Motivation is the result of removing the unknown.

We all know the secret to success is motivation. How does one find motivation? Young men are neurobiologically primed to search, hunt, observe, learn, and achieve; the danger and uncertainty of it are the three elements that trigger the release of the happiness chemical dopamine in the young male brain. The intense pleasure of a successful outcome and achievements are part of this process. If young men don’t find challenge, uncertainty, adventure, and even hard work in their environment, they might seek these out in less functional or illegal ways. This could be the very reason why they take drugs or drive fast. Auto accidents, suicide, and homicide are the top killers of young males. They might also become violent and abuse the vulnerable.

David Goldman of the NYU School of Medicine and others have shown that achievement, danger, and uncertainty are very important for adolescent and young adult males. Young men’s physiology is primed for risk and danger. As Freud said, two hallmarks of a healthy life are the ability to love and to work. Each requires imagination. We like to add intuition, observation, and… to these hallmarks of a healthy and successful life.

Removing the uncertainties, unknowns, and fears of life is in the way you see, use your intuition, and observe. The ability to feel, develop inner intuition like Helen Keller, observe, and then use the observation to make sense of the world, develop expertise, or live a better and more successful life is the most important.

The link between curiosity and motivation

Behaviorists view curiosity as motivation to explore novel stimuli (Berliner, 1960). Many animals show alternating curiosity and fear reactions to the unknown. They tentatively approach a novel stimulus, such as a stranger, quickly pull back, and then tentatively approach again. Humans also show both fear and interest in the unknown. According to Reiss, although exploratory behavior is interesting in its own right, we do not know the extent to which it is related to intellectual curiosity. Arguably, the desire to explore and the desire for intellectual stimulation are distinct and largely unrelated psychological motives.

“Intrinsic motivation theorists have provided a different perspective on curiosity (Deci & Ryan, 1985). They hold that learning is intrinsically enjoyable (Weiner, 1995); that is, curious people seek out learning activities in order to have fun. On the other hand, when students expect that school will be unpleasant—when they dislike their teachers, are bored by the curriculum, or feel anxious over grading practices—they lose their curiosity and their interest in school. Intrinsic motivation theorists advise educators to make school “fun” so that students can rediscover the natural joys of learning (Lepper & Cordova, 1992). Haywood (1992) and Switzky (1999) applied the construct of intrinsic motivation to the education of students with mental retardation.”

“Trait theorists have provided a third perspective on curiosity. As put forth by Reiss (2000, in press), trait curiosity is the usual strength of a person’s desire for knowledge. People show significant and stable individual differences in the quantities of time they want to spend in intellectual pursuits. Some people, for example, have the potential to experience curiosity for only a few minutes at a time. When these people engage in effortful thought for more than a few minutes, they become frustrated, even if they are smart and are successfully solving problems. Other people have the potential to experience curiosity throughout the day. The former individual rarely thinks about anything, whereas the latter person may seem to always be thinking about something.”

“Sensitivity theory distinguishes between two kinds of happiness or personal satisfactions (Reiss, 2000): feel-good happiness and value-based happiness. Feel-good happiness comprises sensation-based experiences that occur when certain senses are stimulated. In contrast, value-based happiness is the personal satisfaction we experience when our psychological needs are fulfilled. The more needs we fulfill and the more completely we fulfill them, the more value-based happiness we experience. Because sensitivity theory distinguishes between feel-good and value-based happiness, this theory implies that people can be happy when experiencing physical pain. A good case in point is the soldier who is tortured on the rack for withholding information from his captors. Because the soldier is in physical pain from being tortured, he or she does not experience feel-good happiness. Because the soldier is withholding information and fulfilling a need for honor, the soldier experiences value-based happiness.”

“Because sensitivity theory holds that value-based happiness is attained when psychological needs are fulfilled, the theory implies that curious people with mental retardation need to be stimulated intellectually in order to experience much value-based happiness. This poses a real challenge for service planners, who need to find environments in which curious people with mental retardation will be stimulated intellectually. One innovative idea addressing this matter has been put forth by Fish (2003), who was funded to organize book clubs for people with mental retardation in cooperation with a national bookstore chain.”

