“Marissa, do you have ten minutes?”
“I…I was about to eat lunch.”
I caught my next sentence right before it left my mouth. I was standing dead-center in the African American History museum, phone glued to my ear, throngs of people side-stepping to avoid me. It was my first full-day off work since starting my job. And I was about to have a panic attack.
Before I could recover, our twenty-two year old, one-hundred pound office coordinator softly said, “Do you really need help?”
I could have cried. “Yes, I really do. Go to my computer and open my laptop. Type exactly what I say.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve rallied behind people
It’s Sunday morning—a Sunday where I spent the whole weekend working, answering emails, and keeping my phone set to loud in case a coworker texted me.
It’s not the first time I worked a weekend and it certainly won’t be the last, but this weekend was different.
This weekend I really felt my whole team pulling together. We had a lot of projects launching (including a new website, go team!), and everyone hit max capacity. I sent multiple texts to teammates. I all but begged my colleague Felipe to work on a Saturday saying, “Listen, I’m not asking as a coworker, I’m asking because it’s me. And I need a favor.”
For as long as I can remember, I have rallied behind people. My old coworker Andy, who I wrote about here, would do anything for me, no questions asked. This made us a team. Andy and I have not worked together in six months. Yet when I needed his digital mastermind on Friday before the new website launch, he picked up the phone when I texted him, “I need your help right now.”
When I’m surrounded by people like Marissa, Felipe, and Andy—people who would literally drop everything if I needed them—that’s when I feel like I’m a part of something. And that motivates me far beyond any any bonus or pay raise.
If you need to pull through, think about all the people pulling for you
Of every boss, coach, or professor in my life, no one has gotten more out of me than my high school track coach. He knew how to motivate me before I knew how to motivate myself.
When I was twelve, competing in seventh-grade track meets, he told me something I’ll never forget. He told me, “When you hit the wall, don’t think about the pain. Don’t think about yourself. Think about every single one of your teammates. Think about the people pulling for you.”
“It’s not the fastest person who wins, is it?” I asked. “It’s the person who can stand the most pain the longest.”
And that little exchange—slightly morbid for a twelve-year old, but whatever—transformed me from someone with natural-born talent, to someone who would rather die than let her team down. My coach molded a team out of trust—a trust that read, If you give me your all, give me that baton and I’ll give you my all back. The best races of my life were the ones where I could hear my teammates screaming.
People are there to remind you of your purpose
Once, I interviewed an Olympic gold medalist about her career shift from sailing to Crossfit—two sports which, on the surface, have nothing in common. Her response was something I completely identified with:
“I love competing more when there’s a cause. When I went to the Olympics, I wanted to bring a gold medal home to the U.S. That was my purpose. In CrossFit, my coach puts everything he has into my training, so I want to give everything I have back.”
I have never been one to follow orders just because they exist. I am, however, one who will go above and beyond for the people around me. Those people are my purpose.
You can’t reach your full potential on your own
I don’t think you can reach your full potential on your own. I don’t. I do not care how freak-of-nature-motivated you are—surrounding yourself with people who fuel you will throw you into a dimension of superhuman you never knew existed. Seek those people out in every area of your life.
Find people who can motivate you at the gym, in your professional life, at your side hustle, or to kick you out of that God-awful relationship. Think back to them every time you feel like you can no longer take it. Think about how disappointed they will be if you give up. I ran with ten times more passion and determination in a relay opposed to an individual race. If I ever launch my own business, I know I’ll need a business partner. I can motivate myself on my own, but it’s nothing compared to the extra reserves I conjure up when people depend on me.
It’s not the smartest person in the room who gets the client. It’s not the person with the Adderall prescription who can stay up all night. It’s not the fastest person who wins the race. The most successful person is the one who can motivate themselves the most.
The most motivated person is the one surrounded by people, reminding them of their purpose.