Putting Your Definite Purpose to Words

I can’t remember exactly when I read The Master Key to Riches for the first time but I believe it was just over twenty years ago. Truth be told, it was so much to take in at that point that I recall having to go through each subsection of every chapter twice before moving on - just to begin to digest it! In going back through the chapter on “Definiteness of Purpose” now, there are so many things that have happened since that I can directly connect to even developing a shell of a definite purpose, then building on that as I progressed!

As Hill explains “The Major Advantages of Definiteness of Purpose,” he details two specific things that jumped off the page at me as I reread it this time around for what we’re working through here. He suggests that “it makes one more alert in the recognition of opportunities related to one’s Major Purpose, and it inspires the necessary courage to act upon those opportunities when they appear.” While I can’t point to any one grand opportunity, I go on for days about small - but very specific - opportunities I’ve had since that initial reading. 

Hill went on to share that “it inspires the co-operation of other people.” I don’t believe a week passes without me having a conversation with someone where I say how consistently amazed I am by the caliber of people I’ve had the opportunity to build friendships with, and how those opportunities continue to appear. I won’t bore you by naming all of them, but it’s been something this (kinda) high school educated country boy never would have dreamed of!

When I look at all this in context, I can clearly see that the more clarity I’ve built around my own definite purpose - and the larger it’s grown in overall scope - the bigger those opportunities have been and the greater “the co-operation of other people” has become. As I mentioned before, Cindy and I are frequently asked why we do what we do. The more we’ve been able to dial this in, the bigger the opportunities become - and the more courage we have to act upon them!

 About a week after What’s KILLING Your Profitability? (It ALL Boils Down to Leadership!) was released, I received a series of text messages from a friend who I had worked with for several years but has served as more of a mentor for the last fifteen or so. As rare as a message thread that long with him was, I could tell he was excited about reading it; he asked a couple of questions (since he knew a few of the folks I had referred to in various stories) and he pointed out the specific parts he liked the most. The following morning, I received another text that simply read, “Call when free.” With the amount of time he’s invested into me over the last twenty-five years, I stopped what I was doing and called right away.

We chatted through some of the points that stood out to him the most and we reminisced about the background of a few of the stories, but what grabbed me the most was when he said he believed the book (which he had completed within twenty-four hours of receiving it) would benefit thousands of people I’d likely never meet. I responded by saying, “and that’s what gets me out of bed each morning!” His statement put my definite purpose to words.

As leaders, we carry a tremendous responsibility every single day. And quite frankly, some days it sucks… But as we develop more clarity around the definite purpose we’re working toward, those days will suck a little less and the more impact we’ll be able to make for the teams we serve. This rarely happens immediately though, so we’ll need to start where we are.

What Impact Does Your Purpose Have?

Earlier I shared how my purpose in chasing that first role off the manufacturing floor was a far cry from definite but grew a bit closer when I took the initial trip to provide training at another facility within the company. Over the years that followed, my purpose became more definite and began resembling something that I could put into words. The more clarity I developed around my purpose, the more opportunities I seemed to have to take action on it - be that within the organization I worked directly for at the time or through any of the side projects Cindy and I were involved with over the years. Interestingly enough, I could nearly always find a way to connect the specific responsibilities of my job to things that fell within that purpose of helping the folks I was working with grow in their respective careers. For me though, the challenge came when the purpose I was chasing became bigger than I could achieve by simply connecting my required tasks to the results I could achieve through them; and that just happened to be when many of those tasks were still tied to checking the compliance boxes that drained so much of my energy…

As we wrapped up 2019 and began 2020, Cindy and I had the biggest workload we had experienced since starting our business, with even more opportunities stacking up. We had to make a few tweaks in mid-March due to the idea of “two weeks to flatten the curve,” with some of the bigger gigs we had on the books being postponed briefly - or so we thought… Not being one to pay much attention to the media, or to get too caught up in really any kind of Chicken Little tales of the sky falling, I kept pushing forward with everything else I possibly could, assuming that the two weeks (which had already went beyond that) would pass soon enough and we’d pick right up where we left off. Through that somewhat naive push, I also made arrangements with the business I had been providing some part time safety and human resources support for, to step away from the fifteen or so hours each week to go all in on with our business. On May 29, 2020, I submitted my last time sheet as a W2 employee and was ready to take on the world!