The Right Observation brings out passion, creativity, and innovation.

There’s an old story about two men on a train. One of them, seeing some naked-looking sheep in a field, said, ‘Those sheep have just been sheared.” The other looked a moment longer and then said, ‘They seem to be on this side.” It is in such a cautious spirit that we should say whatever we have to say about the workings of the mind. John Holt,How Children Learn

The way we first take in information (that is, mindfully or mindlessly) determines how we will use it later. When our minds are set on one thing or on one way of doing things, mindlessly determined in the past, we blot out intuition and miss much of the present world around us.

The famous photographer Joel Meyerowitz says:

Consider all the amateur photographers who flock to the Grand Canyon. Arriving at the rim of this famous landmark, they shuffle about, searching for a sign that says “shoot here.” With one pre-set image labeled Grand Canyon in their minds, blinding them to what lies below, they search for the one and only “right” spot to stand. In advising his audience that there is no such spot and that they could search instead for whatever was “meaningful” to them, Meyerowitz was encouraging a mindful approach applicable to far more than photography.

Dr. Bhante H. Gunaratana, in his excellent book called “Mindfulness in Plain English,” says:

We are part of the world we see. The very process of our observation changes the things we observe. For example, an electron is an extremely tiny item. It cannot be viewed without instrumentation, and that apparatus dictates what the observer will see. If you look at an electron in one particular way, it appears to be a particle—a hard little ball that bounces around in nice straight paths. When you view it another way, an electron appears to be a waveform, glowing and wiggling all over the place with nothing solid about it at all. An electron is more than a thing; it is an event, and the observer participates in that event through the very act of his or her observation. There is no way to avoid this interaction.

Compare these two sets of observations. We call them observations, for lack of better words:

First Set:

It was in 1878 that Western Union turned down the rights to the telephone. The reason the firm gave was: “What use could the company make of an electric toy?” Not only the telephone but also the radio and the personal computer were originally thought to have no commercial potential.

“Video won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Daryl F. Zanuck, head of the 20th Century Fox movie studio, commented on television in 1946.

“The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.” president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company

Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, said in a report to President McKinley, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Duell argued that the Patent Office should be abolished.

“Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.”
Lord Kelvin, 1895

“There is no likelihood that man can ever tap the power of the atom.” ROBERT MILLIKAN, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”
Kenneth Olsen, President and Founder
of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.”
MARSHAL FERDINAND FOCH, French Military Strategist and
Future World War I Commander, 1911

Second Set:

Albert Einstein: What would a light wave look like to someone keeping pace with it?

Bill Bowerman (inventor of Nike shoes): What happens if I pour rubber into my waffle iron?

Fred Smith (founder of Federal Express): Why can’t there be reliable overnight mail service?

When biologist Alexander Fleming came back from a vacation, he found the bacteria in one of his petri dishes had died. Most biologists would have simply regarded it as a trivial experimental failure. but not Fleming. The difference was in his intuition and his different way of observing a fact. Fleming recognized that something significant had happened, even though dead bacteria in his petri dishes was not at all what he had been looking for. From his correct observation came the discovery of penicillin.

What Fleming experienced is what psychologists call “Selective Coding.” Selective Coding is the main ability to sift important information from irrelevancies.

The majority of the information people get about a problem has little or no use; however, some is absolutely crucial. The key to removing the unknown, uncertainties, and fear is to be able to detect the relevant “signal” amid the irrelevant “noise.”

Another path to creating useful intuition and insight is what psychologists call “Selective Combination.” Selective Combination is the ability to see in a way to combine the relevant information once you’ve detected it.

It might be easy to distinguish all the right pieces, but being able to combine them in a new way is a necessary step.

Charles Darwin combined facts that had already been known to other scientists of his day. His contribution was that he organized and interpreted the information in a way that supported his theory of evolution.

Continue First Chapter Section 14