This podcast, and the corresponding article, explores how you can motivate yourself and others more effectively to take action and achieve career or life goals.

People belong in one of two groups. They are either primarily motivated by a fear of failure or predominantly motivated by the possibility of success.

Most people are not aware of their primary motivation driver. Yet, tapping the potential of these two motivation drivers can result in exceptional improvement in performance. The key is to figure out which motivational driver is right for you.

The author for example is motivated by a fear of failure.

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4 responses to Fear of failure can be a key motivation

  1. Hi Vinay,

    You raise some great points. I think the environment is less important than you think. If the environment mattered as much, than people in poorer conditions could never ever be motivated. This is clearly not the case.

    I think motivation can work but it really depends on what you are motivated to do.

    First, if you watch this show about this kid in Mongolia who defies the odds to drive at MIT from a village, and you try to replicate that, it will be daunting. Just thinking about all the studying, exams etc., converts this into a massive task.

    You need to break things down into small chunks.

    Second, too many people fall into the trap of being perfectionists. We listen to stories about Steve Jobs who was allegedly a perfectionist. I can tell you right now that if Steve Jobs was a perfectionist the first iPhone would not have had such a terrible email system. Perfectionists do not accomplish anything. We like to hear these stories but they are not true.

    So to sum up, the environment should not matter. If it does matter, than it implies you can only be motivated in “good environments” which defeats the need for motivation in the first place. Second, break down big goals into smaller pieces and do them. Third, just get started and learn as you go.

    Hope that helps.


  2. Michael,

    I liked your commentary of equating motivation to a force that will move people into action and get over their inertia.

    Our modern quarterly results based corporate world is completely based on “fear of failure” mindset. Whereby companies plan and execute not to be left behind their competitors.

    On a personal level, i am not sure if people are left with much choice but to acknowledge the demands of performance placed on them and price to pay for failure. And i agree a large chunk of people in the consulting world are primarly driven by “fear of failure” as they are constantly in their “high school” years of competing with each other 🙂

    Q1: In the era of 60-80 hr work weeks, when one is constantly chasing the clock and targets. Is there room left for aspirational motivation?

    As you said that the tapes and books mostly help feel good…and the effect wears off after a few days.

    Q2: Is the aspirational motivation more possible in an environment where peer-to-peer collaboration is required over long periods of time in chasing some creative new product ? (e.g. the team that created iphone).

    I bring this up..because all speeches, books, talks wear-off in a few days (i would peg it at 72 hrs at most).

    So unless someone is chasing a dream, the power of aspirational motivation can potentially be very limited to short periods of time and not extended periods.

    Hence for a manager does it really matter how a person is wired…..because if the environment or objectives are not inspiring pursuits (i believe that there are only a few organizations who really do awe inspiring work)….the only reliable measure that managers have is quarterly targets…..basically fear of failure….

  3. Hi Zheng,

    We are temporarily blocking the iTunes upload due to the Power Sector Study. In about a week we will allow the podcasts to begin uploading to iTunes in real time.


  4. Hi Michael,

    I enjoy listening to your podcast and want to keep up with the latest ones. Are the latest podcasts no longer going to iTunes anymore? It seems like the latest podcast available in iTunes was released on 9/6/2014. Just wondering how can I download the new podcast to my phone.


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