What Drives Us

My (mostly positive) review of Dan Pink’s Drive ran over at City Journal’s website on Friday. Pink argues that the best motivation is intrinsic, which is hard to argue with. We naturally spend more of our 168 hours on activities that we love. He writes with an eye toward corporate managers, hoping to get them to see that the best way to keep people motivated is to give them a lot of control over their time, their technique, their tasks, and their teams.

I hope corporate managers get that message. But what if you’re not in corporate management?

The answer, I believe, is that you can build your own career with this motivational standard in place. Figure out what you love so much you’d do it for free. Find an organization that will hire you to do that, or take a job at a company that you think is flexible and sensible, and then make your job description into the job description you want. For instance, if you want to be a puppeteer (a la Being John Malkovich) you can hunt through the classifieds for a puppeteer job. Or you can take a job in HR somewhere, and start staging motivational puppet shows which are just so awesome that no one ever wants to leave your company again, and turnover drops by 75%. If that happens, I’m guessing your manager will let you keep at it.

But if not, then you’re going to have to go out on your own. As Pink recounts in a previous book, Free Agent Nation, self-employment is the path he took to turn his quirky and fun writing style into his full-time career. And ultimately, it’s the path that many people who truly want to experience the pure drive of doing what they love will have to choose.

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