Entered The Real World? Motivation Gone to Shit? Here’s Why

by Alexander Heyne · 18 comments


I was a classic good student. It ended up screwing me in life.

I got good grades.

I showed up to class.

I did what I was told.

I passed through the system pretty effortlessly, not stirring up too much shit, not getting into too much trouble, just looking to get on with it.

I never had problems with motivation, or getting my homework done, or showing up on time for tests.

So people naturally assumed that I would be successful in life – they described me with words like “hard working” “disciplined” and “self-driven.”

And then an interesting thing happened.

I got my first real, full-time job, and suddenly could not give a shit about life or work.

My motivation flew away, my ambition was non-existent, and in general, I kinda inherited this “Ehhh” quality of life that scared the fuckin’ bejesus out of me. This wasn’t me.


It’s extremely common to suddenly lose your fire, and not give a shit about life, when you get into the real world. It’s no accident.

It’s actually all about how life was designed in those years of school.

Everything was structured.

School always has goals and deadlines for you.

Semester one. Math test 1. Math test 2. Math test 3. Vacation! Semester two. Math test 4. Math test 5. Summer!

High school. Goal: Complete freshman year. Done!

Goal: Complete sophomore, junior, senior year. Done!

There’s always a goal, always a next step, always a plan, always a WHY regarding why you need to go to the next level.

There’s a little bit of motivation built into the system. There are milestones.

But that’s not necessarilly true when you graduate.

Enter “Reality” – And Bye Bye Motivation

When you get your first job, you’re like “Yeeeeee buddy!” Makin’ money, partying on the weekend, and having a good time.

But year three is usually the “awareness” moment. Most people hit the wall by year three (some sooner – I hit it at year one).

They realize that this (job, lifestyle, etc.) is not what they want. They realize that there’s not much to work towards – earning extra money and bonuses isn’t really that appealing because it doesn’t make your life any more exciting or any more fun. We realize that money is a pretty weak motivator.

And for those of you that hate your jobs, getting even a $20,000 raise doesn’t do shit to help you get out of bed easier.

We wake up and think “Good lord, 40 years of this?”

There are no milestones – so we start introducing artificial ones.

Some of us get sucked into the money illusion. We chase higher dollar signs on the paycheck, nicer cars, and sluttier girls. They’re goals, so they keep us entertained for a while.

Others get married to help give life some meaning and purpose. Goal? Pay for your house, feed your family, keep your kids alive as a good parent. That keeps us entertained for 25 years (and then the WTF next? hits you).

Still others create random challenges and goals: lose 50 pounds, run a marathon, start a business, and so on.

But the bottom line is that the real world leaves people unmotivated and listless because there is no structure. There is no story. There is no why behind it all, unless you give it one.

3 Keys to Rekindling Motivation

This part scares the shit out of many people – because you need to figure out what you want.

You need to figure out why you’re doing it all. In the grand scheme of things, why does any of this matter to me?

Most people continue to set goals (short term motivator) – that’s fine, random, arbitrary goals will motivate you in the short term. That’s why losing 50 pounds, starting a business, or traveling to 30 countries works as a motivator. It keeps you focused for a period of months or years,

But here’s my own opinion: if I were to 80/20 the shit out of this “post-college motivation” thing, here’s what I’d say:

A. Work: Do whatever it takes to find or create work you actually like. Whatever it takes. Do work that pays you enough that is so enjoyable you can’t see yourself retiring. Channel your fire into finding work you actually enjoy.

I honestly don’t think people know themselves pretty well. They claim that they want more money at a job they don’t like, but does more money change the fact that you hate waking up in the morning, that you hate 40+ hours of your life a week, and that you’re pissed off and grumpy every day you leave the office? No. It doesn’t change shit.

It’s hard for me to overestimate the importance of work you actually like.

Yeah you gotta pay bills. Yeah you gotta feed yourself (and obviously this depends on whatever life situation you’re in), but seeing as how work is (by far) the biggest “I hate/love my life” factor – treat it as a priority. Take whatever steps it takes, quit as many jobs as it takes, and experiment with as many fields as it takes.

Some posts to get you started:


B. Leisure time: Flow

Alright. Find work that you actually like.

What’s next? Flow. Whereas you might engage in goals (and sometimes work) for extrinsic reasons or to keep you focused, flow producing activities you do just because you like them. There’s no goal, there’s no destination, there’s no purpose other than you just enjoy doing them.

