Imagine if you will, somebody offering you the answer to the meaning of life. Would you listen? Would you take action in what you learn?
What if knowing the answer could fundamentally change who you are and where you are heading? In fact it drives you forward, guiding you, lifting your spirits when times are hard and grounding you when things are going well.
Well the answer I believe is a personal one and comes from within you and sometimes it takes work to discover what this really is. But when you do, man you are on fire, you are energised, its like you are unstoppable.
When you do not have this however, its like, well it is all too hard, you give up, you start accepting your place in the world, you accept mediocracy and in my view, you sell out on your potential and everyone loses then.
This also translates into business. I have seen business owners forgetting why they got into business in the first place and then wonder why they struggle, or why their business is in decline. The passion is gone. But it even goes beyond business, to sporting teams, to townships and communities and of course when things are appearing to be in decline it is hard to change this. Its like it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But change is something we must do and what I am talking about here is having a sense of purpose.
A sense of purpose is having a grand idea bigger than yourself that is so compelling that you become awake and you awaken those around you with this whole grand idea… a purpose is what we all need.
I am fairly focused in my businesses at the moment, but I got to say there are always new distinctions to be made.
You see, over the last week I have been reading about the United Nations coming together to agree on the seventeen global goals for sustainability:
World Leaders have committed to 17 Global Goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years. End extreme poverty. Fight inequality & injustice. Fix climate change. The Global Goals for sustainable development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people. (http://www.globalgoals.org)
Achieving these goals over the next fifteen years will not be easy, but as I reflected upon them I thought, what if they are achieved and how might the world be – better? Well of course it must be better if millions of people are not living in extreme poverty and there is greater equality and the threat of climate change is understood and mitigated.
Then I thought, what is my role, what can I do to support these goals? That’s when I go the crazy idea…
What if I hold myself and my businesses accountable to these seventeen goals over the next fifteen years? What if I report on progress each year to what I and my businesses have done in supporting them? What if I am fully transparent in my success and failures – no spin, just straight talk and action?
What if I then in parallel, share this to other people and encourage them to do the same? What if this starts to take momentum and more people come on board, more businesses do this as well – startups, micro businesses, and small to medium sized business. Could this be possible? Could this help to achieve these goals?
Well this is no longer an idea… because I have committed to do this today and while my purpose has been clear to me for some time, this thinking has changed the game and now I must step up. You see my vision and purpose now is much bigger than myself and while that is incredibly scary it is now driving me with a deeper sense of conviction and urgency to work hard and achieve it.
This question has been debated, analysed and discussed for thousands of years across all cultures and civilisations. Some of the greatest philosophers and religions have sought to answer this seemingly simple, though quite complex question.
In a more contemporary sense, many of us have experienced those days when it was more difficult to get out of bed, perhaps feeling there was no sense of urgency to start the day. While others, are there ready to go.
Why is this?
Well you could call it personality, you could call it attitude or motivation, but for me it comes down to purpose.
Simply, it is the question of whether my purpose today is so compelling that it actually consumes me. It energises me, it drives me to not only step up and overcome the challenges, but it drives me to become a better person so that I can make an even greater difference and contribution to those who I interact with.
Over twenty years ago, I was fortunate to become familiar with Anthony Robbins and attended his early seminars. This is where I became familiar also with the author Victor Frankl who wrote Man’s Search For Meaning. Based on Frankl’s actual experiences of being a prisoner of war, he took it on his own, to journalise his experiences of that time, so that these observations and insights could be later shared for all of humankind. In essence, Frankl gave himself purpose when one could forgive him for letting go on life.
For me, his book had a huge impact because I started to see how much of what prevents us from truly becoming great, that is, living a purposeful life, is what lies in our own minds – our belief systems and daily thoughts.
I have also realised that these self-beliefs are real for many entrepreneurs. However these same entrepreneurs went on to launch their startups regardless. When I have spoken to some of these entrepreneurs about this, what I hear is that their fears have been overtaken by their compelling reasons to forge ahead, regardless of what people may say, or their own negative self-talk and doubts.
Now obviously this could be a reckless behaviour and that is why a degree of “business smarts” also need to be present. The great news though is that the “smarts” can be learned or mentored. Whereas the hard work is with the mind.
For me, I refer this to “re-wiring my brain” and today there is an overwhelming body of clinical research that re-enforces the fact of how possible this is to re-program ourselves to new thoughts, behaviours that lead onto to different outcomes. This is very exciting and what’s even better, a lot of this research is becoming more main stream for everyone.
So while I have not necessarily answered the question “Why we need a purpose”, I hope I have presented the suggestion that where ever you are at right now it is where you are because of your mind-set.
I believe we are at the beginning of the age of the entrepreneur and Startup and this period will become known as the entrepreneurial revolution.
