Motivation is Overrated — The Motivation Myth by Jeff Haden

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Sarah Cy
Sarah Cy
Jul 15, 2018 · 16 min read
Get your own copy of The Motivation Myth HERE (affiliate link)

About The Motivation Myth

Jeff Haden’s premise in The Motivation Myth (affiliate link) is that most people don’t know what motivation really is or how to get it. In this book, he lays out the myths surrounding motivation, and helps readers discover what truly causes and maintains the motivation they need to succeed in their accomplishments.

The Motivation Myth doesn’t entirely stick to the topic of motivation, per se. He goes into detail about how to improve relationships, and hitting fitness goals, which may not be exactly what you expected. But all of it is useful information. Haden uses examples from his own life and stories from others to illustrate and inspire readers to create their own motivation — and their own success.


Haden begins his book with the statement that motivation is NOT the prerequisite to a “starting a tedious learning process,” but, rather, the RESULT. It is:

“the fire that starts burning after you manually, painfully, coax it into existence, and it feeds on the satisfaction of seeing yourself make progress.”

The gene cards we are dealt are just a starting point; every successful person I know started on the downside of advantage.

There is only one recipe for gaining motivation: success.

  • The key: Enjoy your small, seemingly minor successes
  • Success is repeatable and predictable. It’s about doing the right things diligently, the right way, over and over.
  • When you consistently do the right things, success is predictable/inevitable.

Allow yourself to enjoy the daily dose of fulfillment that comes from the process. Achieving even small things make us feel better about ourselves (that’s why to-do lists are popular).

  • There are no shortcuts, but there are many ways to make the process fun


Motivation is not the spark that keeps you eager to do hard work. It is the RESULT! Real motivation comes after you start.

  • Motivation is the pride you take in the work you’ve done, fueling your willingness to do more.
  • When you aren’t feeling motivated, do the easiest thing first and get it out of the way.
  • Aversion to “hard” goes away once you break a sweat.
  • Becasue improving feels good. It breeds confidence, creating a feeling of competence.
  • Hide from your weakness and you’ll always be weak. Accept your weakness and work on them and you’ll be stronger and more motivated to improve.

Real, meaningful success is never instant. Confidence comes from preparation — overpreparing, in fact. When you do something really hard for you, the resulting confidence boost spills over into other parts of your life.

Motivation and confidence gained in one aspect of your life can spill over into other aspects of your life. When you feel good about yourself in one way…you tend to feel better about other parts of your life. After all, if you can do one thing well, you can do lots of things well.

In Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency, Michael Ovitz discusses going above and beyond everyone — working harder, sacrificing more.

Research shows that people who talk about their intentions (identity-related behavioral intentions) are less likely to follow through. Because you feel like you’ve already accomplished the thing.

Other people can’t motivate us, not really, and definitely not for long. And that’s because we can’t motivate ourselves, not really, and clearly not for long — otherwise we would achieve every goal we set.

  • The problem isn’t lack of willpower.

…Instead, they’ve found ways to make decisions that don’t require willpower/determination.

  • What drives success is not genius but a combo of passion and perseverance.
  • Mental toughness builds the foundations for long-term success.

All it takes is a desire to keep on doing it. Finding a passion comes from sticking with it, and that is easy when you work hard and keep getting better. And before long, you realize you’ve gotten passionate about the passion. — Kirk Hammett

  • With any pursuit: in time you “become” the thing you do. (You jog and become a runner. You play guitar and become a guitarist. You write and become an author)
  • You don’t have to find the motivation or willpower; you do what you need to do because that’s who you are.


Choices present a huge obstacle to meeting our objectives. They deplete our willpower to pick long-term gratification over short term gratification.

Even though we don’t always realize it, as the day goes on, we have increased difficulty exerting self-control and focusing on our work. — Travis Bradberry, Emotional Intelligence 2.0

  • This is why the power of routine is so important.

You can’t overcome challenges if you don’t care, or only care what others think.

A dream, once born, quickly dies without a process to support it. Then a dream turns into a regret — and all of us already have too many of those.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger’s goal was to win the Mr. Olympia contest. But on a daily basis he cared only about his reps. Each rep took him closer to Mr. O in his mind.
  • He set the goal, then forgot about it and focused just on reps. (See his BluePrint to Cut: Vision on, 9/6/16)
  • You can’t “find’ meaning in a goal. It either has meaning or it doesn’t.
  • Setting a date for completion is important, but it doesn’t help you focus.
  • Most goals make an already-complicated life more complicated

Dream big, set a huge goal, commit, create a process. Then forget about the goal and work your process.

