The Anti-Motivation Manifesto

The Anti-Motivation Manifesto


I used to be that person.


You know whom I am talking about.


The person who watches motivational videos and gets pumped up.


The person who sees interviews of successful people and wants to be just like them.


The person who is constantly seeking for saviors and mentors to wake him up and help him break out of homeostasis.


Two years ago, I remember reading a book called “The Motivation Manifesto” by Brendon Burchard.

This book became sort of my personal manifesto for quite some time.


I used to read it often so I could feel inspired and summon the motivation required to keep pursuing my goals.


Some of its parts were used as daily mantras and a lot of Burchard’s postulates were inextricably bound to the way I expressed myself.


But then something changed. More specifically, I changed.


You see, as a writer and a thinker, evolution becomes an integral part of your paradigm.


You can’t really stay fixated on a specific thinking motif for long because you will inevitably feel the urge to move on to the next level.


Every great philosopher and thinker in history has done that and this process is usually manifested in their works.


That’s exactly what happened to me.


At some point, I grew out of Burchard’s approach and adopted a more pragmatic stance.


Let me explain.


Below is a passage from “The Motivation Manifesto”:


“Greatness belongs to those who have mastered their internal world. We are all plagued by doubt, but the great nevertheless find faith and begin.”


Great statement.


Now imagine the whole book being a 200-page declaration that repeats perpetually the same pattern of writing and thinking.


It flirts dangerously with the idea of cheesiness and generalization.


Don’t get me wrong, “The Motivation Manifesto” is an interesting book and its value is highlighted in the numerous reviews it has received over the years.


Brendon Burchard is a smart lad and I truly believe that the motivation behind his work is truly benign.


There is a but, though.


Books like “The Motivation Manifesto” fall into a category I like to call “the secret category.” The name is inspired by the infamous book “The Secret,” which has attracted enormous attention worldwide with its beguiling stories and unique interpretation of reality.


All the books in “the secret category” follow, more or less, the same structure and the same underlying narrative.


They present a vague interpretation of reality that is predicated upon a belief system bound to positive thinking and visualization.


I am not against all that. Quite the contrary.


If you read my early posts, you will notice a similar attitude illuminated all over my assertions.


But, sooner or later, every deep thinker has to face the ramifications of “the secret” mentality.


That is to experience an inability to deal with the complexity of the world and offer holistic propositions to daunting conundrums.


Positive thinking and visualization are tools and they should be treated as such. When they step out of the tool realm and get upgraded to the ideology realm, they confine us within a very limited thinking plane.


The same applies to the idea motivation.


Over the last few years, we have been bombarded with various motivational elements like motivational posts, motivational quotes, motivational books, motivational speakers.


They all feed on our inability to own our lives and formulate our personal story in a way that is both satisfying and meaningful.


Motivation is overrated and it only exists because we live in an age where sensation prevails over reason. Motivation during that time acts as a Trojan horse in our pursuit of personal ownership and fruitful interpretation of the human condition.


This post is my attempt to rethink the idea of motivation and redress the balance within ourselves and maybe within the society.


The dark side of motivation


Every idea that eventually becomes an ideology has a purpose.


Its purpose is defined by the ideologue’s motives.


In the case of motivation, the motives are clear: Exploitation of a lack of willpower in an attempt to generate profit.


In the digital age, where everyone is connected, the element of comparison is omnipresent throughout our daily lives.


We are constantly comparing everything and everyone to ourselves and this habitual process becomes a willpower-depleting agent.


Willpower is like a muscle that tires. In order for an individual to keep feeding their willpower muscle, they need to attain a specific set of attributes that makes them resilient towards external stimuli.


The average person is far from reaching such a state.


And the motivation movement knows that pretty well.


That’s where it steps in and by presenting a very enticing narrative it lures average people into following them and gradually boosting their motivation bubble.


Until one day that bubble bursts.


And that’s when the dark side of motivation reveals itself.


You see, motivation is very alluring, but it only gets you so far.


No matter how much you try to boost a person’s ego and no matter how successfully you manage to convince someone that they can achieve anything they want, complexity and reality will always be there and, at some point, they will hit them hard.


Motivation is a great tool. But it is a great tool for beginners. It is a tool that can wake you up from a homeostatic state and offer the impetus required to start gaining momentum.


Once you surpass this stage, it becomes fruitless.


What gets you going after that is a strange amalgamation of discipline, flow, antifragility and the pursuit of personal meaning.


If you still require motivation in order to get things done after the initial stage, this most probably suggests that you are not in control of your life.


It means that you are still reliant on external validation and far from achieving self-ownership.


I will explain you the reasoning behind all that by focusing on a person that is quite the hot name when it comes to dealing with motivation related issues. This person is Elon Musk.


Musk is notoriously famous for dealing with big and ambitious projects and is oftentimes quoted as the most influential entrepreneur of our times.


In all honesty, my personal interpretation of the Musk phenomenon was that he was just a big branding success. He decided to embark on really challenging journeys and everyone was impressed by his audacity.


The thing is that there is much more to him than meets the eye.


Musk is not just a visionary. Musk is a pragmatic visionary and this reality hadn’t dawned on me until I read one of Musk’s answers to a question raised by entrepreneur Sam Altman: “So you just feel fear and let the importance of it drive you away?”


To which he answers: “Fatalism can be helpful to some degree. If you just accept the probabilities, then that diminishes fear. When I started Space X I thought that the odds of success were less than 10%. I accepted that and also that I would just probably lose everything, but that maybe we would make some progress. If we get to move the ball forward, even if we die, some other company will pick up the baton and keep moving it forward.”


