Achievement: Learning what it means for MOJO from Marshall Goldsmith

This is the third article in the series of learning from Marshall Goldsmith. The first one explained the concept of MOJO from Marshall Goldsmith. The second article was related to understanding the concept of Identity, the first element of MOJO. In this article, we will attempt to understand the concept of Achievement, the second element of MOJO from Marshall Goldsmith.


The first article in this series, based on the book MOJO from Marshall Goldsmith, sought to explain the MOJO concept and its application. The practical application in life was also explained to get an understanding the mojo concept and its elements

The second article sought to draw references to the concept of Identity, the first element of MOJO as explained by Marshall Goldsmith and its practical application in terms of how it applies to anyone -
understanding identity as an element of mojo

To recap, MOJO refers to MOJO "is the positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside"(page 18). Achievement is the second identity of MOJO.

We will take a few references from the author and then anchor the context in the real world of our lives. While doing so, the practical application will become clearer. Marshall Goldsmith talks about Achievement in two different contexts. "Our Professional Mojo is what we bring to the job. If we have the motivation, ability (or skill), understanding (or knowledge), confidence, and authenticity needed to excel, we will be "winners".(page 56). This is widely seen in so many achievers. The second context is what Marshall Goldsmith calls "Personal Mojo". "Our Personal Mojo is what the job brings to us. If we find happiness, meaning, learning, and gratitude in what we are doing -- we will define ourselves as "winners".

In this article, we will discuss a) Professional Mojo b) Personal Mojo and c) The Disconnect between Their Definition of Achievement and our Definition of Achievement

Professional MOJO

This is pretty obvious to each one of us. When we are rated so high on our performance appraisal, our MOJO is very high. We feel we are on top of the world. We can also see this MOJO manifest itself in others we commonly know. The MOJO in a national cricketer becomes very big when we notice that he has scored a double century on debut. Similarly, when an off-spinner takes five wickets in both innings and all the commentators praise him immediately and the social media goes ga-ga all the way, happiness of the particular cricket player shows his high MOJO. It is his moment of triumph.

Similarly, when we get to see the actual performance of a CEO of an FMCG company that has consistently grown at the rate of 30% year on year, in terms of sales and profits of 20%, and the business press interviews him, the happiness on his face will indicate his MOJO. When such interviews are shown on television, the MOJO moment is there for all to see. It is quite obvious. Similarly, when we get to see the high performance of an actor in a recent movie and he is repeatedly interviewed on television, his or her MOJO can be seen immediately. He or she would also go on to explain all the efforts and all the pain that he or she had to endure to get the job done. After all, cinema is a powerful weapon and its impact on society is really wide.

In fact, a couple of years ago, there were stories of how many errant parents changed their attitudes towards their children after watching the superb acting of Kamal Hassan in the movie called "Papanasam" which was released in Tamil. This movie went on to win many prizes too. One could see the MOJO on the face of Kamal Hassan and his co-artists on television.

Personal MOJO

Those who do humanitarian work in the slums, run orphanages and so on are examples of this kind of MOJO. They feel happy inside themselves. They derive a huge amount of satisfaction when they do a good job of whatever they do. Their MOJO becomes very strong when they see the happiness on the face of those they serve. When the 2015 floods took place in Chennai, one could see this MOJO on the faces of hundreds of volunteers. They helped thousands of food and saved hundreds from the floodwaters. Even when talking to the press on television, they did not boast at all. They said that their experience was so dear to us -- the experience of making a big difference to thousands who were in real distress. It was noticed that these men and women used the most innovative ways to reach food to those stranded on the upper floors. For example, they were seen sending up food through ropes and bags of food tied to these ropes. The State Government was rather late in reacting to the crisis. But voluntary work made up for the big difference in the end. And the personal MOJO moments were all captured on television and hundreds of youtube videos.

The Disconnect between Their Definition of Achievement and our Definition of Achievement

This important aspect of the MOJO element of Achievement has been clearly explained by Marshall Goldsmith. "A Mojo crisis can sometimes arise when there is a disconnect between the two criteria we use to measure our achievement-- when what others feel about our accomplishment is not in sync with what we feel about them ourselves". (page 59)In other words, there is a conflict between Professional MOJO and Personal MOJO.

Marshall Goldsmith explains this well. For instance, let us take this real-world situation. Imagine this situation - Shankar (name changed) had a passion for vocal singing. He even wanted to become a playback singer. But lack of support from his family made him take up a bank officer's job after he acquired his MBA degree. He was employed at Coimbatore, but his real MOJO was from his part-time work of working with three different orchestras in the evenings. When people praised him for his voice and told him to even quit his job and go to Chennai, we would immediately give a blank look and appear totally lost in a world of his own. Though his dreams were different, the real-world reality of an assured salary and the status that came with the official position (more so in his immediate family) made him wonder if he would have to take the risk. Since it was a big risk, he never took it.

Shankar is not alone. Even the new breed of cricketers who have come from the small towns of India have some job or the other in addition to their passion for cricket. They sometimes seek to work part-time too. This is mainly because of their Professional and Personal MOJOs conflict with each other. And there is no end to this conflict at all. However, when and what time we need to take a big plunge and follow our passion will depend on our increased sense of self-awareness.

"By increasing our understanding of achievement -- what it means to us and what it means to the world -- we can increase our Mojo. We can look at ourselves more objectively. We can determine what really matters in our lives. We can strive for achievement that really matters to us -- and let go of achievement that does not create happiness and meaning in our lives" (page 63).

It hence becomes obvious that our happiness and meaning in our lives is the ultimate litmus test. It is in this context that we should understand the element of MOJO, called Achievement, as explained by Marshall Goldsmith. How we get to do this will however vary from situation to situation. There can possibly be no "one size fits all" approach as each of us is unique in our own ways. We often set standards to write on the websites and this will include this website as well. We would have set our own personal standards of achievement and how we go about it. Let us hence stick to those well-defined methods in which we get things done in our lives.

After all, the ultimate end of all life is happiness and each of us long only for that. The more we seek happiness in what we do, we will be more successful and that happiness will rub off on our kith and kin too. The secret lies in clearly identifying the parameters of Achievement and the MOJO related to it, as it applies to us. The rest, as it is often said, will follow.


The more we know about certain concepts, the more our self-worth and self-awareness will be. Achievement is one major milestone that we need to have in our lives. And the path to happiness associated with such achievement should be unique to our lives. That will indeed be our unique MOJO.


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