I’ve never lacked motivation or ambition but under the constant weight of frustration, both become limited. How I felt a few years ago was uncomfortable, but it’s how I needed to feel. For me, knowing what I wanted was a process of identifying what I didn’t want. Being frustrated forced me to, in Simon Sinek’s infamous words, figure out my why.
Clarifying why I do what I do would give me my purpose, which, thanks to some deeply insightful leadership coaching, would lead me to consider my legacy.
Working with a multinational recruitment company served me astoundingly well. I will never have reason to criticise my time there; it got me to where I am today and for that I am truly thankful.
But I did outgrow it. I outgrew the rules, the hierarchy, the rigid structures, having to answer to shareholders with an increasing divestment in the customer. (I was originally a retailer so this one was a particularly hard pill to swallow).
The company that had nurtured my skills would ultimately supply the reasons for my departure. Which probably isn’t entirely unusual.
“Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.” Leonardo da Vinci
My work life had become robotic; I simply did what I had to do, I did it well, I did it with enthusiasm and passion, but I couldn’t be as creative as I wanted. I couldn’t grow my local teams outside of their strict silos and I couldn’t action any ideas for growth through insight and innovation without a one hundred stage approval process.
I had experience, knowledge, and a lot of ideas… but no way of implementing them. My why’s were coming into focus. Fast forward a couple of years and my why’s would spill into my purpose.
This coming April my business partner and I, and indeed the entire company, will celebrate our first successful year in business. A celebration of a business idea initiated on a bunch of mutual why’s and founded on a refined list of values that encourage the very things I was denied. (Something worth highlighting – that list of values was the very first thing we created).
Those values were about finding a better way of doing things differently. They were about finding a way to fan the flames of creativity and positive disruption to become an incubator for innovative thought.
I didn’t want to be a 19th century Johnny Horse-n-Cart in London town, building an expansive business upon investment in more horses, more carts, greater feed-stock supply chains, and country-wide stables. I wouldn’t want this because all those horses would soon be replaced by Henry Ford’s unicorn: 1913’s mass-produced car.
I would have wanted to make a positive disruption. I would have wanted the foresight to invest in roads, refineries and carparks. I would rather have been to the 20th century what Elon Musk and Tesla are today.
I don’t care to reinvent the wheel per se and I’m no Elon Musk, but I do want to be in a position where I can see what’s coming and be ahead of it in order to change it, or to adapt to it. I want to be in a position where I can see opportunity and I can act on it.
Why do I want to be an agent of change? Well, herein lies my purpose.
I work alongside some truly amazing professionals. Authentic, ingenious, devastatingly capable individuals who deserve every opportunity to excel and to achieve their goals. I’m far from perfect, I’m still learning and growing, but I now see that my role as a leader is to create opportunities for them.
Nor is this a wholly altruistic ambition either. By having a purpose I’ve moved from an ‘I’ to a ‘we’ mentality, and it seems I’m valued more for doing less (although I do it with more focus and I achieve better results). And true to the nature of purpose there is no more ‘whatever’ attitude because everything means more.
I don’t have to do anything. I want to. This is a monumental shift.
As for legacy? I consider it the punctuation for purpose.
I want to put myself in a position where I can invest in a handful of my talented colleagues’ business ambitions. Where I have the funds to say, ‘Wow! That’s a brilliant idea, you have my full support and backing. Use your skills, use your insight, create your own breeding ground for excellence and go create something truly amazing!’