Don’t we just work for the money?

I love this question from Mike:

“Dan, I’ve seen the quotes about security being the enemy of creativity and passion. I was wondering what motivates you and your other successful friends that I assume probably have a fair amount of financial security? What keeps you and others like you working hard after achieving financial success?”

Mike references a quote I recently shared that says:   “Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”  Security is not our friend.  It is more likely to bury our adventurous spirit and our passion for being fully alive.

The complete quotation comes from a letter Chris McCandless wrote about his attempt to live off the land in Alaska (quoted by Jon Krakauer in his book Into the Wild):

“I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt.  So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will no take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.  The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.  The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater job than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” 

Okay, back to Mike’s question.  If security is not our ultimate goal, what is it that keeps us going – “what keeps a person working hard after achieving financial success?”

At the risk of having a full length manuscript here, let me borrow some concepts from Daniel Pink’s book Drive.  He trashed the idea that money is a good motivator – and has plenty of research to back that up.  He says the key to high performance and ongoing satisfaction at work and at home is the deeply human need to direct our lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

To put it simply – what motivates us to keep working hard is our innate desire for:

  1. Autonomy

  2. Mastery

  3. Purpose

Don’t ever think money alone will give you a lasting sense of peace and accomplishment. 

What’s your view on why we work?

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