Release year: 2009

Author: Daniel H. Pink

Buy this book (note: affiliate link)

Link to my handwritten notes


On my learning journey, while reading about concepts of psychology and productivity, I have come across multiple quotes from the book Drive by Daniel Pink. This book seems to have hit a specific nerve in 2009 when it originally came out, because I feel like I’m constantly reminded of its existence. Naturally, I got curious and went straight to the source to see what Drive is all about.

Drive is a fairly short book that centers around one big idea: for all parties involved, work driven by intrinsic motivation generally leads to better results than extrinsic motivation.

This idea has deep ramifications. For example, could it be that the way we reward employees for their work might be driving down productivity? If so, what is intrinsic motivation and how does one cultivate it to maximize productivity?

Since I’ve never managed a company myself, I can only look at my own experience to try and make sense of the concept of intrinsic motivation. For example, what makes me jump out of bed every morning? Is it my salary? My bonuses? The prospect of climbing the company ladder? No, no, and no. What makes waking up worth it to me is the thought that every day is an opportunity to connect with colleagues that I truly love. In fact, that’s often what keeps me up at night; I wish I could fast-forward the night to reach tomorrow sooner!

While this is nice and good, it is not a guarantee of productivity. This got me thinking about the tangible work I have been doing on the side over a number of years, such as maintaining this website , writing these book reviews , and creating content for a game called FlashFlashRevolution (FFR) . While reading Drive, I was slowly realizing that intrinsic motivation is indeed very strong. Had you asked me ten years ago, I would not have expected to have created 43 songs for a publicly available video game, and especially not to have read 43 books in a single year! What made me do those things for so long is that I simply loved the process.

Here’s the twist, though. As soon as I realized that I had created 43 songs for FFR, which was above average, I decided that this was enough and felt comfortable moving on to other things. I stopped producing content. And while I currently feel more productive then ever with these book reviews, I wonder about what the future holds. Will I lose momentum once I cross my self-imposed objective of 100 books?

The question that I’m most fixated on right now is related to a new link I added to my website, /allreads . If you visit this list, you will see a gallery of the books I currently read, and clicking on a picture will link you to its review. Pretty neat, right? Well, I took this opportunity to set what might be the most ambitious objective I have ever given myself: I want the pictures of the books I read to completely fill my browser when zoomed out at 30%. Talk about moving the goal post! This picture contains 63 books.

I’ve still got a long way to go!

Another visualization I attempted is how many books I’ve read over the years:

Here’s my question: why am I spending time visualizing these things? Who am I doing this for? Am I feeding my ego, or putting undue pressure on myself not to lose momentum? Am I hurting my own productivity by pushing myself so hard? Why do I want my book reading to be productive anyway? Have I perverted my original goal of “learning faster than the competition”, or am I giving myself the right tools to tackle it?

It’s funny to think that initially in reading Drive, I thought I would give it a thumbs down. I felt like I had come across the book’s ideas in so many sources that I was not learning anything new. And yet, as I write this review, I am questioning my whole reading journey, my ambitions, and the way I choose to spend my time. I feel like I am in therapy all over again; while it’s uncomfortable to look for answers to these deep questions, there will be no stopping me once I figure them out.

The bottom line is that if you can turn a task into its own reward, it will feel like play and you will relish spending more time doing it. That’s the secret to productivity. Turn work into play, and you won’t see the hours passing you by. We are born into this world to enjoy the time we spend. If you can find a way to harness this deep urge living in each and everyone of us, nothing can stop you, because we’ll fight to keep going. And thus, I can’t help but recommending Drive if you want to think deeply about what drives you, and how you can inspire people around you to be more driven by the sustainable, and renewable energy of intrinsic motivation.

Félix rating:

⭐ Star quotes

  1. (p. 34) Rewards must be handled carefully, because they can turn play into work.
  2. (p. 37) People use rewards expecting to gain the benefit of increasing another person’s motivation and behavior, but in so doing they often incur the unintentional and hidden cost of undermining that person’s intrinsic motivation toward the activity.
  3. (p. 44) It is those who are least motivated to pursue extrinsic rewards who eventually receive them.
  4. (p. 49) The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road.
  5. (p. 49) When the reward is the activity itself (e.g. deepening learning, delighting customers, doing one’s best),
    • there are no shortcuts. The only route to the destination is the high road.
    • it’s impossible to act unethically because the person who would be most disadvantaged is yourself.
  6. (p. 93) Hire good people and leave them alone.
  7. (p. 99) Without sovereignty over our time, it’s nearly impossible to have autonomy over our lives.
  8. (p. 119) Goals come in two varieties:
    • performance goals (“Getting an A in Spanish”)
    • learning goals (“Being able to speak French”)
  9. (p. 120) Giving a performance goal is effective for relatively straightforward problems but often inhibits the ability to apply the concepts to new situations.
  10. (p. 122) Try to pick a profession in which you enjoy even the most mundane, tedious parts. Then you will always be happy.
  11. (p. 123) Being a professional is going the things you have to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.
  12. (p. 125) Mastery is an asymptote.
  13. (p. 142) If people chose profit goals, reach those goals, and still don’t feel any better about their lives, one response is to increase the size and scope of the goals – to seek more money or greatest outside motivation. And that can drive them down a road of further unhappiness thinking it’s the road to happiness.
  14. (p. 142) One of the reasons for anxiety and depression in the high attainers is that they’re not having good relationships. They’re busy making money and attending to themselves, which leaves less room in their lives for love, attention, caring, empathy, and the things that truly count.
  15. (p. 165) Turn your next off-site into a FedEx Day: Set aside an entire day for noncommissioned work, where employees can work on anything they choose, however they want, with whomever they’d like. Make sure they have the tools and resources they need. Impose just one rule: people must deliver something – a new idea, a prototype of a product, a better internal process – the following day.
  16. (p. 170) Use noncontrolling language. Next time you’re about to say “must” or “should”, try saying “think about” or “consider” instead. A small change in wording can help promote engagement over compliance and might even reduce some people’s urge to defy.
  17. (p. 175) Simplicity is the art of maximizing work not done.
  18. (p. 188) Give your kids an allowance and some chores – but don’t combine them. If you combine them, it converts a moral and familial obligation into just another commercial transaction and teaches that the only reason to do a less-the-desirable task for your family is in exchange for payment.
  19. (p. 189) Praise effort and strategy, not intelligence. People who are praised for “being smart” often believe that every encounter is a test of whether they really are. So to avoid looking dumb, they resist new challenges and choose the easiest path.
  20. (p. 190) Praise is feedback, not an award ceremony. It’s often best to offer it one-on-one, in private.
  21. (p. 196) One of the best ways to know whether you’ve mastered something is to try to teach it.