Many things in life will catch your eye, only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.

Since 2000, Gallup has polled millions of people from 200 countries and as sure as the sun will rise each morning, people wake up hating their job.

It’s worst in China, Japan, the Middle East & North Africa, where 94% of workers hate their jobs. Not so bad in North America. Only 70% of us hate our jobs.

Know why the number of job haters is lower here? Because once the Gallup results started rolling out, Fortune 500 CEO’s figured they’d better do some-thing about it. Not because they care, mind you, but because unhappy workers are less productive. That’s the reason they gave. Productivity.

Plus, it was a cheap problem to solve. Cheap like Borscht, as my Daddy used to say. Turns out praise was the solution. The more you praise your workers, the happier they are at their jobs. Did you know workers will even accept less pay if they feel “valued” at work?

Punished by Rewards…

Alfie Kohn is the author of a book called Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes.

We live in a world, he says, that’s taught us, from childhood, to seek extrinsic reward. Extrinsic means external. You know… like praise.

“We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way we train the family pet,” he says…

The extrinsic carrot on a stick is really effective at motivating us, but Kohn says people can only be manipulated “for so long” before they realize everything was meaningless. But how long is “so long” I wondered.

A lifetime, it seems.

5 Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie always wanted to be a writer. Even as a little girl, she was always writing stories. But life happens, and a little girl’s dreams don’t always pay a young woman’s bills, so she got a job. And another, and another, seeking some kind of fulfillment that she just couldn’t seem to find in the workplace.

Along the way, she thought palliative care might be rewarding. Her job involved spending time with people who had 12 weeks or less to live.

She said when people are dying, they want to talk about their regrets. And it didn’t matter if they were rich or poor, men or women, married or single — they all had the same regrets. Five regrets stood out as the most frequent, and one of those stood head and shoulders above all the rest.

The #1 regret of people facing imminent death? They wished they’d lived a life that was true to themselves, instead of doing what was expected of them.

Bronnie wrote about it in a blog post that was shared and passed on until it was read by millions of people around the world.

5 Regrets of the Dying, she called it.

Then it hit the mainstream media and was read by even more millions.

“People read it on trains in Sweden, at bus stations in America, in office in India, over breakfast in Ireland and on and on it went…”

I read it and I cried, because it was the same regret my Dad shared with me before he died. I can still hear him…

Goddamn carrot on a stick,” he’d said. “Good job, John. They give you a pat on the back, a little praise and a little raise and we keep chasing the damn carrot on a stick. And now look at me. Old and blind, with one foot in the grave…”

And I think back to that Gallup Poll — 87% of us — and it makes me feel half crazy. Mad as a hatter. Crazy to figure out how not to be one of those 87%. How to make sure my child isn’t one of them, either.

It’s not okay. It’s not okay to do work you hate to pay the bills and then die.

This is how the world ends, this is how the world ends, this is how the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

Steve Jobs once said you can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect the dots later, when you’re looking backward…

He tells the story of dropping out of college when he realized it was costing his parents their life savings and then sitting in on a typography class that he’d get no credit for because it fascinated him. Later, he used that knowledge to make beautiful typography on the first Apple computer.Z

You can’t connect the dots looking forward, indeed.

Bronnie’s blog post about the regrets of the dying led to her first book, which led to 2 more, and finally — becoming the writer she always wanted to be.

Life moves in funny ways sometimes.

The key, I think, is understanding the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is the carrot on the stick. The raise, the praise and other rewards Alfie Kohn cautions against.

Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from inside, not outside.
I like to call it chasing curiosities.

I don’t think we’re supposed to know how to get where we want to be, but I do think chasing our curiosities is the best way to improve the odds of the dots lining up for each of us. Try the things that whisper your name — who knows where they’ll lead you.

“Many things in life will catch your eye, only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.”

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