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What is motivation? Motivation is the totality of all the reasons that make you do what you do. These reasons determine your efforts and aspirations to achieve your goals.

What motivates you to get up in the morning? What motivates you to go to work? What motivates you to get married, change jobs or leave the country?

All these and other motives can be collected in four statements:

  • You want influence!
  • You want to learn and develop!
  • You want to be loved!
  • You want to identify with one thing!

A few days ago, I was at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. Hardly any tourist misses spending time there. I have been there three times in the last 20 years and the enthusiasm of these fish sellers is as inspiring as ever. In 2001, the market was voted the most popular workplace in the United States.

What does this unbelievable motivation of these people do? Why do hundreds of managers flock daily from their offices to the fish market to be inspired by fish sellers for their jobs during their lunch break?

The fish sellers get up in the middle of the night, walk through the rain (in Seattle it often rains) into a simple cold store, fetch the fish, fix the display and sell fish. Everyday life always looks the same. Getting fish, laying out fish, selling fish, cleaning up fish, that’s it.

So it can’t be due to the creative variety of everyday life that they’re always in such a good mood and sell their fish so well.

What do these fish sellers know, understand and do what most of us do not get on the list? How can this joy also find its way into you?


The four principles of the Pike Place Fish Market bring the above motivation factors into action:


1. You want to have influence, …then choose your own attitude!

If you look at these fish sellers, you’ll soon find out one thing: Each of these employees has left his warm and comfortable bed with the decisive thought:

It’s only my attitude that counts. No matter what the day brings, whether the sun shines or it rains again, I make the best of it! It’s just me and my point of view!

“No one else is responsible for my happiness and satisfaction than myself. I don’t want to be a victim of my circumstances, I don’t blame my boss and the weather for my mood. I decide to see the positive and the beautiful in all things. Even if the fish is dead and does not smell good, this fish gives me today the opportunity to do something good for people.”

These people understood something: We can only feel one feeling at a time. You can’t be sad and happy in one moment, or angry and happy.

We all want to repeat positive feelings and avoid negative ones. But feelings can only be controlled by our thoughts. All these positive motivating scenes of the Pike Place Fish Market only come about when each employee takes responsibility for his or her own attitude.

Take a test: How long do you manage not to think negative thoughts? An hour, two or more…? You’ll soon find it’s not that easy. We constantly find reasons to be dissatisfied with ourselves and others.

Train your thoughts, look at the positive qualities of the people around you. We’re all not perfect. Not the others and neither do you. I’m not saying you should let anything happen and just walk the world with a smile on your face.

When I look through my office window at my garden, I have two possibilities to think: Oh dear, that’s where it looks, I have to fertilize, cut the hedges. What do the neighbors think, the hedge hangs far too far over the fence.

Or…man, what luck we have to live in the countryside, what a power nature has just developed, so many flowers show up, my neighbour also wants to enjoy his garden.

The work does not become less, but I go to work with a different attitude.


2. You want to learn and develop, then play!

The fish market resembles a large playground. It is called, sung, clapped and fish fly through the air. A salesman calls after an order from a customer in Oregon: “10 pounds of salmon fly to Oregon!” All the staff at the stand are chanting: “10 pounds of salmon fly to Oregon!”

When the managers from the business district are present in dozens, they also shout, “10 pounds of salmon fly to Oregon”. When the fish is successfully caught and bagged, cheering breaks out and you clap your hands as if the team had just won the Superbowl.

It all seems so playful. Everyone has a big grin on his face, is looking forward to the next customer and is curious which fish is on its way back to the checkout.

When I walk through the companies in this country, I rarely meet such a playful joy. Our processes are described. The quality management has passed the certification with distinction. One places a table soccer in the newly designed bistro for the employees and hopes for the “fish effect”.

Where did the joy go? Maybe it’s still to be found in the churches. No, I’ll open up this subject elsewhere…

We have three children. Joshua 20 years, student, Simon 18 years, high school graduate and Tabitha 14 years, pupil.

