November 21, 2018

Interview with Author of Motivation for Creative People Mark McGuinness



I sat down to chat with Mark McGuinness about his latest book, Motivation for Creative PeopleYou can listen to the full audio below. The transcript of our conversation is after the audio. Make sure to check out Mark’s book if you want to get and stay motivated!

Jarie:   This is Jarie Bolander and today I’m talking with Mark McGuinness who has written a fantastic book called Motivation for Creative People.

Hey, Mark. How are you?

Mark:   Hey, Jarie. It’s nice to be back on Endurance Leader.

Jarie:   Wonderful. I really appreciate it.

For those of you that don’t know Mark, he is a creative coach, poet, and author. This is actually his second book, his first book was called Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success.

This next book, Motivation for Creative People, came out a couple of weeks ago and I’ve had the opportunity to read through it. It’s just a fantastic book that really takes a great amount of knowledge and information that Mark has accumulated over a long time. (I won’t say how long, but a long time.) It’s the perfect companion to Resilience.

Mark, what I’d love to do is talk a little bit about how you came about to write this book and give us a little background of it before I dig into what I think is some of the great content.

Mark:   Okay. I wrote the original version of this book back in 2008 as a blog series for managers and leaders of teams, it was called How to Motivate Creative People. It was really trying to explain to people in charge how to get the best out of creative professionals, say in a studio or an agency situation.

One thing I discovered when I did my Masters was looking into the research on creativity we think a lot about creative thinking and imagination and thinking outside the box, and all of that, but the thing that really stood out for me when I looked at the psychological research, what really makes a difference in terms of creative work, is the type of motivation. Creativity is highly correlated with what the psychologists call intrinsic motivation, that’s doing it for love to you and me.

Every time you bring in an extrinsic motivator such as money or a promotion, or fame, or opportunity, that’s actually proven to be a creativity killer because you’re focused on the result of rather than the work itself. They say consistently in a variety of different experimental context whenever people are focused on doing it for love or doing it for the hell of it then they’re more creative and more original than doing it in order to please the boss or get a pay raise or to please the client.

You can immediately see the problem with that in a business context, because business is driven by rewards and by controls and by consequences. I wrote the original book to help managers get their head around this and the fact that just offering more money, or alternatively more threats, was not likely to be effective at getting the best out of creative workers.

What I discovered was that the creatives themselves were more interested in the material than their managers, so when it came to running workshops on this I had a lot of creatives saying, “Can you run it to help us understand our own motive?”

Fast forward to a couple of years ago and I thought, “I keep saying I’ve really written this ebook for managers, but if you can imagine it from your perspective as a creative then you’ll get a lot out of it.” I thought that wasn’t good enough, I need to write this for the creatives. So I came up with Motivation for Creative People, I went back and looked at the material again afresh in order to turn it into a full length book.

That’s a slightly long answer, it’s been a long gestation for this book.

Jarie:   Sometimes those things happen. You get an idea and you put some stuff out there on the blog and lo and behold people are like, “We really like what you’re doing, why don’t you write a book?” I’m sure that happens to a lot of people.

Some of the things that I think are really great about this, which is a lot different than the Resilience book, is that you go through all the different types of motivation, the intrinsic, extrinsic, the personal motivations and social motivations. What I think is the best analogy and for me the thing that pulls it all together was on the front cover there’s this pinwheel that has these different colors. Can you explain a little bit about what the pinwheel analogy means for what you’re doing?

Mark:   Sure. There are basically two different axis, four different types of motivation. I’ve already talked about the intrinsic and extrinsic, that’s doing it for love and doing it for rewards. On the other axis you have your own personal values, your personal motivation of what drives you as an individual, versus social motivation, which is the influences from around you.

The short answer is to have a successful creative career you need to have all four. You need to be something you enjoy that is aligned with your own values, but also earns you sufficient rewards to keep going and you’re surrounded by people who give you enough encouragement, support, challenge, and competition to really help you take things through.

I went to my designer, Irene Hoffman, who is amazing and did the design for both of my books, and I said to, “I have this really complicated idea and I want you to express it in a single image. It’s about the relationship between these four different types of motivation. It could be a compass, but I’d rather it wasn’t because that’s a little bit boring.” She went away and she came back with the pinwheel. As soon as I saw it I said, “That’s it, you’ve nailed it.”

I guess I can take credit for the brief, but Irene actually came up with the concept. One of the things about a really nice concept like this is you can immediately start to see all of the implications of it.

When I thought about the pinwheel I thought it’s not just about aligning these four elements, but it’s about how they interact together. When the pinwheel spins then of course all of the colors blend together. That’s why we have a pinwheel, because we want it to spin because it looks nice.

Another aspect of it, the pinwheel spins when you blow on it so it’s your own breath, your own effort, or it could blow when it’s caught by the bigger breeze. I think that’s another nice metaphor for inspiration or any great project. Sometimes you feel like “I’m having to pull myself up by the bootstraps here,” but other times you really do feel like you’ve tapped into something bigger than yourself.

I think that’s one of the most exciting aspects of doing any kind of creative work when you’ve tapped into that. You can call it your own unconscious or the collective unconscious, the Ancient Greeks called it the Muse. Whatever it is, it’s really exciting and you really feel like you’ve gone beyond your original premise and ego.

