Ever wonder what the heck your purpose is?
You’ve got a little business that you’d like to grow and sometimes you wonder if anyone really cares, right?
If what you’re doing matters in the larger scheme of things?
If what you have to offer would ever prompt someone to say, “Please, take my money. I love your thing and I’ll be back for more.”
I totally get it. I’ve had those days, too.
Part of the reason we feel this way is that there’s so much advice telling us to connect our business with our “deeper purpose in life.”
Maybe you’ve heard that your mission needs to be aligned with your passions, values and yes — even your Big Vision?
(You may have heard it from me!)
Bottom line: You’ll impact others whether you want to or not.
Your existence is part of a bigger eco-system. Therefore, your purpose is to BE YOU. Full out. Both feet in. Head and heart.
If you’re new around here, let me reiterate my philosophy:
Look, I’m no Frank Capra, but I do believe that none of us lives in a vacuum.
And if a butterfly’s wings can flutter and kick off a sequence of events that results in a hurricane thousands of miles away, then YOU, my friend, are capable of so much more.
Here’s a fabulous video that illustrates what I mean:
Are you a wolf? No, of course not. But you do live in a world where even the smallest actions cause change.
To the extent that you interact with those around you, you will have an impact — one way or another.
What sort of impact — how big or how deep — is up to you.
So stop wondering if what you have to offer is worthwhile.
If it’s worthwhile to you, then it’s worth going deeper.
The next step is figuring out what’s worthwhile to you.
First: Follow the clues.
I learned early on that one of my many purposes is to help you clarify and magnify yours.
I figured this out by looking for and paying attention to clues:
- My favorite stories and films share a common theme: that one person can make a difference.
- I get teary-eyed when I see and hear about the positive impact a project has on others — even if I’m not involved.
- I’m deeply troubled whenever I hear someone say, “Why bother? Whatever I do won’t matter anyway.”
Knowing what I know about myself helps me better understand my current business mission and vision.
In other words, I’m not here just to help you (or possibly my employer) make more money. For me, it’s about helping people see that everything little thing they do matters.
It’s about empowering you with the skills you need to tell better stories. So whether you want to have a wider impact or a deeper impact (or both), you can.
Because when you change the world (even just your tiny piece of it), I get to change the world, too.
How do you choose what to focus on if you’ve got several ideas?
Which of your many passions makes the most sense to follow? Which soap box should you stand on?
It’s simple: you pick one (for now) and do the work.
Don’t let Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) on a Big Purpose keep you from getting traction with your business.
It’s way more important get traction with one thing because that momentum will spill over into the other projects you (eventually) choose to add to your life.
So let me say it again: You pick one thing and you give it your undivided attention for about 10,000 hours.
Yes, even if you’re a polymath. Or a multipotentialite. (Hobbies are a good thing! They help you live a balanced life.)
The truth is that you might not have one true calling or purpose in life. Many of us don’t. But you’ll get a lot further if you take them on one at a time.
The more time you’re able to devote to one thing, the quicker you’ll find out whether or not you’re on the right path.
So whatever your idea is, explore it. Talk about it with others. Write about it. Pay attention and see how it resonates with others.
And in the meantime, get on with the business of doing the best damn job you can with what’s in front of you.
Keep your promises. Show people that you care. Pay attention to details.
Even if that’s with something as mind-numbing as data entry or processing loan documents.
Do it with both feet in. Head and heart.
Giving whatever you’re doing your full attention — even in places where you don’t think it matters — can have a big impact. On you as well as others.
If you do both of these things — focus on building one thing while serving with your whole self — you’re bound to find at least one of your Big Purposes along the way.
Remember: “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” —Jean de la Fontaine
Speaking of loan documents…
If all goes well, in three days Mr. Perfect and I will be the proud owners of a new home. (Not to jinx it, but WOO HOO!)
If you’ve ever bought a house before, you know how crazy the process is…how it can turn people you love into people you don’t recognize.
Of course, I blame most of the crazy-making this round on the mortgage company.
Yes, the laws about home loans changed in January, but that doesn’t mean the underwriters haven’t had time to prepare.
Time to consider how tighter documentation policies might impact their customers.
Time to strategize how they might address these things in a proactive way so that folks aren’t blindsided and pushed over the psychological edge.
