Purpose. Not Porpoise

Apologies to Groucho Marx (it just sounds like something he’d say).

There’s been a good bit of conversation about motivations in business of late. I’ve seen a common thread that is enticing, and advice that I can recall having heard throughout my life. It hasn’t changed a bit, and now that I’ve been around for a bit (and plan to do so for a good bit more!), it still holds true.

Do something you love, believe in, and good things will happen. Go through the motions and you may make a living, and better find some other passions in life. You may find yourself less happy.

The evidence abounds. Some examples:

  • Josh Bersin, from Deloitte, just noted that companies who act with a sense of purpose experience greater optimism (and presumably success) within the organization.
  • Steve Jobs regaled the Stanford grads of 2005 to Do what you love
  • An old friend I bumped into at the gym advised that “If you can find what you love and earn half as much going in, I’ll guarantee you’ll be far wealthier in the long run.”
  • Ry Cooder: talent is one thing, but you’ve got to have desire

So, yes, some of this is anecdotal, but a bit like the line from Alice’s Restaurant. The one that starts if one person sings the song, it’s not much, but before you know it there could be 50 people walking out of the restaurant singing the song. Seems like the value of being driven by a mission has pretty convincing support.

Think for a moment about the beneficial effects of running your life, or your organizations life with a sense of purpose:

  • You have a context in which your actions are framed
  • You and your peers are able to create a common vernacular against which your work may be viewed.
  • You can describe your goals in a tangible, accessible form.

There are all kinds of missions and purposes available. Making the world a better place is certainly admirable, but perhaps a tad ambitious. Exciting customers, removing pain, simplifying lives, improving learning experiences, and connecting people are all possibilities. It also helps if you’re able to pick something that can add value to others.

So, find something you believe in, either as an individual, or as an organization, and (assuming that something adds value), you have a great shot at being successful. Do something with greater purpose, that resonates, and you have a more meaningful context for your actions. That can frame a lot of great behavior.


About Mike Rodbell

I'm a technology leader, engaged in developing software for the telecom, online commerce, and business process/analysis markets. All of the teams I've worked with have had a great deal in common. They need to be good at what they do, listen, share, and collaborate towards a shared set of goals. This blog is dedicated to those activities. I hope you enjoy reading it.
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