The title should really be, “My Purpose in my Professional Life.” But that doesn’t flow as nicely or grab you buy the emotions, so I shrank it down to “My Purpose in Life.”
If you’re lucky, you’re one of those people who’ve known exactly what your purpose in life was since high school or college. If you’re extremely lucky, you’ve known since you were a kid. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that way for me. I barely figured it out this morning, after a little more than 37 years of being me. That’s almost 20 years AFTER joining the workforce, where I was supposed to be executing upon that purpose.
For some, their purpose in life is wrapped up in a single goal or series of related goals. For example, “I want to be the best basketball player…on my team” then morphs to “…at my school” and then “…in the (W)NBA” and lastly “…of all time.” Now, for me, my purpose is not like that.
For me, my purpose in life is something that I’ve been hoping for to provide guidance. I like to do many things as evident in these two separate posts. A lot of different things make me happy. I have a ton of crazy ideas, and I get more ideas all the time. In fact, I just had a great new biz idea this morning. When the ideas hatch though, I invariably ask, “Will this make me happy? Will this be fulfilling for me in the long run?” Most of the time, I would answer, “I don’t know” because again, I didn’t know my purpose so how could I know if this would work towards it?
I tried running conferences with a really good friend of mine, who still does a great job at running ’em. I sold out to him because I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted in life. And now that I know my purpose, it’s very clear that running that company would not make me happy. Afterwards, I thought that I wanted to go back into training, but really, that wasn’t it either. It’s close because of some ideas I have around the delivery of training, but training itself isn’t really part of my purpose.
Visions are not purposes in life, but more sneak peeks of what’s to come
I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating in this post. When I was in 6th grade, I had a vision. It was such a clear vision of me in the future, that I knew it was not a dream. In the vision, I saw that I was a great businessman. I woke up the next morning, went to school, walked up to my friends and said, “I’m going to be a great business man someday.” The looked at me with confusion. I continued, hoping to dispel the clouds of uncertainty from their minds.”I’m not sure what the business will be, but I’ll will run a great company someday.” They blinked a few times, said, “Whatever” and started talking about things that 6th graders normally talk about. Ever since then, I’ve been studying to be that great businessman. I’ve launched a few businesses, wondering each time, “Is this the one? Is this the business that will bring to life my vision?”
Now, I realize I had it all wrong. The vision isn’t the end goal. It’s good that I thought it was though, because I’ll need the information that I’ve learned over the years to help me execute on my purpose in life. Recently, I’ve thought that either Area 161 or OmegaOrtega Consulting would be the “one”, the company I saw myself being in charge of so many years ago. I used to be frustrated that the vision didn’t include what the company was or did. “If I knew what to do, I’d do it and be done.”
After this morning’s eye opening experience, it makes sense to me now why my vision was so vague. It wasn’t there to say, “Go be a great business man.” Instead, I think it was trying to say, “Find your purpose and know that when you do, you’ll be a great business man.”
Which brings me to the point of this post: my purpose.
“Enough alluding! What is your purpose?”
My purpose in life is simple. It’s partially vague, but is much more narrow than “anything under the sun.” My purpose in life is:
To make people happy through the application of technology.
I know, it may not sound that revolutionary or even that far off from what I’ve done for the past 20 years, but it truly is. This explains why I didn’t like the following jobs/businesses:
- Being a newspaper delivery boy – There was no technology or people involved. Just me, a shopping cart and my dad (cuz he felt sorry for me but wanted to support my business endeavor).
- Stocking clothes at a retail store – I don’t like fashion because the happiness of it doesn’t stem from technology. Plus, my job was opening boxes and hanging up the clothes that came in them.
- Cook/Character roles at Chuck E Cheese – We watched a video that showed how to use technology and methodologies to make the perfect pizza. My coworkers didn’t follow the methodology and I was frustrated. I can see it was because it was going against my purpose of applying technology. They moved me to character duty, where I dressed up as Chuck E. While it did have perks of meeting the ladies (LOL), I still wasn’t happy doing it because no technology was involved. Now, if I was making games or animatronic puppets for them, I bet I’d be happy.
- Running conferences – We used technology but we didn’t really apply technology to the business. I liked the people aspect, but the inability to quickly iterate (like you can when applying technology) frustrated me.
It also explains why I never executed well on the following ideas:
- 3D Animator – I bought a $10K computer in 1997 to run Softimage and learn 3D animation. I gave up on it though. I can see why. I was looking at it from a “lemme get a job as an animator” perspective vs the “Let me use this technology to tell a story” one. Today, I realize that those few ideas I have for 3D shorts may indeed be good, but that I’m better off hiring people to animate them vs animating them myself.
- Teacher/Trainer – I’ve written a lot about how I want to help teach/train people. I’ve never really done it full time nor made it my primary focus, but it wasn’t because I didn’t want to help others. Instead, it was because what I really want to do is create a new way of learning utilizing technology. Now I can see that it’s not the topic that matters, but more the format in how I deliver the information people want to learn.
