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How Will You Measure Your Life? - Epilogue - The Importance of Purpose

Canyon, Texas

January 11, 2020

[Looks like I forgot to post this seven weeks ago. ☹️ Important stuff!]

[I’m skipping three chapters.  Those chapters are on kids (two of them) and ethical behavior (one). I’ll cover those in the next week or two]

[This chapter is very important and impactful.  As I look back, I was a pinball, not the flipper. I hardly ever thought about my purpose. I just tried to do the best I could with what I crossed paths with.  I allowed external forces acting on me to determine my path, my purpose. I changed that approach last year when I finally woke up to the consequences. My passive “strategy” had cost me so much in my relationships and in my career.  As Glenn Frey sings in “Take It Easy,” “move on over, I’m climbing in.” I may not have my metrics right yet, but at least I am driving this truck now.]

My summary:

If an organization has a clear and compelling purpose, its impact and legacy can be extraordinary. The purpose of the company will serve as a beacon, focusing employees’ attention on what really matters. And that purpose will allow the company to outlive any one manager or employee.

The same is true for you.

Three Parts of Purpose

A useful statement of purpose for a company needs three parts.

The first is what I will call a likeness. By analogy, a painter will sketch out a likeness of what she is going to paint before she puts oil on her brush.  A likeness of a company is what the key leaders and employees want the enterprise to have become at the end of the path that they are on.

Second, everyone in the company needs to have a deep commitment—almost a conversion—to the likeness that they are trying to create.

Third, there must be one or a few metrics by which managers and employees can measure their progress. These metrics enable everyone associated with the enterprise to calibrate their work, keeping them moving together in a coherent way.

Purpose must be deliberately conceived and chosen, and then pursued. When that is in place, however, then how the company gets there is typically emergent—as opportunities and challenges emerge and are pursued.

The type of person you want to become—what the purpose of your life is—is too important to leave to chance. It needs to be deliberately conceived, chosen, and managed. The opportunities and challenges in your life that allow you to become that person will, by their very nature, be emergent.

Christensen developed the following as his statement of purpose:

A man who is dedicated to helping improve the lives of other people A kind, honest, forgiving, and selfless husband, father, and friend A man who just doesn’t just believe in God, but who believes God.

Once you are sure you know the person you want to be, you must devote your life to becoming that person.

It is one thing to have these aspirations in mind. How do you become so deeply committed to these things that they guide what you prioritize on a daily basis—to drive what you will do, and what you will not do?”

Christensen over time developed these metrics:

Somehow, after all of this, I came to understand that while many of us might default to measuring our lives by summary statistics, such as number of people presided over, number of awards, or dollars accumulated in a bank, and so on, the only metrics that will truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people. When I have my interview with God, our conversation will focus on the individuals whose self-esteem I was able to strengthen, whose faith I was able to reinforce, and whose discomfort I was able to assuage—a doer of good, regardless of what assignment I had. These are the metrics that matter in measuring my life. This realization, which occurred nearly fifteen years ago, guided me every day to seek opportunities to help people in ways tailored to their individual circumstances. My happiness and my sense of worth has been immeasurably improved as a result.

It is hard to find the time to develop a statement of purpose. We are pulled in many directions.  But in the long run, clarity about purpose will trump most anything that you think is important in the short run.

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