“What’s your purpose?”
It’s a question I have asked over 1,000 entrepreneurs and a common answer is:
“To sell the business in three to five years time and make a great return for the founders and the investors.”
I appreciate that some entrepreneurs think that’s what investors want to hear.
Money motive is not sufficient
I usually dig a bit deeper and expand on what I mean by purpose, explaining that I’m interested in their personal purpose. Based on my experience the entrepreneurs who have a purpose bigger than themselves, bigger than just profit, are more likely to survive and ultimately thrive.
The money motive is potent but I don’t believe it’s sufficient; for motivation, for engagement, for energy maximisation, for business success over the long-term.
Passion motive is not sufficient
Another common theme coming from the entrepreneurs I coach is that they’re passionate about what they do.
We hear the message from successful people like Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey you must do what you love.
I always thought passion was enough. As a child I sensed how much my dad loved his job as a histopathologist. He even worked Saturdays voluntarily. I don’t think it was to get out of the childcare!
Sport was my big passion as a child. When I was 9 years I wrote in my English book, “I enjoy sport a lot but sometimes I take it a bit (too) seriously.” I was pleased to see I was showing some early signs of self-awareness. Sport remained a passion up until I left university and when I needed to get a job.
“I must follow my passion, and get a job in sport,” I used to say to myself. For many years I flirted with the idea of working within the sports industry but I never made the leap. What I realised was that my passion was not being a sports agent or an event organiser but participating in a sport and I wasn’t good enough to earn a living from it.
(As an aside if you only keep one thing from your child’s school days keep their English or creative writing books. Re-reading them has been so much fun as well as a scary reminder how much our essence doesn’t change.)
This led me to understand that letting passion dictate your direction can be perilous. We don’t hear from people who have failed to become successful by following their passion. Just ask most of the actors or musicians you meet.
But then again ignoring your passion is not a good idea either. I know too many people who feel stuck in a job, are just going through the motions or settle on the safe route. There is too much misery in the workforce.
Purpose and Passion – that’s where the magic can happen
It was when my grandfather died in 1995 and I was listening to the eulogy about his life that the answer came to me. The life he had led was of service to something bigger than himelf. The combination of passion and purpose – where you combine what you love to do with having a positive impact on others – was the answer. It was many years before I acted on this insight.
My partner calls me PP because I am very passionate and purposeful about what I do (ok so PP doesn’t stand for Passion and Purpose but it works well for this piece!). My purpose is to “Ignite Your Spark”. I want everyone I coach to find their spark, their purpose and to lead a life of purpose. Seeing others thrive is what gets me out of bed each day.
So, what has happened since I discovered my purpose?
More energy …. more intensity
One of the main effects has been a significant rise in my energy levels. I experience a real sense of excitement and enthusiasm when I am working.
I probably work longer hours than I did before but I do not feel exhausted at the end of the day, I feel invigorated. I feel on fire. I am bringing much more intensity to my work.
I am in the flow much more often. I get totally engrossed. I feel like I am using my natural talents.
More clarity …. more focus
I have much more clarity about what is important. I think I am working smarter with a focused, less easily distracted, approach. I am much clearer on what I don’t want to do.
“Where can I be most impactful for my clients?” is a question I frequently ask myself. My learning is geared towards benefiting others, not just an exercise of knowledge gathering.
It gives me confidence to act, to get out of my comfort zone, to experiment with new things.
More authenticity … more accepting of myself
I am being authentic. I am benefitting from alignment. The essence of me has always been there (as seen in my English books) but putting my purpose into words has allowed me to be more accepting of myself and make better sense of it all.
My purpose is not only about my work, it transcends everything I do. I have never felt more fulfilled.
What is really exciting for me is that I will never retire from what I do, from my purpose, which in my book, means I really have found my purpose. There are days when I am in the arena of purpose and there are days when I am not. That is fine, that is normal. Mastery of leading with purpose is a journey.
And in conclusion!
When my clients discover their purpose, their place in the universe, their ‘why’, it is a special moment. I can feel the sense of excitement and energy.
The profit motive, the passion motive are potent but are not sufficient on their own.
It’s when you combine passion with purpose, that the magic can happen.
I believe purpose is the foundation from which you build all the other key elements of great leadership.
Discovering your purpose doesn’t necessarily result in a big transformative change. It doesn’t solve all of your problems, it’s not a Hollywood story. But it does help you find the answers in good and challenging times. And most importantly people will pick up on a sense you are leading with purpose and they will want to follow you.
I will be writing more on the topic of purpose in future blogs but in the meantime if you are interested check out the following books:
Drive by Daniel H. Pink
Great At Work by Morten T. Hansen
Mastery by Robert Greene
Leading From Purpose by Nick Craig