motivation

How I Promise You One of the Most Meaningful Days of Your Life — Both Sides of the Table – Medium

An incredibly inspirational post from venture capitalist Mark Suster, about a program giving entrepreneurial opportunities to prisoners.

I know the title “I promise you one of the most meaningful days of your life” sounds grandiose but I mean it and I hope you’ll read through to the end and choose to take one small, totally free action, that will change your life and likely those of others.On September 10th of this year I…

via How I Promise You One of the Most Meaningful Days of Your Life — Both Sides of the Table – Medium

The Olympics, Part I: Insights from Marc Kennedy

The 2016 Summer Olympics happened while the blog was on vacation. I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about the event, for many of the same reasons that were so eloquently expressed by fellow blogger Caitlin Constantine. And after the event ended, I read a very thoughtful and critical article which got me thinking about how the Olympics  affect the structure and funding of amateur sports in Canada.

So I’m going to write two posts related to the Olympics. This, the first post, is about a wonderful speech by an Olympic athlete that I heard earlier this year. The second, which I’ll post later on, is about how, while the Olympics are supposed to inspire people to get active, their effects on amateur sport may be making it more difficult for non-elite athletes to do that.

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In June, I had the privilege of hearing a talk by world and Olympic champion curler Marc Kennedy.

This wasn’t the first time that I’ve been at a presentation by a high-achieving athlete. My cynical self was expecting a recycling of the usual themes in these speeches: “work hard”, ”have a dream”, ”fight through setbacks”, ”never give up”. But instead, Kennedy’s speech was a very insightful and honest look at the realities of performance at an elite level  – and a lot of what he said has relevance to work and to life, as well as to sports. These are the points from what Kennedy said that really stuck with me. (more…)

“What Makes You Happy?”

My friend Kimbirli Macchiaverna has been a nurse for 20 years, and was a certified nursing assistant for a decade before that. Even though she works in an extremely challenging occupation – one with difficult demands and tasks that change every day – she has a great sense of humour and an unfailingly positive attitude toward life that I really admire.

A few weeks ago, Kimbirli wrote a Facebook post on the advice she gave to another nurse about “liking” her job even when it was tough. With Kimbirli’s permission, I’m reproducing her post here. Although her comments are in the context of nursing,  anyone in any kind of job can find something to think about in what she has to say. (more…)

The World Figure Championship: An Interview with Pamela Giangualano-Roberts

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post about figures in figure skating, and why I missed them. I thought the post wouldn’t be interesting to that many people – figures haven’t been part of international skating competition since 1990, and skaters now have very little opportunity to even practice figures. But much to my surprise, that post turned out to be one of the most popular posts ever on this blog. That indicated to me that within the skating world, and among skating fans, there was still a lot of love for figures.

This year, a group of professional skaters decided to bring figures back into competition, and organized the inaugural World Figure Championship. To qualify for this event, skaters either had to have competed at the Olympics or the World Championships before 1992, or had to have passed the gold (eighth) figure test, which was the highest-level figure test in the US and Canada. So, as you can imagine, all the participants were very experienced skaters, and the competition itself was intense. The Championship was held in late August in Lake Placid, New York – site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics – and my friend Pamela Giangualano-Roberts was one of the competitors.

I first met Pamela in the early 2000s in Lethbridge, Alberta, at one of the very first adults-only skating competitions in Canada. Pamela had come to the event with her skating friends from Calgary, and although she wasn’t competing, I could tell from how intently she watched us that she was thinking about whether she could do this. So I sat next to her and gave her my enthusiastic “skating is really fun, anyone can do it, you should give it a try” spiel. Imagine how stupid I felt later on when I found out that Pamela was the 1986 Canadian national junior ladies’ champion, and as a senior-level skater had represented Canada at international skating competitions. Pamela kindly overlooked that gaffe on my part, and she did come back to skating. And all of us adult skaters who know her are in awe of her drive and determination. At age 27 – much older than most of her competitors – she qualified for and competed at the 2002 Canadian national skating championships, 13 years after her last appearance at that event. She is now a tireless advocate for adult skating, as a coach, as an event organizer, as a club administrator, and as a skater herself.

