My column on “Why parenthood needs some merit badges” ran in USA Today yesterday. Some of the feedback I got was that rewards of any kind cheapen what you’re doing, make you less effective, etc. People quote Alfie Kohn to me as if I haven’t read him. Personally, I think that small external rewards can provide that final push to get you to do things you’re actually intrinsically motivated for. I, for instance, am trying to crank out a draft of a novel. Most likely, this novel will not make me rich and famous. I’m writing it just because I want to write it. But it always falls to the bottom of the to-do list, behind paying assignments. What would push it to the top? Even the smallest book advance, accompanied by an externally set deadline. In the absence of that, a merit badge from a writing organization for taking on speculative projects would work too. Maybe this shows I lack self-discipline. Or it could mean that I’m human — and humans respond to some combination of external and intrinsic motivation. What motivates you?