The past couple weeks have been slow moving with writing new content so I decided to get back to the Road’s roots and read some new non-fiction.
Drive, by Daniel H. Pink, was a concise and straightforward look at the different types of motivation for individuals.
For years, businesses and governments have operated under the assumption that people do not want to work and need to be strictly controlled to maintain progress. Leaders developed principles based on the basic needs for survival. If you complete x amount of work, then you receive y reward. Older generations accepted this practice and the regular 9-5 routine was established as the foundation for a workplace.
Over the years, social scientists have studied the productivity of the carrot/stick system and found that after a certain baseline, extra money does not produce more or better work. The results were the opposite. Since the workers were distracted by the thought of a reward, they produced lower quality work. In the following sessions, they were much less engaged without the bonus incentive. Contrastingly, people that were not offered any compensation were more engaged and produced much better work for longer periods of time.
New companies have experimented with the expectations at work and found that the less rules they give employees the more efficiently they are able to complete their work on time. If a young mother has the option to leave work at 3pm to watch her child’s soccer game, then she feels more likely to make up the work during the rest of the week and as a result will produce more than if she had to adhere to a strict schedule. Not all workers are willing to commit to the new way of work, but the ones that remained were much happier and less likely to leave the company for a new job offer with more money.
Pink argues that people produce their best work when they are motivated by an internal drive to master something and are held accountable. Mastery, defined as an impossible level of perfection that cannot be achieved, as an end goal allows the individual to progress in slow incremental ways. Most people that have become very successful are masters of their craft. There is a reason why Meryl Streep is nominated for an Academy Award almost every year. She clearly seeks to master the different aspects of acting and incorporate them into her work.
Most people assume that artists and entrepreneurs should be driven and master their craft, yet most people don’t expect the same from themselves. It seems like the younger generation is changing this idea as more people pursue lives with meaning or businesses that partner with a charity. These ideals would have been very rare 50 years ago. Now it’s not too uncommon to hear about a friend of a friend that quit their Wall Street job to work for a non-profit or take off a year to backpack Southeast Asia.
We’ve started to realize that money really cannot buy happiness. Cliches are usually true! Exchanging your individuality and autonomy for a big paycheck doesn’t mean a lot when you don’t even have the time or energy to spend it at the end of the day.
Of course, it’s a generalization. There are still plenty of people that want the dream car, trophy wife, and white picket fence. Yet there are many more people seeking to make a difference in the world and expanding the idea of what a “dream life” looks like.
It’s the main reason why I started the Road Less Written. There are so many people that are unhappy on a a daily basis and I didn’t want to become one of them. I didn’t want to drown in a sea of knick knacks and overpriced fine china.
At the end of your life, what does it all mean? Are you going to remember how much you love that big screen television or the time you went on an impromptu road trip with your best friend?
Money should not be the main factor that drives us. As people we’re naturally inquisitive and creative. When I was tutoring, I never met a kid that wasn’t. It’s part of our DNA. And yet when most of those kids grow up they become adults that hate their jobs and resent their choices and smother the dreams of their kids.
You have to make a conscious decision to escape that cycle and pursue what really drives you. It can be something simple like having a family or big like inventing a new product that will change the world. Everyone has different values and goals for what they would like to accomplish.
What drives you?