Imagine if you will, just for a moment we could travel back through time to the early 1700s in Great Britain, the beginning of the Agrarian Revolution and knew if we would apply the latest knowledge of agriculture and farming of the day, it would lead to the multiplication of population densities by factors in the order of 10 plus.
What if we could travel back to the early 1800’s, the time of the Industrial Revolution where productive capacity grew by a net factor now in the order of 100, made possible through new products, new ways of life, and ongoing changes in the structure of civilization.
And what if we could all go back to the 1970’s and early 80’s, the beginning of the Digital / Information or Technological Revolution – I am sure many of us would be making different choices now than we did then.
You see in many ways my story has travelled from agriculture, through to manufacturing to services and now to this period of the entrepreneurial organisation and as a result, I believe today that there could not be a better time for setting up a business, but my caveat with this is what I call the 4 forces.
The four forces…
So what are the four forces…?
The first two are external and the remaining two are internal.
Let’s start with Globalisation…
I do not need to discuss this in too much detail as I am sure you are all aware of what a force this is but I think it is worthwhile picking up some of the finer points around demographics.
Harry Dent, a leading economic forecaster researches economic cycles and bubbles by looking at long term trends such as population changes.
For example, as we age, our needs differ, we shift from spenders to savers, if this is taken at a macro level looking at population demographics as well as other concepts such as urbanisation etc, Dent can predict to some degree economic outcomes of those countries.
Though not always the most positive reading, his books are incredibly insightful, particularly his recent one titled “The Demographic Cliff” and what he calls this deflationary period we are in now from 2014 to 2019.
A second book I have just picked up is from the McKinsey Global Institute – “No Ordinary Disruption”. This is a compelling read and includes a graphic showing how the evolution of the earth’s economic gravity is changing from India and China to Europe and back again.
While I am on the subject of books, I would also include Al Gore’s “The Future” – here he provides a similar perspective of the challenges and opportunities of these times.
Both Dent, McKinsey and Gore present the realities of this new environment that today’s entrepreneurs needs to navigate.
So what of Digitalisation?
In my Fair Trade business, I am familiar with the story of a small community of women in East Africa who without significant infrastructure apart from basically a smart phone and a local FedEx, set up an online shopping portal using Shopify and a PayPal account and are now selling their jewellery to the world. In return, they are building wells, schools and hospitals for their community.
How much more transformative can it get than that!
But this is just the beginning. People, communities, mums and dads need help, They need the assistance, the education, the investment, the helping hand.
So I think it is very much the role of the entrepreneur to facilitate this as we also pursue our own dreams and visions.
This brings me to collaboration.
I grew up in an environment in which my father had established his own manufacturing company. In those days, everything was done in house and the only external relationships apart from your customers, was your local bank manager, accountant and solicitor.
But things are different now…
Certainly from my perspective I am currently collaborating on a broad range of projects with people from the US, UK, and the Philippines and even from Kerala in southern India in which the types of collaboration involve anything from business operating models to one-on-one coaching / mentoring.
The point I am making is that by opening yourself up to building a network of people around you that you work together on for specific projects to achieve common goals is in my view today’s operating model for the Startup and entrepreneur.
So when John Donne wrote in 1624 the poem that included the words “no man is an island”, no truer words could be written today.
The last of my four forces is Mindset.
What I actually mean is you need to “re-wire: your brain” because a different way of thinking is required and if you were like me, coming from a corporate environment, then you definetley need to re-wire your brain.
For me, this has been the most difficult but most rewarding journey. I had to challenge some strongly held beliefs about business and about myself. I had to park my ego outside. I had to become a student – even when my teacher was not even born when I first left school!
How I did this re-wiring though was to seek out mentors.
I have shared with you some books I have read, I have even had the opportunity to meet with Harry Dent but of course other great thought leaders and entrepreneurs.
In fact I made a point several years ago to become a student and learn from those who are successful entrepreneurs, to understand how they think, how they create, how they make decisions and importantly relate to others.
My entrepreneurial journey in many ways is just starting off, but I have learned this…
If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, establish your own Startup, to scale up your business, you need to work on re-wiring your brain.
But you might say to me…
“Ross, I am OK with this part, it’s something else, it’s the finances or its competitors etc. that’s holding me back”
Well all I would say to you, if that is the case…
is just imagine for a moment, that there was something holding you back from a mindset point of view…
what could that be?
You see, whatever comes to mind will be the answer
…it always comes back to you!
That’s the exciting part to, because if it is with you, you own it, and you can overcome it.
That’s what I have learned and much of it is about how you can help others whether that be financially or in lifestyle…
Whatever that is, if you can do that, then you can be successful, not how people can help you to be successful.
So to sum up…
We are living in the age of the Startup and the beginning of the entrepreneurial revolution.
Success will be determined by the four forces of
The biggest challenge though to overcome is Mindset – we need to re-wire our brains.
But when we are successful, we as entrepreneurs will be able to make huge positive contributions to our communities, to help those who are in need, to create new opportunities and to transcend humanity.