Motivation 3.0 – The Evolution of Personal Drive

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DriveI recently finished a book entitled, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Affiliate Link) by Daniel H. Pink(Affiliate Link).  In it, the author discusses human motivation and the way it has evolved over time.

Motivation – Society’s Operating System.

Many of these changes have occurred due to shifts in society brought about by innovation. Basic survival is no longer as dominant a factor in daily life as it once was for example.

The book (Affiliate Link) draws a correlation between society and computer systems.  In this context, both rely upon a framework or set of rules that govern their function.  Just as an operating system must be upgraded from time to time, the rules that govern society must be upgraded as well.

The basic survival drive is referred to as Motivation 1.0. The advancement of civilization, up to and through the industrial revolution, brought about an upgrade to version 2.0.  Motivation 2.0 is centered on “carrot and stick” motivation or an “if/then” approach.

Essentially, for a few hundred years, we have relied upon extrinsic motivators, i.e. pay and/or benefits.  This can be restated as “work; get paid. Don’t work; don’t get paid.”  And by and large, this is model most businesses still follow.

Why Do We Need an Upgrade?

Technology and innovation have leveled the playing field.  In developed countries, many basic necessities were once luxury items reserved only for the uber-rich or ruling class.

Politicians love to point to the income gap as a way to remind us that some people have it better than others.  It’s helpful for them to separate people into smaller groups, remind them of how rotten they have it, provide them someone to blame, and then reunite these groups together against a common enemy (namely, their opponent).

But consider this. For the early part of the 20th Century, an automobile was a novelty rarely seen outside of cities. Many families now have at least two of them. A single television set was far too expensive for most families, but now they can be found in almost every room, and they’re huge.

Computers used to cost many thousands of dollars, and they occupied hundreds of square feet of space. Now, you likely carry one in your pocket that is perhaps millions of times more powerful than those giant, early predecessors.  You can even use them to communicate in real-time with someone on the other side of the planet.  You may even be reading this very text on one right now!

When luxury and convenience items are so readily accessible to almost anyone, amassing large amounts of money becomes less important.  Extrinsic motivators such as driving a really expensive car or living in a huge mansion become less important too.

Motivation to earn a fair and acceptable income remains, but at some point progression makes less sense without some deeper, more fulfilling, intrinsic motivation.

What is Motivation 3.0?

Motivation 3.0 is simply an improved version of motivation 2.0.  The basic functions remain the same, but only for certain kinds of tasks.

Mundane, redundant, and non-cognitive tasks will remain “if/then” or “carrot/stick” tasks.  That is not to say that all fee-for-service tasks are mundane or not enjoyable, but services in exchange for income remains a very efficient way to operate.  It doesn’t make sense to change it.

On the other hand, highly cognitive, creative, and inspired tasks may require a different type of motivation to achieve maximum output.

Drive (Affiliate Link), highlights several high-profile studies that suggest the quality of output from tasks usually done for intrinsic reasons or personal desire can diminish substantially when traditional motivational techniques are used.

Often times, turning a hobby into a career can take all the fun out of the hobby.  This is not always the case, but it is extremely common.  Those who have been able to remain intrinsically motivated usually enjoy more success than those who are not.

Why should you care?

Whether you are currently a practicing cyber or information technology professional, or you are considering it as a new career, you should really make an effort to assess your desires.

What do you get excited about? Do you really like solving challenging technical issues? Do you enjoy developing solutions to costly problems? Do you like being the “expert” in a given area or on a specific system?

Get in touch with what really motivates you, and try not to lose sight of it.  Repeat this exercise throughout your career to determine if your priorities or motivating factors have substantially changed.

Earning a great income is important, but it’s certainly not the only thing.  Lots of high income earners are completely miserable, and many low to moderate income earners are very contented.  It’s really a matter of fulfillment.

If you hate what you do, how long would you be willing to suffer it before you would consider a substantial pay cut to go do something you might enjoy more?  Everyone has a different answer, but eventually everyone takes the pay cut, and sometimes not by choice.  When you hate your job, it eventually shows up in your output.

In Conclusion

Businesses may be slow to adopt motivation 3.0, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t acknowledge the power of fulfillment when it comes to your work.

Strive to stay interested and engaged within your profession. Focus on value and results as much as possible.

Routine and mundane tasks will forever remain part of life, but try to minimize work for work’s sake whenever possible.

Your success in any career may well be influenced by the degree to which you love it or don’t love it.

If you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, pick up Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Affiliate Link).

Are you struggling with motivation right now? Have you felt particularly unmotivated in the past?  Maybe you have a suggestion for helping others overcome motivation problems.  Please leave a comment, send me an email, or leave a voice message at

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