Pamela agreed to let me interview her via email about her journey to the World Figure Championship, and her experiences at that competition. As you will see from her answers, Pamela not only has an extensive technical knowledge of figures, but she also truly appreciates why figures are so important to skating. (more…)

Management and Leadership Lessons from Skating Parents

As an adult skater, and as someone who only started skating seriously as an adult, having a parent involved in my skating career is something I missed out on entirely. But for many parents, having a child in skating is like managing an organization. The parent has to recruit and hire staff to work with their child (coaches, choreographers, off-ice trainers, dance teachers, costume designers); they have to schedule their child’s training and other activities related to the sport; they have to make sure the child gets to everything on time and is prepared for the activity they’re going to; and they are the “investor” in the business, i.e. the one that pays for everything (which can be very expensive).

And the questions that skating parents often struggle with are very similar to the questions faced by many business leaders and managers. How intensely should they be involved with someone’s progress or skill development, particularly if that person is going through a difficult time? How can they facilitate a positive experience for everyone involved in the organization? How can they help people become independent and responsible, and to develop the ability to make the best decisions for themselves? (more…)

Blog Carnival: My Post-Ph.D. Story

Jacquelyn Gill over at The Contemplative Mammoth blog has put forward a great idea for the month of May: a “Post-Ph.D. Blog Carnival”,  for bloggers to tell their stories of what they did after finishing their Ph.D. degrees. As she notes, there are, and will be, a lot of stories of people leaving academia in disgust or disillusionment after completing a Ph.D.. But there are also stories of people who stayed, and there’s value in learning about wherever Ph.D. graduates end up. I’m one of those who stayed in academia, and this is my post-Ph.D. story.

To understand my post-Ph.D.story, you have to understand the context of the story. I’m proud to (more…)

Dismantling the Creative Routine

Around this time last year,  Thomas Frank put forward some very pointed and accurate criticisms of the popular literature about creativity – namely, that these books and articles discussed the same examples over and over again – and wondered how much this literature could really enlighten us about creativity when it was so un-creative itself.

Now an article in Pacific Standard magazine has similarly critical things to say about another frequently discussed aspect of creativity – the “creative routine”. This, we are told, (more…)

Stephen Colbert on Finding Joy in Your Work

The best five minutes of television in 2013 happened on August 7, when The Colbert Report aired a video of Stephen Colbert and “friends” dancing to Daft Punk’s song Get Lucky. Daft Punk had originally been scheduled to appear on the show in person – but they were also booked for the MTV Video Music Awards a few days later, and because of that MTV insisted that they not appear on Colbert’s show. So when Daft Punk cancelled, the video was quickly created to fill the sudden gap in the show’s schedule.

Because the video clearly involved considerable planning and effort, there was some skepticism after the broadcast about whether Colbert had actually made the video a few days earlier and then made up the cancellation story to get more attention for the video. In this podcast, hosted by comedian Paul Mecurio, Colbert gives a very thorough explanation of how the video came to be – which, as it turns out, is a rather complex story, involving what Daft Punk was and wasn’t willing to do, clashing corporate interests, and a lot of quick changes of strategy.

What struck me most about this interview (more…)

Why It’s Good to Be Bad at Something

A lot of writing about success and achievement encourages you to find your “passion” (a word that is getting extremely overused) or to set a goal, and then to single-mindedly work as hard as you can to achieve as much as possible. I’m going to propose an alternate strategy for improvement: do something you’re terrible at. (more…)

Daniel Pink’s ‘Drive’: A Short Journey on a Tiny Piece of Road

Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us is being mentioned more and more as a good introduction to understanding workplace motivation. I’m not familiar with any of Pink’s other work, some of which has been fiercely criticized. But I was motivated (so to speak) to read this book because I teach about motivation in some of my classes, and some of my research deals with it as well. So I am always interested in what someone has to say about this particular topic.

Drive isn’t a textbook or an academic book. It’s a popular press book, and as such it’s clearly intended as a Malcolm Gladwell-style book – research experiments explained in an understandable way, and useful practical advice based on that research. The spare design of Drive’s cover even mimics the design of the covers of Gladwell’s books, and Pink’s writing follows Gladwell’s style of grandiose declarations and confident assertions. But, unlike Gladwell, Pink accurately describes the research he writes about, and I commend him for that.  I also applaud him for explaining how motivation is both intrinsic and extrinsic (and pointing out that each kind has different effects), and for emphasizing that just throwing money at workers isn’t going to make them work harder. These are realities of motivation that often get ignored and which are always worth talking about.

Unfortunately, though, there’s more wrong with Drive than there is right. (more…)