From the playing fields of 21st century America to the killing fields of 20th century Europe, here are two interesting perspectives on motivation.

The first comes from Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who’s interviewed in the new BusinessWeek and explains why he left a job managing the New York Yankees:

“I was offered a very nice contract from the Yankees [after the 2007] season but it was a reduction in pay. I could get the money back if we won this, that, and the other thing. I was insulted that they thought I needed to be motivated financially to go out there and do a better job. That’s when I walked away.

The second comes from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (buy it here, here, or here), who emailed me a short passage from Stephen Spender‘s autobiography World Within World, in which he describes a solider he calls “Jimmy”:

“As with most soldiers, the army had disciplined him at the price of breaking down any power of self-discipline which he might once have had. Outside the Army he seemed lacking in will and purpose, because these had been forced on to him by punishments and drills.”

Food for thought on a Saturday afternoon.

5 Responses to “Quotes of the weekend: Rewards, punishments, baseball, and bullets”

  1. mike young says:

    Lots to discuss regarding the military. The short version is, the army doesn’t change who you are, so the support, non-combat units may have morale problems, but for those who have seen combat, less than 10% of the military, a small fraction of society, you will be hard-pressed to find a tighter band of brothers, teams motivated like you will never find in government, universities or in any corporation. Probably the most intrinsically driven folks on the planet – and this is not new – one would have found this behavior in the Roman legions just as you will now in the Hindu Kush. If only the rest of society could function so well!

  2. Ted Davis says:

    I’m not sure I would equate loyalty, comraderie and teamwork in the face of mortal danger with “intrinsic motivation”. The immediate external threat of death and destruction is a great motivator. Military training recognizes that too much autonomy and creativity can get you killed in combat. In order to survive and “win” a war, it takes a bonding of brothers, lots of repetitions to create coordinated responses, and a surrender of some individual initiative. The molding of the elite combat unit is about creating a focused and brutally efficient weapon, tapping into a more primal motivaton.

  3. Anthony Italiano says:

    Mike and Ted: both good points…

  4. Jeff Vaca says:

    Personally, I’m not sure I’d make too much of that Joe Torre quote. I think he’d decided before the contract offer that he was going to leave New York, and I think the Yankees organization had decided they didn’t want him back. If it hadn’t have been this, it would have been something else.

    I’d also be interested to see if your theories about fiscal motivation hold up in the sports world. Incentive-laden contracts are commonplace in just about every major sport, and my sense of them is that they’ve been pretty successful.

  5. Darin Schmidt says:

    Mr. Vaca, I believe you’re confusing the real reason for big contracts (owners competing for talent) with Mr. Pink’s premise that such contracts do not improve individual performance. If any major leaguer actually works harder to get to the World Series because of the bonus (doubtful), surely they would be ashamed to admit it.

Leave a Reply