Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to motivate people

A couple of loosely related things that happened today.  Here's my attempt at finding common theme from both.

Visit from a friend

I had come to know an entrepreneur through my wife's introduction.  He and I had an interesting conversation on our way to SFO to catch his plane.  Although I've met him only a few times, I could see that he is a wholesome person.  I can feel that he radiates positive energy around him.  I have been wondering how.

Him: When I worked for a company [as an employee], I only worked between 8 to 11:30am.  At 11:30, I would go for a lunch where I feel like it.  I would even go down to different town to get lunch if I felt like it.
Me: [Incredulously] Really?
Him: It's because you need to remove yourself from the environment to look at yourself objectively.  I would spend the afternoon thinking about the strategy.  Often I stay out of office the entire afternoon.
Me: How can you manage your tasks?
Him: It's all about prioritization.  You need to figure out what's really important and get those done.  The rest I leave them up for others to decide.  Because I spend the time to strategize, I anticipate what's coming and must be done before they happen.  I just get them done even before the task comes to my desk.
Me: [Intrigued] How do you prioritize?
Him: It's really simple.  There is really only one important thing in our life.  To figure out our purpose in life and prepare for our death.  I want to have fun and build a company where my value and corporate value are aligned.  I look at big things that I can do, and focus my energy to get them done.  Important thing is to have fun.  A child does something because it's fun.  We should not forget that we are at our best when we genuinely want to do something.  Our work should be just as fun as child's play.
What struck me during this conversation was how he called the afternoon his fun time.  If you listen to him, he was actually talking about strategy session.  He was thinking about strategy as much as he's executing.

Another takeaway for me was how all human beings share the desire to give meaning to our lives.  Everyone is looking for a meaning of their lives.  At the same time we are constantly getting distracted by trivial things that are not important to our lives' mission.  Often reacting to what is happening around us, we are busy reacting rather than shaping the environment.

But there is a hope.  That's because we share our common desire to find meaning.

Passing of Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz is the co-founder of Reddit, internet activist who began his career at the age of 14.  Sadly he was found dead in his apartment yesterday.  He had been an advocate for open information access.  Most famously he helped launch anti-SOPA movement to defeat the SOPA legislation.

Here's Swartz discussing how the anti-SOPA movement got started:

For me, key point of his talk was how internet defeated the measure.  It was people who rose up and said no to legislation that seemed to be a sure pass.  To Swartz's surprise, people won.

Why?  How would this be possible?  Originally it started as U.S. Senate versus a few internet hackers like Swartz.  How could it become a movement to mobilize millions of internet sites in protest of SOPA?

I think the reason is our desire to find meaning.  We want to do things that give meaning to our lives.  Blocking SOPA became one of them.  By giving everyone a reason (keeping the internet free from censorship), we were able to motivate many people to act.  People acted because they wanted to, not because they were asked to.  In other words, hacker's values were aligned with people's value.

I am sadden by Swartz's untimely passing.  Yet I am very hopeful for the future thanks to what Swartz showed us to be possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment