Dissatisfied? Dan Pink tells you why, Seth Godin tells you what you can do about it

In his new book, Drive, author Dan Pink talks about what really motivates us, the “instrinsic drive” that we want to – but don’t always – follow. He describes the three pillars of this instrinsic motivation: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. These three, working in concert, provide the foundation for satisfaction, and if any of these are missing, or are somehow externally constrained, chances are you are unhappy to some degree. This applies to the job that you hate, or the relationship you are “stuck in”. (On the flip side, if you are happy in your job – or relationship – chances are you have an adequate amount of all three.)

In his new book, Linchpin, author Seth Godin tells you that your happiness is entirely up to you. You can be a “factory worker” – where you give up your autonomy, opportunity for mastery, and work to achieve someone else’s purpose – or you can be an artist – where you practice autonomy, master what it is you are doing, and work to your own purpose. And while many authors will tell you how to go about this by “planning your career” or finding the “ideal job”.  Godin tells you that you can achieve this without changing jobs. It is your choice: artist or factory worker.

Taken together, these two books can give you a powerful insight into what you are dissatisfied with in your life and your work, why you are dissatisfied, and what you can do about it. All you have to do is figure out what you want to be, a factory worker or an artist.

Me? I choose art.

John Elder Robison on an autism cure

This is kind of a follow-up to my most recent post. In responding to Some Asperger questions from the audience, John Elder Robinson Robison – author of the book Look Me in the Eye and a blog of the same name – takes on the cure question:

If there were ever a cure would you take it, or would you think it was like taking a piece away?At age 50, I am comfortable the way I am and I would not want to take any pieces away. As a teenager, though, life was a lot harder and I’d have had a different answer if you asked me this at age 15. I guess we become more comfortable with ourselves as we get older and hopefully wiser.

If you’ve read the book, you know that Robinson’s Robison’s life was anything but easy. Interesting, no doubt. But not easy, especially in a time when pretty much all kids – autistic or not – were left to sink or swim in the world.

(A side thought for a later post: Could the increased amount of time parents today spend with their kids, compared with previous generations, be a contributing factor to the increase in autism diagnoses?)

Whose decision is it?

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to give a short talk on autism. Here’s a rough transcript of what I said.

A few years ago, a friend asked me the question: “If someone told you there was a pill you could give your son that would cure his autism overnight, would you give it to him?” Sounds like an easy question, right? (general murmur of agreement from the small audience)

I hadn’t really thought much about it for some time, as it had been nearly ten years since his autism diagnosis, so I answered with a very non-committal, “I don’t know, I guess so.” That evening I gave the question some more serious thought, and was surprised by I learned.

If the child study team that gave us the diagnosis had asked that question right after giving us the diagnosis, when our son was just barely three years old, I would not have hesitated. I would have given him the pill right then and there, no questions asked. (Well, maybe “do you take credit cards?”)

But if you had asked me five or six years later, as my son approached 10, my answer would not have been so quick in coming, or quite so easy to make. At almost 10, he was still autistic, but he was so much more. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be impossible to separate his autism from the rest of him. If we cured the autism, what would be left? Or, I should say, who would be left? Would it be the son I knew and loved, or would it be a “new” child that I would need to get to know all over again? Would I like this new child, this new addition to the family? Would he like who he had become?

Ask me now, when my son is nearly 17, and it would be even harder for me to answer. Although in some ways it would be much easier, because what I’ve realized is that at this point in his life it is not my place to make that decision for him. If someone came to me today and asked that question I would very quickly respond, “Don’t ask me, ask him; it’s his decision to make, not mine.”

This may be a surprising answer to those of you that don’t have experience with autism. But if you are a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When our kids are young, it is up to us to guide them, direct them, and protect them. As they get older, we help them discover who they are and what they want to be. And then we “let go,” we let them leave the nest.

It is the same for out autistic kids, even if the path is a bit longer or rockier.

If you are an autism parent, what are your thoughts on this? If your autistic adult (or nearly adult) son or daughter were offered and accepted a cure, how would you feel? How would you feel if they were offered a cure and declined?

(If this topic sounds familiar, it is because this question – and some of my thoughts on the question – were the subject of one of the earliest posts on this blog.)