God knows how many times I’ve heard this question. Not that it’s surprising. For anyone that works with others, motivation is the “holy grail” of making things happen. People don’t usually have the money to pay for incentives, nor do they have the authority to order others around. Therefore, they want to learn this thing called motivation so they can get people going.
Unfortunately, most people don’t actually understand what drives people to take action. Of course, it’s not their fault. Self-proclaimed experts and media outlets have all jumped into the topic of “motivation,” each providing their own take on the matter. While there has been progress made on the subject, this feeding frenzy of opinions has generated a cloud of conflicting views that can be hard for even an expert to sort through.
Luckily, I’m here to help. For the past three years, I’ve studied the psychology and research literature that underpins motivation. Meanwhile, I’ve also worked with numerous student leaders to motivate their teams, so I know what mistakes students tend to make. While my experiences don’t make me omniscient on the subject, I do have suggestions that can help you out. This article is my attempt to share that advice.
As the title suggests, this article will go over the two biggest mistakes of motivation, why they are mistakes, and how to avoid them. This article is the first in a series. As the first, it’s also the most important to read. Future articles teach you what to do, but this one shows you what not to do. While “what you should do” varies across situations, “what you shouldn’t do” always stays the same, making it absolutely critical for you to know. With that, let’s get started.
Big Mistake #1
- Playing the blame game when it comes to motivation
- Example: “Why are the freshmen always so lazy? We should be stricter on them so they do more work.”
Blaming people for laziness is not productive. Personal attacks get messy and 9 times out of 10, someone gets offended, and the TV drama ensues. I’m sure you knew that already, so I won’t belabor the point. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not asking you to be Mother Theresa and forgive people for “not being motivated.” Not by a long shot. I’m telling you this because motivation is not what you think it is, so you should act accordingly. Before I explain, let’s skip to Big Mistake #2 because the two problems are interconnected.
Big Mistake #2
- Trying to imitate Hollywood motivation
- Example: “If only I could give a speech like [insert movie star here]…”
Honestly, students don’t go out of their way to screw this one up. No one really thinks that they can pull off a speech like that the one posted above. It’s the underlying concept that leads people off track. It’s the idea that, as long as you say something motivation-y and lead by example, your team will put their hands together and shout hoorah before kicking ass.
Unfortunately, motivation doesn’t work that way. First of all, let’s be honest: most people think motivational speeches are cheesy. You don’t have a dramatic soundtrack to back you up, and you likely can’t act like Al Pacino. But even if you do manage to pull off a speech of a lifetime, you can’t ensure that your team will stay committed. Now, why is that the case? It’s time to talk a bit more on what motivation actually is.
Bursting the Bubble
Mistakes #1 and #2 are based on one simple assumption: motivation starts and ends with the individual. We believe we do what we do because we want to do it. We fancy ourselves as masters of our own destiny, and while we’ve heard of things like peer pressure, we tend to believe that things like that don’t apply to us. Likewise, we also believe that other people do what they want to do, so we treat them as such. Unfortunately, this idea is wrong.
To put it bluntly, you are not nearly as in control of your decisions as you think you are. The evidence from psychology is unequivocal. I can give a long list of examples, but I’ll just leave one here. In the famous Asch conformity experiments, participants were asked to judge the length of a line on one sheet of paper and match it with one of three lines on another sheet. Pretty easy, right? The only caveat was that the participant was grouped with two “confederates” who deliberately gave the wrong answer.
Even on an easy test such as this, over 70% of participants sided with the confederates at least once, even though the answer they supported was obviously wrong. Many variations of this test have been done over time, and the same finding pops up: people are easily influenced by the people around them, even towards a decision that seems stupidly easy to an objective observer. Pretty crazy stuff. So how does this apply to motivating your team?
The point is that people don’t always “decide” to be lazy, even if they say it’s their decision. After all, many participants in the Asch experiments who got it wrong denied that they had been influenced. In reality, it’s the situation, not the individual, that often dictates how people act. Since getting people to act is the point of motivation, then it logically follows that the situation has an enormous impact on why some people are motivated and some people are not.
