#032 | Feb 20th, 2020

Maker Mind

The mindful productivity newsletter

Large stakes & big mistakes

Hello friends!

This edition is sent from sunny (and crazy hot) Rio de Janeiro. I can barely feel my legs after all the hiking and climbing, but the views are absolutely worth it. People are nice, the food is great, it's affordable and easy to navigate, and they have wi-fi everywhere, so I recommend it as a destination for remote workers/digital nomads.

Travelling and not doing any paid work this week has put money on my mind, so I wrote about motivation beyond money—why do we get up in the morning? What drives us to work, create, and connect with people? According to research, money is only a teeny-tiny part of the equation.

This week, we will also talk about competition, and how detrimental competition can get when your goal is to perform at your best. You will see how self-competition is much more healthy and productive.

Finally, I wanted to address a question I get quite often. "I want to write, but I don't know what to write about." I put together a list of 75 original writing prompts you can use to find inspiration. These are so broad and exciting I can guarantee you will find something you like and come up with a unique essay.

Bonus: Started to put together a FAQ—let me know if I should add anything to it!

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Brain food

A round-up of my neuroscience-based articles about creativity and productivity.

001 // Motivation beyond money

Why do you get up in the morning? What drives you to work, create, and connect with people? Many traditional models of motivation argue human beings are mostly driven by rewards—whether financial, material, or social—or by fear of punishment. At work, money is often used as a productivity driver. But author Daniel Pink suggests a new model of motivation beyond money in his classic book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

While tying monetary payment to performance and productivity is common in the workplace, research shows that higher pay and bonuses result in better performance only for basic tasks with a defined set of steps and a single outcome. When the task involves higher-order thinking, such as creativity, cognitive skills, or decision making, linking pay to performance actually results in lower performance. So how do you motivate knowledge workers, and how do you motivate yourself if your work involves higher-order thinking?

Read more

002 // Self-competition: only compete with your past self

Competition is stressful, but many regard it as a powerful driver of personal growth. Competitive fire has been praised for the success of political candidates, Olympic athletes, and champion chess players who reached the top by racing someone else. But what we rarely talk about are people who do great without competing against others. In fact, external competition can have a terrible impact on our performance. Self-competition is much more productive.

Researchers Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson conducted an experiment with 124 Princeton University students. The first group were asked to share which high school they’d attended before Princeton, and how many of their high school classmates were also at Princeton. “This was intended to make most test-takers feel (…) that they were lucky to be at Princeton, and that they had barely made the bar for admittance,” Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson wrote.

That first group was asked to take a test labelled as an “Intellectual Ability Questionnaire.” Why this test title? “They wanted the test’s title to be threatening to the students, to make the students fear that, if they did poorly, the test would reveal they lacked the true ability to be at Princeton.”

The second group was asked about their high school only after they took the test, and the test was labelled as an “Intellectual Challenge Questionnaire”—way less threatening and stress-inducing.

Students in the first group got 72% of  their answers right, while those in the second group answered 90% of the questions correctly. By mildly influencing the competitive stress felt by the students, the researchers “were able to engineer an 18% difference in their test scores” explain Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson.

So… Is competition bad for our performance? Not quite so.

Read more

003 // 75 writing prompts for the curious minds

Many of Ness Labs’ readers want to write more. Oftentimes, people write back saying they would love to build a writing habit, but they don’t know what to write about. Writing prompts may sound cheesy but they’re actually a great way to get started. Here is a living repository of writing prompts you can use anytime you need some inspiration for your next article.

These writing prompts span topics such as creativity, productivity, science, and the human mind. Have fun!

  1. What are the most beautiful words in your native language?
  2. How do you document your life?
  3. What does it mean to be conscious?
  4. What is it like to be a bat?
  5. Why do we crave to create?
  6. Do we still need libraries?
  7. Should we trust “History”?
  8. What do you think about homeschooling?
  9. What is your earliest memory?
  10. Do we live in a simulation?

More in the full article...

Read more

Brain candy

Didn't get enough? Even more goodness from around the web.
Andy and his son played with Photoshop by putting search and rescue vehicles inside famous paintings. Love the results. Via Andy Doe and Artur Piszek.

Until next week... Take care!

Founder, Ness Labs.

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