The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive, Daniel PinkI’ve been trying to finish the book, “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink, which gives great insights about the things that motivate employees and team members. It argues against the use of the “carrot and stick” as an approach to identifying employee motivation – that employees are driven by avoiding negative consequences of their actions as well as motivated by rewards (e.g. raise) to work more, if not work better.

I’m unsure about the accuracy of this assumption, as that may actually depend on the context. If you’re earning minimum wage and do not have a lot of social safety net, what other factors are there to motivate you to work harder?

And so what jumped out at me is the assertion that employers have to take out the debate over salary first, and perhaps foremost, before asking what will motivate employees to work harder and contribute more to the growth of the business. That means employers should ensure that they are paying their workers what is actually owed them–that employees are paid a decent  amount on which they can live decently.

It doesn’t make sense that employees are asked to buy into the company culture, its brand and everything that it’s supposed to stand for if they can’t live decently on their wages. And once that is dealt with, then employers and leaders can start asking themselves what will motivate members of their teams to work harder and work better.

The author asserts that when questions around pay is addressed, what motivates employees are the following:

  • Autonomy – the desire to be self-directed, where one works harder because one is engaged as opposed to because one has to comply
  • Mastery – the desire to be better at one does and acquire more skills that complement what’s already there
  • Purpose – the desire to do something that has meaning and importance to the employee. I think this is where buy-in into culture, values, and purpose is categorised.

The following video is a great summary of the book and is a great guide for managers and leaders:

When art comes to life and gets a visit from a time lord

There is a particular episode of the revived Doctor Who series that I am especially fond of, and I believe it is the same for many of the sci-fi’s followers. While I had often heard about it, I never really got into watching the series, much less follow it nearly religiously, until I saw Vincent and the Doctor, which depicted Vincent Van Gogh’s works as inspired by a visit from the Doctor and Amy in the last year of the artist’s tumultuous life.

At the exhibition of the painter’s works at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, the Doctor noted something in one of Van Gogh’s paintings that was not supposed to be there: a monster peeking out of a cathedral window. This prompted our time traveller to take the TARDIS back to 1899 Provence, where the artist spent most of his time filling his canvasses with visions of the world around him in a way that only he could see. Unfortunately, these visions also involved aliens that are invisible to everyone–including our visitors from the future–except him.


Suffice it to say that Van Gogh saw the world differently; that the evening sky was not just a space filled with stars set above the dark outlines of the French countryside. Instead, it was a stage whereupon everything came to life and the stars moved in a parade of lights. The artist captured the show above with his lively, and at times, angry strokes in his work, Starry Night.

Ever since I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night, even without knowing about its history or its creator, I thought it was special–a radical work through which its maker depicted the world as living and breathing; it was sad, it was angry, but more importantly, it was alive. More than anything it is a reminder that each person has a  of seeing the world around them and we should allow for these differences. Conformity is a sad idea.

starry night, vincent van gogh

As Vincent’s life ended tragically, the episode did not shy away from the fact that he took his life one year after the supposed visit from the Doctor and his companion, although not before learning that a century on (the Doctor and Amy took him on a TARDIS joyride into the future), the world would behold his works in awe and he would be called the greatest painter who ever lived. Tony Curran played Vincent particularly well.

This post is a response to Daily Post’s writing prompt of the day.

Breezy, quiet evenings call for runs at the park

…where the next headquarters is looming in the background. 

I’ve been back to running again, on top of working out at the gym on a regular basis. But since I want to run longer distances than my current 10, I figured I needed to spend more time on track and not just on the treadmill.

Sunday evenings are the perfect time to strap on my runners and go to nearby Ayala Triangle where the usual crowd is absent and the amount of fumes from vehicles isn’t so terrible; I still prefer, taking the pathways within the park, however.

I could afford to skip the first set of tonight’s Roland Garros men’s final between Nadal and Djokovic. In fact, I could skip it altogether.

