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The Truth Behind What Motivates Us, According To Daniel Pink

The Truth Behind What Motivates Us, according to Daniel Pink

The 3 keys to motivating yourself and other people to do their best work in 2018 and beyond. Unlock your motivation with Drive by Daniel Pink.

Author: Daniel H. Pink

Published: 2009

Genre(s): non-fiction, organizational psychology

Buy on: Amazon | eBay | Barnes & Noble


Other Books By Daniel Pink:

The Whole Book, As An Imaginary Tweet

This imaginary tweet sums up Drive by Daniel Pink in 280 characters or less:

Motivation, Defined

Motivation can be defined simply as one’s desire or willingness to do something.

Ideally, your motivation is like a big log on a fire: slow-burning and long-lasting. If your motivation is akin to throwing sugar on a fire (intense, but short bursts of effort), you will surely find this book dive to be helpful.

To give a broader scope of motivation, here’s a look at a few other definitions:

  • Work motivation is a process to energize employees to achieve work goals.
  • In sport psychology, motivation is defined as the direction and intensity of one’s efforts.
  • Achievement motivation is an individual’s orientation to strive for success in a task and persist in the face of failure.

Motivation 1.0, 2.0, 3.0

In Drive, Daniel Pink identifies 3 types of motivation that have surfaced to meet the demands of society as it has evolved: Motivation 1.0, Motivation 2.0, and Motivation 3.0.

Creatures of nature, we were originally motivated by one thing: survival. The essence of Motivation 1.0 captures this truth. If accomplishing a task helped you to stay alive, you’d find a way to do it. Motivation 1.0 was originally based on our biological instinct to survive. In the early years of man, this was the only type of motivation we needed.

Motivation 2.0 was born to help out a working-class society. It presupposes that humans seek out pleasure and avoid pain. It states that good behavior should be rewarded while bad behavior should be punished.

To survive, you had to make money. To make enough money to survive, you had to do quality work. And in a capitalistic society, owners and managers had to figure out ways to motivate their employees to do their best work.

In Motivation 2.0, managers use carrots (rewards) and sticks (punishments) to keep employees productive. It’s presupposed that people need either a reward to work towards or a punishment to keep them productive. In both cases, the reward/punishment is external.

But once again, as our society evolved, Motivation 2.0 no longer met the needs of our rapidly evolving society.

Motivation 3.0 is the answer to the tech-driven, constantly evolving world we live in today. As mundane jobs are replaced by machines, the need for quality right-brain, creative employees has grown significantly.

As a result, Motivation 3.0 presupposes the exact opposite of Motivation 2.0.

Motivation 3.0 suggests that, by our nature, people want to do good work. Inside each of us is an internal drive to put forth effort and achieve outcomes.

It believes that promising carrots or threatening sticks actually stymies the process of someone finding the intrinsic motivation to do good work.

The key, then, is that managers and employees must create an environment that is supportive enough to unlock that internal drive.

The 3 “pillars” of support for Motivation 3.0 are autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


“The opposite of autonomy is control. And since they sit at different poles of the behavioral compass, they point us toward different destinations. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”

To create a supportive environment, you must feel empowered to work on your terms. The freedom to do your work on your terms will help you become engaged and productive.

As the world has changed, so have the nature of our jobs. The mundane, repetitive tasks that once offered a full-time salary are now done by computers. Today’s jobs require creative, hard-working employees, which should shift how managers perceive their people:

“My dad’s generation views human beings as human resources. They’re the 2x4s you need to build a house. For me, it’s a partnership between me and my employees. They’re not resources. They’re partners. And partners, like all of us, need to direct their own lives.”

In today’s society, we must find ways to give ourselves the opportunity to be creative. Autonomy is where we start.


“Being a professional is doing the things you love to do on the days you don’t feel like doing them”- Julius Erving

Mastery is the lifelong pursuit of bettering yourself and your craft. Intense focus, endurance, and grit define one’s pursuit of mastery.

These characteristics an individual must develop to pursue mastery require mental toughness and a willingness to suffer. It is a hard, but rewarding road, as those on the path are rewarded with becoming better versions of themselves.

Work environments that encourage their people to become the best versions of themselves are aligned to Motivation 3.0. Their employees are more intrinsically driven to:

  • Tackle difficult projects without complaining
  • Try new things and be creative (often leading to new and improved products)
  • Learn more quickly from failure
  • Push outside their comfort zones

A work environment must encourage this process any way it can. Otherwise, it shouldn’t expect it’s people to focus deeply or willingly suffer.


“The most deeply motivated people- not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied- have desires to help a cause larger than themselves.”

Human beings want to know that their efforts matter. The world has seen a tremendous shift towards new companies with ulterior motives for success besides making money. They want their work to give back or contribute to helping people or making the world better.

A work environment must make these connections to foster Motivation 3.0. Through shared vision, training, and employee buy-in, it is crucial that employees know how their work contributes.

“People at work are thirsting for context, yearning to know that what they do contributes to a larger whole. And a powerful way to provide that context is to spend a little less time telling how and a little more time showing why.”

