On Purpose

Last week I had the absolute privilege and pleasure to interview the wonderful Lisa Messenger at her very special event: In Conversation with Lisa Messenger. The prelude to this was captured in a magazine article compiled in the Collective Hub’s Tips for nailing your purpose Today’s post is to reflect on the main content of that interview being On Purpose.

Living a life full of Purpose is a right and not a privilege. Every single one of us is entitled to feel fulfilled at work and have that amazing feeling upon wake up of feeling inspired to jump out of bed. It is not a feeling reserved for a lucky few who get to say ’I love what I do’.

What is important to note the discovery of your purpose is not a ‘snap of the fingers’ or a wave of the wand. And often the journey is deeply personal and born from pain. Spiritual gurus will proclaim “Do what you love,” “Find your Passion,” “Be Blissful”. All useful tidbits; but not actionable (i.e. what to change). Great to hear (and accurate in theory) but how do you apply this on Monday at work.

Living a life full of Purpose is your ability to live your ‘Why’. For some of us it hits us like a lightning bolt. For some it can take 10 years of therapy. For most it is a destination that with the benefit of hindsight, with the benefit of looking back can we start to connect the dots.

Being on Purpose renews your passion and gives you a better filter for decision-making. It offers a lens for you to see the world in a different world. For Lisa the lens of ‘igniting human potential’ has been as useful of what the Collective Hub should do and what it shouldn’t. For the rest of us it is the bang that fills us with excitement and energy as we set off in our current state, as an intrapreneur or those daring entrepreneurs. It is also the lessons you will learn as you run the race – as you learn to live your Why – that will inspire you and show you what you are capable of. And as Simon Sinek says “the goal is not simply for you to cross the finish line, but to see how many people you can inspire to run with you”

Purpose isn’t another word for happiness. All kind of things makes us happy at work: hitting a goal, getting a promotion, landing a new client, completing a project – the list goes on. But happiness is temporary; the feeling doesn’t last. Nobody walks around energized by the memory of a goal hit twelve months ago. That intensity passes with time.

Purpose is deeper. Purpose lasts. The difference between happiness and fulfillment is the difference between liking something and loving something. We don’t necessarily like our kids all the time, for example; but we do love them all the time. We don’t necessarily find happiness in our jobs every day, but we can fulfilled by our work every day if it makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. That’s the reason we can feel unfilled even if we’re successful by standard measures like compensation and status. Purpose comes when our job connects directly to our WHY.

I know a lot of my colleagues who are still at CUB have been through a lot of turmoil over the past decade. The ones who can connect to ‘belonging’ (the purpose of CUB when it is thriving) are more likely to thrive themselves and be resilient than those waiting for a bonus. When we connect the pieces we often find that what drives our passion isn’t the obvious (selling beer) but something deeper. I know others who have loved their job of selling steel but the passion wasn’t that but the companies’ dedication to sustainability that kept the fire burning.

The best model that I have seen on understanding someone’s ‘WHY’ can be found in Lisa’s latest book PURPOSE.

Why or Purpose?

  • Are we talking about the same thing here?
  • Are Why and Purpose one and the same?
  • Same, same or different? Oh, the semantics!

Call it what you like,
but for me they are one
in the same – the key is not to waste too much energy talking about it or defining it, just go out and find it.

Simon Sinek is probably known as the guru of ‘Why’. His above formula of writing your purpose is probably the most succinct that I have seen.

Simon says that your Why not only expresses your unique contribution and impact, but is also a filter through which you can make decisions, every day, to act with purpose.

“Your Why Statement is one sentence that captures your unique contribution and impact,” he says.

“The impact reflects the difference you want to make in the world, and the contribution is the primary action that you take towards making your impact.”

Using this, I have constructed mine to be the following:

TO shine a light in the dark SO THAT teams ignite with passion and individuals walk through darkness and find their light

Lisa Messengers is:

TO be an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs, living my life out loud SO THAT I can show others that anything is possible while living my best life

Yup, that’s all it is. No fifteen paragraphs. Just one sentence. Of course, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. In one sentence, it’s harder to hedge or sidestep or hide behind puffery. One sentence is the absolute lowest common denominator. One sentence is usually more honest. And if you can wrestle your Purpose into one sentence, you’re much more likely to remember it – and act upon it.

To learn more about Purpose I have also included Part 1 of my interview with Lisa Messenger that took place at her special event

Looking Back – Connecting the Dots

What is it that you took from growing up in a small country town (Coolah, population of 920 people) that has influenced your life today?

