In order to succeed, intrinsic rewards must dominate extrinsic rewards

If you want to succeed in the long run, make sure you work mostly for intrinsic rewards, not extrinsic rewards.

I believe the right balance for success is to have > 70% intrinsic motivation and < 30% extrinsic motivation. If most of the reason you do something is due to extrinsic motivation, you are likely to burn out and fail.

The objectives of this post are:

  • Help you keep going even when you want to quit
  • Identify what will help you succeed
  • Share the struggles and insecurities of being a creator
  • Emphasize how maintaining a good relationship requires constant work and empathy
  • Share the pressures parents face

Desire for too much external reward

The other day I got mad at my wife for a selfish reason. I spent four hours taking both kids to the beach, then to dinner, and then to the playground so she could have some alone time and do her own thing. She needed time to pack for our big move and also to rest.

When I came back she said, “Thanks for taking the kids out,” which I appreciated. But she didn’t admit it the latest episode of the podcast (Apple, Spotify) I dismissed in the morning. I spent about two hours preparing and recording the episode. So I was annoyed when it seemed obvious that she still hadn’t even listened to it after being gone all day.

Ever since I learned how to interview people using new software, I’ve gotten more excited about podcasting. The range of people I can talk to is unlimited. My real reward is talking to fascinating people about their lives. Spending fun time at the beach with my kids should be reward enough. However, my extrinsic reward of getting recognition from my wife and getting more positive reviews is dragging me down.

To succeed, your intrinsic motivation must be at least twice as great as your extrinsic motivation - Take your daughter to the beach on a Tuesday afternoon

The next day, Friday, I took the kids to the playground for a few hours in the morning before leaving them to watch the tennis tournament with mom. I figured that after I posted a new post in the morning before I took the kids out, I had earned the privilege of spending time with my friend at the tournament.

As a stay-at-home dad, I feel bad if I don’t take care of the kids when they are out of school. However, this tournament only happens once a year and is my favorite event. While some dads are golfing or flying to New York for the US Open, I drive 35 minutes north to Tiburon for four hours.

Ask again

When I returned from the tournament, the wife was visibly tired. Our children are a handful. Both children screamed and cried several times a day throughout their lives. Her nerves were on edge.

Instead of being grateful that she was babysitting all afternoon while I watched tennis, the first thing I asked her was if she had read my post from that morning. She didn’t have to. I cried again.

But then I realized something important after writing this post. The reason I didn’t ask about her welfare first was because I was trying to get over my guilt for leaving her with the children.

By asking her if she had read my article, I was trying to justify to her that I had already contributed to our family. And by being disappointed, I could get extra credit the next time I want to reduce my childcare responsibilities.

This experience also made me realize that long-term success requires being willing to do the work without any recognition, praise or honor. In other words, in order to achieve your goals, you must set aside the desire for external rewards.

Make sure you’re working for the right reasons

Every artist wants people to see their work. Every podcaster wants people to listen to their episodes. And every writer wants people to read his articles and books.

Creators often put so much effort and heart into their work while exposing themselves to ridicule that getting some positive validation helps us keep going.

In the beginning, I wrote mainly for myself because I was afraid of losing all my financial gains 2008 global financial crisis. Over time, I evolved into writing mostly to help others solve their financial problems. Then when my wife left her job and we had children, I started writing to earn more money to support my family.

But that’s the problem. External rewards do not take long to arrive. If I was writing mainly on Financial Samurai to make more money, I would have quit a long time ago!

Related: A blind spot for fathers who think they are doing a good job

Examples of extrinsic rewards that begin to feel empty

money, other examples of extrinsic rewards include prizes, awards, grades, and promotions.

How many times have we been delighted to get a promotion at work, only to feel nothing a few months later? How many times have you achieved something great after years of work to experience a trough of sorrow after?

These disappointments happen because extrinsic motivators were greater than 50% of the reason you were doing something. Dial it back to minimize your disappointments.

