Lessons from the “Drive”

Keeping up with any productivity systems requires dedication, will power and motivation. Making sure that the system is constantly updated that it contains actual information can take a lot of work. Sometimes when we struggle with too many assignments it’s easy to let the whole system go.
The book that made a lot of buzz in recent month and that looks at the traditional and scientific approach to motivation is Daniel Pink’s "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us".

The main concept of the book looks at the interrelation between two of the three of our drives.

Traditional concepts of motivation assumed that reward / punish  is the most effective approach. Throwing more money or threatening with more severe punishments was and still is a common practice to ensure that job gets done. This concept still works in some type of jobs which are mostly simple outcome, procedure or routine based. 
However it appears that science does not support that support that view. In his TED talk Daniel Pink describes an experiment conducted over 40 years ago where researchers have discovered that people rewarded with high payoff were less creative and engaged and had bigger problem in solving the task than those with smaller reward. (the talk is just 20 min long but it’s well worth it)

What does this mean for current workers? The ongoing shift to so called knowledge work means that old approach of carrots and sticks is less and less effective. Daniel Pink says that what we need is to motivate people by giving them option to develop three intrinsic elements: autonomy, mastery, purpose.
Although I’m yet to read this book, you can get a pretty good idea what’s it about by reading blogs and interviews with Dan Pink.

Below is an outline of some key lessons that I’ve learned.

  • On Mastery – it’s not possible to  become a master with out feedback. No athlete or musician becomes true master with out constant improvement and reviewing of his work. The so called performance review in our work places are not enough to bring any reasonable value. Dan Pink’s advise is to set your own goals for things you want to learn or do and then review the progress monthly. Mark your self against the desired result and see where you fell short and where your succeeded.
  • On Purpose -  you need to find what’s your internal drive. Pink’s advise think what gives you the most satisfaction at work, what would you spend your time on, what would you do for free. If you answer these then you will be on the right track to finding a purpose.
  • On autonomy- educate your boss so he/she can understand that giving large amount of autonomy will result in greater satisfaction, creativity and engagement. Be working example of such beheviour as the persisting view is that more autonomy means more slacking off.

Some other lessons/observations:

  • Top motivator for people is chance to develop and making progress.
  • Carrot & sticks still works however it’s good only the in short run  as it narrows focus to produce only one thing. As result it limits chances for great work.
  • Carrot & stick approach creates constant expectation of reward and risk of taking shortcuts to get it – vide current financial crisis.
  • Money matters are still important but for jobs that are creative it’s best to take the issue of money off the table.
  • Although the intrinsic motivators are effective not only for knowledge work. Any profession can benefit from using them. Pink gives a great example of hospital janitors who were given some autonomy over their work and this little change resulted in greater work satisfaction, lesser turnover and continuous progress.

This book is definitely worth reading and I’ll be sure to order it with my next Amazon purchase.


  1. Daniel Pink’s Drive – Recommended – Harvard Business Review
  2. How to Stay Motivated: Daniel Pink on ‘Drive’ – WSJ.com
  3. Daniel Pink On His New Book, ‘Drive,’ And What Motivates People
  4. Drive: Daniel Pink’s Definitive and Fun Guide to Motivation – Bob Sutton
  5. My full review of Dan Pink’s “Drive”… // Brett’s Waste Blog
  6. Drive by Daniel Pink – Jessica Smith – Digital Influencer, Marketing Strategist, Creative Thinker
  7. New Release: The Bottom-line on Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” « Mine Your Resources
  8. Drive – Video Book Review
  9. The Four Essential Drives That Every Creative Needs
  10. The Hidden Art of Achieving Creative Flow | Zen Habits
  11. A Story About Motivation – Peter Bregman – Harvard Business Review
  12. ‘Drive’ Not Always Explained By Rewards : NPR
  13. Full Interview: Daniel Pink on Motivation 3.0

Time of imbalance

Balance in life is something many people are striving for.

The times we are living in now put a lot of pressure on people to do a lot of things at the same time. At work you have to finish that big project but then you’re asked to help out with another one. At home you need to spend quality time with your family, you should be reading to keep on top of things, meeting with friends, exercising and looking after your health etc. There also spiritual life that needs taken care of as well as your garden, car and next holidays. This can go on and on.

Simply there is not enough time to fit all of that and produce the quality you would like. Yet I believe that maintaining a balance in long-term results in fulfilling and prosperous life.

So How can you merge these seemingly opposite forces?

First change the perspective.

Achieving balance on a daily basis may not be the way to go. But if you shift to monthly or even weekly overview things may look much better than expected. Cramming all things into 24h may not be possible but spreading them over 7 or 30 days looks much more manageable.

Secondly create time of imbalance.

This is where you focus on selected thing that are highly important to you and reduce other commitments to a minimum.

The areas you may use the time of imbalance for may include:

  • completing important work project that requires you to work longer hours.
  • write a book you always wanted or launch a business on the side
  • preparing for an exam.
  • organising and enjoying quality holidays
  • finish a marathon

Simply these would be projects and goals that require significant time and effort to complete.

How to make a good time of imbalance?

One item

The time of imbalance should be focused only on one area/project. When it comes to managing time it’s zero sum game – you need to take something out in order to put something in.
Say, if you need to prepare for an Ironman race you need to devote 18-20h per week to training. But the same 20h needs to be taken from some other activities.
Trying to juggle more items at a time will result in greater struggle with time and defy the point of time of imbalance as you will try to focus on too many things at a time.


Creating imbalance will have some sort of negative impact on people around you. You may be late from work, miss the family dinner etc – whatever it’s some one will be hurt.
So you need communicate that particular project at work or at home is very important to you and it needs maximum of your time and attention.
By communicating you solve the issue of expectations that other may have. If people know what you’re up to, if they know what has your attention they will react more positively to you. They may not like where you put your time but it will send a clear signal.

Control it

If you focus on something that’s important for you, that’s fascinating, if you work on something that makes you alive it’s easy to get sucked into it and lose the control.
Just one more hour, just one more project, just one more……. this is a dangerous road that may lead to addiction and some form if -ism like work holism.
The imbalance is good for short period of time otherwise it will eat you. You need to control it. Set a clear deadline or specific target. Once you achieve your goal you should move to something else preferable something that was neglected due to the imbalance.

In the end by creating these times of imbalance you can achieve things you desire and give them enough time, effort and attention to create best result. Also by putting your focus in to various areas of your life you will allow for creating a pattern leading long term balance.