What Motivates Us

Motivation is a strange tool. Some of us create it through goals and seeking out inspiration, whilst others just seem to have in innately in us.

But motivation doesn’t have to be “big”. Before I started this trip, I couldn’t really nail what motivation I had to keep working at my job. Money? I guess to some extent – I had to pay my mortgage. Security? I don’t think so, otherwise I wouldn’t have quit. Expectation? Maybe. Probably. It seemed almost required of me to have a career and earn a good income and be a good worker like everyone else.

Part of me wonders whether a lot of people out there are like this. It’s just what people do, and so that’s why they do it. But when this motivation is so small and insignificant to us, does this lead to discontentment? I think it definitely did for me.

I met a 21 year old in Calgary who by his age had already started two businesses – one which was doing quite well. I was in awe, and I wanted to know everything – how he started, where he got his ideas from, where he learnt about business, what people thought of him, and of course his motivation.

Why he works so hard? To retire his parents.

I told him that was an incredible and respectable motivation. “I don’t see them as motivations,” he said. “It’s not a motivation because it should be normal. For me, my parents gave to me… I want to get the most I can to give back, because they gave more than they could.”

I asked him what someone like me, whose parents are set for life and earn more than me, should get their drive from. But for him, it was for himself. “For me, it would make me happy. To see my family free and to really live like they want to live… that would be my happiness.”

So essentially, find something for yourself – find what will make you happy and not what you’re expected to do, because jobs will come and go, but as he said, “everything starts with you.”

And I guess that’s what I’d like to figure out over the next few months. It sounds strange to say that I don’t know what makes me happy and what I’d like to do, but really, I don’t. But I also know I don’t want to just keep going with the 9-5 life because I should and because it’s just what you do. I want to be motivated.

I’m curious – what’s your motivation? Why do you get up every day and do what you do?


Here’s a fuller transcript of my chat with the 21 year old Quebecer.

“I don’t see them as motivations. People might see them as motivations because their motivation is what they do… People all wake up and go to a job and make money because they have to. Their motivation is ‘oh fuck I have to work out to get in shape’… It’s only something you should do. Go for yourself before anything. Everything starts with you, so if you don’t grow within, then the outside won’t grow…

“My parents are really not for my businesses – they hate it. I want to. That’s for me. It’s not a motivation because it should be normal. For me, my parents gave to me. If you can, why not? I want to get the most I can to give back, because they gave more than they could. For me, it would make me happy. To see my family free and to really live like they want to live…not just kind of survive, that would be my happiness. For other people their happiness might be , like that guy, he seemed happy building stuff…

“When you’re an employee you work for your boss. For me I’m not able to work for somebody else… If I work for somebody it’ll be for me… For me, I mean what I want – my family, my freedom, my family’s freedom. You can always have more money but you can never have more time. These days freedom is money, because money is everything… Me, my motivation comes from there because I’m sitting on a nail, and you’re not. I can’t leave them like that…

“Where I come from? Single parent family. Three kids. Always do sports. More than we could afford. We had the best education – they did everything to make us have the best, but not for them, you know?”

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