Therefore, to go back to my point on not playing the blame game, it’s not that I want you to be some sort of Buddha. None of us are. I advise against blame games because, many times, it really isn’t person’s fault when they aren’t motivated. They just got stuck in a crappy situation, and no one came to help. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore these situational factors and focus on the individual instead, making what’s called the fundamental attribution error in psychology.
Likewise, back to Hollywood motivation, it’s not that these videos don’t “work” by getting you pumped up. They clearly do (at least for me). It’s just that motivation involves so much more than a person’s decision at any one point. Even if you do get people to agree with your plan, it doesn’t mean they’ll be motivated to follow through with it. They may even resist you later on if they get together with enough “confederates.”
So now that you know that situations strongly affect how people act, let’s talk about what to do with that information.
Finding the Source
Let’s say you accept my point about how situations affect motivation. The next question you might be wondering is, “What kind of situations are we talking about here?” Unfortunately, the short answer to this question is “everything.” No, that answer’s not very helpful, which is why I have four more articles on what you should do to motivate people.
In this part, I’ll provide suggestions how to find the source of your motivation problem—individual vs. situation. Let’s say you have some teammates that you feel are being lazy. Here’s how you can see if you really should blame them for it (hey, it happens). Ask the following questions, and use their answers to guide your judgment:
How many people are unmotivated?
If it’s two or less, the problem has to do with the individual situation or person (you don’t know which quite yet). If it’s three or more, you’ve got an organizational problem (think: boring meetings, crappy events, lack of direction or purpose). Read the “Organization” motivation article for more info.
Assuming that it’s not an organizational problem, has the problem regularly affected people of the same position in other years?
If yes, then you’ve got a problem with the position description, not the person. Consider changing what the position entails to make it more engaging, defined, or relevant to the organization (read the “Autonomy” and “Mastery” motivation articles for more info). If no, move to the last question.
If it’s not a position problem, do the people have the skills to do their job? Do they get regular support from the rest of the team (encouragement, social contact, etc.)?
If no to any of these questions, then you’ve got an alignment problem. Basically, you’ve got the wrong person in the wrong place, so you should consider moving him/her around to other positions or gathering support around that position (read the “Purpose” motivation article for more info).
If you do provide all these things, and you don’t know how much more support you could give, then, sorry. You’ve got deadweight on your hands. Proceed directly to my article on the subject here.
For more articles from Hao-Kai’s blog, Rational Empowerment, check out his website HERE!
San Diego State University. UCLA. UC Berkeley. UCSD.
What do all of these fine institutions share in common? They have a Facebook meme page!
In case you’ve been buried under Jimmy Hoffa’s nonexistent grave (look it up!), here’s a short explanation of what memes are. Start with a square white canvas, about two inches by two inches in dimension. Put this canvas inside a computer screen. Add a background image, for example that of a black and white penguin on a blue background (Socially Awkward Penguin) or of Willy Wonka leering arrogantly at you (Condescending Wonka). A sentence at the top (“AUTHOR TRIES TO WRITE GREAT OPINION ARTICLE ON MEMES”), a sentence at the bottom (“NO ONE READS IT”), both in capital letters, and check! We have a meme.
But enough with the setup. Here’s what I find fascinating about memes. Peruse the ‘UC Berkeley Memes’ Facebook Page. You’ll find a clever little two-panel image, rendered like a Hallmark card. On the top panel, a middle-aged man throws up papers in the air to a caption of “It’s Friday! [Frac] this [s#%&]. Sadly, such laziness cannot hold, as in the bottom panel, the man hunches over to pick up his papers to a caption of “LOLjk I go to Berkeley.” Here’s the thing – you’ll find this exact meme, word-for-word except for the name of the institution, on the San Diego State University meme page. And the Harvard one. And the UCSB one. And so on and so forth.
