Unsatisfied Knuckle Dragger

Dan Pink’s words struck a chord for me.  Not because he is a faithful boyfriend in Dr. Who, but because I have noticed a thing or two about motivation in myself.  Like a few other students in graduate school, I have had the opportunity to work outside of academia and been able to develop a professional skill to the point beyond competence.  I quit school and got hired out of a small engine mechanics class to be the first full time employee of a small business.  It was an interesting journey that has undoubtedly given me an entirely different perspective on life, and work.  While in that job I was progressing and even edging closer to mastery of a few mechanical skills, trouble shooting, welding, etc., and after a while my pay began to reflect my value to the business.

Pay, you would think that would be the primary motivator for me, but it turns out that I love to troubleshoot and tackle problems head on at work and even for fun.  Pink (of RSA, not BBC) mentioned that he found in the research, that money was only a motivator until it was no longer an issue.  It’s hard to think about that on a graduate student stipend, but I do remind myself that I am here to train, to get closer to mastery in my studies.  The idea there is that if your pay is enough to satisfy some of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sort of things, your focus can then be on your work.  Work in the sense of application of skill, not force as engineers may think of it.  Work should be challenging, interesting and fun.  Many people tell me to not make career decisions based on money, it seems like an easy thing for them, but it may be more of a realization that their job is not as satisfying as their work could have been.  Sure, they can pay the bills but are they rewarded otherwise?  It doesn’t look to be as simple as motivation to complete the job but rather to excel and make it yours.  I would no doubt look with despair at a career focused on the skill set I have learned to only satisfy the requirements for a pay check.  I’ve done it and I know it does not fit me well.  I think that some businesses are beginning to see that they can motivate their employees in new ways.

I always think of the ridiculous sounding dream-like work conditions at places like the Google Plex , but things would resound when I walked past the Rack Space, RAX, playroom on my way to lunch at the U Mall.  This company was pulling out all kinds of stops to make their employees just plain happy.  I am sure that they were competitively compensated, but that place just looked like fun, and success.  It seems like there is a trend where people have realized that we are not just the new generation that likes to work hard to play hard, but rather a group of people that are capable and unless appropriately challenged, unsatisfied people.  Not wholly unsatisfied, but just enough to make us hungry and to make us yearn to be masters of our own work.  It may be that we have come here to a healthy, unsatisfied state, in spite of our education.  Looking at the ideology behind assessment and learning, I can identify with the practice of immersion but I also see how assessment can detract from learning.  Despite our declared proficiency of certain subjects, many of us will continue to want to learn even after the good test grades.

I have the feeling I will have to save my thoughts on assessment for another day…


Unsatisfied Learner and Recovering Knuckle Dragger->OUT


3 Responses to “Unsatisfied Knuckle Dragger”

  • Kristine says:

    I agree that we are a capable generation that needs to be challenged “enough” to work hard “enough.”
    Although “enough” is used loosely here, I believe that quantifying this term will be a task for the employers. How much is too much independence and individualized challenge for the employees and too little guidelines or restrictions for the work place? Inevitably, it seems some employees will be left behind with certain forms of cognitive challenges; how can cognitive challenges helpful for all employees be implemented into workplace environments?

  • daa1815 says:

    I gave up a solid step-up of a career opportunity with a significant (for me) salary to enter graduate school, live off a grad student stipend, advance my knowledge and skill, etc. For basically similar reasons you’ve already listed. It demanded a major lifestyle change that essentially required my taking that financially-motivating carrot, driving to an abandoned field, petting its green-stalked little head, then tossing it into the air and disintegrating it, Boba Fett style, to the tune of a double-barreled over/under nickel-plated 12-gauge.

    Thus far it has been worth it. Sure, I do miss feeling financially secure, that if I do not excel in my program I will be unable to pay rent or afford to feed my dog. But what I love more than my bank account is the challenge and opportunity graduate school affords, and the knowledge that I have the cognitive capacity, the drive, to take that opportunity and face that challenge.

    …and I really wanted to integrate Boba Fett into a blog post.
    Challenge completed.

  • Jacob Metch says:

    I think that anyone in grad school can totally identify with what you have said and Dan Pink’s videos. We are clearly not here for a salary, we are here to master our skill, most of us are pretty autonomous, and I think most of are working on research that is really important and therefore fills the purpose requirement. Yeah sometimes I regret not making even close to the salary of my peers in industry, but hey, I like what I do a lot more than they do already so it’s worth it.

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