Understanding Your Motivation with Todd Henry

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Have you ever needed and even wanted to do something, but struggled to get into action to get it done? When I look at the way my energy for activities shifts— it can seem so illogical. There are things that I can’t wait to get out of bed to do, and there are other things that I can’t get myself out of bed to do.

Why is that?

Today on the podcast, we get to dig in and attempt to answer that question. My guest today is Todd Henry — author, podcaster, and creative director. He’s the founder of the Accidental Creative podcast — a show that has more than a million downloads. He’s also the author of a handful of books, including his most recent: the Motivation Code, which comes out the day this episode releases.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Todd for many reasons. He’s a great conversation partner and knowledgeable in all the areas I enjoy: creativity, psychology, business, and more.

We dive into his work journey, and his new book. You’ll have some good take aways for your own work and life, including a better understanding of how you’re motivated and how to use that to your advantage.

Listen in here:

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In this episode you’ll learn:

  • What Todd does
  • How he got into what he’s doing
  • The back story behind the name “Accidental Creative”
  • How Todd thinks about his identity in all the different roles he holds
  • What are his thoughts on the process of identifying and naming his “white hot center”
  • How does Todd thinks about purpose, meaning and calling in his work
  • Todd shares about his new book “The Motivation Code”
  • What are the Motivational Themes and how do they impact our day to day work life
  • What is the impact he wants to make with his new book

Resources Mentioned:

Todd’s website

The Motivation Code by Todd Henry

Louder Than Words by Todd Henry

Software Generated Transcription:


Todd, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the Meaning Movement podcast.


Dan, it’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me on the show. 


So the question I always begin with is, how do you begin to talk about what you do in the world?


I tell people that I am an arms dealer for the creative revolution and that usually when I say arms dealer, they usually start to turn around and walk away.

When I say for the creative revolution, they usually turn around and lean in . And what I mean by that is I like to equip people with the mindset, the tools and the relationships they need to be able to thrive in the create on demand world. And that’s where we all live. We live in the create on demand world. We have to go to work and make it up every day. I don’t care what you do, if you’re solving problems every day, you’re under pressure to be creative every day.

And so I really have spent most of my life and career for the past couple of decades helping people be brilliant at a moment’s notice.


Wow. Wow. I love that so many so many questions. I mean, such good language. First, I love the language. How did you get here?

How did this become the way one, I guess what you’re doing, but then to even the way that you talk about what you’re doing?


Well, I think that like most people who end up doing something that is pretty hand in glove for how they’re wired, I think it usually results from a pain that they experience in their life or a problem that they needed solved. And that’s exactly what happened for me. So I studied marketing in school. And, you know, instead of just kind of jumping straight into the marketplace, I decided to kind of make a run at playing music full time for a couple of years after college, which was a very interesting experience.

And, you know, of course, as it goes, made absolutely no money. But I really enjoyed the experience of being out on stages and getting to interact with people in that kind of thing. And then you realize I probably need to kind of figure out a better path forward here or else, you know, this may not end well. And so I ended up I mean, just kind of summers end up. I ended up as the creative director for an organization where I was leading a small team of creative professionals that over time grew to about 40 creative Pros to think like writers, designers, people of that nature.

And about halfway through my tenure in this role, so about five years in I was really wrestling with how do I keep my team inspired? How do I keep them focused, how do I make sure that we’re producing work consistently, not just doing a little bit of good work and then burning out and then doing a little bit of good work and then burning out. But how do we sort of continue to produce good work over time? And the way I described it is I want my team to be prolific, brilliant and healthy all at the same time.

And so started really doing some research, trying to figure out, you know, how are creative Pros doing this out in the world, you know, what kinds of things are people doing. And so I reached out to a number of other creative directors at some of the big design firms and whatnot that I had relationship with. And frankly, a lot of them just said, I don’t know, I have no clue. You know, we’re just kind of burning out on the altar of short term productivity.

And, and so as I continued to do my research, I figured out a couple of things that seemed to be working and we started implementing those. And so I wanted to share this because I was struggling myself to find people who could tell me how they were staying healthy in the midst of creating on demand every day. And so I started a podcast in late 2005 called The Accidental Creative. And the funny thing is that I thought I was late to the podcast game in 2005.

I was like, man, I’m so on the back end of this trend, you know, and now 15 years later, that’s laughable. Right. But so I started this podcast, just started sharing some things I was learning, kind of frankly, was just a little side outlet kind of side hobby thing for me. And I kind of forgot about it. I wasn’t trying to make it into anything. And then about two months later, I came back to you at the time iTunes, I was looking for some podcast actually listen to and by listen to I mean, like, you know, physically download, you plug in my iPod through FireWire, physically drag them from the computer to my you know, it’s like how you had to do it like?

Right. So I came back looking for some things to listen to. And there was a podcast called The Accidental Creative that was one of the top podcast on iTunes. And I remember thinking, Dan, for real? I thought, oh, no, I stole someone else’s name. I can’t believe I didn’t check first, right? And it was my podcast. I had no idea that there were thousands of people listening. And so I realized at that moment I had a couple of, there’s a confluence of a couple of things.

