Minecraft. If you have kids you’ve probably heard of it. My kids definitely have. It’s a global phenomenon, a bit like an online version of Lego where you can build houses, cities, communities, people, monsters—all sorts of stuff. It’s a very open-ended, very creative game. You don’t even have to be a kid to enjoy it, apparently; the average age of Minecraft players is twenty-four.

My eight-year-old son got into it a couple of months ago. He plays it on his iPad. And at a certain point, it dawned on me that he was talking about it a lot.

Now, first, a quick aside. In this digital age, our house is like most others: smartphones, televisions, iPads, computers . . . It can be easy to lose a bit of connection with your loved ones with all those devices floating around. So we’ve created what we think are healthy limits with our kids: they can have the iPad on Saturdays and Sundays for an hour or two.

That’s all it took for my son to become so engrossed with Minecraft that he wouldn’t look at anything else on the iPad.

And like I say, one day I realized he was talking about it more than anything else. What he’d been building, what he wanted to create, how to go about doing it, and on and on and on.

And in the same breath, I realized I didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about …

So I slowed things down. I got really, really curious, and I asked him to show me this new world of his.

I was blown away. Minecraft is the most wonderful thing. I wish I’d had it as a kid. Players have to find resources to build houses, communities, ships, cars—anything you want, really. You can go on adventures and explore what is essentially an infinite world.

As the days passed I continued talking with my son about it, and one day one of them went something like this:

Me: “How’s it going in Minecraft? Are you having fun?”

“I love it!” And after giving me more specifics about what he was up to, he added, “I’d like to play Minecraft all the time.”

Now, this gave me some pretty obvious clues about what his personal values are as an eight-year-old. And I could also see that his enthusiasm was inspiring my five-year-old to get creative with the game. So just through his living his own values as an eight-year-old, he was inspiring other people around him.

It struck me like a lightning bolt that this is exactly what I coach and teach people!

What are your values, and how do they connect with how you live your life?

I’ve asked these questions of myself as well.

As a result, I’ve created what is for me a very purposeful life based around my highest values: personal development, family, coaching, growth, transformation, continuous improvement, health and wellness. And I coach others to do the same.

I help my clients slow down and get really clear about who they are as individuals—their way of being, what drives them from the inside-out, their personal values and goals. Not what they may have been operating on for years without thinking about it—the kinds of expectations of what one is “supposed” to do and want in life that we all pick up from society, maybe from our parents, maybe from others. It’s too easy to find ourselves living lives we don’t feel connected to.

I help my clients create lives they love leading from a space of deeper understanding about their personal values and goals, from who they really are inside.

Because when you create a life driven by the values you hold most dear, you’re okay with the challenges that come your way. You see them as being on the way to where you want to go, versus in the way. And when they come up you dig into the internal resources you’ve built up because you know you’re doing something you love to do.

This is exactly what was happening with my son.

One of his highest values was Minecraft. The challenges he faced in the game were all part of the fun. In fact, the game wouldn’t have been as fun without them.

Now at the same time, he was bumping up against a few things at school.

For example, he wasn’t reading as much as he could be. We also had a report from his teacher saying my son found storytelling difficult. I was surprised to hear this—he’s always struck me as a creative kid.

So I slowed myself down and thought, What’s the opportunity here? How can I support his learning without coming down hard as a harsh authority figure—which in my experience doesn’t help long-term anyway?

And then it hit me: Minecraft!

As I’ve said, it’s an incredibly creative game. And my son was already poking through the many manuals available to help with gameplay.

It was really a natural leap to talk with him about how if he improves his schoolwork—whether it’s reading, writing, mathematics—it’ll serve his playing of Minecraft. He’ll be able to understand more, read even more complex manuals, create better, different worlds, and just have more fun.

I was actually communicating to him through his values. And one of the big things we created together was how he could learn the art of storytelling through Minecraft.

He’s now working on the storytelling skill that he’s required to do at school—and which he found quite difficult and laborious and boring—by telling stories about Minecraft.

And during the week, when he’s not playing Minecraft, he’ll often get out a pen and paper and sketch the worlds and characters he wants to make, or draft the stories he needs to write.

His whole perspective on learning and the academic side of school has transformed through the medium of Minecraft, which at the moment is one of his highest values.

Am I worried the game itself will become an unhealthy obsession? No. I know eight-year-olds. I’ve been one myself.

Obsessions like Minecraft come and go. And while this one is here, my son can use the energy it generates in him as inspiration to develop the skills he needs to achieve all sorts of things in life.

You can’t motivate people from the outside in.

Carrots and sticks have a very short half-life.

At least, it’s very difficult to consistently incentivize someone to do something you want them to do if they don’t really feel connected to it.

If you’re an entrepreneur or manager and you have a team of people, you can try throwing rewards at them: extra commissions, time off, staff parties, and so on. These incentives have a time and a place, certainly, but unless you specifically understand what your employees’ highest values are, you’re not really building a foundation to work from.

When you’re looking to inspire someone, slow down. Really slow down and come from a place of loving curiosity, as I did with my son when I was trying to understand what was clearly one of his highest values: Minecraft.

Connect with that employee. Have a conversation and find out what drives them, what they value, and create some powerful agreements that serve both of you.

I once started working with a business owner on the very same material I’ve been discussing here. And after he experienced its value, he suggested we work with individual members of his team so he could understand what their drivers were, what their intrinsic, inside-out inspirational factors were.

He had an office manager on his team, a young woman. Her performance was acceptable, but she was really doing just enough to get by and she was feeling a bit stagnant. In talking with her my client discovered that she loved graphic design and art. She was a really creative soul, but she’d kind of left that alone in her life for a few years and taken this office job—which she enjoyed, but which didn’t really have a creative element to it.

So my client sat down with her and they co-created an agreement based on answering the question:

How can we weave this love you have of design and art and graphics into your role in this company?

And they ended up changing her position agreement to include the responsibility of creating all the adverts for the business. All the things that required some artistic, creative edge would now be her responsibility.

And she flourished. She loved it.

She still did the other management stuff she’d originally been brought on to do, but now she had a way of expressing herself there was linked to her highest values—and this deepened her level of engagement in all her duties.

It inspired her from the inside-out.

There’s a lot to unwrap here. Beyond the idea of connecting with other people at the level of their highest values, there are also ideas about communication, about creating agreements, about valuing other people. I’ll explore these concepts in other blogs. But they’re all connected.

In short, if you’re communicating effectively and being genuinely curious about another person, you can understand their world. You can avoid projecting your values into their life. You don’t expect them to be just like you (Something I’ve learned the hard way not to do).

And when people are inspired from the inside they’re not just more productive—they’re happier.

Motivation is an ‘outside-in’ thing. Inspiration is an ‘inside-out’ thing and eminently more powerful and sustainable.

Understanding this doesn’t just help in business—it can transform and deepen all your relationships. It can open up your world.

Children are our biggest teachers …

Love and wellness,

David.

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist