How many times have you heard that question being asked?
Perhaps you have said it yourself?
I certainly have.
I believe now after all these years, it’s the wrong question you need to ask yourself.
I will get to that in a moment, but first, I recall a conversation I had years ago with my sister.
I am not sure how it came about, but it was along the lines of wouldn’t it be great if suddenly a bolt of lightning hit us (metaphorically of course) that allowed us to be transformed in understanding why and what we are here for and it somehow empowered us to pursue that?
Like in John Travolta’s movie “Phenomenon”. Did you see it?
I won’t spoil it for you as you should see it for yourself, but in the film, he, as George Malley, becomes very clear as to who he is. That’s what I am talking about!
Being clear, being focused.
However possibly I am asking for too much. This instant gratification, if you call it that, only happens in the movies doesn’t it – or maybe not…
Perhaps it can happen to anyone at any time, but why it seems so hard is that we are either asleep or are looking in the wrong direction from where we should be.
As I said, asking ourselves the wrong questions.
In 1993 (yes if you were born in that year you would be 22 years old today with a life a head of you) by pure chance and random events, I came across a book that would have unforeseen future ramifications for me.
It was not my book, but I asked to borrow it as I was heading overseas. My friend Janet said “get your own” as she was still reading it. So with only a day before my flight’s departure, I managed to buy a copy.
That book captivated me.
Not only was I learning new ways to see the world, it started to challenge some of my perceived views about who I was and what I was capable of doing in my life.
However, it was the author’s words in the introduction of the book that resonated most with me…
We all have dreams… We all want to believe deep down in our souls that we have a special gift, that we can make a difference, that we can touch others in a special way, and that we can make the world a better place
While my trip through France, Switzerland, Germany and Poland was to see new places as my train journeyed across West and the newly opened East Europe (since the recent fall of the Berlin Wall), this book instead, had me travelling internally in my mind as I thought about the possibilities of my life in front of me – all at the “young” age of 31!
When I returned back home to Sydney, I caught up with my friend Janet and told her about how much of an impact this book had on me. She then told me that the author of the book would be in Sydney the next week running a seminar.
I had to be there and somehow, I managed to get a ticket, despite the late notice.
Well of course many of you would have put it together by now, the author was Tony Robins and his book was Awaken The Giant Within.
I attended his seminar and I went on to attend his advanced programs over the next two years. The experience certainly shaped me, but was it really the thunderbolt that I was seeking?
You see for me, I went back to sleep. I became comfortable. I had a good job. Life was OK. I stopped asking the important questions that I should have kept doing.
However, I continued to read and learn, particular biographies – Ghandi, Victor Frankl, Nelson Mandela, Lech Wałęsa, Aung San Suu Kyi and even just recently, Malala Yousafzai. All of their stories incredibly inspirational.
At the same time, life presented ups and downs, but these stories gave me the strength to keep moving forward, to keep searching, to keep stepping up.
The stories gave me new perspectives and new beliefs in what is possible for the human condition, despite the deepest depths we can all fall too.
Several years ago I even had the most humbling experience to visit Robin Island off Cape Town and stand in the same cell that Mandela had been kept in for all those years – just look at what he overcame!
So now after 22 years since reading Tony Robins’ book, I have “woken up” again. But this time it is different.
You see I was asking myself the wrong questions.
It’s not about “what I want to do in life”.
It has to be “how can I contribute and make a difference” – the very same words that Tony wrote which hooked me in the first place all those years ago – it is just that I did not really understand it then!
It is not about taking, it is about giving.
In my businesses today, it is about the value I can give and the role of my businesses play in all this that drives me. This is my purpose and life’s work now.
Being clear, being focused.
So do you need to take 22 years like me as well?
Well I can’t answer that. Maybe you need more time. It’s up to you.
My only wish for you, is for you to not sell out on yourself.
Maintain a higher expectation on you, than anyone would expect of you – a higher standard and then, hold yourself to account.
While you may never know whether long after you are gone, you are remembered because that does not matter. What is important is whether today, right now you are making a difference, a contribution and working towards making the world a better place.
Then, it is my belief you will find yourself in that place as I find myself today.
The family of four, had finished dinner and now the older teenaged daughter Katherine was in her room doing her homework while her sister Julia, was practicing her guitar lessons. In the kitchen, Shane was helping Claire putting away the dishes.
Perceiving something that Shane was not his jovial self, Claire asked “What’s wrong Shane?”
“Nothing!” Shane said as he frowned.
“Come on Shane, you have barely spoken all night, what is it?” Claire asked again.
“Well, you know that job promotion I was after? It did not happen. Apparently I am not the right fit. They think I am doing a good job at what I am doing now, but they have found somebody better. I know we had a lot of plans, but I guess that’s all fallen through now.”
“Look Shane, there will be other opportunities, don’t get all hung up about it”, Claire replies reassuringly.
“You know the sad thing is that when I was younger, I said to myself, I would never sell out. I had dreams. Like remember when we met?”
“Well you were a bit of a dreamer Shane, but I still married you didn’t I!”
“Yes Clare, but what happened? It’s like we are doing the same thing day by day.”
“Shane, we are no different to any other family like look at your sister’s family or your brother’s family? Even the neighbours.”
“But that’s my point, it just seems like everyone around us has chosen this life, but I still feel there has to be much much more.”
Do you know somebody like Shane, maybe somebody perhaps with similar traits as yourself? Living a comfortable life with a close family all around him, but for some reason he has lost his enthusiasm or direction. In many ways, he has lost his purpose.
If you knew Shane, what would you advise him? Would you say to him that this is life, this is as good as it gets? Just like with Jim Carrey in the movie The Truman Show?
