Shallow purpose results in social media videos. Deep purpose can change the world

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I hate to break it to you but chances are you won’t find your purpose watching videos on LinkedIn.


I was on the platform recently and up popped a bubbly young thing who tried to communicate in a 45-second video what their purpose was. It went like this: 


“So, today I want to talk about my purpose. Um, like, having purpose is amazing and once I found mine, everything changed. I got rid of toxicity in my life...so it’s been like really big to learn this. Oh, and my purpose is to help people.”


Of course, the comments were glowing and everybody felt good. But there was nothing tangible about what was said. They were words used to fill a perceived void. 


Talking about purpose, vision and mission have become very fashionable on social media, but as always on these platforms, most who do don’t really get the concepts. 


Neither did I when I first started out in business. In fact, I thought these terms were a giant wank. I simply wanted to make money and more money. And for a while I did but that only took me so far. 


In my quest to make cash in my previous business, I started to do several things that didn’t sit right with me and compromised the way I wanted to behave - that’s how I learned I needed to develop my purpose. 


Why purpose is important 


While the following quote is attributed to several people, I think “A man (or person) who stands for nothing will fall for anything”, sums up purpose perfectly. If there’s no reason behind what you’re doing, you can be easily led to the wrong place - that’s terminal in business. 


Purpose is about the legacy you want to leave and how what you achieve in your life drives you towards it. One of the people the previous quote is attributed to is Malcolm X and didn’t he leave a legacy. 


Having purpose becomes your ultimate reason for being and is what pushes you forward and helps you bounce back when times get tough. 


In the five decades since his death, Malcolm X has left a lasting legacy as evidenced by his biography:  


“Malcolm X, was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a popular figure during the civil rights movement. He is best known for his controversial advocacy for the rights of blacks; some consider him a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans, while others accused him of preaching racism and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.”


His motivations and actions might be debatable but there’s no doubt his purpose was to change the dynamic of his country at the time. And that became his legacy. 


It seems futile when compared to Malcolm X, but in my first business giving people nice cycling clothing and making money wasn’t enough in the end for me. While I was somewhat passionate about it, it didn’t fuel my team to work for me and didn’t encourage others (i.e. potential customers) to buy-in to what I was doing - after all, there’s a plethora of nice cycling gear on the market. 


In order to get the results in business I wanted (and not just financial), I realised I needed to develop a purpose in which myself and the business would be accountable to. 


How to develop your purpose


While it’s all good to pontificate about your purpose on social media, it’s actually developing it that matters. I’m not sure said social media influencer would go through what Malcolm X did in order to “help people”. 


There are generally two elements you need to look at when developing your purpose - you need to look at yourself and to understand others. 


On a personal element, you need to ask yourself as many questions as possible. Things like:


  • On my deathbed, what will I look back on with pride? 
  • What do I truly want out of life (and how does my business support that)?  
  • What am I meant to be doing? 
  • Who influences me (hopefully not the aforementioned LinkedIn superstar)?  
  • What makes me happy? 


These are pretty standard questions, but not many go the extra step of answering them. When working out what your purpose will be, a detailed understanding of them is needed. 


When developing your legacy you need to look beyond just yourself. Our legacy is so often determined by others and after we’re gone, it’s what others think of us that will be remembered. Questions to consider here are:


  • How do others view me (or will in the future)? 
  • What impact do my actions have on others? 
  • How do I (or how can I) serve others like this? 
  • What is it that others can learn from me? 
  • How do I contribute to the betterment of their life? 


Having answers to these questions is important, but also realise that, like Malcolm X, you’re not going to please everybody. If you can satisfy these questions for the people you want to influence, you’re on the right path.  


The benefits of having purpose 


I started out unashamedly in business to make money and it worked - a startup turning over $300,000 from my kitchen table within 2 years by the time I was 26. With such success so early, I naturally became arrogant. 


I thought I was bullet-proof and my ability to rake in the dough was my ultimate driver, but life has a way of levelling you out and mine hit me like a freight train. Through egotistical practices, I soon found myself in $200,000 worth of debt. 


Something had to give, and that was me. 


I knew my behaviour and treatment of others wasn’t who I wanted to be, so I committed myself to personal development and dealt with my purpose in life. I started by peppering myself with the questions above and not making excuses for the answers - while my friends and family were always supportive, they did say I was hard to be around during my time of arrogance.  


Having since rebuilt and sold that business, I have a renewed purpose to give back and help others that are going through the journey of small business ownership. The main theme for me in developing my purpose was that I actually love to help people (not just make money).  


The greatest fulfilment for me comes from seeing the clients I work with and the people I’m surrounded by grow, prosper and begin to realise their own purpose. 


Money or material processions will never have that effect. And that feeling is the purpose that propels Evolve to Grow forward.  


Short term wins are possible without purpose, but longevity in business and its associated success won’t happen without a detailed understanding and commitment to your purpose. 


Like Malcolm X, purpose is what keeps you focused and motivated when the world is against you. It keeps you humble and connected to what’s truly important to you, to others and into the future. 


Developing a real, tangible purpose requires a lot of soul-searching and asking deep questions. Having real purpose is not a shallow social media exercise.


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