One of the questions I get asked most often is if I have sponsors to support me on my expeditions and travels. The answer is no. But then comes the essential follow up question, "Why not have some company pay you for doing all that?" and giving an answer that can please them is not as simple. Last weekend I read a book by motivational speaker Art Berg called "The Impossible Just Takes A Little Longer". There I found the perfect story to explain why I wouldn't take sponsorships:
I recall my father telling me the story of an older man who had trouble with some of the younger kids in his neighborhood. Every day, a group of teenagers would come by his home and throw rocks at it. The old man did everything he could to stop the mischievous boys from throwing those rocks. He called the police, called the boys’ parents, and shouted threats at the boys from his porch. Nothing he did seemed to stop their behavior. In contrast, the young men seemed more encouraged than ever to keep throwing.
In desperation, the old man met with the boys and struck a deal. “Boys, I want you to know I’ve changed my mind about how I’ve been feeling,” he said. “I have come to enjoy you throwing rocks at my home. For that reason, I am willing to pay each of you a dollar every day that you throw rocks at my house.” Although bewildered, the boys enthusiastically agreed and began to show up each day at the appointed time to throw the rocks. As understood, the old man happily paid them a dollar each. This went on for a few days, and then the old man approached the boys and said, “I have been having some financial troubles lately and I can no longer afford to pay you each a dollar. Would you be willing to consider fifty cents?” After conferring with each other, the boys reluctantly agreed to keep throwing rocks at his house for just fifty cents each.
Then another few days went by before the old man approached the boys with more bad news. “Boys, I have really fallen on some financial hard times. I cannot afford to pay you fifty cents a day. However, I could still pay you each a dime for throwing the rocks.” The boys exchanged glances and then one of them abruptly said, “There is no way we are going to throw rocks at your house for only a dime apiece.” And with that, they left and never came back.
What happened? Before, the boys were willing to throw rocks for nothing. They were "internally" motivated by the sense of adventure, variety, bonding, element of risk, and desire to belong. When they began accepting money for throwing rocks, their motivation slowly shifted to external resources - financial reward. In a short time, they forgot why they ever did it to begin with. When the financial rewards were eliminated, their motivation was gone.
This little story explains exactly the way I feel. With sponsorships, there comes a time when even the simplest hobby becomes a job. The motivation changes from internal to external. I would never judge other athletes that do it but it's just not for me.
Simply put, my motivation is to live a unique and exciting life full of meaningful experiences and sharing them with others. I'm grateful and proud to be able to do it by my own means.