Or would you suggest to Shane that perhaps it is for him to find a deeper sense of purpose or meaning, something that ignites his spirit, that connects him to others in a way that he has never experienced before? A way to fulfil his (and his families) six human needs as Tony Robbins defines – certainty, variety, connection, significance, contribution, growth?
Would Shane be ready to hear what you have to say?
A month later the Simon’s were attending a family barbeque. Shane’s brother Karl and his family were also there, as well as a friend of Karl’s, Tim. Tim had his own business that he had set up several years ago and after a difficult start, things were really going well for him now. As the afternoon went on, the conversation shifted from sports, to children to what’s happening at work.
“You were going have your own business weren’t you Shane? I thought by now you would of got tired of your job and went out on your own?” asked Karl.
“I was probably not as brave as you Karl! Besides, I have probably left it too late!” Shane says, as he reaches for his drink and tries to change the subject.
“Come on that’s got nothing to do with it. It’s about finding something you really want and then going for it. No matter what that is. Of course there are unknowns, but equally there is the big unknown that if you keep doing what you have already done you will get what you have always got!”
“Did you know Shane that, Ray Kroc started MacDonald’s in his 50’s, Colonial Sanders was in his 60’s and in fact Charles Darwin published his book the Origin Of The Species when he was 50? Even Samuel Jackson was 46 years old, recovering from cocaine and heroin addiction before got his break with John Travolta in Pulp Fiction!”
“I mean these are people who made it big, but there are also thousands more who are unsung heroes who are making it every day in all circumstances”
“Its not about having left it too late Shane. Its about you figuring out what you want to do – what your life is going to be. There is nobody else but yourself that can figure that one out”
“Perhaps you just need a wakeup call to get on with it?” Karl said.
Little did Shane realise but the conversion with Karl that afternoon burned inside Shane’s deeper consciousness. It hurt bad. But it was good as well. Like it’s what Shane’s teenage daughters would say, you know what I mean bad is good and good is bad etc!
That evening, Shane was not his usual jovial self again…
He was different.
In fact it was as though something had awakened from a very deep sleep. Something Shane had forgotten about, or had given up on.
Bear with me for a moment, but do you think it is possible to learn new things?
Do you think it is possible to learn new things regardless of your age, your gender, your culture, your abilities, your location, your financial status, your health status? Do you think this is possible?
Perhaps somethings we can learn, are relatively straight forward and others are more complex. Maybe you want to learn how to fold a shirt in less than five seconds, well there is a YouTube video on that. Maybe you want to learn about quantum physics, yes another YouTube video.
But maybe somewhere in between those two examples we hear ourselves saying: “I could never do that”. To me that is worse than: “You could never do that”.
This is why having a sense of purpose is so important.
So if you are contemplating starting a business, or you are in the process of setting one up, or are well on your way with an established business, it is critically important for you to have a clear understanding of why you are doing this.
In corporations, Mission, Vision and Values Statements are used:
Mission – what are we (the business) about?
Vision – what are we (the business) going to ultimately accomplish?
Values – how will we (the business) accomplish goals?
Mission The mission statement of a business justifies and explains its reason for existence. As the business’s purpose, the mission should guide everything the business. At every organizational level, individuals can use the mission to evaluate priorities. If a proposed course of action doesn’t further the mission, it shouldn’t be pursued.
Vision A business’s vision is its ultimate goal, its interpretation what success will look like in the future when the company accomplishes its purpose. The vision statement translates the mission’s statement of purpose into a specific destination that implies or explicitly states action. The business’s vision shapes the business’s long term or strategic goals or objectives.
Values Values are the defined principles in how the business will go about conducting itself in order to achieve its Mission and Vision. In all my businesses, the core values are Learn Lead Legacy. These are also underpinned by my Ethical Principles and Sustainability Practices (some businesses may have similar but is written as a Code of Conduct). I have written them because they are important to me and re-inforce my Mission and Vision.
Goals Then and only then, once we are clear on our purpose (our Mission, Vision and Values) then we can define our strategic objectives or goals. The goals fulfil the business’s strategic plan. They take at least a year — often several years.
Short-term goals, the business’s tactical objectives, take up to a year to achieve. Every tactical objective that is completed brings the business closer to fulfilling its strategic goals.
Operational goals deal with day-to-day operations, carrying out tactics on the front line. Employees bring them to completion in a single day, a week or a month.
Now in talking to many of my clients and other entrepreneurs and business owners, I see that we often jump straight into operational goals. However I think the more time you spend figuring out your Mission, Vision and Values, you will be more energised to drive the required outcomes from your goals at a later stage. You will be more empowered and focused to make better decisions in the longer term. Considering many of these decisions are financial, getting it wrong could be catastrophic for you – something you definitely do not want to do.
So how can you do this?
Well I would suggest the following…
First, find time and a space that you will not be disturbed. In fact perhaps a space where you may feel inspired. It is essential that you are in your optimal emotional state for this.
Second, get hold of what every writing or capturing instrument that you enjoy – for me I use the Moleskine coloured note books (different colours for different themes) and one of my favourite pens.
Third, write and keep writing. Start with your purpose and then keep adding to it. Do not be judgemental at this stage. The objective is to get your thoughts down and then you can start to organise them further.
Fourth, be patient – this does take time, may be months. However the outcome will be linking you emotionally to your purpose of why you are wanting to set up or scale up or sustain your business – perhaps one that will be your legacy.
Finally, if you are still struggling and find that voice inside you says: “I could never do this”, well make sure you learn how to fold a shirt in five seconds, then if you have to, progress to quantum physics. Because I am convinced that somewhere in between you will be up and running!
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.
To change, you need to re-wire your brain!
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