The Greatest Motivation Trick No One Ever Taught You

Motivation = Expected value = Probability of success x Value

Ryan Yan
2 min readSep 19, 2020


1) When we are motivated by success, we fail.

Before writing this article, I spent a lot of time not writing it. So much so that I had to ask myself, did I really want to write the article? Turns out, what I really wanted was for people to read the article. And I wasn’t really sure if that was going to happen. After simple shift in perspective, I sat down and cranked this out in 20 minutes. What was that shift?

I’m writing these articles for myself now — probability of success? 100%.

2) When we don’t understand the value of our actions, we hesitate.

Next you don’t “feel up to something”, try to understand why it is. For example, after I broke a vertebra in my back, I was in a running funk for months. Even after I got better, I still had the lingering feeling that running was going to cause more harm than good. The value of my exercise plummeted. How’d I fix it? I just talked to my physical therapist, and after they reassured me my back was fine and I had nothing to worry about, I returned to my exercises with a renewed confidence in their value.

Once you start thinking this way, making decisions is quite simple. I don’t believe motivation is some magical, fleeting thing. I think people just don’t understand how their brains work.

Throwback to another piece of mine: now that you get the motivation equation, maybe try to figure out how to apply that equation when the value of anything can be rationalized as effectively zero. Let me know if you have any luck!