Nike’s “Just do it” slogan, unveiled 25 years ago this month by Wieden + Kennedy, might be the last great tagline in advertising history.
Yes, other notables have come since—among them, Apple’s “Think different” and Volkswagen’s “Drivers wanted”—but none have come close to duplicating the cultural impact and mass appeal of “Just do it.” I frankly doubt that any ever will.*
The phrase has become almost ubiquitous and has been used by everyone from parents, to bosses, to coaches, to used car salesman. I even use it on myself sometimes— and should more!
What is so powerful about this simple phrase? It is magic.
Let me explain.
Most of us think the reason things don’t get done is because of a lack of knowledge. If we knew more, we could do more. The truth is that knowledge alone isn’t all that helpful. There is still one missing factor.
What is the important missing element?
The key to getting things accomplished is motivation—the desire or willingness to do something. Motivation is the key link between knowing something and actually doing it. No matter how much we know, if we don’t have the motivation, we will never translate knowledge into action.
There are two kinds of motivation.
This is the desire to do something because of outside influences.
- Cleaning your room because of fear that your parents will punish you.
- Wearing a certain type of clothes because of fear your friends will criticize you if you don’t.
- Working hard in your job because you want a higher salary or a promotion.
- Studying hard because you want to get good grades.
This is the desire to do something because of influences inside yourself.
- Cleaning your room because you like it to be neat and tidy.
- Wearing a certain type of clothes because they feel comfortable.
- Working hard in your job because you love the work.
- Studying hard because you love the subject and want to learn more.
The actions are the same, but the motivation is different. Intrinsic motivation is always more fun and more interesting. There is an internal, self-satisfying reward above the outside forces making us do something we might not necessarily like to do. There will always be extrinsic factors motivating us, but we get more pleasure and satisfaction from intrinsically motivated action.
And that is the magic of the Nike slogan. When you can look at something you must do (extrinsic) and say to yourself, Just do it!, it becomes, to some degree, intrinsic. A great way to feel better and to enjoy your life and your work more is to find a way to be intrinsically motivated to do things that are required. As the famous motivational speaker, Mary Poppins, says,
In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap, the job’s a game
And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake
A lark, a spree, it’s very clear to see
That a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down, the medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way
(For a video of the song go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrnoR9cBP3o)