On motivation - by Gonzalo Leon

Looking at the stars is perhaps the most surreal experience anyone can have. It is such a common day occurrence for those who live in small cities or towns… to be able to look up every night and let yourself shower in starlight. For those of us who live in big cities with lots of cars and lots of factories, it has become such a rare event to be able to look at the sky at night and glimpse even a single shining star, and every time we do get to see even just a few it reminds us of this world’s beauty and encourages us to continue looking up every night on the off chance that we see a miracle happen. The few times that I’ve been out of my city, whether it be to another small town or even another country, I’m always amazed at night when the sky shines with millions of little lights that are not airplanes or lightbulbs. Whenever this happens I let myself drown in the infinite span of the universe. I let myself be consumed with thoughts of star travel, of new planets with bizarre forms of life, of galaxies filled with such infinite diversity that could fill a thousand libraries. I think of suiting up in my astronaut suit, getting on a rocket ship and start the endless voyage through the unknown to make it known and become a space explorer.  I let myself dream and imagine the endless possibilities and wonders that come with it and allow myself to be motivated to make it happen.

I wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, and found myself blocked by my poor luck genetics which gave me bad eyesight, a family history of arthritis and asthma. Suddenly, the path of the astronaut was closed to me and becoming the engineer and designer of the rockets never interested me. I wanted to be able to touch the moon and feel Earth’s gravity leave my existence. To be a space scientist in space, not on earth, was my dream. Several years along the way, back when I was a teenager and started my involvement in CISV, I don’t remember who told me that what I wanted wasn’t to be an astronaut, what I wanted was to feel so incredibly small in comparison to the universe, that I wanted to understand the infinity and wonder of something so weird and unique, that I wanted to look every day to the stars and wonder what is out there, wonder what could happen, and appreciate the beauty of our existence. Being an astronaut was simply a step to get there, and there were other steps I could take that could take me closer to what I wanted. A few years later I started my career in philosophy.

But perhaps the thing I learned most from this person’s words wasn’t my actual motivations in life, but rather how to stay motivated to accomplish my ambition. It has always been to aim as high as you can, even if it is out of reach, because it lets your mind explore new places that have never been explored. Imagine if mankind had said that they didn’t want to go to the moon because it was simply out of their reach. When the first missions to the moon were being created, they were deemed as unrealistic, out of hand, surreal. A few years later, we got there and found that such a huge dream and ambition was completely worth it, yet only the smallest step of what it actually entailed. The point is, that if you don’t allow yourself to dream about possibilities that seem impossible, you will never be able to do the impossible. An idea is never big enough, and thinking about what you could create, no matter the limitations, moves you forward into the next great adventure. Because motivation is always about looking at the bigger picture and not letting yourself fall into the trap holes that human thought and our reality set upon the floor. If I had let myself wallow in sadness and anger in my childhood at the knowledge that I couldn’t be an astronaut because of X and Y reason then I never would have found philosophy and its wonders.

When creating and implementing a project, it’s the same thing. The central idea of your project has to be big enough to motivate you into moving forward. The end result might be a completely different thing that what you thought about, but in its essence it will be the exact same thing. When building a rocket, you don’t think about the fuel, or the metal alloy that you need, it is never about the size of the nails or the computer that will move it forward, you think about the stars it will help you reach, the heart-aching darkness of emptiness, the curiosity that sparks the unknown. You need to love your project, let it take a big chunk of your mind and your heart, let it be a passion for your dreams and ambitions, a stepping stone for that one big idea in your head, and always build upon it.

And if your project is not a solo project, then you don’t teach your teammates the specifics of the rocket, you teach them to love the stars, so they can share upon your passion and idea.

A project, just like a dream, is never a simple thing. You can have nightmares, or heavy dreams, you might wake up for a second to find reality to be less beautiful… but only for a few seconds. The hardships that come with managing a project that make you lose motivation pass with time, they are never permanent. What is permanent is your idea, your ambition, your dreams, and that is what will always truly motivate you.