A Purpose Worth Sharing


People don’t engage with your cause because of what you do.

People get involved with a tribe because of why you do what you do.

As the story goes

No one sent out thousands of invitations to the big event. There was no website to check the date. No social media to get the word out.

And yet the people came. And they kept coming and coming.

All told, a quarter of a million people descended on the nation’s capital all at the same time. Just in time to hear the words they would never forget. Words delivered by the man who would lead a movement that would change America forever.

“I have a dream”

Ever wonder how far that moment or that movement would have gone if Martin Luther King had said, “I have a plan”

Those who inspire us give us a purpose and sense of belonging that has little to do with the selfish benefits we might gain.

For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. So personal that they are willing to endure inconvenience, sacrifices, even personal suffering.

A tribe named Purpose

Those who are able to inspire us through a purpose create a following. A tribe. People who act for the good of the whole. Not because of the plan. Not because they have to. But because they want to.

Because of the purpose.

As Simeon Sinek puts it,

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”

Why is real

From the standpoint of really connecting with people, there’s no better example of how that works than Apple.

If they were like most organizations, they would start with a statement of what they do. That would be followed by how they think they are different. Then a call to action.

It would probably go something like this.

“We make great computers. They are beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. Want to buy one?”

What Apple does

Instead, Apple connects emotionally with their tribe through a shared cause.

So they structure things to sound something like this:

“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers.”

In other words, they start with why.

Something higher

They start with a purpose, a cause, a belief that’s higher and more inspirational than products. They start with something more unique and emotionally compelling than what they do.

So what they do no longer serves as the reason to be involved with Apple. It simply serves as the tangible proof of the emotional cause they share with their tribe through their purpose.

But that is only one part of how purpose can work for good.

The secret of sharing

Your purpose must be unique and compelling enough to your tribe that they can easily and enthusiastically share it. To share it, they must relate to it. To enthusiastically share it, it must express their passion.

A purpose that taps into the tribe’s passion get’s shared through word-of-mouth. It drives tribe members to action and to experiences that reinforce the purpose. And those experiences create stories that spread the movement.

None of that will happen unless you define your purpose in a compelling way that will be shared by your tribe.

So if your purpose is not worth sharing, it’s not worth having.

But wait, there’s more

Are you really interested in defining your purpose in a way that will connect with your tribe members? Do you want to understand how it can drive your movement? Then I’d suggest you take a short detour.

Check out what a well-defined purpose really is. And where compelling purpose comes from.

Then come back to go through four exercises that will help you define yours in a way that will be embraced and shared.

Exercise One

An organization’s purpose lies at the center of four forces. So a good place to start is with a little soul searching.

Explore each area by answering a few questions.



The things that matter most

Once defined, purpose informs an organization’s every move and every communication. It adds meaning and mindfulness to day-to-day operations.

But even more important, it drives motivation and inspiration that goes far beyond. It brings into focus the things that matter most. (Here are three examples)

As a result, it is easy for the tribe to share with others. That is, if you define the purpose in a way that reflects their view of changing the world.

Purpose and change

At its core, a purpose is all about changing the world for the better.

As such, it needs to be at the top of your decision tree. That way everyone knows why they’re doing what they are doing.

There are two keys to doing  that. The first is to make the purpose run the organization and not the other way round. Second is to make the organization’s purpose the focus of differentiation and change.

In other words, start with why. If your why is big enough you will find your what.

Exercise Two

Start by making the case for why you, as an organization, want to be purposeful.

You need to be clear in your own mind about how and why pursuing that end goal will enable you to thrive. That way, no one can accuse you of having a wonderful purpose that is totally impractical and esoteric.

Here’s a format that will help you think through a purpose definition that is real.


Focus on purpose

Do this right, and you’ll hard-wire proactive thinking into your culture and your tribe. Because it encourages everyone to think about what they can do to move closer to your purpose.

Measurement is important. It keeps the purpose real and holds your organizational strategy and outcomes accountable.

Keep it real

Without such measures, a purpose can rapidly become conceptual.

You can always recognize a conceptual purpose. People talk about it frequently. They refer to it as something that’s nice to have. But no one insists that it’s a true measure of what’s being achieved.

Let’s avoid that.

Exercise Three

Tying purpose to metrics is pretty straightforward.

All you have to do is check every decision for whether it supports your purpose. And report your progress towards your purpose through some kind of measurement framework.

Here are five questions everyone on your team should be asking:


Look, a bright, shiny object

When you can bring this kind of focus to your actions shiny, bright objects don’t distract the tribe. People don’t go off in all directions at the same time.

And in a world filled with complication and stacks and stacks of decisions, that’s important. It keeps the tribe on task. The emotional pursuit of purpose adds welcome simplicity and clarity.

Purpose can focus and shape your strategy by giving everyone a clear end-goal for their decisions and what they do and don’t do. It introduces a sense of deliberateness to decisions that your tribe will come to welcome.

Projects on purpose

But perhaps most welcome, is that purpose begets purposeful projects. Initiatives either support the purpose or they’re gone.

They are no longer standalone efforts. If they’re worthy of the purpose they are integrated into it.

Eventually, everyone evaluates decisions on whether they are on-purpose.

Exercise Four

Time to double-check what you’ve come up with.

The biggest issue at this point is whether you’ve challenged yourself and your tribe to be truly remarkable.

Have you found something to do that you are uniquely able to do? Have you found the thing that only you can be?

Here’s another test

How do you know you’ve reached deep enough to find your purpose?

If you can’t answer yes to every statement it’s time to go back and rethink.


Deep-dish purpose

To help you reframe the issue, take each point and ask “how” for each one. (For example, It’s inspiring. How is it inspiring?)

Don’t give up. Keep going. To be successful these days you have to reach deep for a purpose.

Because the times we live in require you to have a purpose that is remarkable.

A remarkable purpose

By that I mean it must be inspirational and unique enough for people to remark about it to others. To share stories about it with their friends.

That’s why a movement will go nowhere without a well-defined purpose that’s based on a passion shared by you and your tribe.

Said another way, a purpose not worth sharing is a purpose not worth having.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s your take?