What is it about motivation? Where do you find yours?


Picture stolen from the wired article.

So my wife found out today that someone had beaten me to my idea of a robo-mannequin that can give you multiple measurements for viewing clothes. This isn’t the first time something I thought of independently has been invented by someone else. I had also thought of a motorcycle jacket that would inflate (like airbags in cars) if a sensor on the rider and a sensor on the bike got too far apart too quickly. That was also invented by someone else, and there are now stores online that sell them. (Google “motorcycle airbag jacket”.)

I’ve thought of various inventions since I was younger. The issue is that I never really do anything about them – it often seems to me a very tedious process to follow through on an invention. To do so, you’d have to:

  • have the idea
  • write it down
  • create a prototype
  • file for a provisional patent (just in the US? more than one country?)
  • hire a lawyer
  • file for patents
  • shop the prototype around
  • find a buyer who’s not going to rip you off

The first two steps are fairly easy (and usually as far as I get) but from the third on it gets exceedingly more difficult. Steps 3 and 4 up there should really be switched, as technically you can’t really ever be sure that the lawyer won’t rip you off. (I know 99% of lawyers would be ethical, but this is about protecting your idea, not trusting other people.)

There are of course a number of invention services out there where they will “help you” but none of those are reputable and every one has reviews indicating that they are just product mills looking to take advantage of anyone with an idea as they run through as many as possible to find the gems so they can cash out.

The book “One Simple Idea” (affiliate link) does give you a way around all this – essentially you don’t have to complete step 5 above – you just create the idea and file a provisional patent. The idea then is that you have a year to skip to step 7 and 8, and once they agree to licence the idea from you they will hire a lawyer. It’s a nice idea in practise, but one still has to have the motivation to do that. (Stephen Key is said to have inspired Tim Ferriss to create “The Four Hour Work Week”.)

That’s the tricky thing with me – more so than coming up with ideas – finding the motivation to do anything with them. I seem to base most of my behaviour on a loss aversion model, where something only gets done when the downside of doing it is going to be too great compared with the effect of not doing it. (Sometimes – as in this recent spree of blogging – it’s based on a “Let’s see how far I can get before outside forces cause the streak to end.”)

Where do others find their motivation? I’d appreciate tips and tricks in the comments!