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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sisyphus’ Motivation

For those of you expecting the breaking, new insights on motivation now: sorry to disappoint you. I guess there has been plenty said about motivation already, there is probably more to come in the future, so no need to sum it up here again.

However, I promised to come up with my motivators last time. Now, considering myself a generally trustworthy person (do I hear anybody laugh??) keeping my word, and well-behaved as I am (do I again hear anybody laugh?), also feeling the need to further introduce myself, here they are.
Apparently, they are not as epochal as the ones from the guy on the picture below.

Have you checked the link above or are generally familiar with the pretty broad meaning of the word “motivation”, you might cry out loud now, wondering that being compelled to do something by the gods is not quite what you would refer to as “motivated” (If you don’t care at all, that’s ok as well. It’s quite liberating to recognize that you don’t need to have an opinion on everything). 

Nevertheless, I chose that analogy for two reasons. First, I strongly feel that those words are quite often mixed in daily usage as well (“Due to my enthusiastic promotion of corporate vision, I motivated my employee to do overtime. Oh, and did I mention threatening to lay her off otherwise?”). Having revealed that outstanding discovery now, I already feel much better.

Second, and thereby I’m now finally connecting to the actual topic of this post, because we might sometimes feel that we are currently performing a "sisyphean task", a task that seems completely useless, or endless, or both. The latter was the case when I was in high school and obliged to write what my German teacher happened to call “cultural diary”. We were asked to keep track of all “cultural” activities we performed back then (like going to cinemas or concerts, reading books ...), and to hand them in by the end of the year.
We never found out why exactly he considered that to be important (I guess the same was true for Sisyphus), but apparently he did. Needless to say we did not quite share that point of view back then, and that the majority of those diaries where copied together from Wikipedia and IMDB on the very last evening before deadline.

However, similar to Sisyphus wondering about the deeper aim of him rolling that stone uphill forever, even though we might not know about the deeper aim of things at one point in time, we might find out about it later. When I now read my “cultural diary” from some ten years ago, I remember several things I thought I had forgotten already, and the thought of what kind of lad I was back then simply makes me smile. Might you have imagined that anybody would bother writing about a red card in football, The Day After Tomorrow and at the same time finding himself to be a big fan of Seeed? Well, me neither, but apparently back then I was.
So, one reason for me writing this blog is keeping track of my interests. I’m looking forward to reading these lines in ten years, and smiling about my style of writing and my current interests as well.

Among the others there are (but, again, not in order. Failing on what the majority of modern scientists on economics expect from proper economic subjects, I sometimes seem to be bad in rationalizing and therefore a bad homo economicus. Dooh, poor me.):

  • to laugh about myself in hindsight 
  • to learn from my past mistakes
  • to reflect about myself and things that I’m currently thinking about or surrounded by 
  • to inspire others as well as showing them interesting, thought-provoking ideas 
  • to improve my writing skills

As much as I know that some topics need to be dealt with seriously, I believe that some people completely misinterpret this by also taking themselves too serious. Who wants to spend his time with somebody like that all the time? I prefer to face myself with a loose, yet positive, attitude, and like to do so in hindsight as well.

It is a well known fact that personal growth and self-development is mainly the result from past mistakes. Making mistakes is actually a crucial prerequisite for improvement, and exposing yourself to interesting mistakes helps in improving. Do you think there would be an iPhone as we know it now (in its 5th version), had there not been a version 1.0? That first version seriously sucked in several regards, yet sometimes version 1 sucks but ship it anyway. If you are interested, the overall impressive writer and speaker Scott Berkun shares some interesting thoughts on learning from your mistakes either.

Learning and self-development need to be supported by self-reflection as well. Not only reflecting on myself, but also writing down things that I’m currently thinking about helps me clearing up my mind. You may have experienced the same, when even you yourself understood things better or in another way upon explaining them to somebody.

When listening to music with a friend the other day, she was wondering whether the artist we were listening to was actually among the very best in the world. “How would you know? “, I asked. “Well, would he otherwise be that popular?” Apparently, she never heard about survivorship biases before, and was astonished upon getting a short introduction to that concept. Thus, inspiring you and provoking interesting thoughts is among my motivators for writing this blog.

And, last but not least (as demonstrated by these words, I some have difficulties to express my thoughts within one sentence and have to interrupt them in a sub sentence like this. I know some people get that as bad style, but I like to let my words float around similar to my thoughts) ... So, last but not least (which, by the way, happens to be one of the most frequent used anglicisms in German language, and, similar to many popular things, one of the dullest as well). Third try ... last, but not least, as you may already have guessed, I want to improve my writing skills. Trying to avoid being trapped by a causation fallacy, I cautiously assume that is partly due to an inspiring article from Jeff Atwood.

Now, having written about my motivators and inspiration, when have you reflected about what inspires and drives you the last time? If you are willing to share your thoughts with us, the stage is yours!

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