Drive is a must. It motivates us to achieve what might otherwise seem impossible. As I wrote in my recent blog entry - Sometimes No Can Be The Best Answer To Get - and spoke about in my TEDx Talk, it was my drive as a young artist to have my cartoons published in The New Yorker that motivated me to submit hundreds of unsolicited sketches to the magazine's slush pile for years before I achieved that seemingly impossible goal.
But where does the drive to succeed come from?
I've realized that drive can come from surprising places. In my case, the drive that motivates me was born out of the first time I didn't get something I really, really, really wanted.
As a child I loved sports and was an avid sprinter and long jumper.
I wouldn't say my achievements sent Carl Lewis into a frenzy, but for my neighborhood in Holon, a small suburban city near Tel Aviv, I guess in a way I was Carl Lewis. I was the school champion and celebrated for it.
What I wanted most of all -- what I desired and lusted after above all else -- was a pair of Adidas ROMs.
Nike didn't exist yet, and the coolest sneakers were the white Adidas with the three blue stripes.
Getting a pair of Adidas ROMs was absolutely everything to me at the time.
I didn't just want them because they were the best -- the rich kids in Tel Aviv came to track competitions wearing Adidas ROMs and I wanted to compete with them on equal terms.
So after months of begging, nagging and pleading, my father -- who'd grown up in a working class neighborhood in downtown Tel Aviv -- finally gave in and decided to indulge me. We took a bus from Holon to a sportswear store on Aliya Street in Tel Aviv -- the Tel Aviv equivalent of Canal Street. There was no doubt in my mind that my father knew the best store with the best prices, and that I was going to leave Aliya Street with my Adidas in hand or on foot.
Yes, if you are wondering, he did indeed buy me a new pair of sneakers -- but not the Adidas ROM's I was so passionate for. Instead I came back to Holon with a pair of simple, grey, no-brand sneakers. Let's just say they were really nothing to write home about.
Adidas were extremely expensive at the time and looking back on it now I realize that my father made the right decision. My father worked hard all his life, and the fact was that fashion was beyond our means. Don't get me wrong, our home lacked nothing, but my parents didn't spend money on luxuries like fashion. They spent money on what they truly valued, which was education. So my parents invested every penny they earned on education for their children, and not on luxuries.
Adidas ROMs were a luxury of course, but for me as a child, the whole episode was a tragedy, a crisis, but also a transforming event and a turning point in my life.
At that very moment, my drive came to life. That is where it originated and grew to become my mountain of ambition. It created my endless will to move up and to work hard, usually harder than those around me. As crushed as I was to come home with simple, no-brand sneakers, not getting the Adidas ROMs I wanted so badly lit the spark of ambition in me because I realized I was going to compete without them. I was going to have to be the best without the budget and without the shoes. In short it meant I was going to have to be even better. Not having them would not be an excuse. ...and if I wanted a pair, I'd have to get them myself. The whole thing was up to me.
The drive that was born out of that experience has motivated me ever since to achieve and to get everything that my heart desires...including the Adidas ROMs, which I finally got when I found a pair at a store in Berlin at age 48.
Not getting what I wanted was disappointing, but it was also strengthening, toughening, empowering.
So the next time you don't get what you want, remember that it might be just what you need most.