Sometimes we plod.
We get ourselves into projects or situations where the only way out is through. We find ourselves on the treadmill. Maybe being productive, but feeling our passion waning or perhaps even gone.
I awoke each day over the last week feeling very much this way. I could not find motivation for action. I could still act, of course. I wasn’t in a coma or unable to move or think. I just didn’t feel the spark of motivation.
One morning, at about five am, I was staring at the ceiling thinking about this. “Mister Personal Kanban isn’t allowed to be unmotivated,” I thought. But I was.
Mulling over motivation, I came to the thought of a car. What motivates a car? Fuel. Gasoline or electricity, certainly. But it’s part of a system. A bucket of gasoline or a fully charged battery does no good without tires, steering, and place to go.
Fuel therefore is only useful in a system that allows motivation.
I ran all over the Seattle area the last few days brooding about this.
What is the fuel of my motivational system? How can I get more fuel? How can I fine-tune the system?
Here is what I’ve created:
I believe we are motivated by negative and positive pressures, projects, ideals and short term goals. These are our real fuel. How we combine them is the system.
My Negative Fuel: Money
Like most people, I find myself thinking about money. I spend way too much of my time concerned with it. Retirement, bills, unexpected expenses, the lot of it.
I am starting with it because our negative fuel tends to become preoccupation. Negative fuel is important because our fears can guide us away from harm. When it becomes preoccupation, however, it is a distraction at best and a derailleur at worst.
My Positive Fuel: Shared Epiphanies
So this person here is Beth Wibbles Howell and she’s a truly wonderful person. She works in Milwaukee and has been working at the same place for 14 years – nearly unheard of in IT. I haven’t worked with her for two years, but her dedication and interest in making her workplace better for her and her teams is inspiring. I get to meet a lot of people in my work. There is no better moment than when I’m working with a person or with a team and everyone involved has an epiphany at the same time. Something enduring is born at moments like that. With Beth and others I’ve watched people change how their teams worked for the better. When they change their teams, they change their lives…and mine as well.
Project: Modus Institute
My current major project is launching Modus Institute, an online school that focuses on cutting edge management techniques. The nature of personal, team, and organizational work is in a state of upheaval, yet we are still engaging in management techniques that are proven to fail. (See, I’m so into it that I’m talking about the project and not what a project is…)
I believe we all need an active project as part of our motivational fuel system. The project is a container for hopes, desires, and potential – which encapsulate a view of our future. In the project, we set a desired attainable future state. The project is not a wish, it is implementable. Without a project, it is unlikely we have direction.
Ideals: Understanding the Whys of Our World
Tonianne and I have traveled the world working with clients, putting on Kaizen Camps, and speaking at conferences. We’ve seen mundane, beautiful, terrifying, and joyous things. Sometimes all at the same time.
The picture to the left was taken in November 2014 in Bangalore, India, by Tonianne. It is of a woman hanging up her laundry. The pile to the left of her is literally a pile of smoldering garbage. The small bucket near her left leg is what the clothes were washed in.
Out of the picture is the tent in which she lived with her little daughter, who was a painfully beautiful little girl with deep bright eyes that conveyed a sharp little mind that had seen more than her few years should have allowed. She was nowhere near as clean as the laundry.
I could write a hundred pages about the few moments we were there. But suffice it to say, there are times where I am with people like Beth, where I can make a difference. And times like on the streets of Bangalore where I am utterly powerless.
There are things in this world that have no “why”, but I’m drawn to try to understand them nonetheless. Maybe as I do, I can find the nooks and crannies where I can make a difference and not simply be overwhelmed. Ideals drive us to places we don’t want to go and urge us to attain the unattainable. We need our Don Quixotes and our Sancho Panzas.
Short Term Goal: Finish Something!
Every day you don’t finish something, you didn’t finish something. That has a direct impact on your psyche. We need to set goals and finish them. I find each day (this shouldn’t be too shocking) that I need to select a few things from my Personal Kanban’s backlog that I must finish today. Then I get them done.
I try to have a few other rules for me personally.
- Make it sharable: Get the short term goal into someone else’s hands. For me it might be a blog post to the world or it could be some preliminary writing I show Tonianne.
- Make it valuable: Try to finish at least one thing per day that you conceive to be and end product. This doesn’t always happen, but I find that if I try to do this I will do it often. Creating value creates momentum.
- Admire your work: For many, our first temptation when looking at something we’ve done is to see what could be improved. Things can always be improved. But that thing you’ve just created didn’t exist before you did it. Take some time to be proud of your work and let it surprise you. There will be time for editing later. For now, admire your own work.
So I made this visual control, to keep me focused on what’s important and what is driving me. This shows my personal motivational system and the elements that fuel it. The short term I’ll update daily, the project I’ll update every so often. And we’ll see how the others change.