Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Why do we do what we do? Some might respond that asking such questions is a typical first-world problem, that it’s the modern equivalent to trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head because with so many people going hungry in the world and in our own country, how dare we waste time entertaining such things as “motivation.” It should be pretty damn clear that we do what we do so that we can feed ourselves and our families and keep out the dangers of the outer world. It’s all about higher and higher levels of survival. Once you have enough bread for the day, then you need to make sure that you have enough bread for the week and then once you have that you need to make sure that you never go without having enough bread. But can one ever have enough bread?

1979-1995 The Pacific Bell Years-04-ANHM01 ITT T-CXR equipment

1979-1995 The Pacific Bell Years-04-ANHM01 ITT T-CXR equipment


During 1980s and early 1990s I worked for a local telco as a well-paid technician. We worked in a union-shop so whenever we worked overtime we got time-and-a-half and if we worked enough over-time early in the week we could reach double-time. With construction booming in Southern California there was a lot of over-time to be had. I noticed that the technicians who were the best at what they did liked getting the over-time pay but were motivated to do the quality job that they did because they liked fixing problems and liked being good at it. The technicians who were just about getting the over-time pay rarely were the ones one could count on to get the job done right the first time. In fact, for all of the time they put in, they could be guaranteed as spending most of their time avoiding work. And neither group like having management breathing down their necks, telling them what to do at every turn. Even the self-motivated ones would let things slip through the cracks because micro-managing stole their incentive to do better. Just like the video said, getting properly compensated helped, but it was no guarantee that the job would get done. When I left the phone company to go teach we were working so much overtime that it was almost a 50% cut in pay for me to leave. And even much later when I left California to come to Florida I took another huge cut in pay. One has to make a living and should be able to do so without resorting to endless part-time gigs, but it’s not about the pay. It’s unfortunate that it’s generally only highly funded companies like Google, where they have a 20% time policy where employees can work on personal projects for 20% of their on-job time, where they explore such things as “motivation.” Too bad.

One comment

  • I loved this video and am sharing it with my friends. I will have to say, while I watched I was also thinking that is a very long whiteboard 🙂

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