Motivation

… don’t believe everything.

               I hate the word – motivation. It’s a word, so it can’t really hurt me and hate is a rather strong word, but still. There is no such thing. Motivation is sort of like what we call attention span. Motivation is rearranging and refocusing your attention, towards something you think is important. Motivation is stupid – because you’re really not that bright to know what really is important. If you value motivation over discipline you’re probably going to lose a lot of time and money to various individuals who know how to dazzle you. Motivation can’t get you anywhere, because humans (healthy ones, anyway) have the attention span of goldfish – and no, that’s not 30 seconds. You read books, listen to speeches, believe in yourself, pump yourself and get ready to … oh, there’s a very good/bad girl with long legs, gorgeous curves and blonde curly hair and is that a tattoo on her… Now where’s that thing, how did I call it… yea, motivation… Where was I?

               Yea. We’re idiots. I can’t really say anything about women, but I think they’d say the same thing, but maybe over different … scenarios. Motivation is what a friend of mine called – a swift kick in the arse. It can get you moving fast, it’ll get your adrenaline up in no time, but won’t move you more than a few feet unless you’ve been … motivated … by really good professionals like Bruce Lee or the like. However, the direction of motion is really depending on what direction you were facing at that time. You can listen to or read whatever motivational stuff you want, chances are everything’s pointing in another direction. It’s either too much work, or too much time, too much thinking or not enough, empower yourself or follow the flow, quit your job or quit your habits, whatever. Whatever feeling you’re getting from each source is urgency. Act now! Well, try running a marathon that way. It’s nice to refocus your attention but … do you really have to?

               Feelings get in our way, our mood changes every damn hour or even faster and motivation is one way of changing that. But you know what’s bigger than that? Habit. We’re not alone, we’re not isolated, and our feelings and mood changes with every encounter – it makes us “need” a motivational supplement every time we meet somebody in a different mood and that refocus takes time and resources, quite a bit of them. However, habits die hard. Habits are behaviors others didn’t object to, repeated until they’re part of our unconscious. So, taking a few minutes break every hour to “motivate ourselves”? How much time do we waste? How much energy do we put into that? To me, getting an adrenaline boost that many times a day makes my brain go berserk. No wonder sleep is an issue for so many, it’s almost pavlovian – regular doses of “motivation” make my body expect them, even at night. Placebo or conditioning, whatever you want to call it, it’s there. Motivation to work, motivation to exercise, motivation to shop, motivation to look better, motivation to learn, motivation to get over criticism, motivation to relax, motivation to .. why? Why would we need it?

               I’ve come to view motivation as brainwashing, conditioning the brain to a Stockholm Syndrome behavior, demanding more and more from us until we’re in such a rapid-firing neuronal pattern mere silence is frightening. Put a stockbroker in a closed, soundproof panic room without phones, internet or anything other than the sound of their breathing and they’re likely to really panic. Are things that bad, is your work so bad you have to be constantly reminded to get back to work? Do you really need to be told what to do, how to do it and what your focus should be every hour on the hour? Why? Who gets the carrot?

               I see many self-help idiocy in headlines, most demanding we unplug, disconnect or whatever the word of the day is, all in the name of more productive work. If you’re self-employed or running your own business, I’d sympathize. I don’t agree, but I do feel your pain. Yes, I do – I’ve been there. Question is – if you’ve make enough money to eat and pay your debts, why would you want to motivate yourself? Ask yourself, is it really necessary? Do you absolutely have to be top worker now? Think then answer. What if I told you your health is really your responsibility? What if I told you that the quality of your work determines your future, not the quantity? Still think you have to work until you’re flat on your nose from exhaustion?

               Does it even make sense? Probably, if you’re not in sales. You see, quality does not always equal volume. If you think Apple’s big sales are because they use Chinese factories, you’re out of your mind. The era of “does more, costs less” is gone, dead and buried. Whole products revolve around replacement parts and costly upgrades. Volume means finding the exact level of customer dissatisfaction you can manage without hurting your sales permanently. It’s not about treating your customers well, it’s not about making quality products, it’s about bullshitting your way up to a point that once crossed your sales will drop. Maximum effect for minimum quality. You throw a dart at the sales chart and say – this is where our sales should be, now what’s the minimum level of product quality required to get us there? You, the customer or you, the salesman they employed to sell that product, are irrelevant. Individuals don’t matter. Groups matter, hype matters, profits matter. Why would they be laying off people by the thousands if they’re be worried of quality work? No, let me rephrase that, why would they be firing people exactly when they know their share price takes a dive? Hint, it’s about shareholders… They’re worried about the future of the company, not about the employees.

