I’ve been listening to a book on tape, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink, and reading the blog Study Hacks. The both present some very interesting perspectives on what motivates and drives people at work and in life. The ideas are somewhat contrary to the traditional paradigms that many of us have been taught, but I really think they are on to something.
In Drive, Mr. Pink (Reservoir Dogs reference I couldn’t resist) lays out that the traditional Carrot and Stick approach is detrimental to long term motivation and creativity. Bonuses and pay for performance schemes are great for short term pushes, but the money stops being a motivator for people quickly. The only way for the Carrots to continue working is by making the Carrots bigger and better. A hard model to sustain in the long run. Many of you reading this may think this theory is full of crap. I do not and here is why. Money matters most when you don’t have enough to support yourself or family and meet your financial obligations. If you have enough money to meet your needs, money quickly drops in priority in comparison to other things like family, friends, and other pursuits. The second part of motivation that is traditionally used is the Stick approach where behaviors that are unwanted are punished. People that consistently require the Stick likely have other problems in their life driving the derelict behavior. Sticks will not do much to solve the root cause.
What Mr. Pink lays out as the core drivers for people is three fold. Autonomy, mastery, and relationships. If you can self direct how you do what it is that you do, generate a level of competency the drives towards mastery, and also develop meaningful relationships around your work, people will develop an intrinsic level of satisfaction in there work that can make it fun and exciting. By developing intrinsic value, people enjoy what they do and work can transition from a chore to a source of joy. I completely agree with this and definitely recommend the book if you are interested in learning more. Think about the things you have created or accomplished that were the most fun. I bet many of them were done the way you wanted, with skill, and had quality interactions with other folks along the way. Now if we can replicate that in more areas of life, we would genuinely be happier people.
Study hacks also presents an interesting idea on drive and passion. Study hacks has the great insight that most people do not have an idea that they are hugely passionate about and willing to throw their lives behind. Passion is created through mastery, and mastery is created through focusing on what you excel at while dropping all the extra work and practice that is outside your talents. Spending time getting really good at your talents helps to develop your mastery of a subject which leads to mastery. If is intensely rewarding to execute a skill you have a mastery of.
Both authors speak of mastery and refer to the ability to self direct what you focus on. I think they are on to something.