Daniel Pink, Committed to Changing Lives

This month, our Business Editor Pam Bryan spoke with Daniel Pink, author of several provocative, bestselling books about business, work and human behavior. Pink’s TED Talk on motivation is one of the ten most-watched TED Talks of all time. We find out how he started writing and why he remains committed to helping us live our lives more fully through deepening our understanding of human behavior.

Parvati Magazine: You have spent the last 20 years writing and speaking about motivating ourselves and others, informing the world and impacting business practices. How did your gifts, passions and values lead you to this work?

Daniel Pink: I came to do what I do today in a herky-jerky, uneven, pathetically-planned way. I studied linguistics in college, but decided against pursuing a Ph.D. Instead, I went to law school — but I never practiced law. I worked for several years in politics until deciding that that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. It was only in my 30s that I realized that when I grew up, I should become a writer.

PMAG: What outcome from your work has given you the greatest satisfaction?

DP: That a few people have changed their paths for the better as a result of reading one of the books. For instance, I’ve heard from many people who read Free Agent Nation and decided to go out on their own — and later emailed to thank me. Same with people who read A Whole New Mind and decided to pursue a different career path. And readers have shared lots of stories for the other books. Each one makes my day.

PMAG: Your next book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing is due out in January 2018. What can you tell us about it?

DP: The book is about the science of timing and all the “when” decisions we make in our lives. We know that timing is everything. But we tend to believe that timing is an art. What I discovered over two years of research is that timing is actually a science. There’s a broad body of evidence — in endocrinology and economics, anesthesiology and anthropology, social psychology and chronobiology — that gives us clues about the key timing decisions in our lives.

So I examine questions like: When during a day should we do certain kinds of work? Why do students score differently on standardized tests at different times of the day? Why do beginnings play such an outsized role in our lives? Why do midpoints — of a project or even a life — sometimes bring us down and other times fire us up? Do we really prefer happy endings? How do groups — from choirs to rowers to lunch delivery guys — synchronize their actions?

PMAG: What do you hope your work leaves as a legacy?

DP: That people will see their world a little more clearly and live their lives a little more fully.

Daniel PinkDaniel H. Pink is the author of five provocative books — including three long-running New York Times bestsellers, A Whole New Mind, Drive, and To Sell is Human. His books have been translated into 35 languages and have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and their three children. Learn more about Daniel here and be sure to check out the Pinkcast for bi-weekly tips on navigating life and your career.