Tag Archives: Intrinsic Motivation

Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, and the Purity of Intrinsic Motivation

“Do you think I could be a writer?”
“Well,” the writer said, “I don’t know. … Do you like sentences?”
The writer could see the student’s amazement.  Sentences?  Do I like sentences?  If he had liked sentences, of course, he could begin, like a joyful painter I knew.  I asked him how he came to be a painter.  He said, “I liked the smell of the paint.”
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Intrinsic motivation – the drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging, and absorbing – is essential for high levels of creativity.
Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

My wife and I watched Wolf Hall on PBS last Sunday, and we’re hooked. And apparently, so are a bunch of other folks. I’ve already read Wolf Hallabout five articles about the series. This one, Hilary Mantel on ‘Wolf Hall,’ Kate Middleton, and Plans For New Novels by Tim Teeman on The Daily Beast, was especially good, profiling and interviewing the author of Wolf Hall.

But, for this blog, here’s what jumped out at me:

Did Mantel think the books would be so big?
She laughs. “I thought it would be a sentence, then a paragraph, that’s the way it goes. If you are to succeed as a writer, you can’t be thinking about fame and honors—you should only be thinking about the rhythm of a sentence. You do your best for the reader by pinning the moment to the page. The imagination works in these little increments. Much later you begin to add it all up. I’m in the room, writing, with Cromwell and his company, not my publisher and a prize jury.”

Hilary Mantel

“You can’t be thinking about fame and honors – you should only be thinking about the rhythm of a sentence.” Call that clarity about what the work actually is that needs to be done. Call that the purity of intrinsic motivation. Call that “start with why.”

I think of other illustrations of such clarity. Michael Jordan and his “love of the game” clause; he was allowed to play basketball, anywhere, anytime he wanted to; and he did, in pick-up games in many places. (Not every player had/has that in their contract).

Or, consider Steve Jobs and his obsession about his products. He certainly had the equivalent of “he loved sentences – the rhythm of a sentence” in his work in a different arena.

Here’s the question – what do you genuinely, deeply love in and about your actual work? Not the fame; not the prestige; not the honors; not the money…but the work; the work itself.

Find that, develop that, and your work will probably be better for it, don’t you think?

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Fueling Intrinsic Motivation

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

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…
michael-jordan-dunkWatching 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?

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

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