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community and motivation

06/05/2020 - Posted in private , society Posted by:

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reading time: 2 minute

With the current black plague and the necessity to work from home, many people told me that it is difficult for them to stay motivated. This seems to be widespread and all the other bloggers I read on a regular basis have tackled this issue from their own perspective.

Enjoying the process and the finished work.

Mark Manson wrote about it in his awesome “Motherf*ckin’ Monday” newsletter (that I highly recommend). He also touched on it in one of his articles on his website. His spin on the topic is that it is hard to get stuff done without social accountability.

Matt D’Avella sees the issue from the perspective of excess. Given that he calls himself a minimalist this makes sense. In his newsletter he writes:

What’s most important to you? We typically avoid asking these kinds of big questions. It’s not that we don’t want to know the answer. It’s just that we’re busy with one of the many forms of distraction that have consumed our lives.

the positive take on community

While for whatever reason I seem to not be hit as hard by working from home and my productivity and motivation has been largely unaffected, I noticed something different. I noticed an inverse effect, when compared to Mark Manson’s take on the issue, in regards to having people around you.

While browsing twitter for a certain organization in the field of security research, I had a sudden realization. For some time now I have been working on something called secure multiparty computation and so far the consensus has been that the field is small and especially real world applications are sparse.

Digging deeper into the MPC Alliance I found companies, blog posts, Github repositories, fireside chats, medium posts and much more. I found that in the past year, and especially recently, there has been a lot going on (pretty quietly) in the field. This gave me an immediate rush of energy. I thought to myself “There are applications, there are companies working with the tech. This is awesome!”. I guess I felt that my work has a place of belonging. I was not alone in trying to get this piece of tech out there. On a rational level I knew that of course. I had spoken to people who have contributed a lot more than I probably ever will. Nonetheless, being somewhat isolated in a new research group, my heart seems to have forgotten that there are numerous others working hard on the same problem.

I am aware that his is pure and simple tribalism. That I felt energized because I had a sense of belonging. While tribalism can also have negative consequences (us vs. them, etc.) in this instance it boosted my motivation. To add to Mark Manson’s motivation mechanism based on a punishing feedback loop, I think peers can also be a positive feedback mechanism through inspiration and a place of belonging.

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