You’d think it’d be money, but you’d only be half right.
Money is the primary motivator only until your financial needs are met. After that, money stops motivating people to do much of anything, aside from being evil.
(This is sometimes called “The Cobra Effect” and it has no relation whatsoever to a certain weather dominated obsessed terrorist organization.)
Sadly, few of us today can say our financial needs are met. And thanks to advances in software, automation, and outsourcing, this is not likely to change soon.
That’s why I advocate for Universal Basic Income.
By taxing multimillion-dollar real estate deals, high frequency transactions on Wall Street, and other high-priced intangible goods that don’t add any real value to society, you would be able to provide every American over the age of eighteen with a check for $1,200 a month.
No strings attached.
The idea being that a Universal Basic Income may not meet all your financial needs, but it gets you 50% of the way there. You wouldn’t need to work, although statistically, most people say they would after receiving a UBI.
The UBI also forces employers to raise their wages, since people would now have flexibility in the job market thanks to their extra income.
We’ll talk more about UBI some other time. I just mention it here because we’re talking about money as a motivator, and I think Universal Basic Income is an eventuality.
That means money won’t be as important as we think in terms of motivating people within our lifetime.
So, to figure out what else motivates people, you have to dig deeper. It’s not enough to ask someone why they want something. That’s a great start, but a lot of people don’t know why they want what they want in the first place.
See for yourself: List all the things you want, and then ask yourself why you want those things. You’ll find a bunch that made the list for no reason other than someone told you once that you should want it.
When it comes to motivating people to put in those three to four hours of “deep work” every day, knowing why they want what they want is pivotal. You can’t do any sort of quality work if you’re not motivated to do it in the first place.
And what do we want? What motivates us besides money? Recognition.
If we’re not talking about money, one of the key drivers for what motivates us is to be recognized; particularly for doing something we like to do. Something that’s fun!
NOT something we have to do because that’s what we’ve been told to do, which I’d argue is the majority of us; Just going through the motions and not thinking critically about why.
What I’m saying, and so is your biology, is that if you want to make porn, make porn. If you want to be a professional wrestler, be a professional wrestler. Those are fun, ridiculous examples, but you get what I’m saying. Doing the thing you want to be recognized for doing is what motivates us to do our best possible work.
We need to encourage that. Not stomp on people for wanting to be different.
Work, for work’s sake, isn’t a thing humans are hardwired to do. That’s why so few of us are motivated to do a good job at work. We work to the level required to pay our bills, and nothing more.
Humans are hardwired to play, sleep, eat, and fuck. That’s it. Being recognized for doing something that makes you happy very much falls under the play category. (Although I guess porn would put you into two categories, and if your porn involves food, which I’m told some does, you’d have a hattrick.)
Before we moved to an agrarian society, one that required labor and private property, people did what they needed in terms of maintaining their life, getting food for the day, building shelter, but that was it.
Once those tasks were done, we didn’t do anything else that we’d qualify as work. We played. We danced. We raised each other’s kids. We had fun.
So think carefully about why you are doing what you’re doing.
If you find you don’t like it, start making small, incremental changes to transition into doing the thing you want to do. (And for employers, find ways to support your employees with side hustles.)
It won’t happen right away, but you can steal time wherever you may find it. And eventually, you can get to where you want to be.