One simple way to get motivated is to have someone else tell you you’ll fail.
Then, you’ll work really hard to do prove that person wrong.
This can be quite effective. Some people build their whole life around it, because it’s such a powerful source of motivation.
One common story you hear among hospital patients is this: “The doctor said I’d never walk again. Look at me now! I sure proved him wrong.”
I think there’s a doctor doing this as his full-time job. He drives between hospitals, goes to each patient’s room, and tells the patient he’ll never walk again. Even if the ailment is just a toe infection or a broken finger. It doesn’t matter who the patient is, the diagnosis is always the same. “You’ll never walk again!”
What better incentive do you have to resume walking, than to be told your situation is hopeless?
If I become terribly injured, but everyone tells me I can walk again with lots of hard work and effort, I might just lose interest and give up. I’ve already been told it’s possible. But if I’m told I’m hopeless and I should just give up on walking, I’d work ten times harder. It’s much more fun to do the impossible, than to do the expected.
There’s a lot of drama in being told you’ll fail. It should be dramatic to be told you’ll succeed, but it just isn’t. Everyone says you’ll succeed. Every day, people tell me how I’m going to “go far” and “do great things.” I’m not even sure what they mean anymore.
Most of my friends and family are going to fail. They’re failing right now.
I talked to one lady last week, and she said she’s going to be a pharmacist. I asked her why. “Because it’s easy.” It’s not that easy; there are lots of technical concerns to being a pharmacist. You have to read illegible handwriting. I’m not even sure what pharmacists do, but I’m sure there’s a good deal of complexity.
I asked her what she’d do if she had a big house and ten million dollars. If the answer was “be a pharmacist,” I could tell her she’d have success. But it wasn’t. She wants to find the cure for cancer.
I already know the cure for cancer. It’s fruit seeds. Millions of people know it. Most people don’t, but the cure is there and it’s been proven through extensive anecdotal evidence. All that’s left is to implement it.
2009-12-20 Update: This whole section is wrong and I shouldn’t have been mean to this lady. However, the cure for cancer is still apricot kernels which makes working as a pharmacist difficult because it requires you to support ineffective and dangerous cancer treatments.
I told her that she’s going to fail, miserably so, and she’s going to waste years of her life with something she doesn’t even want to do. She wants a stable job to support her mother and receive a regular income.
I’d prefer to support my mother with an exciting job.
To do something you love and make money from it requires extraordinary effort. It takes far more effort than doing something you don’t love. Finding a stable job is easy. Creating an exciting job which also pays the bills is hard.
I have an exciting job right now (my photography and writing on this website). It doesn’t pay the bills very well, but I don’t have bills. So once I have bills, I’ll have to take a dull job or put in an extraordinary amount of effort into this exciting job. Who am I trying to prove wrong? Society, for telling me I should take the easy way out. But what is society? It doesn’t exist. There is no hive mind, and normal people don’t care if you fill prescriptions or write poetry for a living. As long as you’re not hurting others and people are willing to pay you for what you do (no thievery or coercion), you’re golden.
You can’t work for free if you’re going to make money. Remember that when you give your time away, you’re saying that other people will use it more effectively than you. When you give money to a bum on the street, you’re saying that he deserves it more than you. To deserve something, you must make good use of it.
Is that true?
I’m writing this for free, meaning that you can use my time better than I can. The difference is that this isn’t just for one person; it’s for hundreds of people. So the answer is a definite “yes.” Other people will use the time it took me to write this far better than I could use it on projects for only myself.
There’s a problem with living to prove others wrong. Most of the time in most of your life, no one is against you. Only when you defy the hardened ideals and limiting beliefs of others, do they rise from apathy. Then, you’ll hear lots of people crying for your failure. But if you can’t get motivated unless others are predicting your failure, then you’ll pass up lots of great things you want to do.
Instead of proving me wrong, why not prove yourself right? I think that’s a far more empowering belief. Eventually, you rise past having to prove anything to anyone at all… I’m not at that level yet. So for now I prove to myself that I can do things. I prove to myself that I can write stuff that makes no sense.
The other problem with proving others wrong, is that the other people lose interest. You succeed in doing what your teacher said you could never do, but then he says it was just a joke or he knew you could do it all along and was just testing you. Your mission isn’t to hold your friends’ interest—it’s to define your life in your own terms rather than by the terms of others.
That means: stop proving things to others. When you want to prove something, you’re looking for approval. If you need friends to approve of you, then that means you don’t approve of yourself. Don’t ask permission to live.