Q&A Poke the Box vs. meh

Our series continues with a question about one of my shortest books, a manifesto about starting (and art): Poke the Box.

Ben Nesvig asks, "I find myself getting uninterested/unmotivated on projects that I start. The emotion of deciding to start has faded and the results are slow to keep me motivated.  Is this the resistance/lizard brain that is keeping me from pushing forward? Or is this a signal that I am not passionate about what I am doing and I should look somewhere else for what I am truly passionate about because there I will find endless motivation?"

Variations of this question, some more honest and self-aware than others, come up more than just about anything else. Now that the world has handed us a microphone, a media platform and a productive way to create a ruckus, why do we hesitate? And why does it get more difficult as we get closer to the reality of shipping the work out the door?

The question is as important as the answer. Starting is fun, of course, because it's fresh, it might work, it breaks the rhythm, it is filled with possibility. The starting overcomes what Steve Pressfield calls the Resistance, the heckler, the lizard brain, the primeval desire to hide and find safety. Neophilia and our desire for shiny objects is enough to at least temporarily get us going. Alas, there's another word for this desire to start but not finish: daydreaming.

The real work comes after the novelty wears off. This work creates value, because given control over our actions, most of us stall, float sideways or sabotage the work. Because it's unsafe. How could it be any other way? Change is always risky, because change moves us from what we know to what we don't.

So we say, "meh." We talk ourselves out of shipping, because, hey, it's easier to just stay here, where at least it is safe and warm. There's no building on fire, no layoffs today. At least for now. So we don't jump, we wait until we're pushed, when, of course, it's too late.

Yes, the answer is yes. Yes we're stuck, and yes we're stuck because we're afraid of a different path than the one we signed up for.

And no, no you must not go try to find "motivation," because if you can't be motivated by this opportunity, this one, right now, the odds are that you're unlikely to find a better sort of Oz, where there is no fear. Our desire to shop around for a place to jump is driven by the lizard brain, not by the actual knowledge that there's a better opportunity around the corner.