Hunger and Fear- the Greatest Motivators

Whether you are a lion or a gazelle, you better wake up every morning RUNNING!
(image courtesy of

There is a famous quote, captured so beautifully in wall-mounted, framed photos in offices across America. The Successories brand of motivational and inspirational products has made a fortune over it and similar products and while many people think they are corny and stupid, I find these phrases captured in artistic photography have a way of capturing the strength and promise within all of us and the methods, sometimes reasons, which bring out that potential. I have not purchased any of these products, but often find myself remembering the ones that I have seen and which have resonated with me. There is one phrase in particular that came to mind this week.

I am in the eye of what appears to be one those few storms that happen in all of our lives. You know, those moments that we feel deep in our stomachs may change the course of our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The proverbial forks in the road that keep us up at night, unable to eat, and overly irritable. These several words–and the images they conjure–are one of many sources of inspiration I will need to weather this storm. Far from the sole, or even main, source of confidence; they nonetheless help me understand an essential part of the human condition.

The Successory reads:

“Every morning in Africa a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest Lion or it will be killed…. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Lion or a Gazelle when the sun comes up… you’d better be running.” – Charlotte Wrestling

My applicable twist on it goes like this: Human beings are motivated by two things, hunger and fear.

Hunger metaphorically and literally drives us. We hunger for success and fame. We hunger for achievement.

Hunger drives us … Metaphorically.

My wonderful mother once proved this, admitting to me that she was driven to provide more for our family on those nights in which, after she’d first allowed us– her three children– to fill our stomachs, there was no more food left for her. (Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!).

Hunger drives us … Literally.

Ray Lewis, one of the best linebackers in NFL history, also confirmed how powerful this fear motivator can be when he told the story of his card workout. Surrounded by crime and poverty in his childhood neighborhood and determined to use sports (he was also an elite scholastic wrestler), he asked his mother for a deck of playing cards. Every night, he’d go through this deck doing push-ups and sit-ups, performing repetitions that matched the value on the pulled card each time (he assigned larger values to the face cards). To this day, entering into his 16th season in the NFL, he still does this workout. And the motivation to provide a better life for his family is still the driving force.

Hunger drives us … Figuratively and Metaphorically.

Fear has a similarly effective way of pushing us. More primal in nature (flight versus fight), it is a fundamental part of our human makeup. While the fear of death that humans felt thousands of years ago was very real, the modern equivalents– fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of rejection–are just as powerful and damaging. Kids are driven to do well in school out of fear their parents will be disappointed or they won’t get into the college of their choice. Professionals spend hours working on presentations and bettering their craft for fear their companies will find someone younger, smarter, or more talented. And athletes prepare out of fear they will lose. And out of fear of what loss might mean. Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame football player that dominated his opposition for the better part of a decade as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, went so far as to personalize the fear on almost every play. Known for his fearlessness in going over the middle to catch passes, he revealed a telling truth. He was indeed worried about getting hit by guys bigger and stronger than he was when going into the heart of the defense. Who wouldn’t be? But, as he admitted, he had two choices. Either go over the middle. Or go back to the ghetto. An integral part of three Super Bowl Championship teams, his fear of failure and a return poverty far outweighed his fear of bodily harm.

Fear drives us … Figuratively and Literally.

Not only are these two motivators–Hunger and Fear–natural and inborn, I would argue they are what make people great. I think if you dove deep into the minds of the successful; whether they have highly achieved in sports, business, entertainment, or academia; you’d find either a deep hunger for success (for a host of reasons) or an unrelenting fear (of, among other things; failure, ridicule, or embarrassment).

So with my mind swirling and heart racing, heightened anxiety and worry pushes me forward. This storm I’m currently in, one which I’m confident I’ll look back upon in several years with fondness, is what motivates and drives me. I know I have work to do because…well, because nobody is going to do it for me. I’m fearful that I won’t get through this storm. And if I don’t, indeed, get through it, my family won’t eat. And if that doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning, nothing will!


About bbluford
I am an executive finance professional with a love for process and application development (MS Access, Excel, Quickbooks), mostly as it relates to Accounting and Business Functions. I also love to write and share ideas with other people in this world. I'm an admitted Gym Rat who works out excessively. The best summation of me is that I love to teach and to learn.

12 Responses to Hunger and Fear- the Greatest Motivators

  1. Very well put Bobby. I believe the same. The drive in us is hunger for betterment and fear of what maybe lost especially those things we hold dear.
    I wish you tranquil sunshine to follow your current storms and this front changes soon,

    • bbluford says:

      Thank you, Running Hurdles. I feel it is my responsibility to get every ounce of ability and talent I have in me out. That desire to do so much often gets me into situations where I extend myself–physically, emotionally–too much sometimes. But I’d much rather live my life like this (running at the break of dawn) than the alternative (chillin’ in the shade). Take care and thanks for the kind words and wishful thoughts.

  2. exsp02 says:

    Great post. Love it just wrote one on fear and saw your comment so thank you. You hit this article right on the head. This is powerful and everyone should read this to get motivated. More people need to wake up and feel the hunger and fear inside them. Great minds do think a like. Have a great one.