First of all, that I had, I think, hit upon a real issue that other people were struggling with. It wasn’t just me and that also maybe I had a bit of a unique purview into that solution and the ability to communicate it in a way that would resonate with people. And so I put a little more effort into the podcast, kind of grew it over the course of a couple of years and started getting invitations, frankly, to go spend some time with organizations and just share what I was sharing on the podcast.

So, you know, a company would fly me to the West Coast and just say, we just want you to talk about that thing you talked about on Episode 75 or whatever. You talk about fear and how it affects the creative process or talk about speaking truth to your manager, because we really need to develop that. And so I started getting invitations to go and just kind of share some of these things with organizations.

And that in thousand nine led to the offer of a book deal, which I never even imagined or pursued. But it just kind of developed. And I realized, OK, I think this is probably where I need to go when Penguin offered the book deal. And so that was when I kind of set out on my own and launched my company in full. And so for the last, I guess, 12 years, 11, 12 years, I’ve been basically traveling, consulting with companies and, you know, speaking at events and conferences.

And I’ve written for almost five books. My fifth comes out October 6th. Twenty twenty. And yeah, that’s that’s pretty much what I do know is I help people and teams to be prolific, brilliant and healthy and travel the world doing it well, theoretically in non pandemic times travel the world doing.


I love it. And there’s so many I mean so many great, great moments in there. I’m curious first, just the name Accidental creative. Why accidental?


Well, the best ideas often come from what I call creative accidents. It’s when multiple pieces of stimulus come together to form something brand new. It’s two things that seem to feel like you got your peanut butter in my chocolate, you got my chocolate in my peanut butter. I like people who didn’t grow up in the 80s, have no idea what I’m talking about. But it was like there’s this commercial right for Reese’s cups where it’s like these people are complaining that they kind of, you know, it’s to great taste, to taste good together.

Well, a lot of the best ideas in the marketplace happen that way. It’s two things that don’t seem like they belong together, suddenly converge and boom. There’s a there’s a new insight. What I discovered over time in leading creative teams, leading idea sessions, all of these things is that you can somewhat structure your life and your rhythms and your organization, your conversations to facilitate those creative accidents. You can facilitate the collision of those bits of stimulus. But it takes intentionality.

It takes effort. It takes disciplines. It takes practices. And so the accidental creative, the whole point behind it was structuring your life so that you’re in a position, what I call dangerous intersections, right. Where these creative accidents are likely to occur. But again, it takes purpose and rhythm and structure. So it’s a bit of an ironic name. It’s never good to name your company, ironically, but but it’s also pretty memorable.

I’ve worked with some you know, I’ve worked with a one of the biggest brand design firms in the world. I did some work for them in this part of what they did for me. They sort of helped me think through the brand.

And they’re like, now we think it’s pretty solid. We just need to keep running with it. So, yeah, but that’s that’s kind of the back story behind the name. 


I love it.

Well, it’s great. And I’m curious just about identity, how you think about your work, like your podcasts or you’re a speaker, you’re a consultant. You were a creative director. You were a musician. Like, is there one of those that is like the if you had to put it on the, you know, put it on your name tag. And I know I know that your name tag would have said your creative arms dealer, but like, is there one of those that’s foremost and the other ones kind of fall underneath, or is it just like you write books because you want to spread your message, or do you write books because you’re a writer?

And like, I don’t know if I’m asking the question clearly, but I’m just curious about how you think about all of those different hats that you wear.


Yeah, I would say probably at the root of what I do is probably is probably thinking it’s probably the synthesis. You Seth Godin, once in an interview with me, I was asking him kind of a similar question and he said, I notice things. Hey, I thought that is a great description. And that’s that’s exactly what I do. I notice things I think so often we’re very busy and we’re moving through life or moving through work. We’re moving through our relationships are collaborations, our client interactions, and we’re moving at such a pace that we don’t have time to step back and look for the governing dynamics.

What’s really going on here, what’s really at the root of this issue. And so we tend to treat tend to treat symptoms or we tend to create solutions that kind of hit at the edges of the problem, but don’t really get to the root of it. And I. Think at the heart of what I do is this deep desire to get to the governing dynamics, I want to get to the base layer. I want to get to the white hot center of where the conflict is coming from, of where the opportunity is, of where the best ideas are live.

Know that. That’s what I really, I think, do it at the core of my work. And so probably thinker sits at the center of all of it. And then from that comes the books and comes, you know, the speeches and the consulting and the products and you know, all of the other stuff that I do. But without the idea, none of that matters. And I think if you can speak and this is something I within one of my books I talked about, how do you make your voice resonate in one of those things?

And you brought this up earlier about the precision of my language. One of the things that causes your message to resonate is precision. You have to be able to speak very precisely to people in language that latches hold of them. And if you speak in broad platitudes or broad generalities, people tend to just kind of write you off. And so one of the things I always encourage, especially brands, but even individuals to do is to try to really get to the white hot center of who you are and what you do and try to craft some precise language that clicks with people in a way that those broad platitudes don’t.