Coolah is funny. This shows my age. I grew up on a 4000-acre property. A cattle and sheep farm in the middle of nowhere, well before the Internet and we were at least 20 mins away from the town and we had no neighbours. We used to read the Encyclopedia Brittanie. I always had this yearning for growth and that there is more out there. It’s funny I went to boarding school and we went one day to the big city and I had never been to the big city. I had my bags packed and it was year 10 and the head mistress was always trying to throw me out of school as I was always asking for ‘how but how’, ‘why but why’. Always disrupting and it was the same sort of mentality that I used to get in trouble for that now, as an entrepreneur is the trait that actually propels me forward.

What role has education played (formal & informal)?

I talk a lot about convergence and divergence and it often drives me nuts in the boardrooms of Corporate Australia that there is a one size fits all mentality. Looking back at the education systems there wasn’t a system for me to learn. For a seeker and someone yearning for something different (which is applauded now, and I am often sought to speak on topics of staying relevant and disruption) there was not much formally on offer. And that often fascinates me physiologically where we can come from something ‘one size fits all’ and it actually doesn’t. And that is why I was often in trouble and now that serves me quite well.

What I have learnt is that there is no quick elixir where ‘boom I have found my purpose’. For me it is a combination of business and life. The Collective is only where it is because I got strong enough. And I was ready enough. And it is only know where you can look back and say ‘that was so obvious’ to do a positive, aspirational look at the behind the scenes of entrepreneurs. But there was no way that I was ready enough, or strong enough or resilient or tenacious prior to that. It is like when you look back everything makes perfect sense. Even all the personal setbacks have a way of leading you to the right direction.

The truth is that we are all in transition – whether we can see it or not at the time. Our lives are made up of pivots, twists, turns and adjustments, which hopefully lead to contentment, satisfaction and that warm glow of pride – if we follow our own paths and don’t allow distractions, societal pressures and self-doubt to sway us off track.

It’s not only the sum of our professional experiences that shape us, either. I’ve been (very!) open in my past books about the personal milestones that have molded me as an entrepreneur. Going through a divorce, drinking too much, giving up drinking 13 years ago, becoming estranged from members of my family, reuniting with them again. Love, loss and burnout have all made me strong enough, tenacious enough and resilient enough to deal with what came next.

If you haven’t quite landed on your Why yet, that’s fine – don’t dwell on it and don’t be hard on yourself. The most important thing to focus on now is that you’re finally ready to start really digging deep to connect to your purpose.

Nothing that you have done in the past is wrong. It was where you needed to be at that point in time, in that headspace, to fill your cup with the experiences that have led you forwards to this moment.

The question is: where will you go from here?

What lessons have you garnered from working in corporates?

My 8 years in corporate events & hospitality taught me a lot about detail (I am terrible at detail and I cant stand it). So you learn what your weaknesses are.

When I look back at my life, absolutely nothing makes sense in a linear order. I never set out to start a magazine and I didn’t plot out my career to help me gravitate to this point. But in a nonsensical way, after it all came together, everything I have ever done makes perfect sense and has undoubtedly put

Me on the path towards living my Why today.

As singular units in time, each of my experiences don’t appear to be linked or even the slightest bit integral to my life now, as the founder of a global media and education movement.

I was a horse-riding instructor in the country. I was a corporate events manager. 
I managed sponsorships for big brands, such as The Wiggles and Cirque Du Soleil. I launched and ran my own small business, a book publishing and marketing company.

How would you use this backstory to describe how your passion has evolved?

You may know the story of Collective Hub by now – the disruptive magazine platform I launched in March 2013, with no (and I mean zero!) experience of the print magazine industry. I knew I was bold to launch a magazine with a global vision into a market where sales were in steady decline. I was definitely naïve. But in a sense, my lack of knowledge was a total blessing. I could write my own rules without being held back by the ‘shoulds’ of how industry veterans had always done things before me. Today, the platform – and the side projects that have sprung from it – is bigger than anything even I could have imagined.

The reason my naivety didn’t matter was because I was completely and unashamedly on purpose. Every cell in my body was energised by this idea that I was onto something big. Something bigger than me, that was certain.

I built Collective Hub because I want to ignite human potential and create a community where entrepreneurs and creatives can inspire each other. My purpose, my personal why, is to be an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs, living my life out loud, showing that anything is possible.