I anticipate your needs*

Sandbar Boracay

Can this day be any better? After having my brunch at nearby Bamboo Lounge, I decided to rent a beach chair and got very lucky to find one available at The Sandbar for only 100 pesos for a day’s use. Unfortunately, there was no available beach umbrella, so the attendant manning the place moved my rented chair in the shade and promised to get me one once it became available.
While I was out in the water, he found me an umbrella and immediately set it up beside my chair. I don’t normally get this kind of service anywhere else, as a lot of attendants merely pay lip service when they tell you they would do something for you. Say, it’s a way for them to dismiss you.
Sandbar Boracay
When I was reading under the shade of my umbrella, he offered water spritzer to keep my skin hydrated. I didn’t realize that even under the shade and wearing sunscreen at SPF 100, the noontime sun could still be terribly harmful. So after spritzing cold water on my arms and legs, he left the spritzer with me, but not before making sure that its contents were kept cool by placing the bottle in a bucket of ice. 
Twice during the rest of the afternoon, he moved my umbrella to make sure I was in the shade properly and replaced the ice bucket to keep my water spray cool. Having the kind man around also meant there was someone to keep an eye on my beach bag, book and gadgets whenever I had to take a dip in the water,  and he did.
That was just excellent service unlike any other that I encountered anywhere, especially the pricey joints in Makati. I didn’t have to ask him for more assistance yet he was kind enough to offer them, and so I couldn’t be more glad to give him a good tip when I left.
Sadly, I failed to ask for the Kuya‘s name. But if ever you feel like lounging by the beach on Station 1 in Boracay, choose Sandbar and look for the middle-aged gentleman who usually sits by the juice stand beside Bamboo Lounge. He will keep a good eye on your belongings and make sure you are comfortable. Don’t forget to give him a fat tip.
*According to some literature that I have read in relation to my work, anticipating a customer’s needs is one of the behaviours that lead to advocacy, whereby people have a higher probability of recommending your business to their peers.

Boracay Ocean Bay Hotel and Cafe

I cannot believe it has been more than two years since I last visited Boracay. There were a number of us on that trip as well, most of them friends from a company that I previously worked for. It was a weekend of epic parties, sailing, making friends, and soaking up the sun.

This time, the visit is to celebrate H’s birthday, as she hits a new milestone. Eighteen of us flew in by AirAsia-Zest from the old Manila Domestic Airport (now “Terminal 4”) at 06:50 and took the two-hour road trip from Kalibo to Caticlan. After nearly a half-hour of getting ferry tickets and settling environmental fees at Caticlan, we took a “proper” ferry going to the jetty port, from where I hailed a tricycle to go to my hotel. The rest of the crew took a van going to their hotel, since they made a separate booking (I booked accommodations differently and ahead of everyone). Since I had been in transit for nearly six hours, it was safe to say that all I wanted was to collapse in the comforts of a hotel room.

What a shame that the hotel that I booked via did not live up to its promise. In fact, what I saw on the booking sites that I visited and its own homepage was starkly different from what I had actually expected. This is the second time that a hotel I booked on Agoda turned out to be horrid. The other one was at The Inn at Temple Street in Singapore.
First, the whole place has seen better days and is surely in desperate need maintenance.  I was initially assigned to a room that obviously had not been cleaned for weeks, and until I decided to ask for a transfer to another room, I would have had to endure dusty sheets and curtains, cobwebs, and a bathroom that needed cleaning; not to mention that there were boards hanging on parts of the ceiling to cover God knows what.

Boracay Ocean Bay Hotel
This room is either in the middle of getting repairs or it’s just that dilapidated. Mind the live wires!

Boracay Ocean Bay Hotel
Paint job, much? And what’s the deal with the hanging board?

Boracay Ocean Bay Hotel
While it’s located just a minute’s walk to the beach from on Station 1, it sits along the busy main road.

Second, the so-called cafe is just a suggestion, as they don’t even serve food there. The sadder part is they don’t even have hot water in case you need to prepare your own coffee or tea, or have a  cup noodle in case you get hungry in the middle of the night.

As I requested for a room transfer, I was lucky to get a more decent one when the previous occupant checked out just as I arrived at the hotel. The queen bed was comfortable enough, and new sheets and a towel were provided. Note: they did not replace my towel with a clean one the following day.

The cable TV was okay, although the remote’s battery needed replacing. The room had a working mini-ref and air-con, while the small bathroom was clean enough and had its own water heater. About the heater, if you are not used to these things common only across Asia or in places where having warm running water is a privilege and not a right, you might find it a little daunting that the shower at this hotel only had one temperature setting. You’d have first to find the heater and fix the knob to a higher setting.

Boracay Ocean Bay Hotel
Yup, that thing under the sink *is* the water heater. 

Boracay Ocean Bay Hotel
At least the bathroom was clean and had warm water. 

Boracay Ocean Bay Hotel
Now THIS is much better than the first room that they gave me. A trick I learned from a friend was to keep the TV and the lights switched on to give the impression that there was someone in the room, each time you have to leave. Too much waste of energy, I know, but it’s better than losing your stuff to akyat-bahay.
Boracay Ocean Bay Hotel
A percolator or thermos to heat water would have been really great. 

Anyway, I think I learned a few good lessons from the experience: Don’t trust Agoda because it buries negative reviews; shell out juuuust a liiiittle more and you can find a much better place. Also, don’t panic just because it’s Valentine weekend.

There are so many hotels in Boracay, one could just walk in without prior reservation and get a decent room at a convenient location. Walking on Station 1 beach front, it hurt a little each time I saw a “Rooms Available” sign.