We tend to think of. We’re speaking very generally. We’re going to reach a bigger audience, but we don’t. We actually reach no one. But if you speak very specifically, very precisely, your message tends to cut through in the way that it actually reaches a much bigger audience than you ever anticipated.


I love that. I’m curious. And I just the way you said that, the white hot center of who you are and what you do, I think is how you said t, which is, again, just great, great choice of words. I mean, that’s so much what why people listen to this podcast is because they are they’re looking for that or they have some sense of it and they’re trying to find, you know, an expression for it.

And I’m curious if you have thoughts on the process of identifying and naming what that white hot center is for you. 


Yeah, absolutely.

So in my book, Louder Than Words, I wrote about the five core elements that make a message resonate or make up, make a voice resonate. Your voice, you know, people say find your voice. What they really mean often is I just want to discover the thing that I love writing, the thing that just makes me feel all squishy inside, or that was a really weird language.

But, yeah, it’s kind of that’s kind of what they mean. It’s like this sort of ineffable, like I just want to be in love with life. No, no, no, no.

Your voice is a message through a medium that’s designed to achieve an impact message through a medium to achieve an impact. That’s what it is. That’s your voice and your voice is what people hear, not what you say. And that’s another important thing. So if you want to communicate what you do in the way that it resonates with others, you have to take into consideration not what you’re saying, but how other people are receiving what you say. So there are five core pillars that you have to consider.

The first is authenticity, and authenticity is not the same thing as transparency. We tend to think about authenticity in terms of transparency. I just am what I am. I show you everything. Well, that’s not real authenticity. Authenticity as it relates to what we’re talking about is a willingness to put skin in the game. It’s a willingness to show what you are at the end of the day, what you’re willing to suffer on behalf of because you care so much about it.

That’s the kind of authenticity that resonates with people when they see that you have skin in the game, when they see what you care about, they tend to listen. Their ears perk up because there’s so much inauthenticity in this world.

There’s so much just kind of branding and, you know, gloss and polish that when somebody really shows they have skin in the game, it makes a huge difference. Right. Even even just to put it in. And I want to talk in political terms. I’m not saying this in terms of judging politicians. Right. But I’ll just say, like  you know, at the Democratic National Convention this year, there was a young man with a stutter who had encountered Joe Biden on the campaign trail. And, you know, he was he was sort of put forward to introduce Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention.

What’s stunning is that, you know, that was cool and of itself.

But if you see the video of when this young man first encountered Joe Biden, it was this incredibly profound and just really moving moment where you, Joe Biden, who had struggled with a stutter when he was a kid, was bullied and all this stuff was just saying. This kid, almost like he was talking to his younger self, it’s going to get better, you’re going to be OK. I’ll send you the stuff I did. I still work with a handful of people who struggle with this.

I’ll help you through it to you know, it was this moment where you saw somebody again, let’s put politics aside. Right. It was a human moment where you saw somebody who had really suffered on behalf of something, who was sharing that suffering with somebody else. And it was a kind of authenticity that really cuts through the noise of politics and branding and all that kind of stuff. Right. So we have to figure out what that is for us.

What is the thing that you’re going to put out there that you’re willing to suffer on behalf of? The second thing is uniqueness. There has to be something about your message that separates it from everyone else. So, yes, we need to see what you’re willing to suffer for, but also what makes you different from the person down the street who is trying to accomplish the same thing? What are your experiences? What are the sort of flagpoles, the tent poles of your branding that where you’re planting your flag in the ground saying this is what makes me different from everybody else?

And if you can’t identify what that is? Well, that’s a problem. You’re not going to resonate. So authenticity, uniqueness, precision. We just talked about precision. You have to be precise with your language. Your language has to cut through. There’s too much noise. So don’t use platitudes, don’t use generalities, be very specific, be very precise and be very outcome focused when you’re when you’re using language that describes what you do.

Empathy, empathy is critical. We have to be willing to enter into another person’s story. We have to be willing to to open ourselves to understanding not just, you know, sort of conceptually getting where the other person is coming from, but stopping, pausing, thinking about what they’re going through, thinking about a time when we experience something similar and then putting ourselves in their position. So when I talk about what it’s like to be a creative professional, having to create on demand every day, I remember those moments when I was sitting on the couch at three forty five pm in the afternoon in the lobby of the building where I work thinking I’ve got to have an idea by four thirty, like we’re we’re sharing this at four thirty, whether I’m ready or not, you know, like I remember what that felt like.

And so I’m able to go back, think about that, reflect on it, or you’re dealing with a difficult co-worker or any of those things. Like I go back and I put myself in that position and then I’m like, OK, you know, here’s what I would do. And it and it resonates more deeply because of that. So you need empathy.

And then finally timing the best message, the best voice, the best product, the best whatever. If it’s not timed properly, it’s not going to resonate. So you need people around you to help you vet your ideas and help you identify when the right time is to share it. And another thing to consider is, is there something else I can latch on to with this idea? So is there another cultural trend or some other product or some other thing that I can sort of latch on to as a way to get my message out there?