  3. Julie says:

    Bobby, again giving us some fuel to get us going each day!! Thank you for your inspiration…xo, julie

    • bbluford says:

      Thanks, Julie. We are in this battle together. Sometimes I’ll throw you the sword, sometimes you guys throw it to me. Either way, we are gonna win..helping each other. Thanks, again.

  4. Justin L. Chaiser says:

    Hunger is a great motivator, sure. Great in concept, short sighted in reality. The implication that the starving masses of the world, bloated bellies and all, are starving to death due to their own lack of motivation is ridiculous. Have you ever been truly hungry? Suffered the mental and physical disabilities that hunger comes with?… Hunger is a great motivator, of desperation, and crime. Hunger is a motivator, but far from great. I’m not ignorant of the metaphorical value of this concept as it hangs on the locker room or lounge wall, but tread lightly when you apply it to the reality that exists outside of your little boxes.

    • bbluford says:

      First of all, thank you very much for taking time to read my blog, Justin. I’m also always open to hearing new points of view, especially those that my challenge my own. I certainly did not mean to imply starving masses of the world….. are starving because of a lack of motivation. I have re-read the post and can’t see where I did. If I was insensitive to the plight of others, please do share where I may have phrased something incorrectly. I do agree that hunger and fear are not the best of long-term motivators. It is not by accident that I said they were ONE of the MANY sources of inspiration upon which I draw. But i do believe that more times than not, these two are the foundation of what drives us. When we are moved to do something, it is usually because we are moving toward (hunger) or away (fear) from something. I think many, if not mot, would agree with that. But you are right. I have not been hungry or famished in my life. And my reality does admittedly exist within my, as you in my opinion disrespectfully stated, “little boxes”. That does not mean that I can’t learn and grow by observing and engaging in dialogue with others. I stand by my belief that hunger and fear drives us, but do concede that you make some good points. I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

      • Sterl says:

        I agree with you bblu, your blog is simply a perspective related to those two motivational drivers. Whether they are the greatest or not, that can be debated, and are also relative to circumstance, personality, etc.

        I’m not sure I agree with “…i do believe that more times than not, these two are the foundation of what drives us. When we are moved to do something, it is usually because we are moving toward (hunger) or away (fear) from something.” I guess it’s how you define hunger. What about “love”? Fundamentally, I agree that hunger and fear are motivators, but I’m not sure if I agree that they are “the” two, but rather two of several fundamental drivers.

  5. bbluford says:

    I can see your point, Sterl. I’d argue that anything we think we are driven to do by love, can be further broken down into fear (trying not to lose it) or hunger (trying to get more of it), but I could be completely wrong. What I like is that you made your point without assuming that you were right and I was wrong. The goal is for all of us, me included, to do more of that.

  6. Justin L. Chaiser says:

    I certainly meant no disrespect, and would amend my statement to say “we should tread lightly when we apply it to the reality that exists outside of our little boxes.” Please accept my apology. The statement was not meant as a slight. I greatly appreciate what you are doing here. I find your writing both constructive and positive. It was not my intention to be negative, but to perhaps draw back the curtain on the potential for callousness that can come out of simple philosophies when in the wrong context or wrong hands. “Hunger is a Great Motivator” is a rallying cry of the political right when discussing government programs that feed people.

    Like you stated, Hunger and Fear are attached to our deepest and most primal human instincts, and it is my humble belief that in their literal form, hunger and fear have been the motives behind some of history’s greatest atrocities. I do concede however that both hunger and fear can be powerful motivators of positive outcomes when a person’s intellect has the ability to put the concept in its proper context… like the hunger that comes with a deep passion for something or someone. It is also fair to say that fear in not only useless but debilitating in the absence of courage.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well!

  7. bbluford says:

    Thanks for the note, Justin. The tagline for my website–and life, really– is “Addicted to Improvement’. As many of my friends have pointed out, the word ‘addiction’ may not be the best way to describe my affliction, but people who know me know that I get up every day looking to get any and every way.

    From my days playing football, I understand that it is imperative to personal and professional growth that we not only accept criticism, but welcome it.

    For that reason, I welcome all ideas, thoughts, and beliefs shared by my fellow man, especially those contrary to mine.

    I fully accept your apology, Justin, and understand further now where you were coming from. I do agree with your assessment that many may take what I’ve written in the most literal sense and use it to fit their agendas. I also concede on my end that putting these innate and primal motivations we have from fear and hunger through a filter that allows us to use that fuel in a productive manner is critical and that not everyone has the ability to do so. Worse yet, as you pointed out, some may even use the guise of fear and hunger to do terrible things.

    I enjoyed the debate, Justin, and welcome your thoughts and comments in the future. Even if they differ from mine.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and friends.

    • Justin and Bobby,

      All well spoken.

      Bobby, I always find your postings if not insightful, motivating.

      After reading your posting again, since my initial read in May, it had the same affect on my outlook for the day. Some days feel all uphill and “courage” can be in short supply. However, another day, another aspiration to drive toward, and always another reason to do so. Life is day to day, month to month, and year to year strives for improvement.

      I look forward to your future posts and any thing, big or small, that I may pick up from you or your readers.

      Happy Holidays to you both

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