Acting On Purpose: A Twin-Edged Sword

by Lorne Mitchell on 19/11/2015

Picture the scene.  A young child who has done something wrong.  A parent standing tall over the child looking on in disgust or anger.  The young child cowering, knowing that they should not have done it – whatever the act was.  The parent erupting: “You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”

Doing something on purpose, in this case, is doubly bad.  It adds to the criminal act because it was “on purpose”.  It is the difference between manslaughter and premeditated murder.  Somehow, when a crime is committed, when it is done “on purpose”, then it is so much worse and carries a heavier penalty.
Picture another scene.  A company gets amazing results.  Profits are up.  Revenues are up.  The workforce has high morale.  The CEO is asked: “Why are you are doing so well?  How did you make so much profit”  He or she answers “Our primary objective isn’t to make a profit – although it is nice to make a profit so we can develop better services for you.  The main reason that we are doing so well is that we are all in service for a higher purpose”.

Think of some recent technology successes: Google and Apple.  Each one highly profitable, yet much more importantly, each one serves a higher purpose.  “Do no evil”.  “Putting a ding in the Universe”.  Interestingly, in its early days, Microsoft had the mission of putting “a computer on every desk and in every home”.  In 2013, Microsoft changed its mission to “morph from a software company to a devices and services company”.  In doing so, their purpose became clouded (literally) in confused corporate-speak and financial engineering.  As soon as the purpose (or mission) is framed in terms of profit or puts shareholder returns above everything else, the writing is on the wall that the organisation to become less successful.

AdobeStock_78725537

Such a powerful phrase it is, then. “On Purpose”.  It shows premeditated intent.  Driven by purposeful desire, it can create extraordinarily beautiful things.  It also drives people to follow great leaders – not because of the ego or personality of the leader, but because the whole tribe/team/organisation believes in a higher purpose beyond the power of a single human being.  It is why great religions have such enormous followings.  Abraham, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed.  Each, in their own way, started a religion which today still have many followers.

Purpose also drives revolution and could be seen as the lifeblood of change.  The events in Paris last week were a tragedy, attacking the French libertarian belief system to its core.  The repercussions are still to be played out in terms of hardening European borders, increasing the checks on people travelling to and from Europe as well as the need to control the mass migration to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.  In some cases, it is a cash of ideas, ideals and purposeful intent.  In another, it is driven by a desire to find a better life for yourself and those who depend upon you.

However hard it is to imagine  a cause is so strong for someone to want to blow themselves up in martyrdom, history shows that there is nothing new to such an extreme act.  Religions are full of martyrs – often given god-like attributes after their demise.  For someone to die “on purpose” or in total alignment with their belief system is somehow at the extreme end of heroism and martyrdom.
Back to the first scene that I started with at the start of this piece.  What is most interesting is whether you saw yourself as the child, the parent or an onlooker?  Think about it!

At an individual level, many of my close friends in their late forties or early-mid fifties are in transition from a full-time career in corporate life to a much less secure “portfolio career” in post-corporate life.  Is it at times like this that you really do question your own purpose in life.  You think “what is this all about?”.  “Why did I spend over 10/20/30 years working for such-and-such a cause and end up with …..?”  It is a time for reflection and searching for a deeper meaning in your own life so that it can become more purposeful.

In thinking about your own purpose, I like to think of an analogy with the Global Positioning System or GPS.  I used to do offshore sailing back in the 1980s and early ‘90s – when the navigation was all based on charts using pencils and compasses and triangulation to work out where you are.  How the world has changed!  Via the GPS system, you can now know exactly where you are – even if it is thick fog outside.  A Guiding Purpose Statement (or GPS) should do the same for you at major transitions in your life.

Gps device on sailboat

Over the next few weeks, I am creating a programme to go deeper into some of these ideas.  If you would like to find out more, please do email me at: lorne(at)objectivedesigners(dot)com and I will send you an outline of what I am thinking about – plus a few questions that might help us create something that is a bit different and special.

The main purpose is to create a group that can support  folk as they transition from a more structured (corporate) part of their lives to a portfolio career where you have to take more personal risks and seek deeper meaning in what it is you do and how you express yourself.  I’ve been through it myself – and have some lessons I would like to share – but I am sure many readers will also have equally valid ideas and suggestions to help others through this period of their lives.

By the way, on my search for more meaning and purpose, I have come up with my own GPS: “To help people communicate more effectively”.  It helps me to bridge my interests in telecommunications, media,  marketing and conversational flow between systems.  I’m currently refining it to be a little more tangible, but it will do for the moment.  If I can help you in this mission – or, indeed if you can help me become more effective in my mission, please also email me!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 chris conder November 19, 2015 at 22:08

This strikes a chord. It is exactly what we are doing at B4RN. We’re empowering people to work to a common purpose. We’re all dedicated to bringing the internet to people who can’t get it any other way. It may not be as grand as google or as scary as martyrdom, but it is so rewarding when you know you are doing good things. you are right. It is not about profit at the cost of joy. You have to make some money to go forward, but you have to do it the right way.

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2 lornemitchell November 19, 2015 at 23:51

Great, Chris. That is exactly what I am talking about. You are an inspiration to us all! Congratulations on your gong!

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3 Niels Malotaux November 19, 2015 at 22:28

“A parent standing tall over the child looking on in disgust or anger.”
I cannot understand why any would parent react like this. My parents never did. (I think) I never did with my kids.
How can you show disgust to your child? How can you show anger to your child?
I know it happens. But I find it weird.

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4 lornemitchell November 19, 2015 at 23:50

@Niels. You are right. It does happen – and for those that it happened to (as a child) or for those who continued the trend (as a parent), then there will be resonance. For those who cannot relate to the story, then simply think of it as a movie and move on!

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5 Bo Bischoff November 20, 2015 at 14:33

Interesting thoughts Lorne – in an age of disruption. Abandon linearity, re-define succes and embrace the uncertainty of venturing off your map. Have a great weekend!

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6 Sally Cross November 20, 2015 at 15:50

Hi Lorne,

Really thougth-provoking blog. How about your GPS being “Communicate with Purpose”?!

KR, Sally

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