One of the best books I’ve read lately (actually listened to since I have it as an audio book) is Drive: The Surprising Truth About what Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink. I actually listened to it last year but felt that it had so much to great stuff in it that I re-listened to it recently. I was grateful that I did since I had forgotten so much of it already.

The basic idea behind the book is that our ideas of motivation are incomplete. Daniel uses a computer operating system to explain this (this ties in closely with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Motivation but goes a bit deeper):

Motivation 1.0 – The need for food, shelter and a mate. This is the most basic operating system that humans work from and while it served us well when we were living in caves and fighting off wild beasts, we quickly outgrew it as we started to form societies since we needed something to keep us from taking each others stuff.

Motivation 2.0 – This is the operating system that we mostly work from today and revolves around the B.F. Skinner model of “carrots and sticks”. Namely, if you want humans to do something you offer them something they want or threaten them with something they don’t want. This operating system was developed largely in response to the Industrial Revolution as we tried to motivate a lot of people to do repetitive, boring tasks. While it works on some level, it can start to have some negative effects as well.

Motivation 3.0 – This is the new operating system that science has been looking at lately and it works on the premise that humans are naturally curious and actually want to work on something and take responsibility for things that they feel are important to them. For example, why on earth do we spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on bikes and our riding abilities when most of us don’t have a prayer of earning a mate or a living based on it?

Some interesting studies actually showed that when you offer a “carrot” for something that people would normally want to do that you can decrease the internal motivation that we already posses. In one study children who liked to draw were offered a certificate for drawing and later, when no certificate was offered, they showed much less interest in drawing than they did before. Another group of children who were not offered a certificate up front but got one unexpectedly showed no change in their motivation to draw on their own.

Studies like this led the author to explore a new way to define personality – Type I (intrinsically motivated) and Type X (extrinsically motivated). Type I’s do things because they want to, regardless of what they receive in return. Type X’s do things because they want and expect some sort of external reward like praise, recognition or money.

Think of the athlete of musician who gets the big contract and suddenly they suck – they were motivated by the external recognition/ money and once they got it they no longer had any desire to work hard. Now think of the athlete or musician who, no matter how much money or praise they receive, is always working just as hard as when they were struggling to make it. To them, the external praise and money was never the motivating factor – something inside drives them.

As a mountain biker, do you ride/ race so that you can gain recognition or do you do it for a deeper reason? If your motivation is external – money, fame, a job that beats working in a cubical – then you’ll always struggle when the going gets tough and you have to do the un-fun stuff (like training) that will get you to the next level.

I think that this explains why America (which tends to raise a lot of Type X’s) tends to produce so many self absorbed “next big things” that never really make it to the top. Mastery, something that Type I’s are seeking, requires a lot of time and effort that will not result in an instant pay-off, something that Type X’s just can’t stand. Doing the things that you don’t want to do (like dragging your butt in the gym and training instead of making excuses why you can’t) are a hallmark of the Type I’s.

So, what motivates you as a rider?

-James Wilson-

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