Growing up in the country probably made me quite grounded and prepared
me for stepping into the world I move in now, which can be over-the-top and unbelievable at times. Working in events taught me how to multitask and juggle a million things at once, which is crucial to what I’m doing now. While Collective Hub started as a magazine, our events are a major business extension and add
so much value to our community.

Working in sponsorship for The Wiggles and other arts and entertainment properties was the best possible on-the-job training of my life. It gave me absolutely essential grounding to broker the big deals I’m doing now with Collective Hub!

Knowing Your Purpose & The How Will Look After Itself

“He or she who has a Why, can endure any How” Friedrich Nietzsche

What is a why?

The word can be interchanged with purpose. Everything I talk about has come from my personal experience and when I think about ‘why’ and purpose it all boils down to the same thing.

Why has the power to unearth extraordinary and unexplainable things. Call it faith, call it purpose, call it Why. It doesn’t matter what you call it.

Your Why is what keeps you going when you feel like you’re at your absolute limits and in the depths of despair.

Your Why is the one thing that propels you forwards in times of success and happiness, and in times of failure and rejection.

The world around you may change – but your Why won’t.

When you allow yourself to drop into that space magic can happen. Because so much about life is about control. The reality is that we cannot control what comes at us. But what we can control and what we do have choice about is how we respond to that. So for me, the why & the purpose about Collective Hub came when I finally allowed myself to get still. And I was also tired and bored and uncomfortable with what I was doing previously. And that is not a good place to be. When you get out of bed, making great money but you realize that there is so much more. The world is just not lighting me up. I am spiritual, not religious and it got to a stage where I didn’t care what it was. It could be cleaning toilets in India or what ever is the best use of my time JUST BRING IT ON!!

And eventually after enduring ‘whatever, whatever, whatever,’ this obvious thing landed. It dawned on me that ‘you know all these people, you are surrounded by all these extraordinary entrepreneurs and inspirational people lets just put them all into one spot. And that was as logical or as illogical as it was.

Combined this with the fact that all magazines focused on was salacious gossip meant that there was a gap in the market. You were either reading about Richard Branson’s’ adventures (but why was he amazing?) or you were reading about Kim Kardashian’s ass. And so if I was not going to do it, who was going to do it? So it was only when I allowed myself to be quiet and still did I figure out what was the best use of me. And boom there it is. It kind of came from nowhere.

In my experience when you try to push your Why or your purpose or overthink it then you just get frustrated. So you have to trust a counter intuitive approach. To sit back and trust. The entire make up of the Collective is counter intuitive. Literally it is about igniting human potential. So when people say what is your next move or long term plan, my response is that is about igniting human potential. The long-term plan doesn’t really matter now. The delivery mechanism (print, books, events, workshops, twitter, instagram) doesn’t really matter once you have discovered your purpose. The How looks after itself.

What is your Why?

So they are different. And they are interchangeable.

I built Collective Hub because I want to ignite human potential and create a community where entrepreneurs and creatives can inspire each other. My purpose, my personal why, is to be an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs, living my life out loud, showing that anything is possible.

And that keeps me accountable. It makes me live a really big, rich, full life. Because if I am not living everyday the best version of me than I am not living that.

You could impact five people or five billion people. The number is irrelevant. It’s about finding that connection, that drive, that will to want to do whatever it is you want to do, then pushing forwards with everything you’ve got.

You don’t need to be an entrepreneur or innovator. Anyone and everyone can find more meaning and purpose in their lives if they connect to their Why.
You could be a stay-at-home parent, a teacher, a sportsperson, an artist, a writer, a creative or an employee at a corporate company. The key is that you feel like your contribution – whatever that is – to your corner of the world matters and helps to impact people’s lives in a positive way.

How has that inspired what you have done since its reveal?

People come to us all the time and say ‘lets start a fashion label’ and the entrepreneur in me says “lets do it.” But having a purpose is a really easy litmus test for me to make decisions for me now.

And in regard to my own personal why “an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs” the litmus test is just as easy. If I am sitting at home by myself am I truly living the best version of me? Am I pushing my own limits? Am I challenging myself everyday?

The two ‘whys’ keep me very accountable. But it means that I can morph, pivot, change and flow depending on opportunities and keeping the twin purposes very strong.

How has that led to 18 different streams?