So we’ve all seen recently, you know, the rise of peloton and Pelton’s become sort of like this behemoth in the marketplace. But the interesting thing is, like Echelon is kind of riding right there on their coattails, right. Because they’re saying, like, you know, that basically they’re using the exact same messaging, differentiating themselves, of course. But it’s like, you know, they’re sort of allowing your peloton sort of blazing trails, but they’re sort of following that trail very closely behind.

And we see that very often. So we have to make sure that our message is timed properly. So authenticity, uniqueness, precision, empathy, timing are the five core elements that make messages and voices resonate in the marketplace. Sorry, that was a very long answer to a very brief question.


I love it. I think that just fantastic, fantastic stuff. But I think everyone, you know, listening to just, you know, bookmark this right here, because this is such such core core stuff. And as we’re thinking through, I think, you know, this might pertain to the marketplace, but I think it’s also important to think, you know, about because personally as well, even if it’s just your we’re not necessarily just talking about your your work and putting something out there about who you are and who you’re becoming and what you’re the next step of your career looks like.

I think all of these things still apply to that part. You know, that part of the process. Yeah, for sure.

I’m curious for you, how do you think about words personally in your work, like purpose and meaning calling, if that’s in your vernacular? Yeah. What are how do you how do you think about kind of those big kind of meta kind of sometimes overwhelming words?


So I feel like there is a this kind of analysis paralysis thing that can happen in our culture, specifically because we have so many options. We have more like, listen, if you were born a thousand years ago, you had no choice about what you were going to do for a living like your life was prescribed from you from the time you were born. You were going to do what you’re probably what your father did, you know, or you’re going to work in the family business, whatever that was, you had no choice, but now, because we have first of all, we’re among the top percent of a percent in terms of global wealth of all time. Right. Anybody who right now is listening to this on the device that you carry in your pocket with you, you were among the richest people who ever lived in humankind. And with that comes a tremendous number of choices. So because of that, there’s this kind of analysis, paralysis that can happen where we’re always afraid we’re getting it wrong.

So when I think about calling, I like to reclaim that concept a bit from the way that it’s being used. We tend to think that we are called to something. There’s something out there and I have to figure out what it is because I’m called to it. And if I miss it, then it’s never going to happen. And I don’t believe that that’s true. I believe your calling is what’s being called out of, you know, what you’re called to or where you’re headed, but what’s being called out of you.

There’s some response that’s in you to the circumstances around you that’s being called out. And you can, by the way, engage in your calling in any capacity. In any job and any place that you are, you know, you’re calling can be how you you know, the way that you choose to treat the barista at Starbucks.

You know, when you order a mocha frappe or whatever you’re calling can be how you engage with a coworker, how you engage with your family members or how you develop yourself.

You know, all of those things are a part of what’s being called out of you in response to your circumstances. Now, some people are called to higher and higher order things over time. So, for example, I was definitely what’s being called out of me is a response to the fact that I see creative professionals struggling in the marketplace to be creative at a moment’s notice and dealing with that pressure to create on demand. That wasn’t some, you know, big fabricated business where I thought, oh, if I did this, I can make a lot of money.

No, it was like I’ve really felt grieved. I really felt like I need to do something about this. And, you know, if you’re questioning  what’s being called out of you, there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to kind of begin to identify that one of them is what angers you. And I’m not talking about road rage. I’m not talking about, you know you know, just what kind of generally ticks you off throughout the course of the day.

I’m talking about compassionate anger. So when you think about what’s going on in the world around you and it could be something societal, it could be like an injustice or something like that, where it could just be like, I don’t like the way that our competitor treats their clients. And that makes me compassionately angry. I feel compassion for those clients who are treated that way. I am called to do something different. I’m called to be a different kind of person when I interact with the people that I serve, you know, what is it that makes that fills you with compassionate anger, makes you feel somebody needs to do something about that?

Well, that’s a great clue to what you’re being called what’s being called out of you. Right.

A second question that you can ask is what moves you emotionally? What is it that makes you cry? I am profoundly moved by the stories of underdogs. I am I always have been moved by the stories of underdogs. And so when I see a David taking on a Goliath, it moves me. And I am you know, if you tell me, hey, there’s a company that really needs to you need some help. And they’re taking on sort of like the the big dog in their industry and they don’t know if they can do it.

But, man, they really are. You know, I’m there I’m there to help because I love David’s taking on Goliath. I just do. And then the third one is what gives you hope? What is the thing that you believe that few people around you believe? But, yeah, you can’t you can’t seem to shake it again. That’s a great clue to what is being called out of you. So what fills you with compassionate anger? What moves you emotionally when you experience it?

So, you know, like when I watch an underdog movie, I just like, cry uncontrolably, you know?

And what is it that gives you hope? What do you believe that few people around you believe? These are all great clues to spend some time thinking about and thinking about your answers to those questions and then see if you can put some puzzle pieces together and say, all right, this and this in this kind of well, maybe this is a direction I need to be taking myself in my work, because this seems to be where everything inside of me is responding to the circumstances in the world around me.