By no means is this case unusual. But if you think about, isn’t this shameless repurposing of content kind of strange? The original creator attended UCSB; a Berkeley student spotted it and decided to post it on the ‘UC Berkeley Memes’ page; from there, an SDSU Aztec found it and put it up on his school’s meme page. People liked it (both mentally in their head and literally via the “Like” button) because they related to the message of the meme: “We attend a difficult, rigorous academic institution where work never stops, not even on Fridays.” In their minds, this knockoff Hallmark card encapsulates their specific school’s experience. UCSB is tough. Cal is tough. Harvard is tough. But I have my doubt anyone thought of all three, let alone Stanford or SDSU, when reading the meme.
There’s a startling commonality of content between the various college meme pages. To some degree, this isn’t terribly surprising: we all know the stereotypes that college students don’t have money, are loathe to do work, and enjoy imbibing liquid beverages. But what I find fascinating about memes is how their target demographic reacts to them – more specifically, they think “that’s totally me!” Memes convey shared human experiences, like the time we were awkward around cute girls or procrastinated on studying for a test. But for the individuals reading these memes, some of these memes couldn’t be more specific or tailored. “That’s me!” Decidedly non-unique experiences, via the magic of the human brain, have been rendered decidedly unique. Literally the same meme, with but one word changed, can be used here, in schools in Cambridge, in Berkeley, in Bombay, in Beijing.
The summer before my freshman year of college, I visited my father’s hometown for the first time— Hohhot, China. Hohhot, China— a city, somewhere in the region of Inner Mongolia on the western flanks of the Chinese subcontinent, which for me was just unfathomably removed from anything I’d ever seen. For the really in my life, I truly had no clue where I was. I remember walking down through the city with a tie-dyed shirt on— and I’m fairly sure no one in Inner Mongolia knows what, let alone has seen, a tie-dye shirt in real-life. Men, woman, and children alike all stared at the blue and red tie-dye shirt I wore like I was wearing brassiere or something. The culture shock wasn’t limited to this— cigarette smoke everywhere, roads crawling with jaywalkers in a scene akin to what I’ve always imagined Hobbes’ state of nature would look like, feeling like I couldn’t fit in.
Looking back, though, I don’t remember the awkwardness of being there. I remember the good things— the funny situations I ran into as I, a half Taiwanese half Inner Mongolian raised in suburban California, blindly wandered through Hohhot trying to get by with my accented Mandarin, bluffed my way through awkward encounters with distant relatives of my dad’s. When I got back from my trip, I remember trying to think of a blog post I could write about my experience there, drawing a blank of what I brought home from Hohhot. But why try to write 500 words about the complexities of my experience when my trip’s best parts— the things I still vividly remember— could be distilled down to a meme? I know this might be a stretch, I honestly think that memes capture a part of the human essence that previously existent art and media forms missed out on or ignored. Awkward penguins are awkward penguins everywhere— in China, in Berkeley, in San Jose, California. What fascinates me so much about memes is how true they are— sure they might be trite, but the commonality of the human experience they collectively encapsulate reveals so much about how much we all really do have in common across the globe. The ability of memes to distill common shared lifetime experiences into a short, easily digestible picture that’s easily communicable in this digital age is not just humorous; it’s fundamentally different from anything we’ve had before.
Before Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, tragedies had to be about heroic figures; Miller defied that critic dictum with his character Willy Loman, victim of no great calamity but everyday life. In doing so, he redefined the bounds of what could be considered tragedy. The impact of memes, in my mind, will be roughly analogous to Miller’s epochal play. Art doesn’t have to depict only the grandiose, the majestic, or even just the somewhat-out-of-the-ordinary. Everyday life’s now within the bounds of art – that time you totally waved to a person you didn’t know, or when you had spinach on your tooth for an hour and didn’t realize it, or when you’re bored in class and playing Snake. Perhaps one day, there’ll even be a Memes Major at Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or Princeton. Art after all is art.
I joined USC Taiwanese American Organization my freshman year at USC, hoping to find international Taiwanese students that grew up overseas like me. What I found instead was actually a group of culturally diverse friends with different backgrounds and relationships with Taiwanese culture. I was happy to discover the many different ways that people have experienced Taiwan.
