Re-thinking Motivation


published 2022-09-02 00:18

updated 2023-06-07 23:33

I've struggled a lot with Wage Labour. It's one thing to wax philosophical about the coercion inherent in the economic system most the world lives under, but quite another to live with it. Unwittingly, I inherited some toxic mindsets surrounding work. I know understand that I had placed undue self worth on acquiring a job that I felt was personally meaningful. Being a Gifted Child™, I grew up around the belief that I could do anything I wanted if I set my mind to it. Even more so, my interests aligned with Technology™, the industry currently revolutionizing the world. So when I finally entered the workforce and found all the jobs I undertook to have no personal value, I was passionately unhappy. It must be some personal failing that I couldn't find a role in which I was personally responsible for changing the world, after all, I had all the advantages one could wish for. Heck, it was even worse than that. Not only had I failed to find a job that I could derive meaning from, I didn't even know how I would want to change the world through technology given the choice. This obviously led to me being a terrible worker. Part of this certainly can be attributed to the on-going climate crisis, which I tried to speak about previously.

A big shift for me happened when speaking to a co-worker about my suffering performance, and how he approaches the topic of motivation. He said it didn't matter to him the product we were working on (outside of it being ostensibly not evil), but what he found satisfaction in was coming in to work and putting in his best effort, and knowing that was enough to do a good job. Lots of people have told me this over the years, but something about this time made it stick. ThePrimeagen speaks about this in his video too. That maybe you're expecting too much if what you want out of work is "fulfilment". I know I was certainly looking for that. It probably helps that I both spoke to my colleague and watched the video on the same day.

All of this is to say, I think I've made some sort of peace with being a Wage Labourer. I come in, I try to do the best job I can, and I leave. I don't expect to change the world, there's enough of that happening already. I won't tie my personal self-worth to the product I happen to be building. Sure, it would be nice to join a co-op and bring more democracy into the workplace, but I don't think that fundamentally would've given me the fulfilment I was after either. Instead I'll find fulfilment elsewhere, after all, the problems we face are no longer technical.