The Buck Starts Here

By Robert Wilson Jr.

Recently I participated in a murder mystery weekend at a bed-and-breakfast lodge. Every guest was a given a role to play. There were eight suspects, each of whom had one or more of the following: means, opportunity and motive. Having the means and opportunity was important, but having the right motivation was the key to solving the puzzle.

We interviewed the suspects, collected clues, then presented who we thought was the killer and why. It was great fun, but I failed to figure out whodunit. I was logical and surmised that a suspect with a monetary motive was the one. But it turned out to be one with the emotional motive of anger and revenge.

Nevertheless, money is a powerful motivator. It is the original carrot dangling from the stick.

My friend Bill, the computer wizard, told me years ago, “I always follow the money,” meaning that he would learn those computer skills that paid the best. I did the same thing in my early years as a writer. I found journalism fun, but advertising paid better. Subsequently, I pursued advertising work and honed my skills in motivating people to buy.

The exciting thing about money, or more specifically, prosperity, is that it is a great equalizer. Prosperity has a way of eliminating envy, hatred and bigotry. Increased wealth makes people more tolerant and giving. The formula for prosperity is simple: economic freedom plus property rights, or minimal regulation and the right to keep what you earn.

We all know that money is a reliable method for motivating people. But if you ever want to discover the motivation behind an action that appears to be random, backtracking the money trail is frequently a good way to find it. For example, have you ever noticed one of your favorite products disappearing from the store where you buy it? It probably means that there were not enough customers for it, and the store quit carrying it. If, however, you can’t find it anywhere, then the lack of users is widespread and the manufacturer discontinued it.

Sometimes the money trail is even longer and more convoluted. I recall a hot summer day back in the late 1980s when, after mowing the lawn, I popped open an ice cold soda pop and drained it in one long gulp. Moments later I was on the floor with a painful spasm in my back. It lasted nearly half an hour, and when it was over I made an appointment with my doctor. It turned out that I was allergic to corn syrup in the soda.

“How could that be?” I asked. I’d drunk thousands of sodas without having that reaction. What I learned was that up until that can of soda, all the ones I’d drunk before were made with sugar. So I asked, “Why would they switch to corn syrup?” The answer was that the cost of sugar had gone up, and they did not want to raise the soda price. “Why was sugar more expensive?” Congress had placed a tariff on imported sugar. “Why did Congress do that?” Sugar growers in Florida asked them to because they did not want to compete with low-cost Caribbean sugar. “Why would Congress comply when it would raise prices on all products made with sugar?” The sugar growers donated lots of campaign money to a majority of the members of Congress. The trail ends, and the puzzle is solved.

It turns out that my favorite soda pop is still made with sugar in every country on the planet except the United States. One day, I’m going to get a craving and drive a thousand miles to Mexico. Talk about motivation!


Robert Evans Wilson Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and people who want to think like innovators. For more information, visit http://jumpstart

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