When I look at the average leisure time use of people around me, it’s no wonder that they’re totally miserable.

TV all day on your day off?

Mindless internet surfing?

Video games (that you don’t even like anymore, you just play because you don’t know what else to do).

It’s amazing to me. People don’t DO anything with their time. We love passive consumption in our leisure time – which, for some of us, is the only time we get to actually enjoy our lives and feel alive.

Flow is a worthy alternative.

It doesn’t have to be a physical activity (since most of us come back exhausted from work) – it can be a number of things.

For me, there are physical flow activities: weight lifting, basketball, mindlessly kicking a soccerball.

There are intellectual flow activities: reading, planning a trip, meditating, playing chess or poker, and a million other things.

Flow isn’t such a good use of time just because you’re getting better at something – people who spend their leisure time in flow report much higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

Some flow posts to get you started:


C. Create a story.

Without getting too controversial here, I think the major reason why religion has existed (and probably will always continue to exist) is because people turn to it to give life meaning, in the form of a story.

E.g. You feel like life is meaningless, you read a book that says “your purpose in life is to spiritually evolve” so you spend your days reading spiritual texts, improving yourself, all with that underlying theme. Themes give life meaning.

You can give life meaning (thus a purpose – and drive) by giving it a theme.

I’ve written all about living a better life story before, but right now I want you to think about some kind of theme for your life.

For some people it happens subconsciously – the kid from the ghetto who promised he would rise above his lowlife friends and do something with his life. That’s his theme. It’s his single motivating purpose. It will drive him till the day he dies.

It’s a similar story with immigrants – people that grew up in such terrible poverty that they promised themselves they would never subject their kids to those realities of life – and they go on to become multi millionaires.

Often, we have a story without even realizing it. For some it’s physical, and it’s about hardship. For some it’s spiritual or religious, and revolves around self cultivation.

Whatever it is, creating a theme for your life (even just for the next year) will help you regain that fire.

It’s all about the story

Don’t forget: to find your fire again in life, do whatever it takes to meet these three conditions:

A. Find or create work you actually enjoy

B. Spend as much of your free time in activities that are flow producing for you

C. Create a story and pick a theme for your life, for a year, or even just for the phase you’re currently in

Ultimately your life is just another book on the bookshelf – but is it one you’d want to read?


Hit me up with a comment below,


– Alex

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicolas June 8, 2013 at 9:34 am

Wow man that post is awesome. Let me tell you that I completely share your views on life “becoming unfulfilling” at some point – and most people don’t realize it. They go from new “stuff” to the next one, and set up sad goals of “more money” and “bigger car”…
People don’t know themselves (think that a raise will be ok even if they don’t like their job) and totally waste their leisure time…
Wow that really resonates with me… I’m happy to see I’m not the only one thinking this way.
Thanks a lot!!! Im gonna share :)


Alexander Heyne June 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Hey Nicolas,

Glad we’re on the same page man :D


Lazarus October 25, 2013 at 11:46 pm

I feel the same damn way man. Most of what you say is common sense to move on to, but sometimes, you just need to hear it from a like-minded person. Stanley Kubrick has a great quote [apology for length]:

“The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” – Stanley Kubrick

I’ll likely check out your blog now after finding this post.


Alexander Heyne December 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

Great quote Lazarus, thanks for sharing.

Luke Ellison June 10, 2013 at 2:34 am

Hey Alex,

My names Luke and I absolutely love your blog, I was curious to know, how do you actually make your living? I do not see any products being sold for money on your blog, so I can only assume it’s by other means?

Regards, Luke


Alexander Heyne June 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Hey Luke –

I actually have a day job, I freelance on the weekend, and I have a side business (hopefully which will be full-time at some point).


lena July 9, 2013 at 10:50 am

just out of curiosity, do you like your day job? and how do you get the chance to travel a lot while having your job? if you don’t mind answering.

thank you

Niki June 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Great article Alex !
People around me always told me to wake up to reality every time I was telling them about what I wanted to do. Thing is their so called reality it wasn’t what I wanted.
You need to be strong because it’s easy to let yourself drag into it especially if you don’t have some support. Many think it’s easier to do common things than doing something different. You have to have courage to push it all away and go your way.


Alexander Heyne June 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Hey Niki,

100% agree with you, and that’s a really important point you made. “Their so called reality wasn’t what I wanted.” Me neither. I don’t want the reality most people have.

