#1696 Motivation

Explain It Like I’m 11

In our last couple +1s (here and here), we’ve been leveraging my recent all-boys chess tournament weekend for some practical wisdom we can all apply to our lives.

Let’s continue…

As discussed, Emerson lost a game to a tactically superior little guy. That loss gave him the clarity he needed to step up his commitment to mastering that aspect of his game so he could take the next steps on his Heroic quest for chess Grandmastery.


The next day I confirmed that his near-term goal of going for a US Chess rating of 2000 in three months was, according to his coach, EXACTLY the right goal for him.

Although clearly wonderfully aggressive, it would force Emerson to show up and do the little things that would help him go to the next level.

His target?

Practice chess puzzles on a site called “Chess Tempo” for an hour every day.

Emphasis on EVERY DAY.

Do that for 90 days straight (through the upcoming state and national championships!), his coach says, and… we have a legitimate shot at hitting the chess master target of 2000!

Emerson’s fired up.

He thinks he has a 93% chance of hitting it.


The precision of his estimate gives me tears in my eyes.


I use this moment as an opportunity to practice our philosophy and talk about the science of motivation.

I bust out a piece of paper.

It’s time to teach Emerson about The Motivation Equation.

I talk about this in Areté—adapting this and this and this +1.

According to Piers Steel (check out the Notes on his great book The Procrastination Equation for more) it goes like this.

Motivation = Value x Expectancy / Impulsivity x Delay.

In short…

You will be motivated to take action in pursuit of your goals to the extent you REALLY want it (the “Value” is high) AND you REALLY believe you can achieve it (the “Expectancy” is high).

If either of those two are low, you won’t maximize your motivation potential.


Make sure they’re both high!!!


You need to make sure you handle the variables on the denominator: Impulsivity and Delay.

In short…

If you’re “Impulsive” and can’t get yourself to FOCUS on what’s important now, you will diminish your motivation.

And, if there’s a long “Delay” between now and your goal, you won’t show up with the URGENCY you need TODAY to crush it with high levels of motivation—you’ll “Meh… I’ll get to that tomorrow” it. Aka, your motivation will be weak.


That equation is all well and good and true enough and scientifically valid and all that.

But it wasn’t working for my “Explain it to my 11-year-old!” purposes.


I got rid of the denominator entirely.

The equation became simple.


Want super-high levels of motivation for YOUR wildly important goals?


REALLY want it.

REALLY believe you can have it.

Create super-short term (TODAY!!) micro-goals.

Then FOCUS your energy on whatever you've decided is today’s WIN.


The outcome goals will always remain out of our control—we may or may not hit them, of course.


The wisest among us walk through roughly that model.

If you feel so inspired, take a moment and get clarity on what you REALLY want and what you’re REALLY committed to doing to get there.


Let’s dominate that.


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