A good definition for “purpose” in the context of work is that your purpose is what makes you work each day.
Supporting your family?
Because you love what you do each day?
Jim Koch, Founder of Samuel Adams
I just finished reading a book that Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams, wrote about the business and life lessons he has learned over the years of running his own business.
And really he pulled lessons from his entire life. He seems to have a really good grasp on many things including understanding one’s purpose in life and in work.
For Jim, the purpose for him was to create great beer. Not the usual beer that’s been popular like the traditional lagers and ales or light beers, but something with more flavor that he felt people would appreciate.
In the early days of Samuel Adams, Jim did all the jobs. He drove the forklift. He did the sales. He did the accounting.
All of it.
But as time went on he knew that he needed to find his real purpose in the business. In order for the company to grow he needed to really hone in on his purpose in the company.
He ended up going back to his role in making great beer. That means he tastes tests every batch (not a bad gig). He still goes on some sales calls. He also works with the culture at the company.
That’s about it.
I’m sure he does more in the company, but that’s about it and it’s been that way for a number of years. Now the company has gone on to great success. They’ve had struggles, but Jim has found his purpose in the company.
What Drives You?
I think when it comes to finding purpose it’s good to get on the basic level.
Jim had a situation that seems obvious now for finding purpose. He quit his full-time job because he saw an opportunity in beer. He loved beer. His family had been involved in beer for generations and he wanted to make a different kind of a beer; craft beer.
It seems like Jim always had a handle on his own drive to make good beer. And that understanding allowed him to focus on how he would play a role (not all the roles) in crafting that good beer.
What Are You Good At?
Usually what you’re good at is something you enjoy. It might go back all the way to what you enjoyed doing as a kid. Maybe you had a set of Legos and you built things all the time. Maybe you even took all your Legos and created entirely new designs.
With that background you’re probably good at problem solving, thinking of new ideas and things like that. In your business, it would be good for you to stick with those types of tasks especially the most important ones.
If you’re struggling to figure out what your purpose is in life or in your business then go back to the things you’ve been good at. Think about what you’ve enjoyed doing since you were young. Then look at how you can best apply those skills to help your company with its purpose.
What You Want To Be Good At
I love to golf and in order to get good at golf it requires playing golf often and practicing. I saw a good tweet the other day where one golf instructor and one golf stats guy discussed improvement.
Hank Haney says that it’s human nature to work on the things we’re good at. In golf, that would mean that someone who is good at driving the ball will work most on driving the ball.
What Hank is saying, and what the stats guy backed up with analysis, is that players see the most benefit when they work on the worst part of their game.
Makes sense, right?
So in this context it’s good to look at what you envision yourself doing at your company. Then look at what skills you need to acquire to get there. Work on what you’re worst at first and you’ll see the most improvement.
This makes me think back to Mark Zuckerberg. When Facebook was in its early stages he was often criticized as a CEO. People said that the company should hire someone with experience and better skills.
But Zuckerberg wanted to be the leader of the company. It was his purpose. And he struggled a bit with things like public speaking, but over time he’s become a really good CEO; arguably one of the best in the world right now.
He had to work to achieve that.
I’ve talked with a few people over the years that struggle to find the purpose in life and in work and in business. Entrepreneurs, everyday 9-5ers, stay-at-home parents, etc. It doesn’t matter. I’ve been afraid of it too; losing my purpose in life.
It seems like the people that have it figured out…”it” being their purpose, get back to the basics. They focus on the things that make them happy. They get to the core of who they are and why they do things and that’s what they focus on. From there they also look at what they want to do (if they know) and figure out what they need to get there.
Things seem to fall in place after that. Maybe not all the time, but it’s a good place to start if you’re struggling to find your purpose in life.