Apply This Book In 2018

Here’s one specific strategy from Drive by Daniel Pink you can apply to work, sport, and life.


Strategy: Audit your work environment.

Ask yourself: Is my current work environment conducive to me doing my best work? Am I motivated?

It is impossible to engage in quality, creative work consistently if your environment doesn’t provide a considerable amount of freedom. Whether it’s a suffocating manager or a heap of mind-numbing work, you will eventually be derailed.

It is your job to become more aware of your surroundings and adjust accordingly. After all, human beings have proven throughout history that they will give up everything in search of greater freedom. Consider:

“The course of human history has always moved in the direction of greater freedom. And there’s a reason for that- because it’s in our nature to push for it. If we were just plastic like some people think, this wouldn’t be happening. But somebody stands in front of a tank in China. Women, who’ve been denied autonomy, keep advocating for rights. This is the course of history. This is why ultimately human nature, if it ever realizes itself, will do so by becoming more autonomous.”


Strategy: Pursue mastery.

Mastering your craft is a lifelong pursuit. And oddly enough, it’s a milestone that no one actually reaches.

“The mastery asymptote is a source of frustration. Why reach for something you can never fully attain? But it’s also a source of allure. Why not reach for it? The joy is in the pursuit more than the realization. In the end, mastery attracts precisely because mastery alludes.”

Why, then, is this a strategy? Why chase after something you can’t obtain?

Because mastery is an inside-out process born through preparation. It’s pursuit shifts your focus from extrinsic rewards to chasing after internal feelings of accomplishment.

In competition, it is often the most prepared athlete, coach, or business mind that triumphs over their opponent. With your metric of success shifting from an external reward to an intrinsic feeling, you’ll be motivated to focus on your preparation every day.

“Throughout my athletic career, the overall goal was always to be a better athlete than I was at that moment- whether next week, next month or next year. The improvement was the goal. The medal was simply the ultimate reward for achieving that goal.”

The goal is to improve daily- to pursue mastery. Done over the course of a lifetime, you drastically increase the chance of beating your opponent.


Strategy: Offer “then-what” rewards to family and friends.

In Drive, Daniel Pink discusses “if-then” model of rewards from Motivation 2.0. Summed up, “if” you do something, “then” you receive a reward: money, notoriety, etc.

While this may motivate an employee in the short-term, “if-then” rewards shift one’s focus away from the essence of Motivation 3.0- that human beings, by design, want to do good work.

Its result: tunnel vision and forgetting the bigger picture. In many cases, a one-time “reward” also becomes the expectation going forward. You can’t expect to get the same level of work from the person receiving a reward without the same (or better) reward next time.

Anyone with kids will understand this phenomenon all too well.

Then-what” rewards, on the other hand, are given once the task is complete. This keeps the performer focused on the task at hand.

Then-what rewards are sporadic, so your family members, employees, or spouse doesn’t come to expect them. While a physical gift may be the offering, a compliment or some quality time could also be the reward for putting forth an effort.

The 5 Best Quotes From Drive by Daniel Pink

#1. “Like all extrinsic motivators, goals narrow our focus. That’s one reason they can be effective; they concentrate the mind. But as we’ve seen, a narrowed focus exacts a cost.”

#2. “When the reward is the activity itself- deepening learning, delighting customers, doing one’s best- there are no shortcuts. The only route to the destination is the high road. In some sense, it’s impossible to act unethically because the person who’s disadvantaged isn’t a competitor but yourself.”

#3. “The more feedback focuses on specifics (“great use of color”)- and the more the praise is about effort and strategy than about achieving a particular outcome- the more effective it can be.”

#4. “Ultimately, Type I behavior depends on three nutrients: autonomy, mastery, purpose. Type I behavior is self-directed. It is devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters. And it connects that quest for excellence to a larger purpose.”

#5. “Autonomy, as they see it, is different from independence. It’s not the rugged, go-it-alone, rely on nobody individualism of the American cowboy. It means acting with choice- which means we can be both autonomous and happily interdependent with others.”

Self-Made Strategy

Strategy: Never lose your child-like tendency to succeed.


“Children careen from one flow moment to another, animated by a sense of joy, equipped with a mindset of possibility, and working with the dedication of a  West Point cadet. They use their brains and their bodies to probe and draw feedback from the environment in an endless pursuit of mastery. Then- at some point in their lives- they don’t. What happens?

“You start to get ashamed that what you’re doing is childish.”

If autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the three ingredients to Motivation 3.0, then we must find ways to effortlessly engage and activate our minds and bodies. We must rediscover our inclinations to be curious, to learn about, and to connect life’s lessons and arenas.

What better way to accomplish this than to revert back to our initial strategy?

To achieve your goals, allow yourself to learn, think and grow like a child.

Allow yourself to be curious, blocking out the adult tendency to feel any sort of shame for what interests you most. Study a little too long or stay up a little too late. Avoid labeling things and pursue your own truth, as if you don’t know any other way.

As we become adults, we strive to conform. Yet history has taught us that those who stick out are the ones we remember most. Maybe it’s possible that the world’s greatest thinkers and achievers are the ones who refused to become like everyone else and stuck to their initial strategy.