We aren’t first-time home buyers, so we knew it wasn’t going to be a cake-walk. But COME ON.
Every time we looked sideways, we were being asked to provide new documents.
It became so onerous that at three different points, MP told me he was done. Finis. “We’ll just be renters,” he said.
What if this was your company? What if your customer decided to walk away from the deal because of details you weren’t paying attention to?
Ripple effects! For big impacts, tiny details can make all the difference.
How to make small improvements that matter:
1. Anticipate what might go wrong. No, I don’t expect you to be psychic, but if you’ve been doing your thing for any length of time (and you’ve been paying attention), you’ve probably seen some stuff go sideways. Make a list of what’s gone wrong in the past and pay special attention to those times that the gaffs happened more than once. Then create a plan to mitigate them.
In my case, the mortgage company wasn’t clueless about the new laws. They knew things were going to get tricky. And they had a few months leeway to think about how the changes might affect the application and approval process of their customers.
2. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What’s it feel like to do business with you? Is that a different experience than the one they might have with your competitor? What does your customer need to feel comfortable and cared for through the process? What would you like to have happen if the roles were reversed?
3. Establish expectations. If you’ve thought through your on-boarding process — and especially what might go wrong along the way — you can help your customers anticipate potential potholes by giving them a heads up. This is especially true if your customers have gone through a similar process before (that other vendor they worked with has now established their expectations of you).
In our case, it could’ve been as simple as a providing us with a list of documents that we might be asked to provide. Or even just a conversation that went something like this:
Hey, just want you to be prepared — the documentation laws for home loans were tightened up recently. We’re not exactly sure how this will affect you, but you should know that it might get a little nuts. We’ll do everything we can to ease the pain, so please be patient.
Instead, what we got was a new surprise “ask” every day. “Oh, the Underwriter needs this. Sorry, the Underwriter needs that.” I truly wondered at one point if they were singling us out for some reason. (I had NO idea about the new laws until I complained to our Realtor.)
4. Check in and see how they feel. Your clients may not complain to you directly when they’re feeling ignored or lost. It’s your job to ask.
Getting feedback along the way is crucial if you want any chance of blowing your customers’ minds with how awesome you are. Depending on the type of project you’re working on together, you’ll want to check in with them about once every 30 days. And definitely get more detailed feedback when you wrap up.
5. Deliver the goods and then some. It should go without saying that you need to keep your promises. And it’s a sad state of affairs when we have to add this last point to the list. But how often have you had someone not respond to an email or return a phone call? Simple things, right? But they mean a lot to your prospects and customers.
6. Put your heart into everything you do. Your love — for your business, your customers and the outcomes you’re in service to — shows up whether you want it to or not. And when you stand in that place of love and service, you’ll naturally find the groove (your Purpose!) that allows you to do your best work.
Your turn! When was the last time you were served by someone who knew that every detail made the difference? Have you found your Purpose or do you think it matters? Share your thoughts with us below.
This post is part of the February Word Carnival. Our theme this month is Service. You can read the rest of the awesome advice here.
Where to start!! Purpose… it’s funny how elusive that is and how it can change on whim! For a long time I had a nagging sense that my purpose was lost in some lame “make money” type of approach because what else are you supposed to do with a business? I probably shouldn’t say this out loud but I never really liked marketing to begin with. But I found peace with that because for me it’s not really about marketing but about teaching. I love showing people how to grow their businesses and to see those little “ah-ha” moments when they understand how THEY are impacting people (like their customers). So yes, it’s a lot about the ripple effect.
As for the mortgage company, PFT!!! They don’t have to do things right because you can’t live without them. You want a house, you deal with it. Don’t get me started.
Anyway, I especially like the “checking in with clients” part because even when they tell you stuff, half the time they don’t tell you the REAL stuff. You have to do a little digging to understand them. But being proactive about it is so important.
Congratulations on surviving the house buying process 🙂
Say it out loud, Carol Lynn! I think you and I are both in the same sort of situation. We don’t do marketing for marketing’s sake. That’s just a means to a much bigger end for us (and our clients). Here’s to digging in.