I love it, man. So much, so much good stuff there.

I love that you call it clues in particular, because I think that often we approach conversations around calling, not looking for clues. We’re looking for a solution. Which you think, that’s where you started, right? We’re looking out there just for the right next thing. Right. But instead we’d be looking internally for these clues. You’re saying that they might not give you the entire answer, but they might point you in the right direction to help clarify what might be next for you?




Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I love it.

It feels like connected in some ways to your new book, which is coming out, hopefully if I play my cards right and stick to my publishing schedule the day this comes out, October 6th, The Motivation Code. The subtitle is Discover the Hidden Forces That Drive Your Best Work. When I saw that, I knew I wanted to talk to you because I want to know more about that, even just for my myself how to work with my motivation and keep my motivation high, because I’ve been through periods of time when it’s hard to stay motivated to do certain projects or whatever else, but then also because we all work with other people and to understand how how other people work and what drives, you know, drives others, I just think it could be, you know, profoundly helpful to, I guess, have a way of interacting around motivation.

And so I’m not sure what the best place to jump in is. But I guess maybe just by starting where did this book come from? What was the kind of the genesis of it for you?

Yeah. So in twenty sixteen, my friend Rod Penner, who was a 20 year veteran of a management consulting firm, he was super successful guy, but he had left a management consulting firm a number of years before. And I kind of really didn’t really know what he was working on, but I knew he was kind of like in the lab doing something with a bunch of other people, but I didn’t know what it was.

So in 2016, he reached out and he said, Hey, I want you to take this motivational assessment that I’ve been working on.

And I don’t know about you, Dan, but, you know, I see a lot of assessments and most of them are pretty interesting, but not really all that useful.

And so I was like, you know, I’m an I.N.T.P., you? You know, like I really need another set of letters to attach to myself.

But Rod was like, listen, this is different. It’s totally different. And I really want you to do this and I’ll talk to the results with you. And I’m like, OK, so I took the assessment. It took me about 30 minutes to take the assessment. And then a report showed up in my email and I did a couple of exercises. And I’ll just be completely frank. This just blew my mind. In front of me was a description of why I made every major decision I’d ever made in my life, why I had certain areas of conflict in my life that I never could figure out.

But for some reason, I just always seemed to really have conflict with this particular person. Why is that? Well, now I understood that either why I struggled to get in, like really deeply involved with certain kinds of work, but other kinds of work, like I’ll work nights and weekends for weeks on end to do. But then like the easiest tasks, sometimes I can’t get motivated to do why I succeeded and some leadership roles failed and others all of it was right there in front of me.

And what I discovered was that all of those answers were related to the unique way in which I am motivated.

And so as I was discussing this with Rod, I learned that he and this entire team of PhDs and researchers have been working with research that began back in the late 1960s and over the course of time had basically interviewed tons of people, over a million achievement stories.

The largest repository of achievement stories in the history of humankind had passed that language and figured out that there were twenty seven unique themes of motivation. Twenty seven unique ways that we were motivated to to act and that give us fulfillment and engagement in the course of our lives and work. And by understanding those top motivations, you can begin to see some patterns in why certain behaviors play out in your life. But more than that, you can begin to structure your life in a way that will enable you to operate within that core motivation more consistently, regardless of your job.

So it’s not about going out and finding the perfect job. It’s about learning to bring your motivation, learning to activate your motivation in your job every single day. So once I began to understand that, it just completely clicked for me. And I knew, like, I’ve got to help get this out into the world. So I’ve really been I’ve been working on this book for about four years now and trying to really capture the power of motivation code in in a book.

And then you know last year finally got to the point where I was ready to share it with my publisher, and they just immediately said, yes, we want that book. Yes, absolutely. So that was kind of the beginning of it, of it getting out into the world in this way. But very, very exciting stuff. And frankly, without a doubt, I love all the books I’ve written. I’ve written four prior to this, and all of them have been very important to me and very close to my heart.

But this is the one that I really feel like has the potential to do the most long term good in the. The world, if people can really learn to operate within their core motivation. 


Yeah, yeah. And, you know, unlike your other books, as far as I know, you had a lot of collaboration with this team in writing it, correct?


Yeah, that’s right. So it was written with my friend Roth, who I mentioned, Rod Penner, and also Dr. Joshua Miller, who was the grandson of actually the gentleman that began this research back in the 1960s, who was also a Ph.D. and then Dr. Todd Hall, who is a clinical psychologist. And so Joshua and Todd and Rob, along with a handful of other PhDs and researchers, had pulled together this motivation could assessment over the course of many years.

And, you know, tens of thousands of people have been through it. And, you know, like I said, over a million achievement stories now have been have been shared and passed. And you’re really, I think, one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever come across.


Yeah. So I’m curious, just to dig a little bit deeper, could you give us some examples of what you know, how these motivations play out? And so, you know, someone gets a book or takes the assessment, like what kind of changes will they be learning about themselves? And then how do they how do we put them into action?

