Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to stay motivated

“All great tasks,” Scott Berkun writes in The Myths of Innovation, “test our motivation. It’s easy to court ideas over beers and change the world with rough sketches on the backs of napkins. … in the morning light … work begins, and grand ideas become more complex than they seemed hours before. Doing interesting things in this world requires effort, and it’s no surprise we often abandon our passions for simpler, more predictable things. … Achievement demands discovering personal motivations and learning to use them. The masters in all fields are foremost great self-manipulators, orchestrating their will to achieve what the rest of us cannot (or will not). However, there is no true handbook for motivation—only a treasure map of landmarks and a handful of bones to roll.” (p. 188)

Berkun sketches some ways to get and stay motivated. Here are three.

Anger. “Use exhaust from one system to drive another.”

Crazy necessity. “Deliberately put yourself in situations where you have no way out but through.”

Pride. “Prove people wrong.”

Berkun also puts grunt work on this list, arguing that “all great ideas require grunt work. … Sometimes the only way to discover, to grow, to make something great is through learning the basic, the trivial, the mundane: sufficient repetition grants mastery of anything.” Although true, I doubt that performing boring tasks is a way to stay motivated. What it shows is discipline, a theme to which Berkun returns at the end of the chapter. “It requires discipline to seek motivation when feeling unmotivated, but that’s the difference between an artist and someone who fantasizes about being one.” (p. 191)

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