Elon Musk on Intrinsic Motivation (from Bold by Peter Diamandis) – with a Little Michael Jordan Thrown In


How are the great things accomplished? Not from carrots and sticks.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

This quote from Elon Musk, from Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, pretty much says it all:

Passion and purpose scale—always have, always will. Every movement, every revolution, is proof of this fact. Plus, doing anything big and bold is difficult, and at two in the morning for the fifth night in a row, when you need to keep going, you’re only going to fuel yourself from deep within. You’re not going to push ahead when it’s someone else’s mission. It needs to be yours.

Daniel Pink wrote about such kind of motivation in Drive. This Elon Musk quote captures it as well as anything I’ve ever read….

With 5.2 seconds left in the game Michael Jordan oWatching basketball (the NCAA, this weekend) always takes me back to what I’ve read about Michael Jordan, and his legendary work ethic. If you’ve never read the great essay by David Halberstam, Jordan’s Moment, take a few minutes and read it. It talks about how Michael Jordan learned a new shot – yes, a new shot – near the end of his career, that he first envisioned, and then worked on hour after hour in secret. He worked on it while filming Space Jam. From Halberstam’s article:

In 1995, after Jordan returned to basketball from his year-and-a-half-long baseball sabbatical, he spent the summer in Hollywood making the movie “Space Jam,” but he demanded that the producers build a basketball court where he could work out every day.  

What creates this kind of creative thinking, and leads to these so-many-hours of work? Whatever it is, it comes from within – it is intrinsic

We tend to describe such action as simple “work ethic.” It is certainly that – but it is not simply that. It is, to quote Mr. Musk again, this:

you’re only going to fuel yourself from deep within.

BoldIn Bold, this is described as flowing from “passion and purpose.” So, if we ask how we develop that kind of intrinsic motivation, it seems to start here – with such passion and purpose. A person with a “job to pay the bills” will never quite be motivated by this deeper passion, this deeper purpose. Only such deep inner realities will “fuel you from deep within.”

So, what motivates you – where do you find your motivation? That reveals so very much, doesn’t it?

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