Over the past few years I have been on a huge learning curve as a business owner and ‘entrepreneur’ which I put down in part to my membership of the Entreprenuer’s Organisation Accelerator programme.
The reason I bring this up so early in this article is that part of our learning is to speak from experience or Gestalt Language Protocol. This is far from some secret language or mind control, but a way of sharing information in a way that has greater impact on those listening and allows them to be accountable to the actions they take based on that information.
Speaking from experience lends a different kind of credibility to the information as you have lived through the process and are not just another book worm repeating theory.
All too often through mediums like LinkedIn we see the ‘peacocks’ preach theory and narrative, but you have to ask – Is it real? Do you practice what you preach? How can I trust the information that you are broadcasting? Because it is broadcasting, the information is not being put in the public domain for good, but for brownie points and ego.
So, why the big intro? Well, because there is a big statement at the top of the article and I wanted to ground the information in reality so that those of you reading this know it comes from a real place and not a book.
I decided to talk about how purpose can grow your business because is it one of my biggest lessons in my 7-year business career. To date it is the one that has had the greatest impact on my business and my personal life.
To give you context our purpose as a business is ‘To enable the fulfilment of potential’.
Let’s get away from ‘saving the world’ and ‘solve hunger’ as a purpose, while both noble causes they are for those who really believe they can make a difference and actually do something about it. Mine comes from a far more personal place, a place that held me back for a majority of my life as a person and as a business owner… But a year ago that all changed.
We all know the term ‘it takes 10 years to become an overnight success’, well for me to get to my purpose it took several years of working on my mindset and self-worth. Yes, self-worth. I coined a phrase years ago, talking to a close friend, stating that I had spent most of my life “feeling second best”.
It was a very real thing – in my head, that I projected out into the world and ultimately reflected back in the actions I took and the ‘rewards’ I received. Now, with hindsight I have zero to complain about, ever. If you believe in the teachings of the stoics, it all supposed to be tough, it is all supposed to be aligned with your resilience and your ability move forward, whatever moving forward looks like.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where scarcity and true challenge have been changed out to safe places and excuses. It is no longer demanded that we earn our way through life, but that we ‘deserve’ our path.
Which brings me back to the concept of purpose, for me anyway. I always loved building things, businesses, dens, Lego… and I always saw potential in everything, including myself. I was blessed with a great childhood and family but was often the first to do things; university, travel, business, property. Which after a while started to play on my self-doubt, I was always at the forefront of my own journey, a trailblazer in my own mind, but resigned myself to the fact it was nothing special and that others were always doing better.
This was all until I had a failing business (bearing in mind this was our biggest year in growth to date), I was lucky enough to have an old mentor and friend reach out and provide a lifeline, a transformation course that they needed guinea pigs for.
There were 6 sessions approx. 3 weeks apart and I went all in looking for the biggest answer – to the big question I hadn’t yet asked myself. There were lots of learning and discovery as there always is when it comes to self-improvement, but it was after the third session while driving through downtown Auckland that I had that ‘ah-ha’ moment, which was highlighted by a statement from a close friend and colleague that was in the car with me.
I don’t remember what we were discussing, but when I reflect back I assume it was my sense of delusion with my business that triggered his comment. He said “Fuck everyone else, this is your business and your vision, those who want to follow you will, they will believe in you, the rest can do what they want!” In that moment everything changed and life got more difficult for sure.
That single comment drove me to change my mindset from giving up to really understanding what it would take to drive the future I wanted and everything it would throw at me. As my good friend Paul would say, it was my understanding of what life presented me; to action in whatever way I wanted.
The business shrunk, clients left and people (well, good people) moved on. And I mean that. They were great people, but they weren’t the people that were part of my vision. My vision wasn’t clear and neither was my leadership. I came to the realisation that I was a terrible leader and had to work on myself first before I could help others ‘build things and deliver on potential’…
Fast forward to November 2017. I had got the business to where I wanted, spent some time working alone and had some tough decisions about what I wanted out of life. I wanted more, but I wanted to do it my way. I figured to find both your purpose and grow through that purpose; a lot of time should be spent on understanding what you don’t want from your life and to use the word ‘no’ way more.
So, why was this period of time so important to my growth? It was a sequence of events that conspired to deliver significant change. I had missed a key learning event in Auckland and the only other one available in the learning cycle was in Melbourne. I wanted it to be more than just another trip, I wanted it to be a powerful statement of intent. I had been doing some key reading and planning, like no other time in my life. I hit Melbourne having prepared like it was some kind of test, a test of whether I had what it takes to own my own story… and boy did I.
I sat in the room with 40 other people, shit scared that I would look a fool (see that “second best” thing creep back in?). Sure enough the test was in play. I had prepared like never before – I put my intent and energy into getting the most out of the experience and I wasn’t disappointed. Let’s not lose sight that this was all going on in my head, like a private show where I didn’t quite know the outcome and there was every chance there would be bad reviews. The experience helped me work harder than ever before on where I wanted to go, in the hotel room, in the Uber, on the plane, I just couldn’t stop until I felt I had it all down. It was both exhausting and exhilarating.
Over the coming weeks I developed my 10-year plan, understood the values I wanted to live my life by and set to work. In a corny way, I gave myself permission to succeed.
As I sit here writing this on a client trip to Christchurch I reflect on my past 12 months and why they have been some of the toughest, yet most amazing. I found it tough because I had my North star and that can be frightening and it was the most amazing because I had a set of rules that I wanted to live my life by and that there was no doubt anymore. Yes, there are moments, but now I know why they are there and that I can overcome them.
I didn’t learn something new about myself, I just understand what I always knew. I want to be the trailblazer in my own life, I want to help others be trailblazers in their lives and I want to build things and unlock that potential. Because after all none of us want to lie in our final moments and have a single regret. Remember, it’s never too soon to start.
So, how does purpose grow your business? Well I’m not sure how it will grow yours, but it certainly grew mine and continues to do so.
Don’t be in business because you have to pay the bills, or think you know better than your boss. Be in business because it is what you want and need to do to live the life that you choose.
(Note: Just for context some of the same challenges still exist, they just don’t hold me back as much as they used to. We are in business after all and it’s tough… just like life!)