Lesson 0: Motivation

April 14, 2008

This is lesson zero because it underlies everything I write about here. This is a blog about how to manage a successful career, but without a clear purpose in mind, there is no such thing as “success.” This post is about defining what your motivations really are, so you can get a clear vision of what success looks like.

Getting to the top is not a valid motivation. You skip the cracks on the sidewalk or eat pizza with a knife and fork “just because,” but you don’t build a life around doing business “just because.” If your motivation is to “win” in business, stop now. Become a monk. Become a beatnik poet. Become a community college instructor. You will lead a happier life.

Business is not a race

There is no “winner” in business. There are those who profit, and those who do not, and you will play both roles at various times in your life. A life of business for its own sake isn’t healthy, and if your highest virtue is to make a dollar, you will end up stepping on innocent people along the way in that pursuit, even if you fancy yourself a moral person right now.

If you have a real goal, with a real plan, then all your decisions will flow from that goal. It will save you time, and stress, and keep you a on the path you began.


My motivation is people. I love people. All people: I love Americans, I love Armenians, I love Iranians, I love Kenyans, and everyone in between. I would die happy knowing that I helped improved people’s lives during my life time. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about the best way to do this. My first thought was traditional charity work.

What I realized is that charity work tends to be a bandaid, and most people who give to charity do so because it makes them feel good or because of the tax breaks, not because they really believe that the greatest net benefit will come from them passively giving money to Charity X. What I realized is that the status quo exists because of tangible forces that keep it there, that can be changed by altering the tangible realities.

That’s why my work is focused on engineering solutions to physical problems that societies have. Imagine if food and water were as freely available as air. What if it were practically impossible to starve because somehow someone solved the logistical problem of food?

There are many problems like this that could be solved with technology, and as they were solved, they would tend to improve life in other ways. For example, if my water and food plan were to be successful, then I’ve just freed up all the subsistence farmers in Africa to become educated instead. I’ve created a new market for educational institutions, and educators. I’ve reduced the poor’s dependence on corrupt governments.

Such inventions would take years of research for probably not much profit. Capitalism won’t produce this kind of focused result. A person with the resources and political savvy to make these plans a reality could do it though.

That’s my goal: I want to garner the resources, knowledge, and personal network I’ll need to be that person. That’s why I want to work my way through business, and make a whole lot of money very quickly: I want to invest it all into social businesses like clean energy, cheap food, quality education, and the like.

Find your Passion

I was serious about becoming a monk. If you think you need to do business but have no clear goal in mind, then you are a victim of the status quo. You define success as power and wealth because those are the images and role models you grew up with. I am here to tell you that you will not be happy with your life until you break from that mould. You will look back and wonder who you really are and what you did with your life.
Find yourself first, discover what makes you shine, and plan your life around that discovery. If you come full circle and realize that doing business may actually be the path to your goal, then read on. Otherwise, best of luck to you in all that you do.


2 Responses to “Lesson 0: Motivation”

  1. […] Articles Lesson 5: Always be LookingLesson 0: MotivationLesson 1: Undocumented CredentialsThe Death Bed TestLesson 2: People Matter « Lesson 5: […]

  2. […] here to tell you that it’s a terrible idea, and that you’re a sucker for doing it. Money doesn’t matter, your life matters. Your family matters. Your friends […]

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