You’re absolutely right it takes a LOT of courage, and a lot of confidence, to be able to push in your own direction when you have no support. Support networks are HUGE and crucial to success. I personally have a mastermind group that meets every week, in addition to one or two friends that really know me well and are supportive.

My suggestion: Ignore people who aren’t living the life you want. They’re just going to discourage you or tell you to “get realistic.”


Jason L June 14, 2013 at 5:34 am

Another amazing post!

Sometimes it’s really hard to fight what you’ve been told to do all your life and do what you want.

Looking forward to more inspirational stuff.


JR January 30, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Count your blessings!!! Be thankful and humble for everything you have! Life is a gift, but it can also be a challenge as you mentioned above. I completely agree that one needs to take a proactive approach to change his or her life. I also like the steps you recommended.

But when I was sent this article and proceeded to read, I felt it contained an aura of sadness and scorn. The issue of motivation, the reality of life, needs to be approached from a positive, grounded angle. One should count their blessings!, be thankful!, and thank God! (or Allah!, or Jesus!, or the Kabala Monster!?!?) for all the amazing experience they’ve ALREADY had. Again, I believe it is a matter of approach. Be positive and take control over your thoughts.

Harnessing your thoughts, exercising control over them, is not as difficult as it might seem. It is a matter of discipline. Think about what you are thinking about… If you find yourself to be unmotivated due to negative thoughts, THINK AGAIN! When you catch yourself thinking these negative thoughts – thoughts that negate the highest idea about yourself – THINK AGAIN. Do this literally…

If one’s graduated college and has gotten a job, he or she has already accomplished more than most people in the world are inspired to do in an entire lifetime. Do you have electricity? Do you have a roof? Do you have food? Do you have water? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Count your blessings.

One realizes a sense of happiness, only when one decides to. Go to the Highest Thought About Yourself. Then, begin at once to imagine your life the way that you want it to be – and move into that. Check every thought, word and action that does not fall into harmony with that. Move away from those.

If one is constantly seeking “more” due of self-pity or boredom, it is not motivation that’s the problem… Those individuals may never be permanently “satisfied”. Life, love and “happiness” might not ever be enough. How many blessings does one need to be happy? How many blessings do you think you deserve?


It seems we are in agreement on what I perceive to be one of main principles in your article, (I will state this in my own words), that the point of life is to CREATE – CREATE who and what you are, AND THEN EXPERIENCE THAT! But I believe it is a matter of approach…

“The true Master does not suffer in silence at all, but only appears to be suffering without complaint. The reason that the true Master does not complain is that the true Master if not “suffering” –but simply experiencing a set of circumstances that (I or you) would call insufferable.”

Count your blessings, proactively decide to be happy, and create yourself into the image you believe to be true and just. You are a conscious creation.


Chastity September 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Thank you for your article. I began to feel that I was just depressed. I keep blaming my feelings on the fact that the world gave me a different view when I was younger and now its shown its ugly face. Now I feel like there is more bad than good in the world. This is coming from someone who used to be the most positive person ever. Thank you for having a realistic approach to dealing with this. I actually Googled “what to do when your motivation is gone? ” and your article came up. (Yes, it’s that bad and I’ve felt like this for a while.) But I’m glad I did. Positive reinforcement no longer works with me. I can see right through the bs. All the “it’s always darkest before the dawn, ” and “you’re at the bottom, you can only go up from here! ” I’m like tell that to some rookie who hasn’t experienced the realities of life!
Anyway, I hate to be long winded but hopefully I can use your article to take away the numb feeling that’s taken over my mind and body. I have an “I don’t care” attitude and mainly go to work, get paid to smile and be happy, then back home… Hey, give me some credit though, at least I’m looking for help. ;)
So, thank you. I know I’m a bit late what wanted to respond anyway. Please keep writing!


Alexander Heyne September 7, 2014 at 10:59 am

Totally Chastity,

Sometimes it just means you’re in the wrong life if you aren’t feeling motivated haha.


Shelby June 8, 2015 at 12:38 am

I just wanted to say thanks for this post, I was searching for an answer as to why I’m unmotivated to do certain work. I realized after reading this, that the work doesn’t directly correlate to “my story”, which on a deeper level is tied with values that resonate with me.

Thanks for an Aha moment in my life, keep up the good work!


Greg August 6, 2015 at 5:40 am

The above poster who said count your blessing has this right. You’ve got to humble yourself and realise that in 20, 40, 60 years you’ll be dead and few people will give a rat’s. You’re just not that important, none of us are.

