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Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations (Ted Books) Hardcover – 15 Nov 2016
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About the Author
Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, is a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. He is the author of Payoff and the New York Times bestsellers Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.
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Here are a few brief excerpts from Ariely’s lively and eloquent narrative:
Having observed a hospitalized friend’s efforts to delay painful but urgently needed treatment, Ariely “realized the devastating roles that helplessness played in my own experience. It made me more deeply appreciate the challenges of being badly injured, the complexity of recovery, and the ways that my experience has deeply changed me. I also realized how many of our motivations spring from trying to conquer a sense of helplessness and reclaim even a tiny modicum of control over our lives.”
“The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that that life’s greatest rewards spring from our experience of pain…[And then after conversations with his friend and his family], I became motivated by a feeling of identification and empathy for them. I felt that my own suffering had not been pointless. And that I could do something to help other human beings — something that I’m uniquely qualified to do.”
“The point is that these seemingly odd and irrational motivations get us to do things that are complex, difficult, and unpleasant. But they go beyond helping people in need. They motivate us in every aspect of our lives — whether in our personal relationships, in our indie ideal pursuits, or in the workplace. This is because human motivation is actually based on a time scale that is long, sometimes even longer than our lifetimes.”
“We are certainly far from grasping the full complexity of motivation, but the journey to understand the thousands of strange and wonderful nuances beneath Motivation with a capital M is going to be exciting, interesting, important, and useful. And if we do it right, the journey will reveal the secrets of more productivity, love, and meaning. Now, that’s motivating.”
I hope these brief excerpts will ignite your motivation to read Payoff and then, if you haven’t already, read his earlier works, notably Predictably Irrational.
As I worked my through Payoff, I was again reminded of Alan Watts’ books, The Book. He explains that there is no need for a new religion or a new bible. "We need a new experience -- a new feeling of what it is to be 'I.' The lowdown (which is, of course, the secret and profound view) on life is that our normal sensation of self is a hoax, or, at best, a temporary role that we are playing, or have been conned into playing -- with our own tacit consent, just as every hypnotized person is basically willing to be hypnotized. The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego."
I am also reminded of the key concept in Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death. He acknowledges that all of us die eventually. Only the suicide decides the circumstances in which physical death occurs. However, Becker suggests that there is another death that CAN be denied: That which occurs when we become totally preoccupied with fulfilling others' expectations of us.
For me, that is the essential point in The Book. Dan Ariely seems to be making that same point when stressing the importance of efforts — never quitting — “to conquer a sense of helplessness and reclaim even a tiny modicum of control over our lives.” We have every right to cherish that expectation. More to the point, we must embrace the reality that "meaning is not always synonymous with personal happiness.”
* * *
Dan Ariely is the James B Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He publishes widely in the leading scholarly journals in economics, psychology, and business. His work has been featured in a variety of media including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Business 2.0, Scientific American, Science and CNN. He splits his time between Durham NC and the rest of the world.
My complaint is that you don't get much for your money: the book is only 100 pages long - and there's not very much on each page.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Not only is the message strong, the presentation is absolutely compelling. I had come back home after getting a haircut and noticed a small package at the door which I opened to find a copy of Payoff. I stood in the driveway and started to read it. I could not put it down. As my legs began to get tired, I went to the backyard, sat on the deck and continued reading.
A hour later, my wife noticed my car in the driveway and came looking for me and wondered what I was up to. Given that my life involved a painful accident followed by years of slow and frustrating recovery, this book spoke to me at a very different level. I finished it in one sitting. Thank you Dan for writing a 103 page book :-)
My hope is that each of you will read this book and gain the insights without having to go through the painful experiences yourself. That has been my mission in life, but it doesn't seem to work very often. I pray that more people will learn from other people's experiences.
Dan Ariely has done an amazing job with Payoff and I wish that many people will use it to achieve peace and joy in their lives.
This would make a great introduction, though.
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