Are you pushed or pulled?

​There are two forms of motivation. No, not internal and external. But pulled and pushed

The two types co-exist. Both can be found in each of us. But in our lives, we do lean towards one type more than the other.

Here’s how they differ.

Towards vs Away
Chasing vs Fleeing
Desire vs Fear
Hydrophilic vs Hydrophobic
Love vs Hate
Closer vs Further

Hopefully, you have an implicit sense of the difference. Now, I’ll try to make that sense more explicit. 

Robert Caro has spent decades researching and writing biographies. His first effort, The Power Broker, centred on Robert Moses, a man almost solely responsibly for shaping (literally) New York in the mid-20th century. It’s not just about New York’s political system and history. It’s not just a description of Robert Moses’ life. It’s one of the most penetrating analyses of how power and influence works. How it’s gained. How it’s lost. What can be done with it and what it can do to individuals and organisations that possess it.

Caro’s second effort is a multi-decade, multi-volume chronicle of former President, Lyndon B. Johnson. Again, it offers a mind-boggling amount of insight into the realm and functions of power and influence.

Caro’s two subjects—Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson—are perfect, opposing examples of motivation. Here are two paragraphs which illustrate their primary motivation styles. Can you see who is pulled and who is pushed?

From Caro’s series on Lyndon Johnson:

“It was the fires of that youth that had made his needs, the imperatives of his nature, drive him with the feverish, almost frantic, intensity that journalists called “energy” when it was really desperation and fear, the fear of a man fleeing something terrible.”

​“Urged on by desperate secretaries and associates and wife, he took vacations, but he didn’t enjoy them. He was always anxious to get back—lest some chance for power pass him by. But upon his return, no chance would come. Things he had once enjoyed doing were less and less solace to him now. For no matter what he did, he could not get away from himself. To this man who had consecrated his life to Getting Things Done, to the getting and exercising of power, hell was the continued urgent, desperate, insatiable need for accomplishment and power—combined with the inability to satisfy even a little part of that need.”

​Both men were renowned for their energy. Moses and Johnson led lives and worked under commitments and obligations that would crush the average person. But their energy, their motivation sprang from different sources.

Robert Moses was fascinated by power. He loved exercising it. He always wanted more. He desired it above all else. He was pulled towards it.

Lyndon Johnson was terrified of being powerless. He grew up in poverty. He watched his father’s fall, from Congressman to object of contempt in the community he dedicated his life to. Johnson never wanted to be humiliated again. He feared that feeling more than anything. He was pushed by this fear.

Both men clawed their way to the top of the mountain. But one was pushed and the other was pulled by something.

Are you pushed? Or are you pulled? Are you running towards or running away from something? What is it that propels you forward?