With every year that passes, I love my what I do more and more. Not everyone gets to say that, and whilst I work hard at it, most of my success comes down to luck.
I was lucky to be working in the same company as the man who introduced me to the world of coaching. I hadn’t found that job, it found me.
I was lucky to find the right coaching training course (Practical Coach Training, for those interested) and coaches and trainers who so inspired me to choose this as the thing worth dedicating my life to.
I am lucky that my upbringing and life events shaped me in such a way as to make me good at it.
This combination of luck and work has delivered me to a place in my life where I find myself doing exactly what I am supposed to do.
Building Next Level is not always an easy process, but I never hate it. The reason for that is this deep-seated, wholehearted ‘knowledge’ that this is what I am supposed to be doing with my time on this earth. (Deep right?)
The point of this article is to attempt to explore this idea, because I (and others) believe that finding and knowing your purpose, your “why”, is a fundamental part of achieving high-level performance in anything at all.
The Power of Purpose
A word like “Purpose” can be perceived as very squishy. It does not fit comfortably into the language I call Business Speak (spoken fluently in most workplaces), and when it does appear, it is watered-down in a bland and generic mission statement.
It might seem squishy, but it’s not. Purpose is the renewable energy source that keeps you pushing on when things get tough. It is the magnet that pulls the right people to your business. It is the reason people buy what you’re selling (or not).
The examples of this abound. Oliver Cromwell is quoted as saying:
“My army won because they knew what they were fighting for, and they loved what they knew”.
In James Kerr’s Legacy, we read that the All Blacks players’ mission, their purpose is ‘to unite and inspire New Zealand’, and more internally, to add to the legacy of the team; as the former All Black Ali Williams thinks of it as “leaving the jersey in a better place”.
In Tribal Leadership, the authors discuss the much researched cultural stages of any organisation (what they term ‘tribes’). A culture in Stage 1 is violent gangs and a culture in Stage 5 will do something that will change the world (think Apple and the iPod). The vast majority of companies rest in Stage 3, where people work together but are fundamentally in it for themselves. The two key ingredients to get to Stage 4 and beyond are shared values and a noble cause — a strong purpose.
If you need further convincing of the power of purpose, I refer you to Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on finding your “why”. He says, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. If a company’s purpose is simply to make money, they will treat their customers a certain way. Its customers will feel that, and price will always be the measure of worth. If a company is out to make a difference and solve a real problem, this mission will shape all of its actions and interactions. The people who want that solution will engage with that company’s products or services on a deeper, stronger, more emotional level.
(It is worth noting in this example that companies with a strong and compelling purpose still make a lot of money, whereas some that just want money struggle to make it).
The reason that knowing, defining and articulating your purpose to yourself (and others) is so powerful is because it makes you stronger and more resilient.
The purpose of “making more money” might be powerful to some, but the purpose of “feeding my family” will drive a person further and enable them to endure greater setbacks when times are tough.
Finding your “Why”; three short ideas
Finding and connecting with your purpose is not always easy. As I said at the beginning, I fell sideways into mine — it wasn’t planned. However, I believe that one can find a deeper meaning and a sense of purpose in lots of areas of life.
I am very proud of my family’s past. My Great Grandmother won the Wimbledon Tennis Championship in 1924 and 1926. This is remarkable, but what makes it even more so is that she played with her non-dominant hand. In those days, ladies weren’t allowed to play left-handed, as she was, and so she learned to play right handed.
My Grandfather (her son) lost his leg in a car accident in his mid-30s. As a builder of plane engines, this injury meant that he could no longer do his job, so he was moved to the sales and marketing department, where he did not excel (initially). But with dedication, work and the right mindset he became the top salesman for the company and provided a beautiful life for his family.
The man who inspired me to start coaching is no longer with us. He very sadly passed away a couple of years ago, and a great many years too soon. At a party to celebrate his life, I saw all the people who attended, and heard stories about how he had helped them as he had helped me.
Part of my “why” is to honour the effort that those who came before me put in and live up to the measure of worth and contribution that they set. (Another way of honouring them is to leave tennis to the pros — my serve is embarrassing). In looking for purpose, it is helpful to think about those who came before you, what they might have done for you, and what you can do to pass it on.
It’s not about feeling pressurised, it’s about understanding and appreciating the efforts of those who came before you, and the position at which those efforts put you.
I have a long-term business plan for Next Level, but I also have a clear purpose for it. Next Level is a place dedicated to inspiration and empowerment of teams and individuals. Its mission is to remove the barriers holding people back from their own missions and purposes and helping them overcoming their limiting beliefs and storylines.
At the same time, I want it to be the thing that enables me to provide for my family (like my grandfather did for us).
Knowing your ‘mission’, having clarity about where you want to get to and the change you seek to make in the world is an incredibly powerful purpose. It will shield you from the set-backs, it will give you the energy to put in the extra hours, and it will get you up and out of bed earlier.
Look at the now
What do you love about what you do? Where is the magic in it? Coaching is about the creation of new ideas and fresh thinking. It is about progress through new perspectives. It is about taking on one’s own limitations and overcoming them. This is a beautiful thing to me, and I love doing it.
For a quick hit of purpose, it can sometimes be enough to simply look at the value you bring through what you do. What problem do you solve for people? Answer that and you’ll be well on your way to connecting with your “why”.
So, what now?
With any luck, by now you’ll have some ideas about how to define and articulate your purpose. Maybe you already know it but this article served to remind you of it. Either way, my hope is that you see the importance of knowing your ‘why’, both for yourself and for your teams. For more on finding your purpose, the three sources mentioned above are invaluable, and so are re-listed below for convenience.
Legacy by James Kerr — this is great for more thoughts on the power of purpose
Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright — a must-read for any business leaders looking to upgrade their workplace cultures
How Great Leaders Inspire Action — Simon Sinek’s TED talk is particularly helpful to leaders and, I believe also very useful food for through for people in sales, marketing or product development.
I wish you luck in uncovering or discovering your ‘why’. It can take a lifetime but is well worth the effort when you do.
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