The world, as it turned out, had other plans. The deeper we got into 2020, the crazier things were. To hopefully avoid causing you (or me) any Covid-related PTSD relapses, I’ll skip the details. I will, however, share that stepping away from consistent income and immediately having almost every opportunity to do other billable work taken away was terrifying. Oh, and the biggest event we hosted each year at that point was limited to twenty percent capacity with the same fixed costs and several expenses that didn’t exist any year prior; masks, hand sanitizer, etc… Ugh!

If any of that had happened while I was doing the behavior-based safety thing, it would have changed my approach but probably wouldn’t have impacted my income. Had I still been a Human Resource and Safety Manager, my scope of work would have definitely been different, but my paycheck would have been as secure as it had ever been. But neither of those would have allowed me to make the full impact I wanted to have. And being able to articulate a definite purpose, specifically what we could provide for every individual and business we were supporting, was exactly what I was able to hold onto through the second half of 2020 while we only sent two or three invoices…

Had Cindy and I not continued defining our purpose, relentlessly, over the years leading up to that, I can’t imagine how differently that scenario would have unfolded. We had developed a tremendous amount of clarity around how we could achieve our definite purpose and we could picture it with the same kind of specificity as we had for our favorite restaurant! While your purpose for accepting leadership responsibility won’t likely be the same as ours, you will need to develop that same level of clarity so give that some thought…

How Clear is Your Purpose?

Having looked at the importance of putting our purpose to words and showing the impact a purpose can have on pushing through some of the tougher times we’ll face when we accept responsibility for leading - through a high level look at how my own purpose has changed and grown over the last two decades - let’s put rubber to road. How clear is YOUR purpose?

Please know that anything I’ve shared about my own purpose to this point, be it the gimpy purpose I had for bidding on that first training position off the manufacturing floor just before Cindy and I got married or even the one that helped us charge through to mess that was Covid despite only being able to bill for a few small gigs in the last half of 2020, hasn’t been meant to suggest an ideal purpose - or even something that would ever keep anyone else pushing forward. Those were mine, I don’t expect them to resonate with everyone else. I did, however, share them with hopes of providing you an example so you can continue developing an acute level of clarity around your own!

I remember working through a coaching exercise with a mentor nearly ten years ago. He was challenging me on my purpose, or at least what I thought my purpose was at that time. As the conversation progressed and I felt like I was dialing in on my purpose more than I ever had before, he emphasized that I needed to be able to picture what I was working to achieve with as much specificity as I could provide in detailing my most recent meal. As I write this, my most recent meal was three extra large eggs; scrambled with shredded cheese melted in, and lightly peppered. (Thanks Cindy!) I also included my big, blue Contigo mug filled with coffee. It was on a small plate with a small fork, both of which I had just gotten out of the dishwasher. And the dogs looked at me like a lamb chop the entire time…

I could go as far as to tell you what I was wearing, what Cindy and I talked about as we ate, and almost exactly how long we were at the table - but I think you get my point. So I’ll ask once more, how clear is your purpose? Can you describe with the same level of detail I just shared about our meal? Truth be told, I was nowhere close to being able to do that when my mentor first challenged me to do it! In complete transparency, it was stinking hard to get there - especially for someone as fast-paced as me who struggles to sit still… I’ve realized that it’s every bit as difficult to keep even the clearest purpose top of mind on a daily basis, and that’s even more of a challenge when the stuff begins to hit the proverbial fan. But that’s exactly when we need that clarity the most!

With my personal examples fresh in your mind, I’ll ask one last time: How clear is YOUR purpose? Can you, with extreme specificity, picture the impact you’re working to have on, with, and through the team you’ve accepted responsibility for leading? If so, Well Done! If you’re not quite there, keep at it. Either way, you’ll also need to come to terms with what you’re willing to do to achieve it - and that’s what we’ll look at soon…