The Fallacy of Motivation

Josh Pigford on February 03, 2015

Most days now I wake up before my alarm goes off (at 5am) and I immediately hop out of bed, excited to get the day started. But that wasn’t always the case, especially when things weren’t going so well. It’s easy to be excited when the skies are blue, but what about when they’re gray? How do you stay motivated then? Or is there even such thing as “motivation”?

For 10 years I was on a perpetual journey to kick the consulting habit and just focus on my own products, but minus a few 3-month spans here and there, it just wasn’t happening. I couldn’t get over that hump. A couple of years ago, before Baremetrics was even a spark in my brain, I had 2 other SaaS products I was building and I was having a rough time on the consulting side of things. It was such easy money but I was over it and just tired of working on things I wasn’t fully invested in.

Procrastination masked as hobbies

So, I took a break, though not deliberately. At the time I didn’t even realize it and in hindsight, I wouldn’t call it a break at all…I’d call it procrastination.

I started filling my days with anything but work. I started devoting significant amounts of time to my hobbies…namely gardening. I spent countless hours researching square foot gardening, and started a large garden from seed, building 400+ sq/ft of raised beds. I even rented a skid-steer and flattened land in my backyard to make way for our little family farm.

Now, all of that on its own is obviously not a bad thing. Gardening is actually a really good thing, and it’s something I still love doing with my family. But at the time I wasn’t doing all of those things as fun hobbies. I was doing them as a form of procrastination.

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.” — Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

I was running away from the work that needed to be done to move my business forward. I was waiting for some magical beam of motivational light to come down from the sky. But what I found was that motivation isn’t a feeling…it’s a choice.

Choosing motivation

A few months after, I realized I was just procrastinating and made a conscious effort to change that. I buckled down on the 2 SaaS products I had at the time and vowed to simply make them work. Part of that determination was getting a handle on what metrics were or were not working…and that’s when Baremetrics was born.

Had I not resolved to show up and work and ignore my feelings, had I waited for motivation to knock on my door, then Baremetrics wouldn’t exist. Heck, a whole industry of platform-specific analytics tools might not exist.

It’s easy to be excited about showing up and working when you’re growing fast and when customers love what you’re doing. But what about showing up and getting the job done when you’re not even sure what that job needs to be?

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” — Somerset Maugham Tweet This

Many days you’ll show up, sit down and not know the “right” thing to work on to make the most impact, but that is the fallacy. There’s no “right” or “wrong” when you’re in a rut. There’s just movement and until you put one foot in front of the other, you’ll stay firmly in that rut.

Unfortunately, all the motivational books, articles and speakers in the world won’t help you. Sure, you’ll get warm fuzzies and a little boost in productivity for a few days, but it’ll fade. And when it fades, the only thing that’s left to do is to show up and choose progress.

Josh Pigford

Josh is most famous as the founder of Baremetrics. However, long before Baremetrics and until today, Josh has been a maker, builder, and entrepreneur. His career set off in 2003 building a pair of link directories, ReallyDumbStuff and ReallyFunArcade. Before he sold those for profits, he had already started his next set of projects. As a design major, he began consulting on web design projects. That company eventually morphed into Sabotage Media, which has been the shell company for many of his projects since. Some of his biggest projects before Baremetrics were TrackThePack, Deck Foundry, PopSurvey, and Temper. The pain points he experienced as PopSurvey and Temper took off were the reason he created Baremetrics. Currently, he's dedicated to Maybe, the OS for your personal finances.