The subject of motivation comes up from time to time in the Locost community. It's mostly the new people. Long-time builders don't really want to talk about it. It's not like the veteran builders don't need it. They've had their ups and downs, and the successful ones—the builders who actually finish their projects—have figured out at least a few ways to deal with motivation or any lack thereof. But no one who's met the problem head on feels particularly good about discussing it.
The motivation required to finish a project like a Locost is probably greater than even people who have given a great deal of thought to the matter quite understand. It's certainly more than I would've thought you needed before we started, and I was pretty sure we had a good handle on it. But explaining what it takes to finish a Locost to someone who's never built a Locost is like trying to explain what it's like having kids to people who don't have kids.
Lack of motivation takes many forms. Sometimes it takes the form of an insoluble problem, or a horrendous mistake. Other times it takes the form of a new interest, like another vehicle, another hobby, or another person. Sometimes life really does get in the way, with a new house or a new job, for instance. Many times these obstacles can be resolved with some sort of compromise, and the project can continue, albeit with perhaps a little less enthusiasm.
Maybe we've been lucky, but we haven't run into any of these obstacles. So far. When asked what keeps us going, we're likely to say we just don't think about it. It'll get done someday, and it'll be a lot of fun, and it'll all be worth it. I don't think we always feel that way, though. Lack of motivation isn't so much a conscious thought as a creeping doubt, and it's not so much a doubt about whether or not you can do the job, but about whether or not you'll keep finding the motivation to continue.
We do have a few tricks to stay motivated. These work for us, but probably not for everyone. One of them is to tell everyone you know, and many you don't, that you're building a car. If you're like us, that saddles you with a certain amount of responsibility to finish the thing, or else explain why you didn't. We don't like explaining our failures, so this website has some value to us beyond just sharing a few photographs. We also think the build plan is a great motivator, its effective accuracy notwithstanding.
One of the keys to motivation for a project like this is to take a certain amount of satisfaction in the completion of specific tasks, no matter how small. A trick we learned from the Mark Evans series An MG is Born is to leave a particular task unfinished if it's going well, then move onto something else. That way, the next time you go out into the garage you're psyched about completing that unfinished task that was looking so good when you last worked on it. Okay, maybe not psyched, but at least mildly enthusiastic.
This kind of thing only takes you so far. The biggest obstacle to motivation, as we might've mentioned before, is that no matter how much work you do, no matter how many hours you put in, you're never done. This bothers you less early on. You don't expect to be done for awhile so you keep plugging away. Even a year into the build you're not expecting miracles, so it's no big deal. But as you approach the end of your second year on the job, that reasoning starts to wear thin. You've been pouring hours, days, weeks, months into the build without anything to show for it except a half-built car. It starts to get to you.
You might think that achieving each of the various milestones along the way would provide some sort of motivation. Oddly, this didn't happen for us. The milestones were exciting, and a lot of fun, but not motivating. All these milestones ever did was serve to remind us that we couldn't drive the car yet, and that it would be many, many long hours before we could. I'm not sure you could tell from our build post of September 23, 2012, but we were as disappointed as we were excited about getting our Locost on its wheels for the first time.
You might think that getting close to completion would boost your motivation. It might do that, but probably not until you're really close, like days away. I used to do 200-mile bike rides. The last 50 miles were painful. The last 10 were grueling. It didn't get better as the miles rolled on, and you were never sure you were going to make it until you hit the 199-mile mark. Even then you didn't get excited until you could see the finish banner. Based on that experience, we're not expecting much until we bolt on our license plates.
Sustaining the kind of enthusiasm and motivation that you had when you first thought about building a Locost for two long years is not realistic, but it's essential to hang onto at least a portion of it throughout the build, if you want to finish. You also have to enjoy the process. I don't believe anyone builds a Locost because they want a Locost. They build a Locost because they like to build things. And they want a Locost. That's our motivation.
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