The Invisible Wall stopped you creating your startup today. That damn wall stands between you and what you know you can create.  That wall you hit, that something, that changes you into a totally unmotivated blob.
Why, when you know you should be motivated to write the code, go to the networking event, make those calls, write the blog, do you sit there instead, with the motivation sucked out of you, reading Twitter?
Remember when you were all fired up to build your own startup? It was a totally cool challenge that could become anything, it was going to change the world, or at least a part of it you cared about. So what happened? You hit the Invisible Wall. And touching that wall turns all that fire you into dead ash.
What happened is your intrinsic motivations to be your own boss (autonomy) , master the challenge of writing a real commercial app (mastery) and change the world (meaning) got swapped out for extrinsic motivation.
You slipped from “oh Wow!” to “oh Shit!” – tumbling back into the Carrots and Sticks extrinsic motivation you’ve known at every job. Work harder, longer, faster, smarter! Get done or get fired. You’ll make a ton of money, but only if you work. Get to work and create, or you’ll go broke.
Carrots and Sticks de-motivate creative work. It’s like passing the wrong type of arguments to that part of your brain that creates. Intrinsic, self-directed motivations – the desire to be your own boss, to beat tough business and IT challenges, to do something that matters, not just exist, that’s the fuel you need.
Of course the bills don’t go away, nor does the giant pot of gold you might just get. But the more you focus on those sticks and carrots, the thicker, higher and harder the Invisible Wall gets. You can yell at your self, kick your own butt around the block – “You’re Worthless!” –  reorg you office, revamp your task tracking system, declare email bankruptcy, light a candle, say a prayer – and it doesn’t work.
Don’t believe me? Try this thought experiment the next time you’re about to sit down to write code, a blog post for your business, or do whatever you do that builds your startup. Forget about the money. Forget about the bills. Forget about whether you deserve or are capable or are too slow or whatever carrots and sticks you’ve been using on yourself.
Instead, think about the challenge of making the code work, writing the post a post that connects. Think about how every line you write brings you closer to deciding your own fate and not taking “suggestions” from managers. Think about the difference you’re going to make in the lives of the people who use your software.
That’s the motivation you need – it’s like rocket fuel.
I didn’t somehow discover this myself out of the clear blue – I read Dan Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us It radically changed my daily battle with my Invisible Wall. And then Pat and I interviewed Dan 3/7 for an amazing 80 minutes – and the first (of three!) parts of that interview we hope to have out tomorrow for the Startup Success Podcast.
Sometimes you get lucky in life – and sharing that with others quickly in the same boat is a good thing to do.

4 Comments

  1. Great post, and just what I needed this morning. Buddhists talk about “mindfulness” — focusing on the task at hand with your complete attention and clearing your mind of everything else. That’s a lot harder to do these days with the internet always ready with new distractions.

  2. Excellent article! Another thing to watch out for is the how-to-beat-our-competitors-mentality that causes many companies to start a “features-war” that tends to make them lose focus on what they wanted to achieve.

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