What drives you?

There is a word in Japanese – ikigai (生き甲斐 – pronounced “ee-ki-guy”). There is no one word in English that is its equivalent. In fact, to express the concept in English, we have borrowed a phrase from French – raison d’être.

Roughly, the words ikigai and raison d’être mean “your reason for being” or “that which is important to you” or “why you get up in the morning”. They answer the question: “What drives you?”

Drive by Dan Pink

It is the concept of drive that lies at the heart of a new book by Dan Pink entitled Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

In Drive, Pink looks at the psychology of what motivates us. We have been conditioned to think that the best way to motivate someone is through a “carrot and stick” approach; for example, more money for better work or penalties for substandard work. Pink argues that these kinds of external motivators do more harm than good. And he draws on an impressive amount of scientific research to support his premise.

Last year, I wrote a seven-part series on how to make your speeches and presentations stick in the minds of your audiences. It was based on the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. The third article in that series – Making it stick: Be unexpected – featured a video of a talk that Pink gave on motivation at a TED conference in July 2009. It is worth watching (or re-watching).

But if extrinsic motivators do not work, what does? Intrinsic motivators, of course. And Pink offers us three:


The desire to direct our own lives. “People need autonomy over task (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with), and technique (how they do it). Companies that offer autonomy, sometimes in radical doses, are outperforming their competitors.”


The urge to get better and better at something that matters. “Mastery begins with ‘flow’ – optimal experiences when the challenges we face are exquisitely matched to our abilities. … [It ] is is a mindset. It requires the capacity to see your abilities not as finite, but as infinitely improvable. Mastery is pain. It demands effort, grit and deliberate practice. And mastery is an asymptote: It’s impossible to fully realize, which makes it simultaneously frustrating and alluring.”


The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. “Humans, by their nature, seek purpose – a cause greater and more enduring than themselves. … [P]uprose-maximization is taking its place alongside profit-maximization as an aspiration and a guiding principle. … This move … has the potential to rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world.”

These insights might seem like common sense; however, as Mark Twain once said, common sense is not so common. Pink’s recommendations are perceptive. They are also relevant for public speakers.


We get to craft our speeches. Although we are often required to speak on a particular subject, we usually have a fair amount of latitude in terms of the content of our presentations and how we present them. And although we might have technical and other support, when we are on stage, it is our show.


We all want to improve our public speaking skills. But there has never been – and never will be – a public speaker who is perfect. There will always be room for improvement, for refinement, for polishing. Therein lies the challenge and the appeal.


As public speakers, we have the ability to influence our audiences. We can inform, entertain, persuade or motivate them. Words are powerful things; we have the responsibility to use them properly and for a constructive purpose.

In Drive, Pink does not only discuss the science of motivation; he has developed a 50-page toolkit full of exercises, suggestions, websites, book suggestions and more, all of which can help you bring more drive to the different professional and personal aspects of your life.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest
Picture of mannerofspeaking


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nine + eight =


John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International