Lesson from an in-flight movie: do better

I flew from Munich to New York last week and during the flight I watched “Invictus,” the movie about Nelson Mandela’s presidency and the 1995 rugby world cup in South Africa.

In the movie, Morgan Freeman, playing Nelson Mandela, tells the story about attending the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He said that they played a song in honor of him and South Africa and when he heard this song, he was very proud to be South African. He said it inspired him to go home to South Africa and “do better.”

I know that when I strive to do better—at whatever I’m working on—I am happier.

For example, I am inspired to do better when I am working together with people I value and respect.  It motivates me to go the extra mile, even if I’m tired or think I have nothing more left to give.

What (or who) motivates you to do better? And I would also ask you this: who do you inspire to do better?

In my life, I have had three extraordinary bosses. The one trait that they had in common was that every time I met with each of them I left the meeting wanting to do better. We would review open topics and often, troubling challenges and problems. Our meetings were focused on the tasks in front of us. They never explicitly said anything motivating, however, somehow it snuck up on me. I always left the room wanting to do better.

We often think of motivation and inspiration as playing a role in big, important events—such as Nelson Mandela’s inspiring leadership in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa. But I also think you can make these topics personal—you bring them into your day-to-day work life by trying to do better, every day and by inspiring those around you to do better too.

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