What Motivates After You Have Met the Baseline?


In 2016, I wrote a technology series – 52-technologies-in-2016 in which I posted a new technical blog/tutorial every week for a year (I managed to write 43 posts). The series got quite popular, receiving more than 7000 stars on GitHub and close to a million page views. I created a page in the project GitHub repository covering the mentions it received from the community. I received thank you notes from software developers around the world. Though it involved a good amount of hard work, I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.

Back in 2017, I remember sharing with a friend of mine about this achievement and how it managed to reach thousands of developers around the world. After listening to me for a while, he said, “But, you did not make any money with it.” Well, he was right. I didn’t make any money with it. I politely answered him that money was not my ultimate goal of the series.

I told him that I enjoy the entire process of learning and sharing new things with my audience and in return, I get the visibility. This kind of visibility can eventually give you monetary benefits. For example, you might land up with a better paying job or a freelance assignment.

As for me, I never had an ounce of disappointment because I didn’t earn any money out of my writing series.

Was Money Never the Influencing Factor?

I will be lying to you if I said I never wrote for money. In fact, I took writing as a serious business the moment I realized that I can make money with it. I wrote for Dzone, Developer.com, and IBM Developerworks. They all paid me dollars for my writing. I was writing on weekends and making good money as a side hustle. I did that till 2012. Gradually, I started losing interest in writing for others. Writing became a boring affair for me and I began to feel the pressure to meet deadlines and write for the sake of writing. Although I said yes to writing assignments, but I didn’t have any motivation to write for them. It felt like a domestic drudgery. There was no fun.

Finally, in 2013, I completely stopped writing for others.

Why I Stopped Writing for Money?

I never really stopped writing. I continued writing on my blog and GitHub. At times, I felt that I am stupid to not get motivated by money or something is wrong with me. I didn’t have the right answer to what really made me stop writing for money until a month back, when I picked this book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.

The book covers in depth why our reasons for motivation, change over time. When I started writing for different publications, I was not earning much in my office job. So my real drive for writing was money because I wanted to fulfill my needs.

As Daniel writes in his book

The starting point for any discussion of motivation in the workplace is a simple fact of life: People have to earn a living. Salary, contracts payments, some benefits, a few perks are what I call baseline rewards. If someone’s baseline rewards aren’t adequate or equitable, her focus will be on the unfairness.

But once we’re past that threshold, carrots and sticks can achieve precisely the opposite of their intended aims. Mechanisms designed to increase motivation can dampen it. .. Rewards and punishments can often set it loose and give rise to cheating, addiction, and dangerously myopic thinking.

Till 2012, my baseline needs were not met. That is why I remained motivated by money. It worked for a couple of years. Eventually the money factor stopped making a difference to my life. I think the appetite for money differs with every individual. I have met people who are not satisfied despite earning a lot of money. So it seems, everyone has a different baseline.

If I lose my job today, then I again might get motivated to write for money.

What Motivates After You Have Met the Baseline?

For me the key lesson I learned from Drive is—that you have to first meet your baseline, then only you can start thinking about a higher purpose. Now, that my baseline needs are met, my drive comes from other things, such as:

  1. Can I teach people through my writing?

  2. Can I explain a difficult concept easily through my writing?

  3. Can I become a good writer one day?

  4. Can I help solve a random problem on the internet?

  5. Can I raise my bar through my writing?

Conclusion

I don’t know how many people can relate to this idea of meeting the baseline and then trying to achieve the higher purpose. I found it applicable to me. Having said that, it does not mean I don’t want money. It only means that money does not drive all my decisions.

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