This is a fantastic answer because it reveals the truth of what makes this man truly great.


There is no element of cheesy motivation whatsoever in his words. There is just blunt and carefully articulated pragmatism.


One could say that this could be considered an anti-motivational answer.


In my opinion, if every successful person out there would try to follow a similar answering pattern, the chances of people actually achieving great things in their lives would increase dramatically.


That is because anti-motivation erodes the element of delusion.


There is no doubt that every single one of us is capable of achieving great things, for greatness is an individualistic process and it needs to honed according to the person’s idiosyncrasy.


But this greatness can never be manifested if the individual doesn’t assume complete self-ownership and instead keep clinging to delusional versions of greatness advocated by motivation evangelists.


That is something very crucial to ponder and also something very few people can deeply sense.


For the past three years, every single day, I have been facing the reality of this situation and every single day I have been repeating to myself the same idea: Motivation is overrated. Motivation is dead.


Nietzsche in his seminal work “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” stated famously:


“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. […] Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”


The same kind of responsibility falls on your shoulders when you decide to kill the idea of motivation.


Anti-Motivation – The Three Antidotes


I understand that promulgating so combustive ideas may convulse the foundations of one’s perception.


Therefore, I want to discuss three basic notions that can work as antidotes to the challenges each one of us has to face when dealing with motivation.


Why is there such an obsession with growth?


This is an idea I will investigate in detail in a future article, but I will scratch the surface here in order to warm you up for what is about to follow.


So, let me ask you a question.


What is growth for you?


Is there a way for you to simply explain why is it that humans are so obsessed with the idea of growth and progress?


Almost every nation and every social group is basing their wellbeing and life quality on growth metrics.


There are two reasons for that. One is overt and the other one is covert.


The overt reason is that from an objective standpoint growth offers a level of options that allow the individual to live more comfortably within the premises of society. The more an economy grows, the easier it is for people to enjoy a plurality of goods and services that will make their lives more prosperous (theoretically speaking).


The covert reason is that growth is the only available mechanism known to man that can help us reach self-transcendence. I hold the belief that we have reached a point in history where the progress of technology has surpassed our ability to follow that progress. As a result, we are trapped in a very limited apparatus, called human body, that makes our symbiosis with technology quite frictional. Initiatives that focus on ideas like AI, singularity and any other way that can allow humans to experience self-transcendence need growth in order to materialize.


One needs to be aware of these two reasons when dealing with motivation because more often than not motivation is strongly connected to justification. Justification of our motives and the proper comprehension of our intentions can become great allies when dealing with motivation.


The social media malady


Humans, probably more than any other species require connection in order to survive and prosper. We are wired to connect and this need has inspired us to come up with different ways to foster this connection.


One of the most pertinent tools we have created is social media.


Almost every person on earth today has the ability to contact friends, family, and strangers over the Internet and create a digital pathway to their reality.


As we know, though, despite the importance of this technology, the aftereffects associated with it are not inconsequential.


Social media have elevated the comparison aspect of our realities to an extreme level and although sometimes comparing ourselves to others can be motivating, constant exposure to this habit is self-destructive.


When it comes to dealing with this issue, there is no shortcut to it really.


Identifying the consequences of the social media addiction is the first step. The second is to gradually let go of them and only use them strategically.


If you are not a person with a relatively important online presence, downgrading social media to just a communication tool becomes imperative.


What helps a lot as an initial approach towards this trajectory is the deletion of all social media apps from your phone. That way you can re-engineer the way you deal with your phone and find more creative ways to “entertain” yourself when you face idleness.


If you feel that you benefit from our connection on social media, I suggest you follow me via email and only use twitter to interact with me.


The rest of the channels are interesting, but if you don’t use them intentionally, they can’t be characterized anything but redundant.


Don’t take yourself or life too seriously


In the self-development domain, you will encounter a variety of approaches with regards to how to deal with the idea of self.


Most people enter this domain because they feel weak and they would like to find advice on how to empower this peculiar entity.


My approach to self-development is very specific and it has always been predicated upon my desire to achieve self-ownership while I constantly fight to disengage from my ego.


However, this arduous task is so complicated that oftentimes I have to face internal conflict and even cognitive dissonance.


Striking a balance between so challenging endeavors can eventually lead to a lack of motivation, and even desire to keep being part of this paradigm.


A potential remedy to that is to adopt a more stoic stance.


Some things are within your control, and some things are beyond your control. Capitalize on the former and laugh at the latter.


The quest for meaning has led many people to insanity, and especially if you have an over-analytical brain, you can fall easily into the trap of obsession.


In closing


Pause for a minute and let that article wash across your synapses.


A contrarian approach to motivation is probably a great way to actually feel motivated.


A contrarian view is actually a great way to approach many topics. I suggest you embrace it more often.


When you kill motivation, there is one thing that remains: Strategy. You need to become strategic about your time, your habits, your relationships, your goals, your processes, your actions. “30 Challenges-30 Days-Zero Excuses” is a book that can help you dramatically in that respect.



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Adrian Iliopoulos

I am the founder and main contributor at "The Quintessential Mind" - A unique personal blog that offers a holistic approach to self-development. I am striving to create high-quality content by investing in a reality-based form of self-help, informed by a deep understanding of psychology, philosophy and my own personal experiences and social adventures.
Adrian Iliopoulos