Creating the environment for your personal development journey

Purpose seems to be a buzzword startups founders can’t get around these days. ‘Your purpose articulates how you want to change the world’. ‘People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it’. And many more of these quotes are constantly thrown around in articles, vlogs, and podcasts. But it’s not without a reason, Zeeger Scholten, co-founder of The Nomad Academy explains.

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For its programs The Nomad Academy selects a group of 30 young professionals, out of thousands of applicants, to learn the skills of the future while traveling the world. So you can be sure Scholten knows a thing or two about purpose.

“If you look at how the millennial generation grew up, it makes perfect sense that they’re looking for purpose. They get educated in a system that gives no room for personal development. While they do see endless opportunities due to the internet and can compare themselves to millions of others through social media.”

“Then there’s the generation gap. Older generations don’t necessarily understand that your network doesn’t consists of 100 people anymore, like in their days. And that you have thousands of options to choose from with any decision. For example, if you’re from a small town in Spain and you are constrained by what you know and don’t know. And who you know and don’t know, it makes perfect sense that you will never consider a digital nomad lifestyle as a UX designer in Peru. And this is just one possibility. So when you are aware of your restrictions and the endless opportunities, it’s not strange to get confused about your own life, hence, the need for purpose.”

Then there’s taking the leap of following a new path. It might not feel like the right choice, after being in a steady job for 7 years. You might feel resistance. From yourself. From people around you. You might doubt if you’re capable enough.

In this interview Scholten guides you in building an environment that stimulates personal development. To a point where you know you are capable of more. That you can provide value by doing what aligns with your purpose.

Key elements

There’s a long list of habits and skills to enjoy a life full of personal development – and some may seem hard to reach, while others are already part of your day-to-day existence. This is why Scholten and his co-founders describe three values they live by. Values that combine the key elements for growth:

radical transparency — speaking truthfully and honestly to each other;

self responsibility — responsible for your own work / emotions & take on feedback from others;

openness — willingness to change perspective & look at the big picture from multiple directions.

Scholten states that the The Nomad Academy, and life in general, is an intense experience. “To get the most out of it, you have to be vulnerable and show your talent. Instead of showing the mask you’ve been wearing for all these years – because you believe you’ve had to for other people.”

Enthusiasm about your purpose and discovering your purpose speeds up this process. “That’s why we always look for driven individuals. And that’s why we always suggest to be part of a group of people who push you to do more. As long as you’re open minded, those people can bring you to new heights. Just remember that you can’t do it all and you can’t do it all perfectly,” Scholten adds.

“It’s not easy. Eventually, it’s hard work, but when you follow through, it will boost your confidence enormously and you will feel capable of doing this you never thought you were capable of.”

Integrating it in your team

As a startup founder, it can be a daunting task to build a team who follows the same process rigorously. “If I have one tip regarding team members, it’s to hire primarily on culture fit, and afterwards have a certain acceptance of who they are and how they do things. Observe what develops naturally, and just let it ride. After you select them carefully, their day-to-day operations shouldn’t be something that you plan out in a very extensive way,” Scholten says. “When your team grows, you have to look at the bigger picture, more long term. And this is only possible when you delegate the tasks you and your co-founders performed earlier.”

For the founder starting from scratch, the first step is to identify what your values are, since they ultimately guide your traditions. “You don’t have to tell people when to work and what to work on when you share a purpose. This can be hard from time to time, because you’ll also have to be honest when you talk about the numbers, for instance. But when your goal is clear, all you have to do as a founder is offer your team the possibilities they can chase themselves.”

Integrating in your life

For people looking to replicate Scholten’s journey for personal development, here are the steps to follow:


Through reflection, connect to your core values and principles. This provides a touchpoint and affirmation of what truly matters. Then get peers who are a good fit to your new lifestyle to provide feedback. The communities that surround us provide safety and stability, as well as avenues for dialogue, reflection and reframing. Remember that accepting emotions and being sincere is intense from time to time.

Enjoy new experiences

Live life with an open mind, through experiences you usually don’t look for. Create a list of activities for yourself to pull from and practice them. Join communities where people think differently. If you’re older, this might be harder, because you’ve already built your own community, but still, meeting other people will let you find other possibilities. And ultimately, this leads to gathering people around you who live by the same values.

Through the constant loop of reflection & trying new experiences, over a lifetime, you can find out what resonates most with you – the ultimate guide to finding what purpose / meaning is for you.

Advice to take away to create an environment for your personal development journey

People need to be more intentional about their personal development journey and maintaining rigor in creating an environment that enables them to do so. To start, think of personal development as a search for alignment between speeding up and slowing down, not as a way to boost your skillset or a chance to grill your past self. Remember that you can’t convince yourself a characteristic is something you should have and that a characteristic defines who you are for the rest of your life.

Try turning every possibility to learn into a celebration, using it as an opportunity to express your delight at finding out what fits you – and recognize all the work that has gone into the process to find that out. And whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been going at it for 25+ years, be thoughtful about the core elements of your personal development. Working to recognize them and turning your surroundings into an environment that supports the new you.