Posted on: May 3rd, 2005 5:30 AM GMT

By: Greg Reimer (internally-motivated person)

Topic: life, tech, thought, employment, education, society

Society is based on motivation. You could even call it a motivational network. People organize themselves into these networks where everybody is motivated by everybody else. This is just The Way Things Work™. I show up to work every day and write software if the company pays me. The guy behind the counter gives me a burger and fries if I pay him. They give me an A if I provide just the right answers to exam questions.

Some people thrive within the motivational network. They're naturally motivated by the approval of others, plaques, raises, performance reviews, etc. They get 4.0 grade point averages, read How to Win Friends and Influence People and become managers. If it weren't for people like this society would collapse. But others are driven by forces that aren't so apparent. They're internally motivated. These other people might have learned to make their way in the world by minding the motivational network, but at the end of the day their performance review means exactly squat to them.

Educators and managers get frustrated with these eschewers of the motivational network because, after all, how do you motivate them? If your nerdish, internally-motivated programmer loses interest or becomes frustrated, you're powerless to step in and work your managerial magic; upping their dose of daily affirmation or threatening them with dire warnings of impending calamity. Especially frustrating since it seems to work so well on all the other employees. Were did my power go? Why won't this guy just fit in?

Let me offer this advice to you managers and/or educators out there who are frustrated by certain internally-motivated individuals within your fold. Don't fear the nerd. The nerd is as scared of you as you are of it. Okay, no, seriously. If you really care, meet them on their terms and be honest with them. Ask them what motivates them, but really dig. Show evidence that you'll let them fulfill this motivation. Unleash them on the world. Let them stand on their own feet. Let them be comfortable as the misfits they are. Usually internally-motivated people's motivations run pretty deep, so if you can tap into this you'll succeed and reap the benefits yourself.

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