Book Review: 'The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win' by Jeff Haden
The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win Jeff Haden Portfolio/Penguin Group (2018) How and why “motivation is a result,” not a spark
Long ago, I concluded that I could not motivate another person but I could activate self-motivation in another person. How? By doing everything I could to help that person achieve success. In his latest book, Jeff Haden takes this a step or two further: “Motivation is the pride you feel in work you have already done — which fuels your willingness to do even more.” This is a key point that all supervisors should take into full account.
In The Talent Code, Dan Coyle duly (and gratefully) acknowledges the importance of Anders Ericsson’s research and his conclusion that greatness isn’t born; rather, it is developed by a combination of luck (i.e. being “given” opportunities); ignition (i.e. self-motivation activated by one or more “primal cues”), what Coyle calls “deep practice“ (i.e. 10, 000 hours of focused and disciplined repetition, requiring an energetic and passionate commitment), and master coaching provided by “talent whisperers” who “possess vast, deep frameworks of knowledge, which they apply to the steady, incremental work of growing skill circuits, which they ultimately don’t control.”
At one point in his narrative (Page 72), Coyle declares, “We are myelin beings.” OK, but so what? When tapping into a neurological mechanism in which certain patterns of targeted practice builds skills, we create entry to “a zone of accelerated learning that, while it can’t quite be bottled, can be accessed by those who know how. In short, we’ve cracked the talent code.” We have discovered the source of our self-motivation.
That’s precisely what Haden means when explaining what happens to him when he breaks a sweat: “The endorphins kick in.” That is, a chemical is released in the brain to reduce pain. If in large amounts, endorphins can make a person feel relaxed or full of energy. “The best way to get motivated is to break a sweat, literally or symbolically”…or both. The best athletes work harder and smarter than anyone else. The same is true of the greatest musicians.
Jeff Haden suggests another especially important point: both success and failure can feed on themselves. He observes, “Hide from your weaknesses, and you’ll always be weak. Accept your weaknesses and work to improve them, and you’ll eventually be stronger — and more motivated to keep improving. But you’ll have to do the right things in order to make real improvements,” to get on a roll of success rather than endure a pattern of failure. He wrote this brilliant book to explain HOW.
Henry Ford nailed it years ago: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.