Personal Reflections

How Turning 40 Made Me Stop and Think

Written by Martin

For many people, including me, it was a big deal turning 40. Entering the second half of my life made me stop and think about what motivates me. Boiled down I think my professional motivation can be summed up as a combination of three factors – challenges, inspiration and freedom. I think the same factors combined with my hopes and dreams for my kids and family also apply to what motivates me personally. In this post I will discuss the three factors from a professional perspective and finally I have picked out one of them from a personal perspective.

Firstly I love being challenged and see people around me develop. Working with Agile Transformation at scale is an awesome challenge of both hearts and minds. The organizations I work with are constantly challenged to adopt a new mindset and many managers need some time to get used to trusting other people in the organization with a bigger responsibility. They need to learn the power of pushing authority as low down in the organization as possible where there still is sufficient clarity and competence to get the job done. As the people in the companies starts to “get it”, they take more and more ownership of the process and tweak it in new ways that fit their needs. They often undergo a personal transformation in the process and ultimately I can leave knowing the change in mindset is lasting.

Secondly I find great motivation in learning new stuff I can apply to work. A great source of new inspiration is what my goAgile colleagues constantly bring to the table. They invest time and money in developing new courses, games and other ways of accelerating learning, they study brain science to better understand people’s motivation and behavior, they look to other professions to see what we can learn from them, they speak at conference and share ideas with the Agile community to get feedback on new ideas, just to name some of they ways they keep the ball constantly rolling. But maybe best of all, they are fun be around and they all truly care about how I and the others are doing. This also sometimes leads to them challenging my decisions, but that’s fine because I know they do it to help and without a hidden agenda and as you can read below, the final decisions are mine to make.

Speaking of freedom, I want to share a bit of a discussion we regularly have at goAgile to remind ourselves of its importance. We have a very strong core values called “What’s best for the individual, is best for goAgile”. This doesn’t mean that everyone can do whatever they want, but we do have a lot more freedom than most employees when it comes to deciding what we want to work on, how much we want to work, who we want to work with etc. But doesn’t such a high degree of freedom lead to anarchy or acts of extreme selfishness? Actually it doesn’t. With the freedom, or maybe because of it, we feel and act responsibly. Responsibly towards each other, our clients, families and the direction goAgile is heading. Personally this freedom and responsibility to direct my own life is extremely motivation.

As if my work wasn’t challenging enough, I also enjoy taking on a good personal challenge. My next one is completing my second Ironman in July in Roth, Germany. Apart from the challenge of training for the race, it’s also a challenge finding the right balance between spending time with my family, work and following my personal goals. From a professional, family and economic perspective training for an Ironman is a completely irrational thing to do. I’m too old (and slow) to make a career out of it and it takes up a lot of time I could have invested in other things. Spending 10+ hours a week for 6-9 months training for an Ironman does however make perfectly sense to me. I love the process of setting an ambitious goal, planning how to achieve it, execute the plan and finally achieving my goal. Actually I find the process leading up to race day just as fun as the race itself. Once the Ironman is completed I will recalibrate my balance in favor of family and work. I will however still take on new personal challenges in the future and I know that my family, friends and colleagues prefers spending a little less time with me, if it results in a happier colleagues, friend, husband and dad.

Please feel free to use the comments to share what motivates you. I truly hope you are as privileged as me and get to do the things that motivates you.

The Picture above is of me on the bike at my first Ironman in 2012.


  • Thank you for a good and reflective post. I really like your three factors affecting your motivation; challenges, inspiration, and freedom.

    Especially challenges and freedom also highly drives myself. Regarding the challenge perspective, creating results or achievements, particular though others, really gives me a motivation kick. When people ask for your help to advance, you guide them, they listen, challenge and change, and the desired improvements are achieved, that can make me fly. That kind of change creates happiness and value, and is a great motivator for me.

    Regarding your thoughts on freedom, I could have written every single word in your “Speaking of freedom” paragraph myself. Totally agree :)

    • Thanks for a awesome comment Brian.

      Seeing how others takes your advice, adds their own flavor and creates results is extremely satisfying. In the beginning it can also be frustrating because they don’t do things exactly as you environed them to be done, but that’s part of leading through others. Otherwise you should just have given them a direct order and that’s not leadership, but simply demanding compliance. Luckily it also happens, that they do something far beyond your own imagination and then it becomes one of those moments you treasure and remember.

  • Great input! Thanx for sharing your model!

    I use the approach from Daniel Pink combined with Unboss. It works both for me personally, and when I help my collagues.

    For me, job crafting is about tasks, cognitive challenges and relations.
    Relations and results create happiness at work.
    And the motivation comes from autonomy, mastery and purpose.
    Much overlap with your approach :)

    • Thanks for sharing your model Erik and as you point out we see the world in much the same way. I also find the Daniel Pink Drive model very inspirational and often use the RSA animation of his TED talk in leadership training. It always sparks a good debate 😉

Leave a Comment