I have tightened them up!! When you grow so quickly and you decide to have 18 different revenue streams (“we will be everything”), it is a very inefficient way to run a business. And so I kept throwing more staff, more revenue streams in building this big beast and suddenly I said ‘holy shit!!!’ We grew so fast. So now we are very focused on purpose (print products, digital products and events products) and within those there are other streams but they must amplify our purpose.

Knowing your Purpose enables you to know when to walk away

When I launched Collective Hub, I wanted to unearth the story behind the story, to be aspirational and inspirational, and to avoid being trashy, superficial or too surface level.

Once you start having some success and brand awareness, people come at you with opportunities that are lucrative – and they can be really hard to turn down. This is why it’s essential to be completely rooted to your Why, so you can call on that commitment and focus when you’re tempted to stray, or when an ill-fitting opportunity knocks that seems far too good to pass up.

In year three of the Collective Hub journey, I was wooed by a well-known TV production company, offering me a very, very lucrative TV deal. Our talks – and there were several of them, over a long period of time – were going really well.

They seemed to understand my vision and purpose for the Collective Hub community, which is all about igniting human potential and living your best life.

The aim of the show was to go with people around the world and support them as they do crazy things – all in the name of stretching themselves to grow and change and step into the very best version of themselves. Tick, tick, tick…
I was excited!

The TV production company and I were on the same page and the project was gaining some serious momentum. Until… they dropped the bomb. They wanted a plastic surgeon involved in the concept. Turns out, we weren’t on the same page at all – like, not even a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure plastic surgery has its place. BUT I wanted to demonstrate that there are so many powerful ways to transform your life from the inside out by putting in the work. Our message at Collective Hub is all about authenticity, realness, embracing your flaws and putting in the hard yards, rather than looking for quick fixes. So, you can see why a plastic surgeon didn’t feel like a good fit for us – at all.

Our conversations ended there. Literally, I walked away from what would have been a very profitable and lucrative contract. Ultimately, it didn’t align with my values or my Why, so it failed my litmus test.

You see this a lot. Actual celebrities who sell out a lot. Doing ads that are totally incongruent with their brand. For me it is not about being propelled into a bigger market. The question is at what cost? I have had to say no to some pretty big opportunities. But I find that the more you say no, then bigger, more exciting / aligned opportunities make their way. So be unafraid to say no to things that don’t align to purpose.

The Power of Purpose

“The two most important days in your life are when you were born and when you find out why” Mark Twain

Why have a Why?

Having a Why gives us direction. It gives us something to long for, to yearn for. An end point. A reason for being. When times get tough, if you don’t know why you do what you do, it’s really easy to give up, to throw it all away – and to believe it’s not actually worth all the struggle, heartache and pain.

I may have had different iterations of ‘why’ early on but I find human psychology fascinating. Why do we get out of bed every morning? What makes people walk in one direction? The more we can allow ourselves to be conscious and dig deeper into our own psyche and try to understand what we are here for and try to help us get through the greater will be our capacity to change.

So for me it has helped me get through some really tough times. Because I choose to live with wisdom and love. So lets go because stuff happens. So for me it is about building that tool set and understanding who I am and what I am here to do. And using that to fuel me. It is very easy to say “Poor me” and “I’m a victim”; self sabotage, excuses that we all have. I could make a million excuses everyday. So I have to know what I stand for. And that is what having a ‘Why’ is all about.

How do you know when you have got your ‘why’ right?

For me I use the word synchronicity and serendipity a lot. People who are around me close will say things just seem to happen. And it is about getting into flow. Like when you are so ON PURPOSE, however how hard things are, you have a nod to the universe that keeps you on track. It is weird that in the height of chaos I become calmer. It is like we are living in that meme “Holy shit my life is falling apart / holy shit my life is amazing!!” I have learnt to step into it and go with the flow. I meditate a lot but to dance music.

When you connect deeply with your Why, the most extraordinary opportunities appear, seemingly out of thin air. The synchronicity and the serendipity and the people who believe in you when you step into your Why are off-the-charts insane!

In my experience, when your Why is bigger than you or has an impact that is way beyond self-serving, the synchronicity and the serendipity just seem to fall into place.

This is why I ask myself every single day: why am I doing this?

I know my answer. And now it’s time for me to throw the question out to you.

When you wake up tomorrow – as you step out of bed, boot up your laptop, check your emails and prepare to tackle your to-do list – take a breath, take a moment, pause and think about why you’re dedicating your day to these actions.

The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. Don’t you deserve to know why?

Part 2 of the interview will be part of next week’s blog: Finding Your Purpose

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