Vikrama Dhiman
My name is Vikrama Dhiman. I lead Mobility Products @ Gojek. Previously, I led product teams at Bharti SoftBank (Airtel Money, myAirtel, Wynk), Directi (BigRock), Zeta (Corporate Benefits and Gifting), WizIQ (eLearning) and MakeMyTrip (Travel/ Hotels). I was an Agile Coach with Cisco, Yodlee, Sapient, HP & I am an avid reader.

Book Summary | The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win

“From’s most popular columnist, a counterintuitive–but highly practical–guide to finding and maintaining the motivation to achieve great things.” With a blurb like that, this book by Jeff Haden seemed very intriguing. However, there are several books where the blurbs are really exciting. Also, I hadn’t heard of the author. I wasn’t sure whether this book would be any good.

I got this book as a Kindle app recommendation and let’s just say Amazon is very good with recommendations. They know exactly what to recommend after reading what (or after reading series of what). This book came at the right time and I clicked ‘Buy Now’. The expectations were low and this may be one reason why I rated ‘The Motivation Myth’ 4 stars on Goodreads. Or, perhaps the book is indeed very good. The chapters on process and plans were very good. And overall, there were several take aways from the book (I made a 102 highlights).

the motivation myth

Below are some of my notes and takeaways. These also include excerpts from the book.

The first part of the book emphasies that action precedes motivation and not the other way around. I am not sure if this is scientifically baked. However, without getting into a chicken or egg realise that action leads to motivation and motivation leads to action. Also, just sitting around waiting for apples to fall on your head is not the best strategy.

  • I thought motivation was a prerequisite to starting a tedious learning process—a spark necessary to get me going. But motivation is really a result. Motivation is the fire that starts burning after you manually, painfully, coax it into existence, and it feeds on the satisfaction of seeing yourself make progress. The problem with waiting for motivation to strike is that it almost never comes with enough voltage to actually get you started.
  • Rah-rah speeches and inspirational quotes and fire-walking challenges (more on those in a minute) may help you picture yourself at the top of the mountain with your arms raised in triumph, but the effect is fleeting. After the glow is gone, you’re left standing by yourself at the bottom of that same mountain, hugely intimidated by all the steps you need to climb.
  • There is only one recipe for gaining motivation: success. Specifically, the dopamine hits we get when we observe ourselves making progress. Not huge, life-changing successes. Those come all too infrequently, if ever. If you want to stay motivated, if you want to stay on track, if you want to keep making progress toward the things you hope to achieve, the key is to enjoy small, seemingly minor successes—but on a regular basis.
  • The best way to get motivated is to break a sweat, literally or symbolically. Getting started is often the hardest part. Financial planners frequently recommend paying off a small debt first, even though the balance on that bill may carry the lowest interest rate of all your debts.
  • You feel motivated because you took action. Motivation is a result, not a precondition. You don’t need motivation to break a sweat. Break a sweat and you’ll feel motivated.
  • Confidence comes from preparation. Hesitation, anxiety, fear . . . Those feelings don’t come from some deep, dark, irrational place inside you. That’s why motivation and confidence gained in one aspect of your life can spill over into other aspects of your life. When you feel good about yourself in one way—when you achieve some degree of success in one aspect of your life—you tend to feel better about other parts of your life as well.

The next part of the book covered details of the process and some pretty neat advice on getting the process right. I loved several parts most notably reducing choices, blocking the time, don’t vs can’t, keep going through on your bad days. A lot of new age philosophy might not agree with hardwork, but I believe in it fully. This is not to discount the role of luck or privilege or working smartly - it just shows that you need to work hard to overcome any barriers. If you can work hard to get to a level where you need to work less to get more, brilliant. To get there you need a process. Some insights below:

  • Choices present a huge obstacle to meeting our objectives. They deplete our willpower to pick long-term gratification over short-term gratification.
  • So what is the best way to say no to yourself? It’s easy: Stop saying “can’t” and start saying “don’t.” It works. Science says so. Researchers conducted a study: One group was given a simple temptation and told to say, in the face of that temptation, “I can’t do (that).” The other group was told to say, “I don’t do (that).”
  • Norman Mailer said, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”
  • Learn to Ignore the Things You Have No Control Over Mental strength is like muscle strength—no one has an unlimited supply of focus. So why waste your power on things you can’t control?
  • Don’t Resent; Celebrate the Success of Others Many people—I guarantee you know at least a few—see success as a zero-sum game: There’s only so much to go around. When someone else shines, they think that diminishes the light from their stars.
  • “Success is based on people first and strategy second. Build a great team and you will accomplish things beyond your wildest dreams. You grow from the reflected glory of your people. “When your team delivers, you enjoy the fruit.”
  • Don’t tell me your goals. Don’t tell me your dreams. Tell me your plan.

I highly recommend this book to gain a deeper understanding of how motivation cycle really works. I do think the lessons would stay with me.

Here is another blog post that I really liked as a book summary for the motivation myth.

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