Sunday, July 7, 2013

Identity and Meaning and NPR


Yesterday, Saturday July 7th on WBEZ in Chicago the NPR radio show The Moth: True Stories Told Live, aired a story called “Jen Lee - Targeted”.   As you’ll see it had a particular resonance for us.

The story was about how a devoted evangelist and Mary Kay® cosmetics salesperson hit the wall when it came to faith in both ‘religions’.   The meaning had gone out of both for her.  Her church was focussed on marketing their desire to save souls, and Mary Kay’s promise that everyone could get what they wanted no longer seemed real.  

In the piece, Jen Lee pointed out that in walking away from these two was personally costly in four ways:
  1. She was giving up her income as a successful Mary Kay® salesperson.  Money represents the appetites part of our motivational model.
  2. She was losing two important parts of her identity - she’d been a very good Mary Kay® salesperson, and a devoted evangelist.  
  3. She was losing much of the meaning she got out of her life; making women feel beautiful and saving souls.  Actually, this loss of meaning is what drove her to “save” herself from this, now, meaningless life.  
  4. And she would no longer “belong” in the two social groups in which she thrived whose relationships would be drowned - her family was a pyramid of Mary Kay® salespersons, and she was walking away from her friends in the church.  She and her husband moved away.

In the book Behave! how to get 100% of your workers fully engaged we use a motivational model called A.I.M.S.  It’s an acronym which stands for Appetites, Identity, Meaning, and Sex (but it’s not really Sex, its really relationships).  In the book we say that a business must provide for all four of these if they want to keep employees fully engaged.  We focus on the two most powerful of these, Identity and Meaning.   This young woman managed to figure this out for herself and that is quite remarkable.
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