- Musician – I’ve always loved music and wondered why I was never good at it. I even have an electrical guitar that I play with now and then. While you could say that playing an electrical guitar is a form of “making people happy through the application of technology.”, it’d be a stretch. Instead, the purpose there is “making people happy through the application of music” and the electric guitar is just the instrument.
But it does explain my success in the following areas:
- Rewriting a DOS app for Bank of America– My first consulting gig in 1998 was to replace a DOS app that wasn’t Y2K compliant. Instead of simply upgrading the app environment, I redesigned the app based on user feedback. I increased productivity so much, that my app later saved the division from being shut down.
- Consulting vs Full Time – I’m a better consultant than full time employee. Part of this is because as a consultant, you use technology to make people happy. Whereas in a full time job, your primary purpose is to be a cog in a machine regardless of technology.
- Game Programming – I have a very interesting post over at the game company. It explains why my hesitancy in moving full steam ahead on game dev; It also explains why my favorite part of prototyping is figuring out the technical magic that makes people smile and say, “Wow, that’s neat.”
- Tech in Hospitality – I finally know why I’m constantly coming up with ideas for technology in the hospitality space. That is one of the main points where the application of technology can truly make people happy.
Looking for your purpose? Take a look at things you like and dislike for clues
Now that I know my purpose, I can actually see clues throughout my life that point towards it. I now understand why I like certain things and despise others.
Things I love because they are enabled by technology to make people happy:
- Traveling – Whether it’s a road trip, flight around the world or a several day cruise, I love to travel. I found myself very fortunate that I live in a time when we have these 3 modes of getting us to where we want to be. Plus, we’ll probably have private space travel before I die as well! Not only has technology made it possible, but technology also plays a large role in making the trip within them even more enjoyable as well.
- Skyscrapers – Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved skyscrapers. I’ve loved going as high as I can and enjoying the magnificent views that they afford. Without technology, skyscrapers would not be possible. And with technology, skyscrapers will continue growing their reach up into the heavens.
- Debit Cards – I know many people see this a bad thing, not a good thing, but I couldn’t disagree more. It’s so nice having 24 hour access to your money. I remember when debit cards first started to be accepted. There was a limit on how much funds you could spend in a day and I thought that was just silly, hitting it several times before they finally got rid of daily limits.
Things I despise because technology fails us over and over:
- Pay phones – This one isn’t so relevant anymore with cellphones, but I had a pet peeve that would send me into an internal rage. (And if you know me, you know that it would take a lot to make me rage.) If I called someone on the pay phone, I’d get an answering machine sometimes. I’d hang up and my 35 cents would not be returned. Oh how that boiled my blood. Why the telephone company couldn’t figure out that a machine answered and that I never spoke perplexed me to no end.
- Event awareness – I have music on my computer; I rank songs and iTunes keep a count of how many times I listen to each song. I read articles through a browser, bookmarking and adding them to “read later”. I buy and rank books on my Kindle; heck, I’ve even reread a few of them already on my Kindle. Yet, for some reason, no one has figured out how to collectively use all that data without my intervention to alert me of concerts by my favorite musicians, conferences based on my favorite publications/topics or book signings by my favorite authors. My phone has GPS and so I should be notified of these events when at home or, more importantly, when abroad. I’ll likely know the local ones, but the heads up when traveling would be priceless.
- Irrelevant ads – I’m one of the few people who don’t mind ads…as long as they’re relevant. What perplexes me is how more often than not, the ads in no way shape or form pertain to my life or the activity I’m doing. I’m a pretty simple person; Heck, I would even be for creating a shared profile that all advertisers could use. I don’t mind sharing info if it means I can benefit from the few minutes of filling out a questionnaire.
Take a look at things that make you happy and things that send you into a rage. I bet if you take a step back and analyze why, you’ll find your purpose in life.
So now you know, now what?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure yet. I’m sure overtime, the benefits will become numerous and clear. However, as of this morning, there was only one benefit, albeit it’s a big one.
I can now easily and quickly judge whether or not an idea is worth my time. I can now see if an article is worth reading to me. I have a test to run all distractions by. EDIT: Thanks to my friend Doug’s comment, I just realized that I should link to an old post where I talk about how I could use technology to possibly help make the world a better place. I can now see that those things would indeed be a valuable use of my time as they pass the test. You can find the post here.
Now, if something doesn’t pass the test does it mean I don’t do it? Of course not. I still have hobbies. I’ll still do things that do not apply to my purpose in the slightest, like cooking. I love to cook french food and don’t see myself giving that up anytime soon.
Hobbies are there to let us explore other facets of life: Things that don’t fall within our purpose, but that we find fun nonetheless.
Note: Family and church are not distractions and are my reason for living over all. They trump the professional purpose any day. They get attention because they make me happy in and of itself, they just don’t provide income for me…especially the family part, they rather pull money in the opposite direction! LOL