I love the message and I love the intent here. The first time I heard Macklemore’s Ten Thousand Hours, it became my anthem. So many people need this message to be accessible: to make a big impact on the world, you have to pick a direction and go. That doesn’t mean you have to pick a *career*. It means you have to pick a *calling* (a purpose).
It’s a process Ira Glass calls Closing The Gap: http://vimeo.com/85040589
And so many young people get stuck in that, “I don’t know what to do with my life, so I’m just gonna meander until I get there.” Much like the rivers without the wolves.
Oftentimes it takes a tragedy to bring into sharp focus the purpose in someone’s life – and sometimes it’s just a big change – like a new baby, a new home, a new job. You’ve outlined some great rules here to avoid the heartbreak that comes with mismatched visions and expectations.
I hope it changes the course for your readers! 🙂
I loved that bit from Ira Glass when I first saw it (in a different, less snazzy format). He’s SO right. We don’t spend enough time on practice. Thanks for chiming in, Nick!
The biggest reminder here for me is establishing expectations…I learned that the hard way with a ADD – Bi-polar client that I had for many years and then all of a sudden she calls and says I don’t think we are on the same page…I believe had I managed expectations up front, it would have been a less stressful 7 years. I love the part about checking in…I suppose if I had checked in more often, I may have been able to save the client (but it’s probably best for me), but I get the importance of that and how key it is to growth. As always…another great one!
Thanks, Michelle. I’m glad this resonated for you. The little details could be the difference between working with someone or not — and if they choose to leave your sphere of influence, who knows what else they might miss out on?
Purpose. Amazing how that word has woven a thread throughout the business world, since Simon Sinek did his Why Ted Talk, or maybe you and others before him uttered it in a business context. I naively remember being a little dumbstruck when I met someone writing a WHOLE book on the subject just a couple of years back, and in relation to the corporate space too.
It’s greatly comforting that it has become part of business dialogue, but you’re right to point out Tea that purpose alone is not enough. It’s doing the work, wholeheartedly that creates the butterfly effect.
I’ve been so privileged to witness a now self propelling community doing great work. It was born out of 10,000 hours or more but the work generated such great joy, that time simply evaporated and with distance, it now seems just like small flutters.
You’ve created some huge ripples in your life, Sandy. I’m honored to know you! Thanks for rippling your way over here to my little corner of the world.
You Tea, have seriously been part of any ripples I have been making in the last few years. Thank you.
As far as I’m concerned, refinancing a mortgage is just as frustrating as obtaining a mortgage in the first place. (Read: mounds and mounds and mounds of requested documentation) And just when you think the coast is clear, the escrow company or the lending agent asks you for MORE stuff. Carol Lynn made a valid point. No matter how you stack it up (along with the big stack of paperwork you have to provide), you’re at their mercy and that stinks … especially when so many of those folks seem to be flying by the seat of their pants. What slays me is they’re in a very detail-oriented profession and yet details seem to escape them. Go figure. It’s one of those times in life when you literally hold your freakin’ breath till the whole sordid affair is over. From my perspective, it doesn’t have to be that way … but it is. 🙁
Really good message here, Tea. I especially appreciate your suggestion to start with “one” thing and pour yourself into it. Expend all the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to see that thing through and you’re bound to get closer to discovering your bigger purpose.
Love the video Nick shared.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Melanie. Of all the people I know, YOU are definitely one with enough drive and passion to make whatever you decide to work on, something impactful. I can’t wait to see you choose it and go!
How many hugs and smooches would you like today? Go ahead. Just name your number.
Thanks a bundle for your much-needed and very much appreciated words of support! Getting closer and closer to finally “choosing”. 🙂
As always Ms. Tea, you nailed it.
Fingers crossed for Friday being the day all of your wishes are fulfilled and more.
Thank you, Blaze. Your good juju will get us there for sure.
I LOVE this -> “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” Coupled with your reminder to just on get on with it I feel like you wrote this just for me. I have a head bursting with ideas and interests. I have the heart of a rebel. Thanks for showing me the way Tea.
Really, Nicole? You ARE creating huge ripples already. I can’t imagine you’d ever feel that you weren’t, or that you needed to add another thing. Your rebel heart is a powerful one!
“Pick one and do the work” – sounds simple, but it’s amazing how easy it is to get distracted. Thanks for reminding us how to stay on track, Tea.