               Motivation is something companies invented to make you believe in fairytales, in “acquired taste”, because that’s the only way they’ll get you to do something you actually hate while thinking you’re loving it. You don’t matter, you’re replaceable. Well, there are a few companies who don’t do that, but that’s not really important for many reasons – among them distance, industry, the state of your finances, and so on. I managed to get out. You can too, even if my way can’t suit you. The big problem with doing something that’s slowly killing you is you’re too confused to know there is a way out. More than one, actually. The best way, for young debt free individuals, is to find something you want to do, even something you may not “like” or “feel good about” at this moment, by leaving feelings on the backburner. Think of 3 things – what you’re good at now, what you love doing, and what you think will be needed or in demand in the future. Now imagine your “love doing” circle will change the older you get and your “good now” circle can be made bigger by learning new skills. Where would the circles intersect? Do you really believe your diploma is the sum of all knowledge you can get? See? If nothing intersects the “future demand” circle, make the other ones bigger. Patience is a virtue, in this case. You can work shitty jobs for 10 years, if that means after that you’ll be better. Yes, it’s a long time, but what’s 10 years? Actually, 10 years of 2 hours daily is enough to make you quite competent at something else, something not so shitty. Motivation can’t keep you on track. Ever. But discipline can.

               Habits are really hard to break, and that can be a good thing if you make them work for you. You see, you’re actually required to plan your life, to look after your own well being. I don’t care if that means no kids, no wife/husband or working for somebody else – it’s your dream, not mine. But read the book called The millionaire next door, even if you disregard the investment parts or disagree with half of it. It’s got something I think is worth thinking about – the definition of financial independence. I already found out you can be happy without most stuff we’re used to have, but that thing actually made me smile, it’s that good. Financially independent, in my own words, means having enough money to sustain your lifestyle for a long time even in the absence of an income. As in, I’m financially independent if, at the age of 40 I have a million quid, but my yearly expenses are less than 20k. I could “retire” and never work a day ever again, but where’s the fun in that? The problem with this is – my expenses. If I buy a new Bentley every other year, that’s not sustainable. Now, I know we’re talking about alot of money, but what if you don’t have to be really independent? What if you and your family can live below your income and save? Let’s say you and the missus combined have a yearly income of 100k euro, and your expenses are about 80k. That’s 20k saved, each year. In 10 years, you can save 200k euro which will enable you to live exactly the way you did before, for 2 and a half years, in the event you both lose your jobs. Imagine how handy that’s going to be if you find yourself, suddenly, without a job or even want to try another job to see if there’s more of a future in it. Now imagine how it would feel if you’ve both lost your jobs because your company went belly-up in another financial crisis, and you’ve got a kid and a mortgage and other expenses and no such safety net. Eh? I wish I’d had somebody to really hammer this into my thick skull when I was fresh out of university.

               This kind of a safety net is quite handy for those willing to remove themselves from their own comfort zones and trying to create a better future for their family. It’s hard, it’s like the story of don Quixote and the wind mills, but it’s also quite rewarding. You won’t fear failure so much, and that’s really the only motivation you’ll need to find the right work for you. It’s a chain of events, each supporting the other. It all begins with you. Think like this, whatever your mistakes were up until now, they’re gone. Think of the future, plan, discipline yourself, create a habit out of learning whatever it is needed to achieve your goals, build your independence. Repeat. If you do that, no company on earth can take advantage of you. Remember, the quality of your work determines your future, while the volume of your work determines the profits of your employer. Of course, once in a while there will be exceptions to this rule but I’m too young to think I know everything and too old to believe in Santa. I do, however, believe in people. If you ever, by accident, find yourself employed by a company who treats you right look at the manager – he’s the one deserving your respect. I found mine, by accident, and if he ever sells the company to make another, I’ll resign and follow him, chances are that’s the right choice.

Post scriptum:

               There’s no rule saying you have to be motivated to do good work. So far so good, but unless you meet the right people, there’s no law against it, either. Demanding something isn’t stupid, giving in to that demand might be. Shalom.

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