Writing for the partial support of my family creates an expectation that my family should appreciate my work. It also creates an unnecessary burden on my wife to always keep up. Being a prolific writer, it’s sometimes hard to read and listen to everything I do. Parenting a 3.5 and 6.5 year old all day long when there is no school is exhausting.

Writing helps journal history, which I think my family will really appreciate as they get older. This has been the key internal motivation for me since 2009 to write so consistently.

However, they did not ask me to lead the history. I am the one who decided to take it upon myself possibility of active income and no one else. Therefore, I should expect extrinsic rewards to keep me motivated.

Intrinsic motivation is the key to long-term success

You can achieve short-term success by seeking extrinsic motivators such as fame, money, status and power. But if you don’t have self-esteem issues, it’s hard to keep the momentum going long-term.

Since starting Financial Samurai in 2009, I have surpassed my writing goals.

I would not succeed without internal motivation. I write mainly because I enjoy the process. Writing helps me understand myself and helps me deal with financial and life issues that many of us face. Writing also creates a nice community of interesting people on Financial Samurai who share their opinions.

But now I have a new long-term goal: publish at least two posts per week until 2042, when both children graduate from university. Just thinking about 19 years of consistently writing every week sounds exhausting! All the more reason why I need to focus on the joy of writing, not the money, not the search engine rankings, and not the accolades.

I also need to stop expecting my family and friends to read and support my work. If I do, I know I will inevitably be disappointed because everyone has their own busy lives to lead. And when I feel disappointed, the chances of you leaving me increase significantly.

Status, fame, power, money are fine motivators

Extrinsic motivators such as status and power drive people to succeed. Be careful that these motivators are not much bigger than 30% of the reason you do what you do.

If you do, you may end up experiencing an emptiness inside, as I experienced after publishing my book, Don’t buy this. After two years of hard work and a book landing on the WSJ bestseller list, a week later I felt a huge disappointment.

Based on my expectations, the accolade of hitting the national bestseller list didn’t pay off as I expected. Fortunately, I had enough internal motivation to finish the book because I’m always up for a good challenge.

After publishing my book and doing so many interviews, videos and podcasts to market the book, I happily returned to my private life as a stay-at-home dad. The extrinsic motivators of fame and fortune have dissipated.

On to the second book

I am currently writing my second wealth building book. This time, I’m trying my best to remove all expectations of making it a national bestseller.

Instead, I’m mainly writing the second book because I have more to say to help others achieve financial independence previously. I learned a lot from writing the first book, which I will incorporate into my second book.

The second reason I am writing another book is because I want to set a good academic example for my children. I believe that when they see me write and eventually publish a book, they will take their reading and writing more seriously as well.

Progress in the book, an extrinsic motivator, is undoubtedly another positive. It will help pay for college and health insurance. But God knows they exist easier ways to make money than writing books!

WITH Artificial Intelligence stealing content from writers by not providing any attribution or traffic, writing for a living is getting harder and harder. I feel fortunate that the publisher offered me a book deal.

To succeed, fight the urge to be recognized

We all want to be recognized for the work we do. However, if we expect too much recognition, disappointment is sure to come. Therefore, it is best not to expect any kind of recognition from anyone.

If you need support, join a group that shares exactly the same passion. Relying on your friends and family who don’t share your enthusiasm will inevitably lead to disappointment.

In conclusion, it is worth asking yourself these two questions:

If you never get paid or promoted for the work you do, will you still do it?

If you never receive an award for your creativity, will you still be creating?

You found yours ikigai if you answered yes! And for those of you who answered no, keep searching for your reason for being. It’s out there. You just have to keep looking until you find it.


Questions and suggestions from readers

How do you differentiate between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? Do you think you can achieve and maintain long-term goals with mostly extrinsic motivators? How can we better support our loved ones if we don’t share the same interests? How to succeed without braces?

Listen and subscribe to The Financial Samurai Podcast Apple gold Spotify. I interview experts in their respective fields and discuss some of the most interesting topics on this site.

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