Benjamin Spall

No Amount of Caffeine Can Motivate You Above a Great Idea

A couple days ago I was taking the train into work in a daze. I was tired. I hadn’t been this tired in a long time.

The night before I had intended on having an early night. I’d been working hard at my real-life, non-online job for a few days on 5-6 hours sleep a night, and it was starting to tell.

I went to bed at 11:00pm, but then, much to the annoyance of the rest of my body, it struck.

An idea.

I stayed awake until one in the morning, working frantically online, pulling in different ideas, registering domains and generally getting over-excited about the endless possibilities this idea could bring. If it wasn’t for me forcing myself to eventually get some sleep, I doubt I would have.

Back to the train the following day. I was checking Twitter on my phone when I wrote what I assumed to be a standard throw-away tweet:

No amount of caffeine can motivate you above a great idea.

Those words ran around in my head for the remainder of the day. I wrote them down on a piece of paper and placed it in my pocket, so scared I was of forgetting them.

The previous night I had been so tired I could barely pull myself up into bed, let alone write today’s post (about something entirely different) as I had intended.

But a great idea. That’s something else. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be a great idea (who knows, this may be a white elephant the size of the Millennium Dome), the fact is in the moment I couldn’t have possibly fallen asleep. Scooping coffee into my eyes would have been less effective at keeping me awake (and a damn sight more painful), than a great idea.

If you ever find you don’t have the motivation to keep working, be it late at night or the middle of the afternoon, ask yourself; are you working on a great idea?

It doesn’t have to be something new. If you are doing something that you love, and you can see the positive impact it has either on the world, or just a smaller intimate group of people around you, you are working on a great idea.

Sometimes it’s not possible, in this moment, to be working on a great idea. If you are working a job you don’t like, you may be working towards an idea you have no interest in, and that’s fine. Just make sure you are working on your great idea in your own time.

The greatest business start-ups of the day were born out of somebody working on them as side projects while they kept down their full-time job.

They weren’t working on their great idea during the day, but they sure as hell were putting in the time and getting things done out of hours.

So, what’s the big idea? ∎

Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio/Penguin). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.

How to Reference this Article

Spall, B. (2011, October 20). No Amount of Caffeine Can Motivate You Above a Great Idea. Retrieved from