The Elusive Motivation Dragon



My advisor thinks that for a successful Ph.D., the one and only essential ingredient is interest in the subject; I agree. But to push back a little and add to that, I believe motivation is essential too. Interest is what starts projects, but motivation is what finishes them. Have both, and nothing can stop you! But that is easier said than done.

I have heard the advice that you should have a career in something you are passionate about. Well, that sounded great! That is precisely what I set out to do! I did not have both the ingredients I needed then, and I still do not, but I did and do have passion. I knew that systems security research was and is something that I love to do.

Having interest in something but no motivation is acceptable when you are doing something as a hobby, but as soon as you turn it into your career, there are deadlines, responsibilities, and the obligation to finish what you start. When you try to do that, when you do not move on to the next problem as soon as you have formulated a solution, you sit there with your head in your hand, doing experiments over and over until you have made sure the numbers make sense. The love for the subject starts to die a little. I would imagine a similar situation if I had all the motivation in the world but no interest in the subject.

Turning your passion/hobby into your career is a good idea as long as you have both of the essential ingredients. If you only have one, you might end up losing that too. I still have interest, so let’s go get that motivation before it’s too late.

This brings us to the question that I’m trying to answer myself, What is motivation really? How the fuck and where the fuck do you find it? Can people who are satisfied with their life not have the motivation? That does not sound right at all.

I do not know the answers to these questions, but what motivates me personally is that dopamine fix you get after finishing something or creating something. Making a table showcasing your efforts can be satisfying, and it does fill me with excitement and motivation for the next thing. It is kinda paradoxical, though; you need motivation to get more motivation. In a world where dopamine fixes are far too many and very easy to get. I feel that might not be enough; I need something more.

Do send some motivation my way if you find any.