alacrity in action
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I’ve spent the last two days at yet another excellent edition of the XP Days Benelux conference. It was my first time in the Dutch location and I have really enjoyed the area.

Since I walked from the local train station to the conference centre on the way in I decided to do the same on the way back. However, as I was about to leave the grounds strolling along the drive, a car stopped by and the driver kindly offered a lift to the station.

I couldn’t refuse this generous offer and found myself chatting away with the lady who, it turned out, just finished her shift working at the conference centre. She inquired about my stay and the impressions of the location as well as the local food. We had a good chat about the local town and I safely arrived at the local station just in time for an earlier train. She said goodbye and invited me to visit them again next year.

It’s absolutely amazing to experience any such little acts of selfless and genuine help and somehow it made me think about motivation. I spent two days at a conference and at least two sessions I went to discussed employee motivation (and I’m sure many more did too). We kept analysing and exploring what to do to motivate people we work with, how to create the right environment.

Yet clearly we missed an opportunity. We should have also taken some time to observe and talk to the people at the Kappelerput centre. They have clearly created an environment where employees cared about their workplace. I’m sure this would’ve been as valuable lesson as the sessions we run.

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Seth Godin is saying that, Dan Pink is saying that, Malcolm Gladwell is saying that, Jurgen Appelo is saying that, I’m saying that:

Your success is entiery the function of your effort! It’s your choice to achive, your choice to win. You are your own and only obstacle to greatness.

For some reason, the message is not getting through yet.

The amount of effort, rigour, discipline that we sometimes get to see those who succeed commit (like the famous 10,000 hours) scares us away, stops us from trying, stops us from even starting. We comfortably hide behind the argument of insufficient talent, lack of resources, unsupporting circumstances or simply lack of luck. There is something else, perhaps even more powerful, that stops us – we’re simply affraid to fail. We don’t have the motivation to try and persevere.

There is a solution.

Make the choice. Start. Set yourself a goal. A small, achivable goal. Focus and work. Deliver. When the first goal is achieved, set the next one, slightly larger, perhaps more difficult. Repeat.

If you go over the first hurdle, if you work-through the first failures, the initial problems, interesting things may start to happen.

As you put effort in and achieve your goals you increase your mastery. Then you set new goals which guide you towards a purpose. Since, at the start, you’ve made your own choice and now follow your own decisions you start to feel autonomy. Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. These are the three cornestones of intrinsic motivation, thus, as the three increase you motivation increases. As you get more motivated it’s easier to put the effort in and you achive more. A virtuous cycle fuelling your success. And all you needed to do, is make that first choice.

Good luck! You will succeed.

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Seth Godin in his book “Linchpin” quotes Richard Florida’s top ten motivating factors for creative professionals. Not surprisingly only one is explicitly extrinsic motivator.

Here is the list reordered slightly according to my personal preference.

  1. Challenge and responsibility
  2. Flexibility
  3. Professional development
  4. Stimulating colleagues and bosses
  5. Organizational culture
  6. Exciting job content
  7. Money
  8. Peer recognition
  9. Location and community
  10. A stable work environment
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