Even if you’re passionate about something, it’s challenging to sustain your individual motivation level across time. There are times when you feel very motivated, as well as troughs in motivation.
The benefit of being part of a group is that your group members can pick you up when you hit a trough in individual motivation. The combination of support and, depending on the environment, healthy competition that they provide are antidotes to a motivational trough.
The less you like doing something, the greater the positive motivational impact of doing that thing as part of a group.
Exercising is a clear example of this. You exercise harder when there are people around you than when there are not. This effect is particularly pronounced when you’re part of the same training class.
The effect also extends to your personal and professional life.
Think of a job where you can’t get an uninterrupted stretch of sleep, you get screamed at constantly by the person you’re working with, you spend most of your day repeating the same few tasks over and over again, and you don’t get paid.
My wife and I had a son about two months ago and what I described has been my wife’s job for the last two months. Although I help out when and where I can, it’s nothing compared to what my wife does. Watching her take care of our son is a humbling experience. It helps put the challenges of my work in perspective.
And what’s amazing is that my wife doesn’t see what she’s doing as a job. A job isn’t an activity that’s challenging but one where the motivation to do the work is less than the challenge.
In other words, most jobs are jobs not because of how challenging they are to do but because of how little motivation you have to do them. When your motivation is high enough, a job ceases to be a job no matter how big the challenge.
The excellent motherhood my wife is showing our son is a great example.
Jessica Livingston is Y Combinator founder Paul Graham‘s wife. What few people know is that she’s also a founder of Y Combinator herself.
Although Paul received most of the media attention at Y Combinator (at least until he stepped down in early 2014 when Sam Altman took over), Paul admits that Jessica is a better judge of character. Being able to understand someone’s motivations matters a lot when investing in early stage startups.
You can watch Bloomberg’s interview with Paul and Jessica here. It’s the first time that the couple is featured together in an interview. It’s also a great example of the coincidental nature of how great things get started, and the complementary characters and skill sets that are necessary to make any startup (accelerators and investment funds were also once startups) successful.