I am now in my junior year and since then our club has expanded even more. In our E-Board alone, we have Taiwanese Americans that have grown up in the US, international Taiwanese students that have grown up in places such as Tokyo and Taipei, and a mixture of ethnicities including Indian, Korean, and Chinese. We welcome all and don’t discriminate, which is at the heart of what being Taiwanese is about. I am glad to say that this mentality is present at USC, creating community that takes pride in its own traditions and diversity.
USC TAO is a close-knit community that celebrates Taiwanese American culture through events such as KTV nights, food-making, and even career events. Our goal as the premier Taiwanese American club on campus is to create opportunities for people, with whatever background or amount of friends they have, to connect with others interested in Taiwanese culture.
2013 marked the year that the ITASA West Coast Conference was making its comeback.And did it ever! Hosted at UCLA with the theme CRESCENDO, the conference drew representatives for schools all over the west coast. For three days, students busied themselves with workshops that aimed to educate and inspire them about their Taiwanese American community and culture. There was even a night market and benefit concert with a mass of Taiwanese American artists joining together to raise funds for The American Red Cross and the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families. Heck, even a local Youtube celebrity showed up-KevJumba!
I’ve attended the last two WCCs; San Diego and UC Berkeley. The WCC has been sorely missed. There’s just something about the California sunshine that just makes each WCC separate from its Midwest and East Coast counterparts. However, UCLA’s WCC 2013 focused a lot on the voices of the Taiwanese American community and the activism that was happening every day. I had the privilege of sitting in on Chris Kuo’s workshop about the Stanley Project. Wondering why Chris’s name is so familiar? He is actually a member of the Instant Noodles dance crew that appeared on ABDC (America’s Best Dance Crew). Stanley was Chris’s older brother who passed away after he lost his battle with Osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
Not only that, but Stanley had lost another brother, Sammy earlier in his life to another fatal disease. Regardless of all this heartbreak so early in life, the theme of Chris’s workshop was “Remembering How to Love”. Chris talked about how important that it was that we should embrace the people we love in our life as we’ll never know when fate would take us away from them. I thought that was an extremely poignant lesson, especially when recently, there has been so many horrible events that have claimed many lives. Chris’s talk was full of emotion especially as he described Stanley’s last days. Nearly the entire audience had tears in their eyes. At the end of the workshop, Stanley had two mini projects for us to do. One was to put a post-it on a foam board describing what love meant to us and the other one was to speak to the camera something we wanted to tell a person we loved. Since I’m not very fond of being on camera, I did not participate but the people who did said it was quite exhilarating.
Besides the obviously awesome workshops, there was free time to interact with students from different schools. It’s always great meeting people from all over California and sharing our similarities. The banquet, which signified the end of the conference was absolutely amazing, especially the food. I couldn’t stop raving about how delectable the dishes that UCLA catering provided during and after. Beyond the food, there were great performances given at the banquet especially by composer George Shaw who, if and when I ever get married, needs to play at my wedding. His hands were absolutely magic on the piano, making me wish that I had kept up with my piano lessons but then again even if I had, I doubt I would’ve played half as well as him. Overall, WCC 2013 was worth the hiatus. The exciting news is that we won’t have to wait another two years for one as there definitely will be another next year! However, any ITASA conference wouldn’t have happened without the hard work and dedication of their team so a big thank you to the ITASA WCC 2013 for putting on a show stopping event and inspiring their attendees to be more involved in their community.
As April came around the corner, most of us at NYU were busy studying for upcoming midterm exams or enjoying the occasional sunshine that reached New York City. However, for those on the 2013 TASS Night Market E-board this was accompanied with a flurry of board meetings and final checkups as April 11thapproached.
TASS Night Market is possibly one of the largest events that the Taiwanese American Student Society on New York University holds each year. Featuring an assortment of ethnic Taiwanese delicacies, many fun cultural game stations, along with all night long performance by talents from our own general assembly, TASS Night Market attracts over 250 NYU students each year!