How do we work with them in our day to day, you know, work lives?


Yeah. So first of all, let me give you the sort of families of themes of motivational themes, and then I’ll share with you my top themes, actually, and explain to you how this impacted how I work on a day to day basis, because I think that’s really the most important thing people want to know. Like how does this actually impact your life? Yeah, so there are six families of themes and families of themes kind of share similar DNA, just like, you know, you share DNA with your biological family.

You may be different. I mean, you have different ways of being in the world, but you still share some DNA. So even though each of the twenty seven themes are unique, they do share some DNA with other family members. So the first family is called the Visionary Family. And the visionary family tends to be comprised of motivational themes that are forward looking right there about imagining, about pushing things forward, about venturing out into the unknown. So there are a handful of themes as part of that.

For example, make an impact, achieve potential experience. The ideal. These are visionary type themes. The second family is the Achiever Family. Achiever family tends to be people who want to get stuff done right. These are the people who are just like I just, you know, just give me the next task, give me the next thing. And so, for example, a couple of mine actually fall in the Achiever family, meet the challenge and overcome, but also bring to completion and advance the Team Player Families, the third family.

And these are people who tend to like to be with others. They like to work with others. They want to collaborate with others. They want to be a part of some kind of collective effort to get things done. The fourth family is the Leaner Family. And as you can imagine, these are people who like to learn things. They like assimilating, knowledge, sharing knowledge, that kind of stuff. That’s primarily how they’re wired. The fifth family is the Optimizer Family.

These are the people who will just tweak things endlessly until they get them exactly the way they want them to be. And there are a number of motivational teams that fall within that family. And it finally is the Key Contributor Family. And these are the people who want to be at the center of the action. Generally, they want to be one of the main players and anything that’s going on. So my main themes, my my top motivational themes are influence, behavior, make an impact, meet the challenge and overcome.

OK, I’m not in that order. By the way, make an impact is actually my number one. Meet the challenges number two, influence behavior is number three and overcome is number four. So let me give you an example of how that plays out in my life. I need a challenge in order to feel like engaged and also to feel like making progress. So when I write a book, a book is a sixty to seventy thousand word document that actually takes about one hundred and twenty thousand words to get to those sixty thousand words.

Right by the time you edit it down. But that’s a very long arc project. As you can imagine, it takes months or even years to write a book.

So when I’m in the middle of that project, it doesn’t quite give me the kind of challenge, the immediate challenge that I need in order to make progress.

So one of the shadow side attributes of beat the challenge is that you tend to sometimes you’ll be looking for ways to fulfill your motivation, even if it’s not necessarily the most productive way to fulfill that motivation.

So for me, enter the video game fortnight, and I’m thoroughly embarrassed to admit this as a forty seven year old man.

But my son introduced me to a fortnight a couple of years ago. And for those who don’t know about it, and I, like all the kids, have moved on from it right this way for those who don’t know anything about it. Now, let me just set the scene for you. So you’re basically you’re dropped. And by the way, before I even say this, I have probably. The collective two hours of video games, my entire adult life, I’ve just never done it, never, ever, ever.

So this is like a really weird thing for me. But it’s tonight you’re dropped on to an island with ninety nine other players. You have to collect items and you have to eliminate other players. Right. A game generally takes about 20 minutes. There’s one winner. There will only be one survivor of fortnight.

That’s basically the premise of the game. So you want to try to be the last survivor on the island.

So my son introduced me to this. I played my first game. I dropped onto the island. I think I took like two steps and boom, I was gone like immediately.

I was like, well, this is dumb play again immediately, like, boom, back in the game.

And then I lasted like ten seconds. By the end of the night, I think I had gotten maybe into the top 70 or something. And then, you know, maybe two months later I’m sitting on the couch one night and my wife was doing something next to me and I let out a little woop, like go.

Right. And I had just gotten my first victory and I told her she’s like, what happened? What happened? She thought something was wrong is like, I just got my first fortnight victory. And she said, great job beating that seven year old, honey, good job.

But the reason the fortnight is dangerous for somebody who’s motivated to meet the challenge is it’s discrete. So each game, even if you play the entire game, it’s about 20 minutes. Right. So you can play a game in about 20 minutes. It’s challenging. Yet it’s also kind of there’s some skill involved, but it’s also kind of random. Right. So it’s you get to choose where you land and what you do. But also it depends on what the other players do.

And then it’s just random enough that it feels challenging. You know, the game does. So if somebody like me, if I’m in a position where it’s like I need a quick challenge fix because that’s what I’m motivated for, that’s a really dangerous way for me to spend my time.

Right, because I can jump right in. So what I learned what because I’m wired to meet the challenge. What I learned is I have to structure my days as a series of challenges. So, for example, when I’m writing a book, I can’t just say I’m going to sit down and write for an hour like that’s not challenging to me or to write for two hours or I’m going to write two thousand words at some point. No, that’s not too I have to say I’m going to write 500 words before 8:32 this morning, right?

