The Carrot and the Stick

Some people are motivated by the carrot. Some are motivated by the stick. Which type are you?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, because of a certain little strong willed boy nearing the age of five years old. He’s a joy, and lots of fun, but man, does he challenge you. Perhaps it’s God’s sense of humor for all those times I …. 

First of all, let me say I think I’ve used positive reinforcement very effectively in my life. It’s worked with hundreds, possibly even a thousand Karate Kids over the last 30 years. 

Or maybe it was just the black belt and uniform, and perhaps the fact that I was 6′ tall and they were only 3′. There’s an implied respect and obedience when you’re wearing a uniform. 

In police work, officer presence is actually the first level of force. Sometimes, it’s all you need. Just being there, in uniform, is often enough to stop things from even starting. This is changing to our detriment in some cities, but I digress. 

To prove my point, though, think how you feel at the moment you realize a cop is behind you, even if you’re not doing anything wrong! You throw down your phone, tap the brakes, and buckle your seat belt, right? 

So maybe that explains all the good results I’ve had before. I guess maybe I was the stick, but I had some carrots too. 

I just met someone who was in our Karate for Kids Black Belt Class, fifteen years ago! This was an awesome group of overachievers. I simply had to share the vision, and they were all on board. And man, did they work hard! Ironically, he’s our newest firefighter now in the community. Welcome aboard!

So we have the carrot (or vision), and we have the stick (painful consequences). Unfortunately, it sometimes takes the stick to get us to shape up. Like a ticket to get us to slow down. Or a doctor saying you’re going to die if you don’t quit smoking. 

Even then, some people just won’t change. They get DUI after DUI, and even keep driving on revoked and suspended licenses, year after year. They drink and drink, and just don’t think. That’s one of reasons our officers and deputies are always out there looking. 

It doesn’t have to be illegal, or a a public safety issue, however. We all know someone who’s said “I know I need to quit __________, but I just can’t.” Or “I’m just not ready.” Perhaps you’ve said that yourself. 

And we all know someone who just pushes right up to the edge (and sometimes a little bit more). We hate to see em get bruised up, but I guess sometimes, that’s the only way they’ll learn. Sound familiar?

It’s kind of like what Dave Ramsey always says about going through the school of hard knocks: “I’ve got a Ph.D. in D.U.M.B.” Guess I’m working on that one too. 

So how are you motivated? Are you a self starter, or does someone have to turn the key a couple times? Do you turn your own page, or is your book just sitting there collecting dust? And do you like carrots, or do you just not like sticks? 

Truth be told, I guess I’m a little of both. A little stubbornness can get things done. But not too much, right? We’ve got to catch a vision. And that 4 year old going on 24? I think maybe he’s going to be a Navy SEAL.

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