The amount of effort put into the whole process was crazy as the board was selected and started planning out as early as November of 2012. Led by two awesome Night Market directors, Beryl Lin and John Lim, the Night Market board was made up of 12 unique individuals who all decided to come together to work on this amazing event. Needless to say, through the many meetings and team bonding that occurred throughout the school year, each of us has come to recognize one another as friends. The whole board was divided up into different divisions including marketing, media, programs, sponsors, venue, etc. Of course, each team had different fields of operations and yet as a team, we worked together in giving advice to one another and also in providing resources. Sure, there were times when I personally felt like going crazy or just had way too much on my plate, but having the steady and helpful hand of the Night Market directors and my other teammates there to help me, really ensured that I was able to lighten that weight and carry out my tasks to the best of my abilities. Likewise, other team members also worked diligently in carrying out our mutual goals in showcasing our unique Taiwanese culture and also creating the best NYU Night Market ever!
After all our efforts, TASS NYU 2013 Night Market was a success. What was a plainly filled auditorium 6 hours prior, was now filled with all sort of decorations and vendors along with the longest table of Taiwanese “small eats” (小吃) that one could ever imagine. Attendees were greeted by a dimmed auditorium lit up with sparkling white Christmas lights along with streamers and lanterns (much like an actual night market in Taiwan) and treated to a loud and lively atmosphere filled with people and different stands for them to explore. Performers of a wide range of talents performed and provided live entertainment for the attendees. At the very end, our main act, IAMEDIC showed up and had the whole audience in rapture with their lively music and warm attitudes. In fact, we even attracted AsianInNY to come out to Night Market, take pictures for us, and write about us in their blogs! (Check it out from this link! http://blog.asianinny.com/events-in-nyc/2013-tass-night-market-w-performance-by-iammedic/)
It was a hard and difficult process, yet rewarding and definitely worth it in the end. I hope that in years to come, Night Market will only attract even more students to join and see what Taiwan has to offer!
On February 27, 2013. The Brandeis TSA held their first Taipei 101 Gingerbread Decorating event. The e-board prepped for the event prepackaging the ingredients each team would get. The key ingredients were graham crackers, icing, and various colorful candies. There were three categories to win the competition, beauty, height and the earthquake test.
After an introduction to the Taipei 101 and the rules, four teams got to work to make their own Taipei 101 with varying styles and methods. After about 30 minutes, the architects stepped back and the judging commenced. Some did not withstand the earthquake test (table shaking), but were delicious none-the-less.
This event was unique, fun and yummy. Hopefully it will become an annual event at Brandeis.
MEDFORD— On March 29th, over two hundred students from Tufts and other nearby universities turned out in attendance at another annual installment of Night Market hosted by TAST, the Taiwanese Association of Students at Tufts.The event was held at Hotung Cafe in the Elizabeth Van Huysen Mayer Campus Center and was free to all attendees.
Guests entering the event filed into two floors of decorations including traditional paper lanterns, Christmas lights, and a 1/85 scale model of Taipei 101 as Chinese music played in the background.Each attendee received six tickets at the door with which they could exchange for food or prizes, with the opportunity to earn more tickets by playing games.
The main draw of the event, the food, included delectables such as kung pao chicken, salt and pepper chicken, scallion pancakes, and mapo tofu.Also served were shaved ice, egg puffs, and the uniquely palatable TAST-recipe boba tea.Spring rolls were provided by Rose’s Restaurant in Medford; as with TAST tradition, all other dishes were prepared by TAST executive board members and volunteers on the day of Night Market.Students met in multiple kitchens beginning at 10 AM and cooked well into the afternoon.
For entertainment, game stations included ring toss, a Nerf gun target, and a basketball game, all matched with suggestively intriguing titles such as “Poke My Hole”, “Threesome”, and “(Chop)Stick It To Me”.The favorite station among attendees was “Don’t Forget To Swallow”, a variation of the popular donut game in which students competed to eat marshmallows off a dangling string without using their hands.