Set it and forget it!

You will never give yourself positive feedback if you constantly compare yourself with your end goal.

  1. Haden wrote a new post every day
  2. Then built relationships: contacted 3 people who tweeted his post that day, and emailed (not tweeted) them a thanks.
  3. And built his network: contacted 1 person who could be a great source for a future post — some didn’t respond. Some did.
  4. Added 3 items to his “list of great headlines”
  5. Evaluated recent results: looked at page views, shares, likes, tweets to see what readers respond to.
  6. Ignored his editor: because she only knew how to get 300K readers per month and his goal was much bigger than that.
  1. Don’t talk a lot
  2. Don’t blame
  3. Don’t try to impress
  4. Don’t interrupt
  5. Don’t control
  6. Don’t preach
  7. Don’t dwell on the past
  • The only way to write better jokes is to write every day.
  • Seinfeld came up with the “don’t break the chain” idea: draw an X through every day you write new material. The chain of X’s will grow, and “your only job is to not break the chain.”


Where your process is concerned, you don’t get to choose what you want to do. You just get to choose your goal. After that, what you want to do is irrelevant.

Creating a successful process is hugely motivating in and of itself.

  1. Set your goal
  2. Set aside decision anxiety and choose a reasonably promising routine
  3. If necessary, customize your process to be extremely specific
  4. Rework your schedule
  5. Map out your daily plan
  6. Work the process
  7. Fix your schedule problems (because your schedules don’t always work in practice and will need tweaking)
  8. Your results may vary, so adapt accordingly (but don’t change your process due to laziness or boredom. Only make changes that increase your chances of success)

Always wait until you can evaluate real results before modifying your process. Let the data show you what is better.

Haden’s success was based on creating a process that he knew would allow him to achieve his goal as long as he followed that process.

  1. Start with a fast day
  2. Exercise 1st thing every morning
  3. Eat 4 almonds 15 minutes before every meal
  4. Drink a glass of water right before every meal
  5. Always stop eating the moment you start to feel full
  6. Don’t eat anything white
  7. Make sure every meal is healthy
  8. Toss in a snack
  9. Burn about 500 extra calories a day
  10. Cheat wisely
  11. Keep a food journal
  12. Check off each step in the process

If your only goal is to become rich, you’ll never achieve it — John D. Rockefeller, America’s first billionaire.

…because if you only want money, no matter how much you have it’ll never be enough.

  • Salaries don’t make you rich
  • Neither do safe investments
  • Owning a business or two can build solid wealth
  • The only way to be financially rich is to start your own business.

Instead of saying “can’t” say “don’t.” Not “I can’t do that,” but “I don’t do that.”

  • Saying “I can’t” is worse than saying nothing.
  • “I don’t”: Perceived conviction is more persuasive.
  • When you say “I can’t,” you give yourself a way out. “I could, sure, but this time I’m choosing not to. You know, because I can’t. Wait. Hmm. I probably shouldn’t, but you know, maybe just this one time…”
  • See the difference: “I can’t skip my workout today” or “I don’t miss workouts”
  • When you “can’t,” you start to find excuses, reasons why you can.
  • When you “don’t” you start to automatically find ways to ensure you do — because that is the person you have become.
  • You’ll also come across as more confident: “We don’t offer discounts.”
  • And you won’t get as much pushback on resolutions: “I don’t have time right now.”


Work too hard on any one aspect of your life and other aspects suffer. That’s why it’s so hard to be world-class at anything…much less several things.

And that’s why you don’t need to be world class. Get to the 90 or 95 percent level in any pursuit and you will be extremely successful and will feel incredibly good about yourself.

You have enough time to become a serial achiever: accomplish this, then that, then that…

  • Many people are too good to do only any one thing.
  • Pick a side hustle your inner 20-year-old will love.
  • List a few things you’ve always wanted to accomplish, but haven’t.

There are two types of pain in life: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons. (Jim Rohn)

  • Think about what you will most regret never having done.
  • Any skill you gain won’t be wasted when/if you move on to another pursuit.
  • Strength is hard to build the first time, but regaining strength lost is much easier.

