what he believed was a divine mandate on his life.

Take the man popularly referred to as the Oracle of Omaha, the maverick investor and one of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffet who has lived in the same house for about forty years and rides a car that many whose net worth is not up to the salary of one of Warren’s managers would consider an antiquity! What should be said about Bill Gates who seems to be giving out money to different global causes faster than he seems to be making it! By his 76th birthday in 2008, Chuck Feeney, through his NGO Atlantic Philantropies had given out over four billion dollars to various educational institutions and causes with the caveat that his name must not be on any of the gifts. For a multi-billionaire, his lifestyle leaves you befuddled. He wears a $15-dollar watch, flew economy class until he was 75, owns no property and lives in a one-bedroom apartment and carries nylon bags for a briefcase.

His drive? Speaking in 2007, he said: “I had one idea that never changed in my mind – that you should use your wealth to help people.” His famous statement? “Shrouds have no pockets”. His greatest ambition? “I want the last cheque I write to bounce”! I wonder why none of these people seemed to have been influenced by Maslow’s theory… continued.

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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