“Without a purpose any problem is too big.” Ernest C. Wilson, The Week that Changed the World.
When I read that sentence several weeks ago it struck me that it had powerful implications to business, even though the comment was from the Trial chapter on Jesus’s turbulent week leading to His crucifixion. The author noted that “when the purpose is big enough, the problems incident to its accomplishment are small enough to bear with grace.”
This morning I’m engaged with one of my clients as we work on their 2nd Quarter Plan. This past month, they identified their core purpose as, “Deliver Hope and Healing.” I’m sure it will be a part of the list of victories their team describes in our opening segment.
In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras identified Core Purpose as one of the common characteristics in all great businesses that had stood the test of time shared.
Richard Leider, noted, "There are three hungers that people are trying to feed throughout their lives. The first is to connect deeply with the creative spirit of life. The second is to know and express your gifts and talents. The third is to know that our lives matter. Fulfillment comes from feeding these three hungers."
Core Purpose starts with the third. Creating a life that matters means giving people a purpose that matters, doing something that fulfills a purpose.
Herbert Hoover recognized, “..business needs a lifting purpose greater than the struggle for materialism.”
Or as William Pollard, author of The Soul of the Firm, “People want to work for a cause, not just for a living. When there is alignment between the cause of the firm and the cause of its people, move over—because there will be extraordinary performance.”
"There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it."- Napoleon Hill
“People love to win. If you’re not totally clear about the purpose of what you’re doing, you have no chance of winning. - David Allen, Getting Things Done.
When I discovered I had Acute Myeloid Leukemia Dr. Zenk told me I’d have to be in the hospital for a year, unable to work, if I survived. I was totally devastated. The fear of astronomical health care costs, and not being able to support my family as the sole provider as I’d been doing crushed my spirit. I immediately told the doctor, “Why don’t you just shoot me now?”
My son Joshua quickly admonished me after the doctor left the room, “I can’t believe you would even say that, dad, that’s so far from what you’ve always taught us.” It didn’t work instantly, but by the next day, I found the courage and the sense of purpose to continue.
My deep desire and love for my wife at the time, Michelle, and the overwhelming instinct to provide for my family dominated any fears I had. Every day in my mediations I would imagine myself with Michelle by my side walking on the beach in Hawaii. I watched our two boys, Josh and Noah, arrive and be lei’d upon exiting the jetway. That vision and my deep sense of obligation, commitment, and love for her and my boys gave me a purpose to live.
I was fortunate to have a PA, Kevin who allowed me to continue to work every day in my hospital room. That fueled my passion and desire to continue to provide my family with the financial support to help us make it through this challenge.
Without a purpose, without a reason to live I would have simply given up, and my life would have become another statistic for cancer.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
This quote I believe is not only the reason but the benefit that having a purpose provides. With a purpose suddenly, the universe, God, creation, all make and manner of substance comes to your aid. People show up, events become beacons for change and opportunity, and those minor and perhaps overlooked pieces that seem meaningless have meaning. Miracles occur.
I never knew how many friends, supporters, and concerned, caring, and truly genuine people I knew until I was in a position where I truly was without hope. People I never knew volunteered to help me and my family. A benefit for me was planned and at the last minute, the venue where it was going to be held was removed. A great friend immediately found a new venue and the Linn Marr alumni basketball event went on as planned raising over $25,000 for my bone marrow transplant.
Discovering your purpose whether it’s personal or for your company brings a higher order of cosmic energy to you and your enterprise. It engages you and your cause with your people, and partners whom you never realized might support your cause.
Purpose leads to extraordinary performance. In my case, my purpose led to a miracle.
Ask yourself some questions: Are you happy with the commitment and drive with which your people engage at your business? Is there a sense of duty and urgency to what your people do? Is there commitment to a cause they are passionate about? Do you sense your people could be more driven to succeed and to take care of your customers?
If you hesitate to answer these questions then consider this.
What purpose drives you? What is the purpose of your business? Why does it exist? Can you tap into that sense of purpose to truly build a company that Collins noted in his 12 questions as one of the three outputs to measure your business for greatness, “If your company disappeared, would it leave a gaping hole that any other enterprise on the planet could not easily fill?”
Next blog, the irony of freedom.