Daniel Pink

Posted: May 27, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

One of my favorite blogs Big Think recently featured one of my favorite writers, Daniel Pink, who was talking about how to influence others by asking the right kind of questions. As he did in his book Drive, Pink explores how we can motivate others by appealing to their interests instead to arguing for what is right (what we want). In this video, he models how to ask questions and follow up in a way that encourages self-motivated actions. This is a very interesting model for influencing others, including prospective employers, current bosses, and networking partners. Try to put Pink’s advice into practice the next time you have to influence someone who is reluctant to do what you want.

Posted: February 7, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I was recently working with two experienced professionals who were making a career change based on completing a master’s degree.  In both cases, my clients felt that they were limited by a lack of experience.  I frequently hear a similar complaint from new college grads.  In one sense this concern is legitimate.  Employers often prefer to hire people who have worked in a given industry or job function.  However,  that type of candidate is not always available, which is how doors open for career changers and new graduates.

If a job seeker doesn’t have experience, what can she offer employers?  She has two important qualities to sell:  knowledge and hands-on skills.  Almost every kind of academic program teaches skills that employers need.  Rather than fill a resume with classes or irrelevant extracurricular activities, present the skills that the employer is looking for.  If you know how to do something, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have experience at a workplace.  Highlight work done in projects or class activities.  Another key point that grads often ignore is the knowledge that they bring to an employer.  New grads often bring the latest knowledge and ideas.  That’s a valuable asset, and one that should be promoted in resumes and job interviews.  As Daniel Pink writes in his fine career guide, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need:  “Think strengths, not weaknesses.”

Posted: December 4, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, this blog looks at intersections of work and life in “Sabbath.”]

Mis-judging a Book by Its Cover

A few years ago I was in a bookstore browsing titles in the career section when I first saw The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need.  I found the title over the top, too cheeky.  To make matters worse, the book was designed as a graphic novel, a sure marketing gimmick.  I put the book back on the shelf and forgot about it. 

Later I read a great book about motivation, Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pink contrasts traditional theories of motivation which focused on extrinsic factors such as rewards with intrinsic motivation or what is more commonly called self-motivation.  Pink argued that great work could only come from a person who was willing to put in the time and sacrifice to do it.  I was so impressed by Drive that I looked up other titles by the author.  To my surprise, Daniel Pink wrote Johnny Bunko, which made me give the book a second chance.

Pink gives his readers great career advice.  He lays out six principles that everyone should follow (I won’t repeat them because you really should buy this book – or borrow it from a library.).  What made the book come alive for me was the narrative and the drawings, the very things I initially dismissed about it.  Pink creates real characters who make the same mistakes I have made in my career, the same mistakes many of my clients have made in their careers. 

Johnny like many people today, especially young professionals just out of college, is not happy in his career.  Through the help of a spirit named Diana, he discovers the secrets of career management.  His path is not easy.  Pink shows Johnny and his co-workers making mistakes and learning the wrong lessons.  Diana mentors them while dishing out funny bits of sarcasm.

Johnny Bunko is a great complement to the classic What Color is Your ParachuteBoth books are built around the premise that we can be happy at work if we make the effort to find the right kind of job, one that fits our strengths and gifts.  Parachute is more of a classic, how-to career guide.  It offers exercises and detailed explanations of its strategies.  Johnny Bunko takes a different approach.  It teaches by example and by making the reader laugh (though there is some humor in Parachute as well).  It holds up a mirror and lets us see ourselves in the characters. 

I made a mistake the first time I rejected this book.  Anyone who is looking for a new job or questioning his or her career path should read it. Don’t be put off by the title.  That was my mistake, judging a book by its cover.

Posted: March 20, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Who’s TED?  It’s really a what, a website that offers videos from cutting edge experts in several fields.  How good is this website?  I once watched a twenty minute video about the sport of cricket.  I know nothing about cricket and don’t care about the game, but the speaker was so compelling that I got caught in his enthusiasm and intelligence.  That’s TED in a nutshell.

Rose King from Bschool.com has sent me a link to 10 TED presentations that focus on careers.  They are all very good, especially Daniel Pink’s talk on motivation.  Check out these videos and wander around the TED site.  You won’t be disappointed.

I wanted to thank Rose for sharing this resource with us.

Posted: June 23, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

I recently finished reading a great book, Drive.  The author, Daniel Pink, explores what motivation means in our post-industrial society.  Too often, business leaders, managers, teachers, coaches, and parents follow an outdated model of motivation based on extrinsic rewards, carrots and sticks.  The new model, which Pink calls Motivation 3.0, looks to intrinsic forces that drive performance.

Pink argues that we can learn to be better motivated and help others to do so.  One way to do this is to strive for mastery, behavior based on the belief that we can always get better.  The key to being better is practice.

Many professionals (doctors, lawyers, counselors) refer to their business as a practice.  They “practice” medicine or law.  If we look behind this word, we find a commitment to continuous learning, personal growth, and discipline.

Anyone in any field can follow this model in a way that will improve motivation and performance.  We need to know what our job requires, what it means to do the highest quality work, and commit ourselves to delivering better outcomes.  For someone who enters data, practice leads to fewer key punch errors.  For a cashier, it means counting change correctly and giving each customer outstanding service. For a landscaper, it means completing tasks quickly without cutting corners on quality.

Pink defines practice as focused repetition and constant feedback, which means we must commit to change and we need to listen to managers/teachers who act as coaches in helping us improve.

All of us can start by using one of the tools Pink offers at the end of his fine book.  Ask yourself this question, “Was I better today than yesterday?”  Look for ways to improve, and strive to be better, even if you work in a place where your efforts are not recognized or appreciated. 

Practice will rarely make us perfect (How many perfect games have been pitched?), but it will improve our performance and motivation.  Start your practice today.

Posted: December 27, 2009
By: Clay Cerny


“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”  Henry Ford

Success begins with a dream or vision. However, we achieve little in life (for good or ill) without motivation.  Look at any successful person.  In almost every case, that person has a story of some incident that drove him or her to be great.  Michael Jordan was cut from his junior high school basketball team. We all know what that experience motivated him to do.

As we push in 2010, most of us will set goals, professional and personal.  As I wrote last week, it is important to have a plan.  It is more important to have a purpose.  Why do you want this goal?  Write it down – but don’t stop there.  Tell people you trust, and ask them to help you (nagging if necessary).  Make a timeline and reward yourself when you make progress toward the goal.  Most importantly, revisit your goal on a regular basis.  What do I want?  How am I going to get it?

Here’s one other point to remember about motivation: be selfish.  Your goals – even if you want to help others – start with you and what you want.  In this case, selfishness is a very good and necessary quality.  We often fail to achieve our goals because we use other people as an excuse. Our parents, spouses, children, or friends, all ask us for time and attention.  We put off doing what we want because someone we love wants something else.  Real motivation starts with a focus on the end.  If you can move forward toward your goal and still make others happy, that’s great.  If not, it is time to learn how to say the magic word: “No.”  Stay focused on your goal, how you will get that brass ring and why you want it. 

Postscript:  The writer and career expert Daniel Pink offers very interesting ideas about motivation and how it must be intrinsic, not based on rewards or bonuses.  To see a video in which Pink explains those ideas, click here.