What motivates you?


To become truly successful, you need to find what it is that motivates you. What drives you. You need to find that thing in the back of your head that keeps you going when everyone else has long since given up.

But how?

The question ‘what motivates you’ is a classic interview question you may have faced, or posed, in a job interview. It’s designed to be a tricky interview question so the candidate has to think about why they do what they do, what they like doing and what they can bring to the table.


Of course, what the question usually ends up doing is giving the candidate the opportunity to say how they’re motivated by working as an individual, and as part of a like-minded team. Yawn! These clichéd answers don’t help anyone. They just serve to make the candidate look they’ve read one of those ‘top interview tips’ blogs and they’re just spewing out the answer they think the interviewer wants to hear.

They don’t.

So, once again, what motivates you?

That’s a question I had to ask myself recently and it’s not as easy as you might think to answer. It’s also a very important question to ask yourself as, once you get to the bottom of it, you can better understand yourself and what makes you do what you do.

To help you find out what motivates you, here’s how I did it.

Is it all about the money?

First off, I thought of money. It seems pretty obvious, but most of us are driven by money whether or not we like to admit it. It’s nice to have, and we always want more of it. It allows us security, and it enables us to do things we’d like to do, such as travel the world and, in my case, fly planes, helicopters and even race a car.

Flight over Liverpool

Perhaps money is the real motivator for us all?

No, that’s far too simple to be a real motivator. Money is more a need than a motivation. Money is a side-effect of success, not a goal in itself.

Several years ago I set myself the goal of owning an Aston Martin by the time I was 35. I was 35 and 8 months when I got the keys to a DB9, so I called that one a success.

Aston Martin DB9

But was the car in itself the motivation? No, the car was a material goal. Not a motivating factor. Why did I want the car in the first place?

That’s the real question.

So what does motivate me?

I work in online marketing where I try to achieve first place rankings in Google for clients, and to make them better than their competitors. This appeals to me because I like to be the best. Perhaps this is what drives me, the need to be better – not a better version of myself, but a burning need to be better than others?

I think I’m getting somewhere now. I do feel that need. It’s not about the stuff, the experiences or the holidays. It’s about doing better than someone else.

But why? Being better than others isn’t a motivation. Once again it’s just a symptom of something deeper. Why do I feel the need to be better than others?

It’s at this point I realised I’ve always felt this need, and it can be traced back to my school days.

For some reason I wasn’t aware of I’d always enjoyed TV series where there was a school reunion, and I love the film Grosse Pointe Blank where John Cusack attends his school reunion even though he’s a contract killer. I’d never really understood why I liked these so much, considering how much I hated school.

During my time in secondary school I was picked on for the way I walked. At the time I didn’t see anything different about how I walked compared with how others walked, but a lot of people did see a difference, and they were very happy to point it out.

It led to some rather repetitive name-calling from both older and younger children. There’s nothing worse than younger children chiming in – you’re not even supposed to hit them.

Anyway, this went on for a number of years with me not really understanding why or what the problem was. It wasn’t until, in one science class, the lad behind me noticed I had a lump in my back, and he rather kindly attempted to knock it back in for me. After going to the hospital to get it checked I was told the lump in my back was, in fact, my spine protruding. I had something called scoliosis, which was a double curvature of my spine.

That would explain the walk. I get it now.

To cut a long, and quite painful, story short I had to face an almost immediate operation to have the curve corrected with the use of a titanium rod. This meant I missed several months of school, and then had to wear a cast for several months after this when I returned to school.

Scoliosis scar

The resultant scar, 20+ years on

As if the walk hadn’t singled me out enough. I was now wearing an upper-body cast under my clothes. A cast that was too big to fit a school shirt over, so I had to wear a loose fitting tracksuit to school instead of a uniform.

Naturally the name-calling continued, and I wasn’t about to explain scoliosis to people who were only interested in mimicking something from the Ministry of Silly Walks, or Mr Soft from the Trebor Softmints advert.

Yes, I heard that one a lot.

I had found my motivation. It’s not to become successful for the spoils of success. It’s not because I want to work for myself. These are all valid motivations, and they could be your motivation, but they’re not mine. My motivation is, rather darkly, to prove to others that I could do it. To overcome something that made my school-days pretty unbearable. To be better. Not a better me, but better than them.

I never did go to a school reunion though. Perhaps one day.

What’s your motivation, really?

Now, I’ll ask again. What’s your motivation? We all have one. Every time you think you’ve isolated it ask yourself ‘why?’. It may go back further than you think.

Categories: Features

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