I figured out all of the above 30 years ago when flying back from another horrible business trip in Singapore for corporate America. Started a successful consulting business and made six figures per year ever since. Own a 7 bedroom house, have 6 children, married to the same wife and happily so. My life is a dream. Here I am at 10:30am typing this comment.

But I have down days. Days when I’m fed up with the world. Age is creeping up on me, aches and pains.

So I look at those poor Africans crossing the Mediterranean or their relations still stuck in Somalia or Eritrea and think to myself, “I’m darned lucky I’m not them” and get back to what I should be doing. For one thing I owe it to my family. My kids (who I really enjoy the company of) are going to need a leg up when they get married and have children themselves. I’m not going to be able to buy them each a home, (nor would I if I could) but I should be able to put 20% down on the first home for each other them.

Secretly, I kinda hope there is a global catastrophe or reset. Something that kills rich and poor alike. I’d enjoy the justice of it and scrambling to survive, and even thrive, would be motivating.


slaver81 October 5, 2016 at 10:01 am

40 hours a week is nothing. i agree with the majority of this post. about 95 %. but there is plenty of us being scrutinzed for not having jobs when they are contracted to overseas workers. and then even the jobs we do get are 60-70 plus hours a week at minimum wage with no time for us to even have a life beyond work. apparently were lucky to have a job. dont get me wrong, labour jobs are fine and i enjoy working hard and feeding the world (a fucking important job) but i dont wanna live my life at work. i have upskilled and received no pay difference studying for a number of years with nationally recognised qualifications in an industry where it is relatively easy to find jobs. how do you sleep at night knowing you make six figures a year? i bet you donate to save face and make your self feel better. i could donate 20cents and it would be like 20 grand in comparrison. you could donate 20grand and it would feel like 20cents in comparrison. most people arent pissed because of the job we chose, were pissed cos there is no job for us and others think were slack or we have to live at work to support the ones we love. by the way i work 60plus hours a week average in horticulture trying to feed the world and keep a healthy balance of plants so you can breathe. i hope your marketing to benefit the world!!! but dont forget when your on your 6figure a year vacation, about all the peoples backs you have unknowingly trodden on to get where you were and how happy and deserving you felt with your wage while the rest of us are left to die. the saddest thing is you probably feel like you earnt it. by not stirring shit and not speaking up you have become exactly what they want you to be

dont just take care of your own
were all human
were all family


the funniest thing is i am from new zealand, a first world country.
i have worked with enough vanuatuans an somalians to know that they will work their whole life to give THEIR KIDS a fraction of what you have

just because equality isnt a reality now doesn’t mean we give up
you may have found your dream marketing job but it sounds like you forgot your empathy

throw some cash to the real hard grafters who put food on your plate, we still dream and work for a better day

Alex X


Moritz January 25, 2017 at 12:11 am

Greg and Slaver: beautiful posts. I wonder what purpose I should give my life. I’ve earned a lot of money without a college degree and I don’t believe in the system. From this viewpoint I’m kind of proud that I could go my own way. Always liked that. Then I lost the motivation to work just for money and suddenly I find myself back at college. I was devastated by the time I’d need to catch up to my friends, i.e. my cousin who is about to complete her phd in law. Now it emerges to me that I shall spend time at the college not primarily with the goal of a fast way to graduation. Rather I would like to use this time to test my interests such as philosophy. And then, whenever I feel like it is time, I would plunge from here and back into another opportunity as I’m sure that I can get a job or other startup opportunity if I feel like it. And penetrating my interests beyond money making will help me to figure out where to go, what to do. Going against the system often gives you the feeling of failure, if you choose to compare yourself to others. In the end we have to live with ourselves and our actions. If actions are just the result of our inclinations and our experiences, then I feel we shouldn’t condemn ourselves as failures for not doing what everyone else is doing. (Still id like to settle soon and make a family)



Alexander Heyne July 9, 2013 at 11:47 am

Hey Lena,

My dayjob is remote so I can work on the computer from home if I want. It’s online marketing for a small business. Do I like it? It works for now – I can learn lots of new skills, I work with cool people, it’s flexible and it pays well. Will I quit once my side thing makes enough money? Definitely.

How do I travel so much? Since I’m basically semi-full-time but in a flexible position, they basically let me take time off whenever I want haha. But they also have a pretty good vacation policy for Americans.

Many jobs now offer remote work agreements, or let you work from home, so sometimes it’s a matter of just asking or look for the right places to work.

— Alex


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