19Jun

“What Motivates You?”

Posted by Elf Sternberg as Uncategorized

I won’t link to the Orange Website for Hacker Bros, but a question asked yesterday has collided with a conversation I had had ealier this week. The question was: “What motivates you to do what you do?” I had a simple answer. These guys:

disgust-anger-fear

If you’re not familiar with the briliant Pixar film Inside Out, the film depicts an adolescent girl named Riley, and her internal struggle and emotions as she comes to grips with her parents’ decision to move to the big city. Those are three of  Riley’s five primary emotions, from left to right: Disgust, Anger, and Fear. (Not shown: Sadness and Joy.)

Almost everything I’ve ever done has been due to an emotional reaction, usually one of the three above. While I find my fiction writing to be a joy and a pleasure these days, three million words started with disgust: “Good grief, people, why are you liking that horrible Brady Bunch fanfic so much? It’s terrible! Anyone can do better than that. Let me show you.”

A lot of my smaller contributions to other open source projects have been due to anger. I was angry when my joystick didn’t work after getting Freespace compiled on Linux, and thus an obscure driver was born; I was angry when I couldn’t get my porn off Usenet, and thus the bugfixes to Python; I was angry when Evernote changed its policies, and thus my Enex ripper; I was angry when Delicious shut down, and thus my Delicious ripper. And so on.

The biggest emotional reaction I have, though, is fear. Fear that I’ll be obsolete someday, fear that as I get older, I won’t be so good they can’t ignore me, no matter how many grey hairs I’ve got, fear that my skillset will become irretrievably outdated if I stay in one place for too long.

I actively envy a lot of developers who find cool stuff to work on and really seem to get a thrill out of the long-term chase. I wish I did. I do get small frissons here and there, and there have been times where I have glimpsed something rare and wonderful, chased it down and admired it for what it was. I love learning new things.

Mostly I love how learning new things keeps the fear at bay. Which is probably not healthy. But it is what I’ve I got.

2 Responses to “What Motivates You?”

Greg Bell

June 20th, 2017 at 2:05 pm

“I won’t be so good they can’t ignore me”

Are you a fan of Cal Newport?

If so, can you share other non-tech books that have influenced you?

Ari Johendran

June 21st, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Lol, you are describing “parts”. You should look into recent some developments in psychology — Internal Family Systems (Richard Schwartz), Voice Dialog, Focusing (Eugene Gendlin) and so on. Even Carl Jung knew about our “parts”. He called them “shadows”. The human mind apparently is a multiplicity and the tensions within drive our lives ….. You will appreciate it.

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