#36 🦾 More MOTIVATIONAL than a horde of rabbits 🐇

Dreaming of a tiny office

The horde

First things first: The official collective noun options for rabbits are not very exciting. I have taken the liberty of using “horde”. Read on to understand why.

Rabbits: infinite

This is your brain, asking: Why should I?

Such a tricksy synaptic machine, the brain. There’s an inherent conflict: we are both the initiator of thoughts, but also the recipient of thoughts that arrive unbidden. We are both the driver and the car.

If you’re trying to get motivated to start – or keep doing – something, the brain doesn’t always guide you in the right direction. The idea of completing the thing might be attractive – but that stretch of road between the idea and the destination can be intimidating enough to put you off making a start.  

Procrastination has an alluring inertia: the body at rest tends to (wants to?) remain at rest.

So hard to work against it sometimes

One of the most effective motivation catalysts for me is to be told I can’t do something. Especially something I’ve already partway started.

The latest edition of the Notes from a small house series recounts such an episode, where a university lecturer decided that the most motivational thing he could tell his students was that we shouldn’t bother trying:

👉 Notes from a small house III

I also recommend these other motivation-themed pieces from the archives, if you haven’t read them already:

👉 Newsletter #34 ☝️ The REPETITIONS required until it really sinks in ⏱: On intrinsic motivation, and why telling your kids to do something 6000 times (no exagerration) might not even work

👉 (Don't) grab life by the balls: On not being a person who answered when opportunity knocked, and then being one, and then being told I had chosen the wrong opportunity, which made that opportunity seem absolutely the right one

Adopt the slow, persistent approach of mildew on an aluminium sill—it just waits, calculates, gets ignored and forgotten, and then quietly takes control of the situation — From “(Don't) grab life by the balls”

Atomic motivation

It’s one thing to be sparked into action by being told you can’t do something – a personal coup against low expectations – but this is really just the flint. I got told I couldn’t/shouldn’t be a writer, so I went and started along that road anyway. But to keep that fire going, I had to turn it into a habit.

Contemporary master of habits James Clear writes about how rituals are the difference between professionals and amateurs:

How do some of the most prolific artists in the world motivate themselves? They don't merely set schedules, they build rituals. — James Clear

My little teapot 🫖

I got a beautiful glass teapot as a birthday gift a few years back. It has a stainless steel bowl where you put the leaves; it makes a single cup. Every night, I clean it and leave its parts to dry on the dining room table.

Every morning at 6am I get up and pour in the hot water, spoon in the tea leaves, and set the teapot down next to an empty mug. While the water turns a golden red-brown I set down my laptop, put on my glasses, and plug in my headphones. And once I’ve poured the brewed tea into the mug, I start writing.

The habit is the writing, but the ritual is the making of that tea, something that’s special because my wife gave me that teapot and its a lovely object in its own right, but also because it kickstarts the habit.

Sometimes the ritual is just there to trick your brain into starting.

Hey, we should get some rabbits 🐇

Don’t kill my motivation, boss

This Harvard Business Review article on motivating employees throws some damning truth grenades for employers to mull over (below). Essentially most motivational endeavours fail because the goal setting is too simplistic, performance evaluation is too biased, the work is boring, and the feedback is pointless.

  • “Most employees are enthusiastic and engaged when they start their new jobs, but it takes only a few months for managers to destroy their morale” 🥺
  • “Very few individuals, including managers, are naturally good at motivating people” 😱
  • “...extrinsic rewards (like money) do little to help buffer against demoralizing or dull tasks, and psychologists have shown that while challenging work can be exciting and motivating, demanding or boring work is draining no matter what”

This article is worth a read even though it utters the phrase “data-driven approach”, which has become a terribly cliché in the years since its publication.

Rough day at the office

No one really knows anything

No motivational mantra is complete until it’s set in a formal-looking typeface against a high-contrast background. Gravitas practically guaranteed. It could say anything.

Give the words a billboard and the commuters will wonder at their significance.

Hit me up

I am always – ALWAYS – keen to hear your comments, thoughts, arguments. Every week I send my small echoes out into the internet – and it’s extraordinarily motivating to get a ping back every now and then.

I want to know what you think. What you agree with. Or don’t.

You can comment publicly on any post or newsletter viewed on my website. Or you can reply to this email, which is just between you and me. 😄

Hit me up! 👊

Always up for a chat