Drive by Daniel Pink Notes & Summary

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us: Pink, Daniel ...

Link (Amazon)

A highly practical guide to mastering your own psychology. Although some of the tips are common knowledge today, in 2009 they must have been revolutionary. An excellent look into our minds.

  • Controversial study by Deci – “When money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic interest for the activity.”
    • Microsoft vs. Wikipedia: Microsoft hired the best editors and article writers for their encyclopedia. Wikipedia hired no one. Wikipedia’s success > Microsoft’s encyclopedia
  • Motivation 1.0: Humans are the sum of our biological urges
  • Motivation 2.0: Humans are motivated to seek reward and avoid punishment.
  • Motivation 3.0: Humans are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose

Problems With Motivation 2.0 Rewards

  • Rewards can perform a weird sort of behavioral alchemy: They can transform an interesting task into a drudge.
  • Encourage a child to learn math by paying her for each workbook completed and she’ll almost certainly become more interested in math in the short term and less interested in the long term
  • Goals people set for themselves that are devotes to attaining mastery are typically healthy. Goals imposed by others – sales targets, quarterly returns, standardized test scores – often lead to unethical behavior (think quotas imposed in Soviet Russia).
  • When the reward is the activity itself – deepening learning, delighting customers, doing one’s best – there are no shortcuts.
  • “In environments where extrinsic rewards are most salient, many people work only to the point that triggers the reward – and no further.”
  • 7 Problems With Rewards: Extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, crowd out good behavior, encourage cheating/shortcuts/unethical behavior, foster short term thinking.
  • Rewards do not undermine people’s intrinsic motivation for dull tasks because there is little or no intrinsic motivation to be undermined.
  • Any extrinsic reward should be unexpected and offered only after the task is complete. Replace “if-then,” shift to “now-that”
  • Positive feedback can have an enhancing effect on intrinsic motivation.

Motivation 3.0 – Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose

  • Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.
  • A successful work life cultivates autonomy (feeling of having control), mastery (getting good at something), and purpose (deeper meaning beyond yourself).


  • Researchers have found a link between autonomy and overall well-being not only in North America and Western Europe, but also in Russia, Turkey, and South Korea.
  • William McKnight’s philosophy: Hire good people, leave them alone.
  • Why are lawyers so miserable? 
    • An attitude that makes someone less happy as a human being actually makes him or her more effective as a lawyer. 
    • Most enterprises are positive-sum. Meaning: if I sell you something you want and enjoy, we’re both better off. Law, by contrast, is often (though not always) a zero-sum game: Because somebody wins, somebody else must lose.
    • A 2007 study of two American law schools found that over the three-year period in school, students’ overall well-being plummeted–in large part because their need for autonomy was thwarted
  • “Nothing is more important to my success than controlling my schedule. I’m most creative from five to nine A.M. If I had a boss or co-workers, they would ruin my best ones one way or another.” –Scott Adams
  • “The course of human history has always moved in the direction of greater freedom. And there’s a reason for that –because it’s in our nature to push for it… This is why ultimately human nature, if it ever realizes itself, will do so by becoming more autonomous.” Richard Ryan


  • Mastery – the desire to get better at something that matters
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found: The highest, most satisfying experiences in people’s lives were when they were in flow
  • Dwek’s signature insight: what people believe shapes what they achieve
  • “Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of practicing for a minimum of 10 years.”


  • The people who are deeply motivated, most productive, and most satisfied tend to hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves.
  • Motivation 2.0 = profit maximization. Motivation 3.0 doesn’t reject profits but places equal emphasis on purpose maximization.
  • Do the workers refer to the company as “they” or “we”? “They” companies are very different places than “we” companies.
  • “One cannot lead a life that is truly excellent without feeling that one belongs to something greater and more permanent than oneself.” Mihaly Csikszentmihaylyi
  • The richest experiences in our lives aren’t when we’re clamoring for validation from others, but when we’re listening to our own voice – doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.

Practical Tips

  • When you go to sleep, ask yourself… “Was I a little better today than yesterday?”
  • Create a “Not To-Do List” (Tom Peters)
  • Answer the question: “What gets you up in the morning?” and “What keeps you up at night?” (via Rules of Thumb, Alan Webber)
  • At the beginning of the month, set out your performance goals and learning goals. Then, at the end of the month, call yourself to your office and give yourself an appraisal.

Further Reading

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