“Being a professional is doing what you love to do even on days you don’t love doing it,” said Daniel Pink. For Pink, this principle has a very specific metric attached to it: 500, as in 500 words a day. That’s the daily output — we’ll call it minimum output — Pink feels will keep him moving forward on a writing project and producing in a professional manner.
The figure of 500 may not seem like a huge one, but it’s a lot better than zero words, which could be the number of words he writes only when he feels particularly inspired. “I used to depend on these heroic outbursts of productivity, but I found I wasn’t getting work done,” he said on the podcast. “I think the reason was because I was waiting until I was in the mood to write, which was essentially never. But I found that if I wrote 500 words on Monday, 500 words on Tuesday and so on, they added up.”
They certainly did add up. Pink’s system established his reputation far and wide enough to make him Vice President Al Gore’s choice for chief speechwriter during the Clinton Administration. The system has also netted Pink no fewer than seven New York Times bestsellers, including his latest, The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages, and have sold millions of copies around the world.
“People undervalue consistency and overvalue intensity,” Pink averred during the podcast. We think of Stephen Curry as great because of how well he performs under the most intense conditions, but we never consider the many mornings and afternoons when the great NBA player shows up to shoot the thousands of shots that enable him to perform when the lights come on.
In addition to sharing his self-motivational secrets in the podcast, Pink talks about the role leaders can play in motivating employees by giving them as much autonomy in their work as is feasible. “Today, employees are asking for a little bit of control in their world,” said Pink, who believes that employees either “comply or defy” when organizations try too hard to regulate their every working minute.
Whether you are seeking to achieve greater consistency yourself or engage your staff by emphasizing autonomy, listeners will pick up some handy lessons in the podcast, including:
- The value and limitations of getting “momentum” on your side.
- Why an engaged employee outperforms a compliant one every day.
- How to use the “J5M” and “54321” techniques to get an adrenaline boost.
When it comes to leading others, effective leaders cultivate engagement among team members rather than defiance or compliance. “Do you want them to be defiant?” asked Pink. “No. Do you want them to be compliant? No again. Compliant people do not do great things. You want them to be engaged.”