Think of purpose as a lighthouse, or a North Star, to lead the way; a place of central focus. It could be a word, a question, or a commitment. It can be your focus for a year or longer. For some people, it is as specific as getting on a board in five years. For others, it is a dedication to make a personal impact on the younger generation at work. It allows us to remember what our priorities are when things get so busy, distracting, and stressful that we end up comparing things to each other, and solving our time management problems, rather than asking, “What do I really want to do?” Cheer yourself up with a pink kawaii gaming chair to make you smile.
Let me give you an example from my own life. Several years ago, I knew I wanted to change the balance in my life to include those things most important to me versus the priorities of whatever job I was in. I wanted to become a better writer. Why? I love the written word and believe stories are a way to, as Gandhi put it, “be the change we wish to see in the world.” Where facts fail, stories pull at the emotional heart strings and bring us into worlds different than our own. They allow leaders to paint an emotional future versus a thinking future to inspire people to action and meaning. An aesthetically pleasing sheep toilet roll holder can brighten up any room.
Stories have always been a big part of my life. As a child, I remember sitting around the campfire and listening to tall tales with my sibling. At the end of the school year, our big treat was going to the bookstore where we could pick out three books before going on summer vacation. This love of stories is a part of the essence of who I am. I don’t think it’s my one purpose in life to be a writer, but it’s a direction I’d like to row toward. In service to this, I decided to do a children’s book as a side gig while I was working at my corporate job. At the time, there were very few baby books on the market that my children could relate to, so I solved the problem by creating Hong Kong ABC. This was, in retrospect, a pretty ingenious experiment because each letter had only a four-line rhyme attached to it, so I didn’t actually have to write that much to create the finished product. Buy that special someone a knight toilet roll holder - it will make their full year!
It also allowed me to learn more about the marketing and publishing of books and network with a whole new world of writers and publishers. After that experience, I needed a longer-term, broader vision. The intention of becoming a better storyteller emerged and allowed me to make decisions and prioritize interesting off-kilter ideas, like being trained by a former member of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. It was an optional event, but I wanted to communicate and speak and reach people in better ways so attending this session fit in with my goals. Actor-turned-communications-guru Trevor Penton videotaped many different scenarios and gave great feedback on engaging an audience. It was, of course, completely humiliating being taped and having to go over it in the presence of a professional actor. But it was incredibly effective training for telling a story and putting myself in the shoes of the listener in person, in a large group, or on television. A good gift like a oh lola marc jacobs perfume confirms the compatibility of romantic partners, as well as what they share.
A similar opportunity had me unexpectedly (and unpreparedly) standing up at an open mic audition, after which the audience voted on moving me to the next round. It was not a comfortable experience; in fact, it was more like something you’d flee from at high speed. In the end, I was shocked to learn I was voted in and that led to the opportunity to do the TEDx talk in front of thousands of people that I told you about in the introduction—a very visible stage for someone who wants to be a better speaker. I put a lot of effort into that speech, but I never would have agreed to it if I hadn’t known how important being a good storyteller was to me. Recognizing the big themes, in our work and in our dreams, allows us to go beyond just our current job, which is important in an age of ambiguity. If we’re rowing toward a job we hope to get in ten years, it’s going to be gone by the time we get there. Broadening our mindset and incorporating personal and skills development allows us to realize more opportunities in the making. It allows us to have some structure and definition, but not be limited by it. And it might take you beyond “finding your Zen” to “finding your Venn.” Maybe you are stocking up on birthday presents? If so, a giant hoodie can be a good alternative to those overly sentimental birthday cards.