May 12, 2019
Four Questions to Finding Your Purpose and Two Paths for Getting There
PART ONE: FINDING YOUR PURPOSE
Ever have an existential crisis where all of a sudden, you’re writing a line of code or answering another customer service call when suddenly that flash of light hits you and you think, “is this all there is to life”? Why do you live? Where does meaning coming from for you? This post is going to go more into a deeper topic than simple business hacks, but we’ll get there. 🙂
When we’re born, our parents and caregivers give us our sense of values, morals, and expectations as to the person we are supposed to become. Sometime just our gender makes a difference. Sometimes birth order – maybe you’re not the heir, but the spare. Parents sometimes live through their children or put pressure on them to seek out certain professions. Our formal educational institutions have a curriculum they cover which may or may not cover topics that you have any interest in. (I still hate you algebra, and don’t get me started on calculus.) So where do you learn how to become the person you want to become?
We don’t have a list for what we want to become. Your don’t get any advice or training on how to figure this out. You may have some vague ideas such as, “I want to help people” or “I want to be an entrepreneur”. I was lucky. I grew up with two architects as parents who built things. I grew up on construction sites. I had a grandfather who was an artist and sculptor and I could watch him make magic with a pen and paper or with rods of steel. Because of this exposure it was easy to know what I wanted to do, but I had no idea how to get there. You don’t know what you need in your life until you figure out who you are.
There are four parts to finding your purpose and I will share my experience in my journey to finding my own way. Hopefully this will help others. You need to ask yourself four questions:
#1: What Am I Good At?
Because of my family background, education, and experience, I am creative. I taught myself Aldus PageMaker when it first came out because when I went to college we still did everything on boards with stat cameras, linotype, wax, and Letraset. No one used desktop publishing software. It didn’t exist. I’m still current with Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and PhotoShop 20+ years later.
I’ve continued to up my skills, learning how to run different types of businesses, founding my own businesses, watching how other leaders interact under pressure. I learned public speaking, I learned how to write curriculum, I taught myself psychology because understanding the human mind made sense as a marketer. You don’t need to take a course or attend college to buy the text book. It’s even easier now with the internet at your fingertips.
I’m good at what I do because if I am challenged to get out of my comfort zone, I start learning about the subject area, I learn about best practices. I hook up with people willing to share their knowledge and feedback. I’m good at taking on any challenge a business throws at me and create a solid solution I can deliver. But it takes courage, and the more you do it, the confidence you’ll build up. The more your try, sometimes you fail and learn what not to do and sometimes you try and learn a new skill. The more you try, the more your learn, the more talented you become at a broader set of skills.
What are YOU good at? Are you easy to talk to? Do people open up to you easily? Would you rather be in your workshop making furniture or building airplanes? Do you like to do computer forensics because you can find evidence no one else can that saves your client’s case? Are you good with animals? Can you sell anything to anyone? Make a list of things that you do well. Even better, prioritize that list by underlining the ones you could help others do better at, too.
#2: What Do I Love?
Because of my family background, I love to build things. Design things. Write things. See them become actual products. Watch people use my web sites. See people appreciate my print work. Have people call the guy I’m advertising with because they want to see my next ad. It’s the journey of creation, envisioning the final outcome, defining the steps to get there, finding other ways when things don’t work or the money runs out. It is the act of producing something that affects others to have “an experience” that I love.
What do YOU love? What makes you leave the office at the end of the day with a smile on your face? Have you ever had that blissful feeling when you’ve had a productive day, where you just got a ton of sh*t done? Was it making another person happy about your service? Was it recovering two million dollars on unpaid invoices for your company? Do you spend time showing other people why they should also love what you love? Write out this list. Ask others about what you typically talk about. What gets you up in the morning. Sometimes family members and lovers know more about what you love that you do yourself.
#3: What Does the World Need?
[BEGIN RANT] The world does not need more managers. I’ve seen enough terrible MBAs in my life to understand that managers, while necessary for certain purposes, will never change people lives in a practical sense. What the world really needs is leaders. People with the vision. People who have the communication skills and the drive to inspire people to go the extra mile. The ones who tell you, “I know we can do this”. Their confidence makes you confident.
Managers can be made, but most leaders are born. However some leaders can lose their abilities through parental neglect or abuse, little or no education, even simple self-doubt. Follow leaders you admire, watch their videos online and watch their mannerisms. Listen to what they say and how they say it. Listen to how they talk to different groups – employees, stockholders, the press. Practice emulating these traits. As they say, “fake it until you make it”.
Some of the most powerful leadership moments I’ve experienced is when the sh*t has hit the fan and I’ve seen CEOs literally get into the trenches with their workers to complete projects or solve customer issues with the team. Never separate from your team. Never take credit for what they’ve done. Always push it back on them. They’ll always pay it forward. [END RANT]
So to return to the big question, what does the world need? Based on the top two questions, what you’re good at and what you love, does any of that translate into solving a potential customer’s pain point, making their lives easier, or creating value in some way for your customer? There are no simple answers here. It won’t be obvious most of the time, but once you happen to find it, it seems crystal clear and you think to yourself, “why didn’t I ever think about this before”? The ideas are typically very simple and will make total sense to you what you can offer.
#4: How Do I Get Paid for it?
Different business ideas create different business models. If you want to spend all your time in your workshop making fine furniture, you’re not the kind of person who is destined to build a furniture empire like IKEA. But these two business models are opposites. One is cheap furniture you put together yourself at very little cost. It requires constant expansion and volume for growth. Building handmade bespoke furniture from your workshop will require more time, effort, and will be of higher quality, therefore the pricing will be much higher per item and quantities quite low. But that may be where your joy lies. Not in building an empire where you can never again smell the scent of cedar, or plan the perfect angles for a nail-free drawer corner, but finding enough of that kind of work, to keep you in business during busy and quiet seasons, may be the right option for you.
If you can find the answer that intersects across all four of these questions, you will have found your passion – your purpose.
PART II: PATHS TO GETTING THERE
You take your skill set and you engage other people in getting better at it. You’re getting better at doing that at the same time and also helping other people get better at it. This could be teaching, apprenticeships, mentoring, coaching, leadership development, organizational development, corporate transformation and more.
You help others by using your skillset to help others achieve their purpose. This could be through the creation of goods and services that address the issues and pain points of businesses and consumers. You could find an easier, cheaper, faster way to solve something or get something done. You may find a way to automate a complex system that will engage far more consumers than the way it is done now. You might change an industry through a new service that changes the way consumers use a traditional product that is simple to use and at a price they can afford.
Now here’s the big spanner in the works. I don’t remember who said this to me (and if you know, please comment below), but thinking big, like, “I want to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg” you’ll need to think big, bigger. Bigger than that, because:
“If you want to be a millionaire, you need to find a purpose that affects a million people. If your goal is to be a billionaire, you need affect a billion.“