Finding the True Power of Motivation

Motivation Aptitude Superior to Scholastic Aptitude?

This article has been updated since originally posted.  What does it mean to be truly motivated and how far can being motivated really push a person? The saying goes, “where there’s a will there’s a way”, and in so many instances that mantra has proven correct, even things that have seemed impossible at first. Even people in less than advantageous circumstances can achieve great successes when they find and harness the true power of motivation.


This topic has been discussed with many interview guests on our weekly radio show American Dreams, including Reed Wilcox, a man who truly understands the power of motivation. Reed currently serves as the president of Southern Virginia University (SVU). Before beginning his tenure at SVU, he served as co-founder and chief development officer of Clene Nanomedicine, a science-based company with proprietary technology integrating nanotechnology, advanced materials science, plasma physics, and biotechnology. He is also the former partner and director of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a leading global professional firm. He is currently on the company’s board of directors. Reed also co-founded General Resonance, LLC, the parent company of Clene, and currently serves on that company’s board as well.


In discussing motivation, Reed explained he has found this quality to be much more important than high school records or grades. “There are lots of kids that just don’t get traction until maybe their junior year and there are lots of kids, on the other hand, that have done very well with an athletic program for example or a music program, or something they really cared about.” Reed said that these kids have shown that they can really do something when they’re motivated even though they weren’t particularly motivated about high school. “What we look for are kids who show they have motivation. So, we think about it sort of as a motivational aptitude rather than a scholastic aptitude. It’s like a MAT: Motivational Aptitude Test, if you will, rather than SAT or in addition to an SAT.”


Many students do excel in school because that’s where they have demonstrated their motivation, however Reed made it clear that Southern Virginia University will also accept kids who have demonstrated a strong work ethic in other areas, i.e. a job they worked to support their family which can result in difficulties focusing on school work. He recounted a story of one student from Liberia who grew up in the inner city of Baltimore. This young man had never learned academic skills because he was taking care of his family. “We took him in and taught him how to learn. He is going to graduate this year with honors. He was motivated and he knew how to work and discipline himself. We’re looking for kids where there’s more diversity in terms of high school grades. But when they come to SVU they learn how to learn.”


Reed pointed out his experience has taught him that when it comes to being successful, it’s not necessarily the kids who are the top scholars who have the most success. “What’s consistently true is the kids who are doers succeed; the kids who were motivated succeed. That’s what we look for. That’s what we do.”

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Bill Evans