You can’t have it all…but you can have a lot. But first you must know what you really want. Be honest with yourself.

If you’re not happy, rethink your definition of success. Start pursuing goals that will make you happy.

Success isn’t success unless you’re happy.

  1. The best goals make Maslow (and therefore you) happy: health, solid family, income to suit needs (not wants)
  2. Your goal must benefit you on multiple levels: Ex: Fitness can be achieved through gardening.
  3. Your goal must be unquestionably measurable

If you’re financially, phsyically poor, your goal must help you overcome that. Reach back and pick a goal you’ve had for a long time.


An idea does not actually exist until you turn your inspiration into action.

You’ll never achieve a goal if you just wait. Turn that idea into a verb!


  1. Let everyone know you won’t be available
  2. Decide how long you will work
  3. Totally commit to how long you decided to work
  4. Start your EPD (Extreme Productivity Day) at an unusual time: An EPD is not a normal day. Set the stage by breaking free of your usual routine.
  5. Delay and space out your rewards
  6. Refuel before you think you need to refuel
  7. Take productive breaks, not relaxation breaks: Pick productive tasks you like and feel accomplishment from, and use those as breaks to reinforce your sense of activity/accomplishment. Spending even a few minutes in inactivity weakens your resolve.
  8. Take your breaks at a counterintuitive moment: leave yourself a fun place to start back up.
  9. Don’t stop until you’re done — even if finishing takes longer than expected: Stopping is a choice. We can always do more.

When you are truly spent you either black out, pass out, or die. Otherwise you have more in you.

Winning is a mindset. So is refusing to give up.

  1. Every Sunday, map out your week
  2. Actively block out task time
  3. Follow a realistic to-do list
  4. Default to 30-min meetings
  5. Stop multitasking
  6. Obsess about leveraging “edge” time: Eg, listening to audiobooks during commutes
  7. Track your time
  8. Be thoughtful about lunch
  9. Protect your family time
  10. Start every day right
  1. Stop making excuses for doing less
  2. Stop letting disapproval, or even scorn, stand in your way
  3. Stop letting fear hold you back
  4. Stop waiting for inspiration
  5. Stop turning down the help you need
  6. Stop stopping

Successful people finish — unless there’s a very, very good reason not to finish, which, of course, there almost never is.

Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day — Norman Mailer

To achieve differently you must act differently.

  • Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do — especially if other people aren’t doing that one thing.
  1. Eliminate as many choices as possible
  2. Make decisions tonight so you won’t need to make them tomorrow
  3. Do the hardest things you need to do first
  4. Refuel often: glucose is one of the foundations of willpower.
  5. Create reminders of your long-term goals
  6. Remove temptation altogether
  • Let Your Past Inform Your Future — But Don’t Let It Define Your Future
  • See Your Life — and Future — as Within Your Control
  • Learn to Ignore the Things You Have No Control Over
  • Don’t Just Aim for Tenacity; Aim for Adaptability
  • Don’t Resent; Celebrate the Success of Others
  • Resist the Temptation to Complain, Criticize, or Whine
  • Count Your Blessings

Pray as if God will take care of all, act as if all is up to you — St. Ignatius of Loyola

If you want to increase the level of success, you need to increase the level of failure.


Think about what you want to become. Once you’ve chosen that, you can’t blindly choose how you want to proceed.

Ask yourself one question:

“Will this help me become [what I want to be]?”

  • Ex: Southwest’s Herb Kelleher’s question was: “Will this help Southwest be the lowest-cost provider?”

The more goals you try to achieve at one time, the more questions you need to ask yourself. More questions makes decisions murkier.


When you think probabilistically you see success as the game it is. Success is rolling the dice a certain number of times. The more shots you take the greater your chances of hitting the target.

  • This is how great people succeed: success is based on both skills and numbers.
  • Plus, working your number almost always involves improving your number.
  • More repetitions while trying to improve quality is fundamental to steady, lasting improvement.

Working your number is about grinding: working hard every day to achieve your long-term goals.

  • Haden did 100K pushups by setting a daily number, which meant “all” he had to do each day was go day by day, grinding it out.
  • As long as he stuck to his routine, success was guaranteed.
  • Improving at anything is always fun.

Successful people are successful because they approach learning in a consistent, systematic, results-focused way.

