What Empire Gets Right About Motivation

WhatBreaking Bad brought chemistry to the masses. Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men captured 20th century American history. And now, Empire reflects foundational truths from motivational psychology.

Empire is the guiltiest of pleasures for me; it’s a modern soap opera with so many plot twists as to render it utterly unbelievable. That said, Lucious and Cookie Lyon together show an intuitive understanding of how to motivate people, allowing them to lure major artists to their label, Empire Records.

The secret? Knowing that every person has a unique source of motivation. Lucious and Cookie work together to figure out what makes a particular artist tick, and make a corresponding offer. No plotline showcases this better than their collaborative attempt to woo rapper Titan from a rival label to Empire. Cookie learns that the religious community center where Titan first began his musical career has been burned down, and will cost $1.7 million to rebuild. Lucious’ $1.7 million offer to Titan comes with a suggestion that it be used to rebuild the community center, better than before, with a recording studio named for Titan to encourage other neighborhood kids to pursue music. The deal is signed.

Influencing people is an art, and at the center is identifying what is most important to the individual person. Empire may be ridiculous at times, but it understands the key to motivation.