Jarie:   That’s a really powerful concept. It is one of those great things when everything comes together and the pinwheel is spinning, the blur of color just melds into one so it’s this wonderful rainbow of intrinsic, extrinsic, social motivation and reward. When it all hits in stride, even when you’re running a race or doing an endurance event and you feel that energy and all the hard work comes together, you feel outside of yourself, which is great.

Mark:   Yes, right. I know you get that – I mean, you must get this to do what you do, because your endurance events are not easy by definition.

Jarie:   Exactly.

Mark:   But there has to be that love. It’s the same whether it’s athletics or entrepreneurship or artistic work, it’s not easy. There are plenty of days when we wonder, “Why on earth am I doing this? What have I got myself into it?” It’s those days, or even those moments, where it all comes together that you go, “Oh yeah, that’s it. This is why I do this.”

Jarie:   That’s wonderful, a great way to sum it up. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about it. It’s one of things I think everyone, whatever you’re doing in life you should get on reading this sort of stuff. If you’re an endurance athlete or in business, Motivation for Creative People is a wonderful read and has a lot of great ways to keep yourself motivated and it does dive into lots of different ways that you can apply your creativity to different aspects of things. It’s one of those books that I know I’ll be reading back and forth when I get blocked when I’m trying to do some sort of creative endeavor, which always happens (I don’t know why, you hit the wall).

Mark, I really appreciate your time. Good luck with the book.

Everyone out there in the blogosphere and the podcastsphere should go check it out and pick it up.

Mark:   All right. Thank you, Jarie. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.

Jarie:   Take care.


3 Letters Every Endurance Athlete Dreads and So Should You

Endurance athletes have a nemesis. It’s at every event and accompanies them during training. It’s the hidden monster that drives all endurance athletes to train, train and then train some more. No one is immune — not even the best athletes.

This nemesis is the dreaded DNF — Did Not Finish.

All leaders can relate to not finishing. It’s something we all fear. Not finishing means we failed and failure is hard to swallow.

Endurance athletes use the DNF as a motivational tool because just finishing a race, no matter how slow, means we accomplished what we set out to do.

Leaders can also use the DNF as motivation to push through adversity. It can be the driving force to carry on when all seems hopeless. When you finish that project, land that sale or close that funding you succeeded. You finished. You conquered.

Not finishing is far more painful than any temporary pain one can endure. Even if an athlete has to walk, they will walk. Even if they have to crawl, they will crawl. This is so ingrained in the endurance athletes brain that they will even help others finish — it’s that big a nemesis.

Why Finishing Is Important

Finishing a task means we succeeded. We set out to do a task and we accomplished it. To finish is the ultimate reward. It means we made good on our commitments.

Finishing also has a positive effect on others around us. When we finish, our co-workers and friends share in our success. Finishing builds momentum and that momentum creates more opportunities for success.

Battling The DNF

Most of the DNF battle takes place within us. It’s our motivation, drive, determination and shear will that lets us down when the beast rears it’s ugly head. This battle takes place in every leader and every athlete at all levels. Battling the DNF takes courage, strength and commitment in the face of adversity and hopeless odds when lesser people would quit.

To help combat not finishing, take a look at these proven techniques that endurance athletes use to slay the DNF monster:


  • Baby Steps: When the going gets tough, the tough focus on small steps. That way, they can celebrate small successes. Success breeds more success and pretty soon, those baby steps are giant leaps.

  • Focus on the Positive: Even amongst great adversity, there is something positive to focus on. Maybe it’s the beautiful day, a cheering fan or the eloquence of that last paragraph.

  • Train Hard: Nothing prepares you for a race like training. The harder you train, the easier the race. Same with work. Get the training you need and your project will go a lot smoother.

  • Ask For Support: If you need a little help, ask. Don’t be afraid to swallow a little pride and reach out to others. Just a little help from others can give you the boost you need.

  • Give Others Support: If someone asks you for help, give it. Helping others will also give you that extra boost. It’s rewarding and motivational when you give others the support they need to finish.

  • Pretty is Overrated: No matter the task, you just have to finish it. Don’t fall into the pretty trap by tweaking and tweaking until it’s oh so pretty that it’s never done. Finishing is more important than pretty since you can always tweak it as long as it’s good enough.

  • Walk When You Have Too: There is no dishonor in walking. In fact, sometimes it’s the only way to move forward. If the pace of your project or race is just exhausting, slow it down a little to catch your breath and regain your momentum.

  • Crawl If You Must: When you can’t walk, then crawl. Fight for each inch forward until you can’t fight anymore. Chances are, that each step forward will give you additional drive to continue on.

  • Make Others Want You to Finish: When others are in it with us, it inspires great acts of courage, performance and commitment. Get others on your team and have them want you to finish. This will give you that needed boost just when you need it.


All leaders face the prospect of not finishing. It hangs over their heads during every project, every meeting and every fund raising pitch. It’s a constant fear that needs to be channeled to your advantage by simply owning your destiny, building your skills and recruiting others to want you to finish.

Not finishing is bad but not trying is worst. Even when you can’t move another step, the fact that you did the best you could is the ultimate motivation to compete another day. Every endurance athlete knows that and every leader should learn that.