  • They prepare, train, experiment constantly, adapt, refine, refine, refine.
  • They don’t burst through the envelope but approach and slowly/incrementally expand the boundaries of that envelope.
  • Make small, smart changes, evaluate results, discard what doesn’t work, refine what does.

From Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent

  • R: Reaching and Repeating — reach the edge of your ability
  • E: Engagement — pay attention and be emotionally invested in yur goal
  • P: Purposefulness — we often practice what is unrelated to our goal. Practice has to directly connect to the skill you want to build.
  • S: Strong, speedy feedback

Go significantly slower, or faster. Break complicated tasks into smaller parts. Use a different metric to measure your performance (speed instead of accuracy, for example).

Write it down to remind yourself to act on it. If you don’t, you’ll forget it.

  1. Get over the company-name thing: Get a DBA (Doing Business As form)
  2. Get your employer identification number (EIN): the fed tax # used to ID your business. Needed if you have employees or plan to form a partnership, LLC, corp. It helps keep your SSN private. Apply on the IRS site.
  3. Register your trade name
  4. Get your business license
  5. Complete a business personal property tax form (if necessary)
  6. Ask your locality about other permits
  7. Get a certificate of resale (if necessary)
  8. Open a business bank account: Don’t comingle personal and business accounts.
  9. Set up a simple accounting spreadsheet

How to help your employees: Focus on them

  • Give Greater Autonomy and Independence
  • Give Clearer Expectations
  • Give More Meaningful Objectives
  • Give a Better Sense of Purpose
  • Give More Opportunities to Provide Significant Input
  • Give a Better Sense of Connection
  • Give Greater Consistency
  • Give Private Criticism
  • Give Public Praise
  • Give Everyone a Chance for a Meaningful Future

Consider combining “work your number” with an EPD

Haden challenged himself to complicate one person per day. He learned that unexpected compliments make a bigger impact than expected ones.

  • compliment what a person did, not the outcome.


Stephen King: only under dire circumstances will he allow himself to shut down without writing 2K words per day. King works his numbers.

Whom you choose to admire says more about you than that person.

Coaches try to make the process fun/uplifting. Pros show you how to succeed and expect you to take full responsibility for your success.

  • Start quietly and just do the work
  • Volunteer for the worst jobs: find ways to make their lives easier.
  • Ask for help that requires only words: Just ask a question.
  • Offer to help in ways that require more than words: Few offer help before they’re asked though that is when a little help makes the greatest impact.
  • Help other people feel they belong: When you help others fit in that’s when you truly fit in.

When you hit a certain expertise level, your rate of improvement typically slows and you assume you’re near your limit. But you aren’t. You just think so because you’re comparing yourself to your past self instead of to what’s possible.

  • When you know something is possible — it becomes possible for you. Change your perspective.
  • Expose yourself to exceptional people, skills, expertise.
  • It requires a little crazy to change the world.
  • Feeling successful is internal, not external.


  • Be the best at the event. Then people will remember you.

Saying no is a crucial element in your success. Say no to most things that come your way or else other things will steal your time.

Benefits come in many forms. Professional, fulfillment, joy of doing good.

Where the rubber meets the road.

Don’t grab every shiny opportunity.

  • Eliminate one “permission”
  • Kill one report
  • Kill one sign-off
  • Fire one customer
  • Prune your to-do list
  • Cut one expense
  • Drop one personal commitment
  • Streamline your lunch
  • Create a window of reflection
  • Eliminate an entire category of decisions

It’s hard to make massive gains in skill overnight. But it’s easy to make tiny changes.

  • Sir Dave Brailsford of British Cycling used the 1% Advantage to train a Tour de France winner in 3years.
  • Small improvements add up to a major overall improvement.
  • Break down the component parts of a pursuit and make marginal but meaningful improvements to each one of those parts.
  • Remember to do this in your relationships, it’s one of your biggest drivers of happiness.
  • Ex’s of 1% advantages: write 3 thank you notes every day, iron your T shirt, start your day by reviewing your ideas list in your book, say hello to everyone you see,


Don’t tell me your goals. Don’t tell me your dreams. Tell me your plan.

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Sarah Cy

Written by

Sarah Cy

Writer, musician, daughter. Publishes ~2x per week. Learn how to dazzle your readers by becoming a brilliant writer!

Sarah Cy

Written by

Sarah Cy

Writer, musician, daughter. Publishes ~2x per week. Learn how to dazzle your readers by becoming a brilliant writer!

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