EppsNet Archive: Motivation

10 Reasons That NY Times Chart Might Not Mean What You Think It Means

14 Aug 2017 /

From the New York Times:

  1. Money is not the only metric for measuring life outcomes. Charts and articles like this seem to reflect an inappropriate obsession with narrowly materialist values.
  2. If you do want to measure your life with money, it looks like the 99th percentile is where you want to be. Why aren’t you there? Why aren’t you a CEO? Why aren’t you making a million a year? If you can’t figure out how to get there, don’t begrudge the people who did figure it out. If you don’t have the education, motivation, intelligence or skills to get there, don’t begrudge those who do.
  3. The amount of wealth is not a fixed amount. It’s not a zero-sum game. If it were, it would be concerning that a few people are very wealthy. But it isn’t.
  4. The distribution of income has to be skewed to the right because income is bounded on the low end by zero but not limited on the upside.
  5. If you can’t imagine why income inequality exists, consider that 25 percent of Americans think the sun goes around the earth.
  6. If you can’t imagine why income inequality exists, consider that half the residents of Detroit can’t read.
  7. People who get upset at the realization that some other people have more than they do make excellent targets for politicians who promise, in return for your vote, to rob the people you envy.
  8. Winners may have more money but losers get more hugs.
  9. I see a lot of articles about income inequality but I don’t meet a lot of ordinary Americans who are concerned about it.
  10. There seems to be a confusion of cause and effect. Did income rise the fastest for people in the top one percent or did people get into the top one percent because their income rose the fastest? If that isn’t clear, consider an example: Did Mark Zuckerberg’s income go way up because he was on the right side of that chart or is he on the right side of the chart because his income went way up?

He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him. — Dutch proverb

Posted by on 21 Jul 2016

More Words and Phrases I’m Sick Unto Death Of

6 Dec 2015 /

Americans are the fattest, dumbest people on earth . . . and because being fat and dumb are remediable given the proper motivation, it’s fair to say that Americans are also the most unmotivated people on earth.

This is not to say that all Americans are fat, dumb and unmotivated. There’s a subset of Americans who get up every morning, brush their teeth, go to work, excel at what they do, come home, set the alarm and get up and do it again tomorrow. And take care of their families. These people are carrying the rest of the country on their backs.

But for the average American, the best explanation for his or her life being the way it is is likely to be “I’m fat, dumb and unmotivated.” That’s a pretty tough admission to spit out though so most of us look around for something more palatable to sell to ourselves and others, like (if you’re a non-white person) “white privilege.”


There’s no way to have a polite conversation around phrases like “white privilege” because no one likes being categorized into a group and then insulted as an undifferentiated mass. If you’re tempted to use “white privilege” in a conversation as something other than a provocation or an alibi, help out your listeners by saying what it means to you and provide some recent examples from your own life.

I have to admit that the concept of white privilege doesn’t resonate with me given the benefits that have accrued to me personally as a white person (none that I know of) and the frequency with which I personally observe behavior that strikes me as racially motivated (never).


Barack Obama was elected in 2012 with 51 percent of the popular vote66 million people willing to hire a black man to the most powerful job in the country. And that’s an artificially low number because not everyone of voting age actually votes. In 2012, more than 100 million eligible voters did not vote.

Projecting 51 percent Obama support over the entire voting-age population gives us a number well over 100 million. (If you don’t like the 51 percent assumption, note that Obama would really only need the support of 34 percent of the 100 million non-voters to reach 100 million total supporters, and I don’t think a case can be made that his support among non-voters was below 34 percent.)

All the white privilege in the world doesn’t erase the fact that if you’re a black American, there are at least 100 million people willing to give you a chance to prove yourself. And you don’t need 100 million people, you probably only need one.

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

26 Sep 2011 /


27 Apr 2011 /

Willy and Ethel


11 Jun 2010 /
USC Trojans

I’m a special teams coach. I get guys to run 60 miles an hour into each other and like it. I always tell my players: Be the hammer. Not the nail.


Personal Goals

6 May 2010 /

In any organization, no matter the size, the fundamental motivational unit is the personal goal. Any motivational scheme that does not build upon the diverse ecology of personal goals is doomed.

