The Purpose Effect


That’s you, tossed hither and yon.

Pushed here and there by every wave of change.

That’s your tribe

Pulled by each misguided would-be, could-be opportunity.

Buffeted by every possible concern of every possible constituency.

Floating aimlessly from one flavor-of-the-month to another.

Jolted by every news cycle.

That’s you

Susceptible to every wave of expediency.

That’s you without a defined purpose.

And so it ever was.

It is 1831

The Wright boys are racing again.

Not on bicycles, this time.

This time, they’re racing to get an airplane off the ground.

It’s the race of their lives

They’re racing a formidable rival.

Samuel Pierpont Langley is a wealthy Harvard professor. He’s a close friend of Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell. Plus, he’s working with a $50,000 government grant.

Langley sees a tremendous commercial opportunity at hand. Flying is going to make him rich. All he has to do is apply his resources and work on it.

But it’s an unfair race

Orville and Wilbur Wright, on the other hand, run a humble little bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio.

They have no prestige. They have no influential friends. They have no grant. They have no backing at all.

But they have one thing Langley doesn’t.

They have an intense passion to feel what it’s like to leave the bonds of earth. To know what it’s like to soar. To see what can be seen up there. To show the world that man can fly.

It’s called a purpose

And with it, they have a reason for doing all the work and sacrifice that goes way beyond making money.

Their passion (not a quest for the big payday) ended up literally changing the world.

As Simon Sinek has said,

“Average organizations give their people something to work on. In contrast, the most innovative organizations give their people something to work toward”

Take this little test

If what you’re focused on can be displayed on a spreadsheet, you’re missing something.

You’re missing the real reason people make the sacrifices that move things forward. Deep down it’s not about money.

When it comes to tribes, they labor for the cause. They labor by connecting with others who share their cause. And they all work together to change the world.


Tribes run on purpose

In other words, they seek to make a contribution to something important. Something bigger than themselves.

They share experiences that revolve around their purpose. They tell stories about those experiences and the passion and purpose behind them.

A well-defined purpose, that’s based on their worldview, provides the meaning behind their participation in the tribe.

And purpose always wins

Purpose gives direction not only to what your goals should be but how you achieve them.

In their book Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, showed that the most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented. They are companies with a strong sense of purpose.

Give me that old-time religious fervor

In fact, the most successful organizations are guided by a core ideology. These are core values and a sense of mission beyond just making money.

“A deeply held core ideology gives an organization both a strong sense of identity and a thread of continuity that holds the organization together in the face of change,”

Collins said he found a religious fervor in visionary organizations that he did not see in any others.

And I’ll take some of that “strategic intent,” too

And speaking of visionary, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore wrote a book called The Experience Economy. They have some pretty important things to tell us about moving beyond that old messaging model. And, as a result, finding the power of experiences.

You remember why we have to do that, right? Because messages don’t work anymore. Experiences do.

So to make the move, you’ll need to apply the principle of intention to the strategy of your organization.

In other words

You need a well-thought-out plan of action. But that plan won’t amount to a hill of beans if people don’t understand what the strategies are intended to do.

And what they should be intended to do is change the world.

“The strategy of an organization confers meaning only if those called on to execute it understand how the organization plans to alter the very structure of the world through its industry.”

That’s pretty high-minded thinking. But that’s the real stuff of purpose.

So what are you racing for?

Like the Wright Brothers, most organizations that seek to do good in the world are racing against something. Something formidable. Pollution of the planet. Cancer. Rescuing refugees. Feeding the homeless.

Maybe, like them, you have no prestige. You have no influential friends. You have no grant. You have no backing at all.

But you can have a defined purpose

One that gives your tribe an understanding of how you’re going to change the world. One that gives direction to their actions. One that brings consistency to your decisions and drives your movement.

A defined and understood purpose can do seven things for you and your tribe that nothing else can do.

But at the same time, it must be able to do those same seven things to be a true, defined purpose:

  • It must be the thing that connects you, as the leader, with your tribe and your common cause and passion.
  • It must create the path to high performance because everyone is on the same page.
  • It must foster visionary ideas and innovation because it is a statement of passion.
  • It must hold you steady in turbulent times.
  • It must recruit passionate people, who share your cause, to join the tribe.
  • It must bring energy and vitality that will drive your movement forward.
  • It must contribute to a feeling of a life well lived.

There’s a lot to be said about purpose

In the next few articles, we’ll explore where you can find it and how to define it.

I hope you’ll come along.

Because purpose has become the vaporware of many non-profit organizations and the entire communications industry.

Lots of people say they have one but can’t state precisely what it is.

More often than not, it’s a misty, murky litany of platitudes. None of which carry out any of those seven requirements of a defined purpose.

Try “The Purpose Demister”

If you can’t explain how your purpose does those seven things, you don’t have one.

Time to explore where real purpose comes from.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?