Yeah. That’s a challenge for me. I have to structure my life and my days as a series of challenges. I’m going to do X number of things before this time. I’m going to build this Web page for this thing that we’re doing before 1:30 this afternoon. If I do that all of a sudden, like I’m there, I’m engaged, I’m focused fully in. And that’s just one of my themes. For example, I mentioned Make an Impact is another theme that is really important to me.

You’re a podcast, right?

My podcast is downloaded millions of times a year, The Accidental Creative. But because podcasting is a very passive medium, you know, sometimes we don’t get direct feedback from the people listening. Right, because people in the car or whatever. And by the time they think to email you like they’ve already forgotten about whatever it was they were listening to. So you don’t get a ton of feedback even though, you know, people are downloading, listening to it because you can see that.

Well, that’s really difficult for me, though, because I like I need to see the impact of my work, not just download numbers, but I need to see is this actually making an impact on people in some capacity? And so I’ve had to when I’m in some kind of a funk, you know, with my business, whether I’ll ask myself, is this because I’m not seeing the impact of my work right now? And what I’ve started doing is I’ve started collecting emails that I have received from people or feedback that I have received from people over time.

Sometimes I just go back over them and just read them just to remind myself of the impact I’m having in my work because I’m so driven by impact. That’s such a core part of my motivation that I need to go back and revisit that over and over and over just to show myself, like what you’re doing is important. It is having an impact, even if people aren’t telling you it is having an impact on the world. So and, you know, even when we’re in a conversation like earlier, you’re like, wow, that’s really helpful.

That’s really like those kinds of words are like candy to me, you know, when you’re interviewing me because I’m seeing that I’m influencing behavior. I’m seeing I’m having an impact.

And that’s really important for somebody wired like me, whereas somebody else might be completely differently wired, like if they’re wired to collaborate, they just want to be part of the team. They just want to feel like, you know, hey, Dan and I had a really good conversation. It was a really great collaborative effort. And we just really put something out the world that we together are going to be collectively proud of. Right.

That’s a totally different way of being wired and motivated. So with this knowledge, it completely unlocked for me some of the really great stuff that was going on in my work, but also some of the shadow side places where I need to be very careful. And it really taught me how to structure my life and my work in a way that it was going to be more productive, meaningful and engaging day to day.


I love it. It seems like it gives you some guidance or maybe a starting point on how to. I mean, because it’s not like you’ve completely changed your work, like what you’re doing and what you’re producing.

But you what it’s what it sounds like it has helped you do is to change the way you’re framing it so that it connects more directlyto these themes. Am I understanding understanding that correctly? 



No question.A lot of it is. You know, sometimes there’s something going on, you know, it’s going on. But you don’t have words to describe or you don’t have language. Again, I mentioned earlier to bring it full circle, like I’m about getting to the governing dynamics. That’s what I’m interested in. And so when this happened, I realized this is about as close to the white hot center as I can get of what’s really going on in my world, because motivation is the base layer.

You know, this really is the base layer. This is this is before skills strengths. It’s before aptitudes. It’s before any of that stuff. Personality like what you’re driven, like how you’re driven, what’s motivating you to do certain kinds of things or certain kinds of work. That is the, at the very base layer of your interaction with the world in the body of work that you’re building. 


Hmm. I love it.

I love it. We’ll just take a step back and look at, you know, this book and your hope for it. You know, just getting to maybe  some of your motivation in creating it.

Like what is it that you’re hoping to accomplish through through this book? What’s the change that you want to be a part of? What’s the impact?

What’s the impact you want to see? That’s the theme, right? That’s right. I’d love to hear. Yeah. Just hear you talk about that.

I want to see millions of people unleashed by their unique motivation. I want millions of people to understand what uniquely drives them and also what uniquely drives their teammates. I want to see teams functioning more in a more healthy way because they understand why they have conflict. You know, somebody who is driven to comprehend and express is going to be asking questions all the time. They’re going to be, you know, saying, why don’t we explore this?

What if we do that? What if we go this direction? And somebody who’s driven to advance is like, will you shut up?

We just need to get this across the finish line. Right. And they may not even know that’s what’s going on. But once you understand oh, you know what? This person isn’t a nuisance. They’re just wired differently than I am.

They’re just motivated differently. So now we can have a meaningful conversation about that. Now we can talk about how our natural motivations are getting in the way of productive, you know, productive collaboration. So meanwhile, to collaborate with the person standing back to saying, well, you guys, please be quiet, let’s just all get along great.

And so, you know, what I want to see is millions of people who come to an awareness of their unique motivation. And then at the end of the day, it’s about people putting the work into the world they’re uniquely capable of producing once they understand how they are driven.


Hmm. I love that. I love that. And that’s, you know, very much at the heart of my work. Like, I want to see everyone make that thing that only they can make. And I love that, that yeah. I guess that we share, that comment, that common goal, that common calling I guess, if you will.

Yeah, I know a lot of people listening. They’re looking for that thing.

They’re trying to figure out how to get there. And I think that sounds like motivation code can be a really helpful piece of that process.

And at least in helping us, you know, align our day to day with our motivations.