Insulting People as a Public Service

1 Feb 2009 /

There was a troubled-looking guy in Petco this afternoon giving away packets of Natural Balance dog food. He looked like a meth addict or something.

As I walked past him, he mumbled, without making eye contact, “Want some free dog food?”

“My dog won’t eat that shit,” I said, which is not true, but it certainly took the wind out of his sails.

Now you might say I wasn’t very charming but by verbally assaulting him in that way, I was motivating him to rehabilitate himself and get a real job.

Tough love . . .

No Accountability Without Volition

31 Oct 2008 /

There is no accountability without volition, you’ve noticed, right? You can’t go “You got to ship that by November 1st and I am holding you accountable.” It doesn’t work that way.

You can’t hold someone else accountable, you’ve got to hold yourself accountable. It’s just like you can’t motivate someone else; you got to motivate yourself. And the more that you motivate people and hold them accountable, the more infantile they become.

The One-Sentence Motivator

18 Jun 2008 /

My friend G.L. Hoffman has a great post over at U.S. News and World Report called “The One-Sentence Motivator.” His own one-sentence motivator (spoiler alert) is “Be the man you dreamed you could be when you were a little boy.”

Here’s mine:

To those who despair of everything reason cannot provide a faith, but only passion, and in this case it must be the same passion that lay at the root of the despair, namely humiliation and hatred.
— Albert Camus

It’s not as heartwarming as the little boy one but it gets me out of bed in the morning . . .

Interview FAQ: How Do You Motivate People?

20 Jan 2007 /

In 1960, Douglas MacGregor of the MIT Sloan School of Management developed two theories of workplace motivation, Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X assumptions

  • People have an inherent dislike for work and will avoid it whenever possible.
  • People must be coerced, controlled, directed, or threatened with punishment in order to get them to achieve the organizational objectives.
  • People prefer to be directed, do not want responsibility, and have little or no ambition.
  • People seek security above all else.

Theory Y assumptions

  • Work is as natural as rest or play.
  • People will exercise self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of organizational objectives.
  • Commitment to objectives is a function of rewards associated with their achievement.
  • People usually accept and often seek responsibility.
  • Imagination, ingenuity and creativity are widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.
  • The intellectual potential of the average person is only partly utilized.

I come down strongly in favor of Theory Y. I don’t feel like I’m an inherently unmotivated person, that my boss has to keep coming up with new ways to get my head in the game, and I don’t find that most other people do either. People want to do good work. They want the opportunity to do good work.

The key, really, is not to motivate people, but to avoid demotivating them. A lot of managers haven’t figured that one out yet.

Profiles in Management: The Protector

8 Jan 2001 /

Cast of Characters

Manager, the leader of a software project that is floundering because his needlessly complex design cannot actually be implemented.

Programmer, a programmer on the project.


Manager: Keep working hard, and I will protect you should things break down.

Programmer: Protect me from what? That sounds kind of ominous.

Manager: Some people may be worried that if the project fails, they may get a bad review, or not get a bonus. But I’m looking at whether or not people are working hard, even if the project isn’t going well. So as long as you’re not goofing off, and you don’t have a bad attitude, you should be all right.


A “bad attitude” in these cases is defined as pointing out that 20 people have been working on the project for two months without producing a single working line of code, because they’ve been asked to yoke together a set of incompatible products and technologies selected by people who are not qualified or interested in assessing the technical implications of their decisions.

This, unfortunately, has become an increasingly common scenario in our business.

I should also mention that, in my experience, people are highly demotivated by opportunities to work hard in situations where they are predestined to fail.

But don’t worry! As long as you’re willing to keep beating your head against a stone wall of incompetent management, you’ll be as safe as Humpty Dumpty . . .

‘Why if ever I did fall off — which there’s no chance of — but if I did … Here he pursed up his lips, and looked so solemn and grand that Alice could hardly help laughing. ‘If I did fall,’ he went on, ‘the King has promised me — ah, you may turn pale, if you like! You didn’t think I was going to say that, did you? The King has promised me — with his very own mouth … to … to … ‘To send all his horses and all his men,’ Alice interrupted, rather unwisely.

— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Thus spoke The Programmer.