What is the same for all kids when it comes to learning? They learn fast, gladly and untiringly, if it gives them pleasure.

Both guys are founders and entrepreneurs in their own start ups. They learn day and night how digital marketing works and which strategies lead to the goal. Our daughter could already do without school today, but she is perfecting her singing talent every free minute.

Playing needs the motivation to learn and develop. Nothing is more effective and sustainable.

In an innovative company, I recommended that the production manager turn the weekly schedule into a “weekly game”. So far, each employee has only been occupied with his tools and his goals. Now, like in a football game, there is a scoreboard that shows how the score is, how much time is left to play, and whether the game strategy is well chosen. A simple scoreboard has rekindled the lost joy of playing. Productivity has more than tripled.

It’s not that complicated. You don’t have to go through the entire Scrum program or run Jobfloor Management to regain the pleasure.

3. You want to be loved, make others happy!

The Bible says, “Giving is more blessed than taking!” (Acts 20:35). If there is one crucial insight for motivation, then it is probably this one. Giving is more motivating than taking.

Of course it is also a pleasure to be given a present. How much more pleasure it gives to give. When we have left the stage of “childhood”, this insight should navigate us through the day. Easier said than done. Man thinks about himself and his needs rather than about others for the majority of his waking hours.

Take a minute: Which three people do you know who are satisfied, motivated and happy?

I’m pretty sure all these people have one thing in common. They invest selflessly in others. They have a real interest in their counterpart.

The sellers could also sell their fish at the Pike Place Fish Market like everyone else. The quality is right. The location at the port speaks for freshness. There are customers, too.

This motivation coming from within (intrinsic motivation) to please others has made this market world famous. Everywhere there is fish, but in no place I buy the fish with so much convincing joy. The quality of the product is comparable, but here I still get a portion of energy and joy free.

My self-pity is over in one fell swoop when I take care of others. My worries vanish into thin air when I listen to someone who has worries. When I look away from myself and towards others, joy and motivation spread within me. That’s how we’re made. That’s what we’re meant to do. To make others happy to be full of joy and energy themselves.

Very few of us run the risk of losing ourselves and forgetting ourselves. Of course it is right that you can only give as much as you have yourself.

Please read more about this: Masterplan of your life – Introduction

When our children unwrap their birthday presents, we are happier than the children themselves. We have the greatest joy in their joy.

If you want to give yourself a present, then look out for opportunities to give others a present.



4. You want to identify with one thing, be present!

This statement seems almost a little contradictory. On the one hand, it is a basic human need to identify with something that is greater than himself. On the other hand, this need can only be experienced if we are present for the individual at the moment. We need visions and goals to be motivated. It is just as important to be fully present in the here and now.


We can do several things at once, but we can only be there for one person at a time.

When we all sit around the table as a family, you can hear the saying over and over again: “Please, one at a time!” It is not possible for us to listen to several people at the same time, to understand their concerns and needs correctly in order to show them real appreciation (see point 3).

We spend too much time in our past and future and too little time in the present.

The past still has to be mastered and worked through, but the future is uncertain and underpinned by fears.

Pike Place’s fish sellers understand that it is only through their presence in the here and now that they are part of their company’s great global vision. The person standing right in front of the counter is the absolutely most important customer in the history of the fish market, Pike Place writes history.

One week after Easter I visited the Fish Market with my wife. The whole Easter message and the fish market have more in common than one might think. In the Bible there are, besides 80 notes on “fish”, countless reports on the subject of “presence”.

The Son of God had three years for his earthly mission with his team to reach his great goal.

Little time to save the world. On his way to Jerusalem and to fulfill his mission, he has always stopped to serve the individual human being. Often to the annoyance of his followers who insisted on keeping to the schedule and budget. The fate of the individual in the moment of the encounter always had priority.

The person you immediately meet is the most important person of your presence. Be present, give him all your attention. In this way you become part of a great vision with which you completely identify yourself and change the world.