But for people who are we’re just really stuck right now as we kind of transitioning now to kind of just zooming out a little bit. And they’re in these places, it often listening where they’re thinking about like, I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. I don’t know if I’m doing that thing that only I can do. I’m trying to figure out what my contribution is to the world. And maybe, you know, maybe the job was working for me for a while, but it’s not right now.

I’m curious if you have any words of wisdom for folks that are in those kinds of places, whether it has to do, you know, directly with motivation or just even just from your own experience of from the transitions that you’ve been through, like what would you say to someone who’s in one of these kind of stuck places?


Yeah, well, a couple of things. First of all, recognize that your body of work isn’t going to be a thing, is going to be a portfolio of things. Right. So you’re building your body of work every single day through every piece of value you add anywhere in your life. So your job is just to add value wherever you can. That’s all I was doing when I created a podcast in 2005. I wasn’t thinking like, oh, you know what?

If I do this, then by 2020 all I’ve written five books and I’ll be traveling the world speaking and consulting to know. I wasn’t thinking that. I was just like, I think I have something to share. I’m going to create something I think will help other people. So, you know, add value wherever you can in any way you can and be an expression. Of the person you want to be in the world, yeah, I think we undervalue the role of becoming in our body of work.

Who you’re becoming is way more important than what you’re doing or what you’re building or any of that. 

Like, are you becoming the kind of person you want to be? And if you can answer yes to that, then the chances are pretty good that you’re probably also making things that you’re going to be proud of. Right, the long term. So that would be the first thing. The second thing I would say is just, you know, very few people on this planet are called to change the world. I think we feel like our calling has to be something that is big and world changing and is going to impact a huge sphere of people.

But every single one of us is called to change the world around us. So my encouragement to people is just, you know, don’t think big, think small, start small, start around you, whatever change you want to create or if you feel like being called out of you, start today with one conversation with someone or start with your family or start with your friends or your neighbors or whoever it is, and you start small and then pay attention to the clues about where you should navigate next.

Yeah, but I think people get paralyzed because they think, well, I’ve got to get it right, it’s got to be big and it’s got to be right from the get go. No. Oh, absolutely not. Like everybody.

And by the way, I question when I’m doing all the time, you know, all the time.

I think there’s also this misunderstanding that once you get to a certain point, you’ve got it all, you know, somehow you figure it out. I mean, I probably have more pieces of the puzzle now that I definitely do than I did 15 years ago. But I mean, everybody that I know who is operating at the absolute top of their game or top of their industry, everybody is making it up as they go. Yeah, everybody is trying to figure it out from day to day.

So the idea that somehow, someday you’ll just come into some conscious awareness where suddenly all the pieces go, click, click, click, click, click, it’s not going to happen.

You know, when you’re an entrepreneur, especially, my wife and I, at the beginning of every year, we say, well, this might be the most amazing year ever or this might be the year everything falls apart.

Right? You just don’t know. You don’t know. I don’t know about you, but I did not have global pandemic on my 2020 bingo cards. Right. It wasn’t there. So you just never know what’s going to happen. But you know, it doesn’t matter. Yeah. Even if my business went away I can still operate in my calling. Yeah. Because you know, because I’ve discovered what’s being called out of me right now in this season and that’s going to be different in the middle of a pandemic than it is when everything’s humming along.

So that’s totally fine. That’s OK, because who I’m becoming is more important than what I’m building.


I love that. That’s so good. And everyone listening should just go back and listen. Listen to that again. It’s just so, so true for me. Yeah.

And I think it speaks to what you said earlier just about how are so overwhelmed by the choices, the possibilities. Like there’s so many, so many things in front of us that that are good things that we can often just feel like I got to find the perfect thing, that one thing that that’s going to change the world. But I think your invitation to just change a person, you know, change, change a person’s life right around you, change it to change their day, make the small impact and that those can add up and be clues to move you forward.

It’s beautiful.

Well, first, just thank you so much for your time here with us. I just you know, it feels like I know you said you thought you started to got into the podcast game late. I feel like I’m talking to one of the I don’t know, grandfather makes it sound too old, but like I feel like you practically invented podcasting from my vantage point. So it’s just an honor and just a joy to be able to to to talk with you and have you on the show.

And thank you so much for all that you bring. I’m super pumped about the book just personally in my own life, because I know that this is an area that I know I could use some improvement in my own self-understanding. But then just like you said, in with people that we work with and with my family, with my kids, I think there’ll be lots of great places to dig in.

And so everyone listening, check out Todds new book should be out the day or the day this comes out. There should be should be hitting the shelves.

But for people who are listening, is there any anything else that you’d like to invite, invite people to.


Yeah. If you want to know more about all of this motivation stuff that we’ve been talking about, you can go to www.Motivationcode.com. That’s where all of these lives. So www.Motivationcode.com Or my personal side is www.toddhenry.com. And there you can find the podcast and basically all the other stuff I’m up to.


I love it. I love it. Well, Todd, thank you so much for your time. And it’s just been so great having you on the show. 


Yeah, thank you so much, Dan.

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