Jun 082009

Making money is a goal that cannot be successfully approached directly. There’s other such goals (such as grades) but I’ll stick to money. I’ll be bringing together the distinction between production capacity and production, incentive/extrinsic motivation and the importance of big hammers.

Let’s say you have a goal to make more money. Now, since you’re a hardworking productive person you start thinking of ways to get more money. After a bit you start to feel disconnected from the goal and from yourself because you don’t like the greedy person you feel yourself becoming. Perhaps you’ll also find that you haven’t made much money at all or improved your financial situation. Perhaps it’s gotten worse. Pretty common experience, it seems like.

Now, let’s say you decide that instead of trying to get money (the production), you try to improve the thing that gets you money (production capacity)–the value you deliver. Getting money is a consequence of value given/created for another person.

Here’s why you don’t wanna focus on getting money: 1. In the experience of a number of people (Steve Pavlina and myself included), it doesn’t work. 2. Extrinsic motivation reduces intrinsic motivation. Like playing guitar? If I start paying you for it, you’ll start liking it less and will likely play it on your own time less. It’s gotten bound up with the money, and if there’s no money, there’s no incentive to play for yourself.

Focusing on value creation and delivery, on the other hand, feels a helluva lot better. And here’s the thing: it works better by miles, too. My theory is that it works better because as you improve your production capacity, you get a bigger hammer to drive in this small nail. You can keep developing until a small tap crushes the nail right into the wood.

Grades are the same thing: you can try to focus on getting grades, or you can focus on becoming a better student. The second will work a lot better and you’ll have a lot less anxiety. And as you improve your ability to be a student, your grades will improve as a natural consequence. This is related to the idea that you don’t just get a certain goal (ie a certain amount of money or grades), you become the kind of person that gets that goal (ie a productive value-creating person, or a conscientious and effective strategy-using student).

BTW, if you’ve noticed the lack of posting lately, it’s because I’ve had the worst month of my life. Worse than the time I failed all my courses and worse than the time our house burned down…so it was bad. Good news though is that things are better but I’ll be very busy going forward, so posting will be spotty. Sorry.

  One Response to “Bring a Bigger Hammer”

  1. This is good advice, don’t focus on the actual goal, but on the road.

    Good luck with everything..


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