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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

thoughts I have regarding internal motivation

Having the drive to keep going on whatever you're doing, whether that's your career, a hobby or life in general, is perhaps the hardest and the most important thing to figure out. The source of motivation can change, but if you can find the root of what truly motivates you, then I think a lot of your life has been figured out.

I think a lot of this confusion comes with the stage of life I'm currently in - the weird transition phase after being a student for 16 years (assuming you started pre-k at 5) into being a "real adult." Whereas every step of the way before had some tangible and unified form of external motivation that could be translated (or actively confused with) into your internal drive, no such formula exists after college. Starting from a very early age, we're conditioned to look at progress in the lens of calendars and rubrics, knowing that the ride will come in cycles and semesters and the difficulties ahead will have set rewards and difficulties. Sure, you could get a 5.0, have perfect extra curriculars, be good to your parents and not get caught drinking during prom, but be unlucky (or be Asian - jokes!) and get rejected from your target schools, but on average until college, there's a standard set of life instructions that allows you to be "on track" if you are somewhat obedient and more competent than the average human being. I apologize in advance for those in school right now - I realized I started high school a decade ago and I could be very detached from how the education system works, but looking back to my schooling days it seems that everyone who followed the relatively set formula for success did pretty damn well up until college.

Adulthood is different - your life can go a million different ways, work does not equal result and there's no rubric. There are a fair amount of well-tested routes to "success" and ways to lower your chances of failure (S&P500 ETF's, having a good college degree, becoming a neurosurgeon - you know, easy things), but that does not translate to a logical view of internal motivation. The irony is that by the time you realize all this, it's probably too late and you're already an adult. In addition to career exploration, I also think a mandatory part of the education curriculum should be self-reflection, a course or program solely dedicated to exploring what drives individuals and what enables them to endure hardships to achieve short and long term goals.

Everyone may be different in this arena of things, but upon recent reflection I realized I have not changed much in what I consider the "core" aspects of the things that make me who I am. In fact, I said "everyone may be different' to combat the expected backfire from people saying "you can't generalize, I'm special" but I'm rather confident that most people don't change, they only become more of themselves. For the past two years or so I thought that my obsession with meeting people and the motivation future hangouts and encounters with others brings me was a recent development. I tried to put reason to this phenomena, explaining to myself that investment banking disallowed for free time, which therefore pressured me to enjoy every minute I can get and being highly focused on meeting as many people as possible in the time I was granted. I was under the assumption that a year and a half of this conditioned me to be a certain way, which I subconsciously practice currently.

After some discussions with my mom (who remembers my youth more than myself) and thinking back to as far as I can remember, I realized investment banking and anything else "nurture" wise had nothing to do with what I was feeling. I was obsessed with being an extreme extrovert since birth and constantly drove my mom crazy to create play dates, one after another. I was always the last one to leave the playground and only gained more energy post meeting people. What does all this have to do with motivation and adulthood?

I've come to the sad (or maybe happy, if this is something I can achieve) conclusion that unless I find a career of lifestyle that enables me to constantly meet people (and bare the financial circumstances of doing so), it'll be very hard for me to be the best at what I do or be constantly motivated. 99% of the time, the work that I do as my "real job" is a means to an end - the money that I make and the career that I'm "building" is to fund the activities I enjoy with others and to be an active member of society that I have something to contribute to during conversations and engagement. I also recognize this (while not at this extreme) could be a shared trait amongst most people my age, and if so, I think it further solidifies my conclusion mentioned above.

I also recognize that motivations and a diagnosis of one's motivation changes constantly - I could come to the realization that I actually dislike people and all of this could be settled by becoming married or joining a more stable community rather than constantly encountering new people, which could be a byproduct of the nomadic and city lifestyle I've been used to as a result of the pandemic. All of this is pure self-theory and certainly no gospel, but I do think it's important to consistently question "what actually drives me" and "what is the end goal I am doing this for."

In a rather immature and overly straightforward fashion, if I had to summarize my ideal lifestyle or life goals in two bullet points, I'd say the following:

  1. The ability to host massive get togethers every single weekend

  2. The ability to eat a different meal of my choice with someone different, three times a day, every single day

My assumption (solely based on the ratio of introverts and extroverts around me) is that ~30% of you can't agree more, ~60% of you think I'm insane and ~10% of you haven't read this far.

As extreme the goals may be, my belief is that if I aim to accomplish both within my lifetime and work to have the two points function as my internal goals, I'd be able to swallow up the lack of patience and push forward in my day to day activities to achieve them. This is with full recognition that both goals require a hefty sum of wealth or income (or both) as well as a community of individuals that enjoy my presence. Neither can be achieved by slacking off.

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