A Universal Theory of Skill Development: Desire (2)

Looking at the pyramid of performance, we can see that desire is the foundation. We place desire here, because without desire, there is no motivation for pushing to the top of the pyramid. Desire is the fuel which enables us to push for higher levels of achievement.

Conversely, a lack of desire ensures failure. We can even go so far as to say that desire is *the* distinguishing factor between performers and non-performers.

Needs and Desires

Many individuals today are satisfied with the most basic level of accomplishment - satisfying social and physical needs. For such individuals, skill development is born from necessity - they must learn to do something useful for society so that they can meet their economic needs. Once a person has established a job specific skill, their education mostly stops. Knowledge acquisition happens accidentally - usually from advertisements or mass media. Especially once a person feels like they have job security and a steady partner, they often feel comfortable enough to continue doing what they're doing, and spend their time consuming entertainment.

Aside from meeting physical needs, everybody must also meet their social needs. We are all products of our cultures, and there is a psychological need to connect to other individuals. Again, many people meet this need through mass media - discussing the latest news and television, the latest product releases, and so on.

For such individuals, the only motivation to learn something new is from necessity. They are simply trying to maintain their current lifestyle, with the least amount of effort possible. For example, if they become overweight, they must learn about diet and perhaps get enough exercise to avoid obesity. Such ambition can be born from both physical and social needs.

It's not just laziness I'm describing here. A farmer, for example, may work very hard at maintaining a crop, and have a deep level of knowledge to do so. But, the underlying motivation is dictated by the needs of their profession, and they are satisfied as long as the crop is successful each year.

The only other source of desire for many individuals is through marketing. The truth of the matter is that, in today's globalized capitalist society, highly refined marketing strategies have largely taken control over the desires we share. In fact, marketing today actively creates a 'want' in the mind of the individual. Rather than explaining why products are superior in meeting our needs, products today are tied with identity and social status, rather than their practical use-value. So, it is also worth mentioning that many people primarily act upon such desires, and in reality, its' probably accurate to think of these as social needs rather than as desires (as I describe the term below).

Desire as a Motivation for Performance

The desire at the base of our pyramid is not the simple requirement to meet physical and social needs. Rather, in the broadest sense, it is defined as a motivation which pushes an individual beyond those needs - in any direction. It may be expressed in infinite variations - in sport, art, science, engineering, medicine - anywhere. In fact, the performer is usually pushing their range of expression in multiple fields simultaneously.

Although I do follow Freud in the idea that all motivations are expressions of sublimated libidinal energy, I also think that additional conceptual levels are useful. For example, distinguishing needs from desires, and desire from drive (which I will revisit in a later article).

The performer seeks achievements which go beyond meeting their basic social and physical needs. The source of motivation for such development is always emotional - it could be a generalized love for other people, a passion for creativity, or the powerful ecstasy of peak performance. Although performance will always, in some way, lead to social validation, the underlying motivation is more complex for the performer, because basic social needs are satisfied more easily through other methods.

The Performer

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