Paul McCartney played a sold out show at Fenway Park last week.  He’s 71 years old — 7 years beyond the “will you still feed me, will you still need me” age of 64.  Even in this era of geezer rock, he’s old.

To produce a concert tour is a ton of work.   It means weeks or months of travel.  Complicated logistics.  And a crew of hundreds.  It’s not what you’d expect from a 71 year old guy.

McCartney doesn’t need the money.  He took a hit to the pocketbook with his ill-fated marriage to Heather Mills but he’s worth somewhere between $600 million and $1 billion and his new wife, Nancy Shevell, has a fortune of several hundred million on her own.  McCartney could be enjoying a Mai Tai on an tropical island watching the crystal clear water splash at his feet as he reads the latest novel.  In fact, he could probably buy a tropical island.  Most people dream of this.

So why is gong on an extended tour with concerts in Boston, Milwaukee, Seattle, San Francisco, and several cities in Canada and Japan?  He’s motivated by things that are much stronger than money:  impact.  connection.  relevance. admiration. And love.  It’s the same reason that Mark Zuckerberg works long hours.  It’s why Mark Cuban appears weekly on Shark Tank.  It’s why Warren Buffet enjoys his perch as the Oracle of Omaha.   A crowd of 30,000 people jumping up and down and singing along to his songs is a source of joy for McCartney than any tropical beach or paycheck.  After his concert in Boston,  Sarah Rodman, a reviewer for The Boston Globe gushed about the concert with her headline “Ageless Paul McCartney Spins Magic at Fenway.”   He’s making millions of dollars by making millions of people happy.

It seems somewhat easy to imagine people with a lot of money caring less about it.  But McCartney provides an important lesson for every business person. Money is not the same as motivation.  And ironically it may be easier to achieve financial success when you’re not focused on financial success.  Dharmesh Shah, one of the founders of Hubspot also serves as an investor and advisor to multiple start-ups and writes his own blog called OnStartups.  He posted a  this tweet several weeks ago:




Money is a by-product of work not the objective.

Another startup on Boston, Yesware, posted a related article on their blog noting that the common practice of sales incentives and commissions can often have a detrimental impact on sales.  In this era of more complex sales, it is more effective to encourage collaboration and team problem solving than providing a huge commission check to one coin-operated sales person.

When I visited a client recently she asked me to describe the key characteristic of a successful sales person.  I think my answer surprised her.  I said that first I look for core skills like writing, organization and follow-up but my key qualification is demonstrated interest in the company’s mission. Does the candidate  care where they company is going?  Do they care about the benefit that the products and/or services provide?  When they arrive for an interview or you meet them at a conference do they ask about your comp structure, territory, and other sales mechanics or do they ask about why your most recent sales wins chose to your service?   Of course, for those of us who don’t have “Sir” in front of our names need to pay for the food on our table and the roof over our head.  Compensation does matter, but if you can’t sense a genuine motivation to help the company’s overall mission, that’s not someone you want to hire.

Psychologist refer to this as intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic.  Paul McCartney has intrinsic motivation to keep creating and performing great music.   Extrinsic motivation isn’t even a factor.  You couldn’t pay him enough to play a concert for him to care about the money.

To be an effective leader you need to provide an environment where people have intrinsic motivation. You need to be clear where the company is going and why.  You need to tie the results of their work to a broader impact on the world and a stronger connection to other people.  And you to hire people who share that vision and mission and have an intrinsic motivation to succeed.

In the enduring lyrics of Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon:

Tell me that you want the kind of things

That money just can’t buy

I don’t care too much for money

Money can’t buy me love

Addendum: check out Dan Pink’s TED talk on motivation. He provides some great examples and scientific studies that show how intrinsic motivation is a more powerful motivator for non routine tasks. This link starts 8:46 into the video where he makes these points:

Addendum 2: Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn/Ferry International, made the same Beatles reference in his post “Why Doesn’t Highest Paid CEO, Zuckerberg, Quit?”


Image via goodrob13 on Flickr.