On franklin and motivation
I’ve been reading some fascinating material lately. An insightful idea seems to jump out of every page. Here are some of the ideas that are on my mind right now.
I finished the biography of Ben Franklin by Walter Isaacson (more info here) a few weeks ago. Perhaps I mentioned that I was reading it in a prior post, my memory fails me at this exact moment. Anyway, his life blew me away. He was an excellent writer, inventor, scientist, politician, businessman, patriot, and celebrity. He was the man. No wonder he’s on the $100 bill. Though he had many detractors, mostly for appearing duplicitous at times, compromising so often (but he so beautifully combined individualism and collectivism), and lacking depth due to his practical moral code, the accomplishments of his life vastly outweigh the sleights. He wasn’t perfect, no one is, but if there’s one man that defined our country’s creation, it’s him. He was the only person to have a hand in the Declaration of Independence, the alliance with France, the peace treaty with Britain, and our Constitution (notice how I say ‘the’ Declaration of Independence, it was the first, it was humanity’s collective plea for freedom from a history of tyranny, that all men are created equal and have the inalienable right to pursue their own happiness). America had a distinct identity, despite being a part of Britain, that Franklin skillfully infused into our government, economic structure, and culture. After completing the book I felt more appreciation for being an American myself.
Some cool lesser known facts I learned include the origin of one of our military’s oldest slogans: “don’t tread on me”. Apparently, Franklin saw a drummer boy who had written it on his equipment with the symbol of the rattlesnake. Franklin was the first to suggest that the rattlesnake and “don’t tread on me” should be the symbol and motto of the American revolution. I bet he would never have guessed they’d still be in use today. A couple other admirable beliefs he stood by were:
- Egalitarianism and economic mobility
- Keeping money out of politics
- “The strength of America was its proud free holders and tradesmen, who had the right to vote on public affairs and ample opportunity to feed and cloth their children,” (Isaacson)
- Win-win outcomes through compromise (Covey wouldn’t like how I’m using compromise here, but I’m sure he’d like how I’m tying this to Franklin, definitely a habit of an effective person!)
A passage about the Native Americans especially leaped out at me, even though it didn’t really have to do with Franklin. He did mention how the lives of Native Americans had “romantic appeal”. The narrator tells a story about how a tribe offered to take in white children, educate them in the Native American ways and “make men of them”. I love how the Native Americans thought that the way the settlers lived was so messed up. The settlers thought the same thing too, but only in terms of how different it was from their lives. The Native Americans legitimately believed the settlers had a disturbing lifestyle, particularly in how boys became men. They didn’t see the settlers as true men. It makes me wonder about masculinity in our culture. Is GQ really what being a man is all about?
After finishing Ben Franklin’s biography, I moved on to Drive by Daniel Pink (more info here) . I spend quite a bit of time thinking about motivation and that’s exactly what this book is all about. Reading this book has been like hiking at Devil’s Lake. On the hike, you reach a clearing and you go, “wow, this view is incredible!”, then you go 100 yards further and go, “no way, this view is even more spectacular!”, and that goes on 10 more times haha. Well, while reading Drive I felt the same way. One even more spectacular concept or explanation after another. One of the largest concepts in the book is how there are three elements that make up our intrinsic motivation. These three elements are autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Pink defines autonomy as, “acting with choice” (Pink, 88) clearly differentiating it with independence if you thought they could be one in the same like me. We can be interdependent along with retaining our autonomy. Pink describes mastery in three ways, “Mastery is a mindset. Mastery is a pain. Mastery is an asymptote,” (118,121, 124). Basically, you choose whether or not you’re going to go about life learning all you can, seeking constant improvement. At West Point, researchers attempted to find the one characteristic that would explain why some students succeeded and others did not. They found that a student’s amount of ‘grit’, or “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (122), was the most predictive measure of success. Pink goes on to say “Mastery – of sports, music, business – requires effort (difficult, painful, excruciating, all-consuming effort) over a long time (not a week or a month, but a decade)”, (122) and I agree with him. All of the truly successful people we see in the world have been on their grind for forever and they are extremely focused on their craft. Every single one.
Purpose gives context to the autonomy and the mastery. Purpose is why we get up in the morning. Purpose is what gets people to the moon, what creates works of art to honor the divine, and what we all seek as human beings. One quote I greatly enjoyed is, “from the moment that human beings first stared into the sky, contemplated their place in the universe, and tried to create something that bettered the world and outlasted their lives, we have been purpose seekers” (132). And that’s right about where I’m at in the book right now. Halfway done, but we’re never done, right? We have life to master. That process lasts forever. It’s eternal. My dream of playing baseball overseas meets all three of those criteria. With this framework, I have a better understanding of why I’m so motivated about it. I’m choosing to live my dream. I strive to become a better pitcher, every day, little by little. I do it to inspire, to bring love into the world through doing what I love, to help others overcome their fears and lead the lives they’ve always wanted. Again, be present, seek truth, and make love. Suerte!