DRIVE by Daniel Pink is all about internal motivation and how autonomy, mastery, and serving a higher purpose are things that fulfill us.
I’ve always been very internally motivated. I’ve also always been driven. These are two separate things – you can have ambition but be motivated by external rewards, or you can have internal motivation but no ambition that’s easily recognized by the outside world.
I happened to have both, but it’s easily the internal motivation that’s carried me most of the way to the outward markers of success that I’ve had in my life.
PhD in Engineering – this was very much a means to an end for me – applying to the astronaut program – but transformed into an internal motivator as I fell in love with doing higher level science. When I actually gained the degree, I was all about what work I could now do with it, not the supposed attainment itself. In the science world, there were people who bragged about those three little letters behind their name and there were people almost embarrassed by it. I was pretty neutral – yes, I earned it, but that mostly meant I was now qualified to do science at a certain level. In other words, it was a key that unlocked doors for me, no more.
Fast forward to my career as an author…
Two things happened to me today that were outward markers of success.
1 – penname made KU All Star in the US and UK again in August (2016; that was the third time). I was pretty pumped about this because yay, money! And it was a reflection of how well her new series is doing as well as some of her new marketing strategies.
2 – penname was also listed in Publisher’s Marketplace for the audio rights deal her agent made for one of her series. I remember when I was immersed in the tradpub world that being listed on Publisher’s Marketplace (for getting an agent, a publishing deal, or selling some other rights) was one of those “external markers” that people posted on their timelines and gushed about. It was a sign they had “made it”!
The only reason I knew about the PM listing was because a scammy publicity company contacted me, congratulating me on it, and trying to sell me their services.
The difference between those two – one a real measure of achievement that reflected something I’d been working hard to attain, the other an outdated marker from another era – reminded me how little these things matter to me. And how deeply internal my motivation is these days.
It’s a happy place to be.
I’m not saying that if you just put your head down and work hard on all the intrinsically motivating things that the external markers of success will magically come your way – I’m saying that when they happen, you won’t care as much as those who are hungering after them. Because you’ll already have your reward.
And you’ll be eager to dive back into the thing that’s truly satisfying – getting that next book out.
TL;DR – read the book