Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us By Daniel Pink – Book Summary

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Drive by Daniel Pink is best described as a non-fiction book. The author Pink has used scientific studies and facts to assert his point and reveal the reason behind motivation. The older models of motivation described a reward and punishment system, which Pink believes is outdated. This system of motivation ran on the purpose of external factors to motivate us.

External factors such as money or fame were the rewards for hard work. It also became the basis of motivation. Money can encourage. Fame can persuade. However, Pink disagrees with this notion since these are extrinsic features that can change us on the inside. So, Pink suggests that the motivation we feel is from within ourselves – intrinsic. The intrinsic needs drive our work and are the key motivators.

Daniel Pink is a master of many skills. He is an author, journalist and has a law degree from Yale University. His writing skills were discovered at Yale as he was the editor-in-chief for one of the most prestigious law review journals. He also went on to become a speechwriter for a Vice President of the United States of America, Al Gore. He has written four books, which have all been bestsellers.


1. Type of motivation

Since success, money, and fame are relatively recent developments in the grand scheme of the universe, the concept was void thousands of years ago. Thousands of years ago, our ancient humans had two motivations – to consume food and to survive. These two needs were primary and everything else, secondary. The need to fill our stomachs and survive the horrors of the wild were the motivators of their life. Pink calls this type of motivation as ‘Motivation 1.0’.

The arrival of civilization to modern times has seen a drastic shift in the life of humans. While nutrition and survival are still our primary motivations, there are simply not enough. From a biological standpoint, these two are the only requisites to live life. However, due to the shift, other motivators have entered the field. Motivators are regarded as classical – success, recognition, and money. Pink calls this ‘Motivation 2.0’.

An upgrade in motivation was crucial since the world just did not run due to eating and surviving. The need for more of everything is what drove us to live our life the way we do. Yet, Pink thinks this is not the last upgrade. He proposes a ‘Motivation 3.0’, based on the intrinsic factors influencing our drive.

2. The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is powered by a reward system. There is always a contingency attached to an action. The motivation, in this case, is either to get a reward or to avoid punishment. If someone is in line to get promoted, their productivity peaks. If someone is close to the deadline, they are motivated since they do not wish to be punished.

Intrinsic motivation is that fire within us which compels us to be better and do better. It is our inner voice that tells us to not give up. It is our integrity for giving our best without any reward. It is the satisfaction obtained from being productive, helping others, or perusing a hobby.

3. Why the reward system does not work

Pink picked up results from experiments performed in psychology. The experiments surrounded the gains from extrinsic motivation. He then drew the conclusion that the reward system was futile and secondary to intrinsic motivation.

The initial boost of energy as provided by an extrinsic motivator tends to reduce with time. So, a well-paying job can excite a person only for a short amount of time. As per the tendency of humans to get bored, the person will develop a dislike towards the job. However, if the person continues to put in efforts, it is their intrinsic motivator which is compelling them to do so.

When there is a reward, people develop a tunnel vision. This tunnel vision stops from observing the bigger picture. Thus, their visions end where the reward is achieved. Beyond that, all their work is driven intrinsically.

An experiment by Richard Titmuss observed that paying people for blood donations reduced the number of potential donors. Since the altruistic aspect of blood donation as a socially responsible act was converted into a financial one, the motivators of the people changed.

Cheating and addicting are side-effects of the reward system. Since the reward is desired by all, people may opt to cheat instead of maintaining their integrity. On the other hand, addiction to rewards is also plausible. The person can be so used to getting a reward for each of their actions that they would not put in the effort for something that does not include a reward.

4. Type X and Type I people

Pink terms the people conforming to the extrinsic motivations and the reward system as Type X. Their endeavors are driven by the need for fame and money. Chances are, they will earn it. But their inherent tendency to want more will keep them thirsty and never satisfied. Since the greatest amounts of money cannot satisfy a person, and nor can their name on billboards. There is always ‘more’ to be desired.

Type I people rely on their inner motivation to accomplish themselves. They measure success on the scale of their emotions and efforts instead of what rewards they received for it. They are generally more satisfied and content with their work and status. Since they choose to not weigh punishment, their esteem is higher than the Type X, even during failure.

5. The pillars of intrinsic motivation

Pink conceptualizes three pillars of intrinsic motivation. These pillars represent the matchstick used to burn the fire within the Type I.

  1. Autonomy – It is the desire to govern our own lives and decide our own paths without the dominance of others.
  2. Mastery – The need to excel at something important to us.
  3. Purpose – The realization that there is a bigger picture and our work contributes to it.

6. The importance of autonomy

Autonomy is independent to go our own way. It enables us to be an individual with personalized opinions and behaviors. The reward system gives us a tunnel vision and so, governs our actions. If there is no reward in sight, we decide the path. We may go beyond our expectations since our vision does not have a finish line.

7. The importance of mastery

When a task matters to us, we try to excel at the skill required to do it. Hence, mastery is a brilliant motivator. The skill might not even have a reward, but our temptation to satisfy ourselves is what drives us. Since we deeply care about the skill, we will not be satisfied until we do our best. Thus, motivation lasts a long time. It will push us to reach higher heights with each attempt.

8. The importance of having a purpose

Having a purpose refers to envision ourselves to be a part of something bigger. Just like society is formed with the efforts of each person, a revolution is made with many people contributing to it. The innate purpose of making a change is another crucial pillar of motivation.

The assurance that our efforts are leading up to something gives meaning to life. If we feel that our attempts are futile, the entire basis of hard work would collapse. Hence, more than rewards, promotions, or bonuses, it is essential to have a purpose in mind. Combined with the other intrinsic motivations, we will forever be able to accomplish something.

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