The night also featured performances by TAST’s own Dennis Chen on Chinese yo-yo and a breakdance/hip-hop showcase by TURBO, Tufts University Radical Breakdance Organization, featuring Eric Hsieh of Bulletproof Funk/Northeastern University as a guest performer.As a final act, students were given the opportunity to earn more prizes by participating in the Game Show.Emceed for a second consecutive year by Kevin Campbell and first-year Laura Chang, the Game Show included a balloon popping contest and telephone charades.Raffle prizes— a Chinese yo-yo, ukulele, and more— were also announced prior to and at the conclusion of the Game Show.
Asked for her comments afterward, Victoria Chen, a sophomore and ITASA representative at Wellesley College who volunteered throughout the event, said “I thought the night market was very well done, from the home-cooked food, to the games, the performances, and the game show!” Michael Chu (A13), current president of TAST, said “I am so fortunate to have such a lovely and dedicated e-board this year to make this event so successful. I thought this event was very interactive.People could participate in the game show for prizes or play different games to get more tickets in exchange for raffle prizes and more food.Though stressful, this was a very rewarding experience for me as well as all of my e-board members.”
Founded in 1996, the Taiwanese Association of Students at Tufts (TAST) serves to spread to culture, language, and history of Taiwan to students at Tufts University.
CWRU Taiwanese American Students Association is one of the newer culture organizations on campus. The club has really grown in the past two years as we tried to reach out to ITASA and holding more new and exciting events on campus. We are open to people from all different backgrounds who might be interested in learning more about Taiwanese culture! There isn’t a lot of Taiwanese American population at CWRU compared with other schools so one of out main goals has been trying hard all year round to reach out to new members.
Our biggest events are Night Market in the fall semester and Lunar New Year Banquet in spring. These major events usually attract around 100 attendees as many TASA members bringing their friends and family too.It is always a guaranteed fun night with lots of activities and authentic Taiwanese dishes.
Besides big events, there are also lots of smaller events such as Last night breakfast where we serve traditional Taiwanese breakfast at late night.CWRU TASA also owns a shaved ice machine so there is always one shaved ice event every semester. It is always a great way for the members to bond and enjoy some delicious Taiwanese desert.
CWRU TASA has enjoyed all the mixers and conferences we have been to so far and we would all look forward to getting more involved in future ITASA events.
2013-2014 National Board applications will be released soon! Why should you apply? Let current National Board members tell you about their amazing experiences this year with ITASA!
At the beginning of my sophomore year at Northwestern I decided to attend almost every East Asian cultural club’s meet and greet event. I didn’t anticipate being swept into TASC and KASA (Korean American Students Association), and I certainly didn’t expect to meet so many new faces in such a short span of time. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. Someone would approach me on my way to class with a bright smile, saying “Hi Jess!” and I would panic because I had no idea if she was called Sophie or Joy.
I remedied this problem by immersing myself in these clubs. This year I was on the executive board for both clubs, and I can easily say that they consumed my life, both extracurricular-ly and socially. However, it wasn’t until I joined ITASA that I truly experienced what a family was. Because I was able to meet so many passionate people (many of whom are now my closest friends) and hear so many inspirational messages at conferences, I really began to reevaluate my entire life. Who am I, what is my life’s goal, and how am I going to get there?
I realized that I no longer wanted to play an executive or planning role in my school’s TASC and KASA because ITASA had broadened my view of what a mission and vision were. A true leader doesn’t necessarily need to hold a high position, but he/she needs to be influential. I asked myself, “Am I a leader in the organizations that I am a part of?” And to be honest, when I looked at my involvement in both TASC and KASA, the answer was no. It was painfully obvious to me that beyond my close relationships within the club, I had no real attachment to the organizations and I had no goals to strive toward.
That’s not to say that I’m a quitter. I fully plan on staying involved in both clubs as a mentor for the younger members, and I hope to contribute my efforts and ideas throughout the year. But because of everything I’ve learned through ITASA, I’ve taken a step back and recognized that I need to fully invest my time in visions that I truly support and believe in. Next year I will only be heavily involved in the extracurricular activities that I am passionate about (including ITASA!), and I know that my dedication to causes that are close to my heart will be all the more rewarding.