We explore why purpose activation is a strategic priority in every organization, the ROI and mechanics of purpose activation, and a simple practice to start aligning your career with your purpose.
Our conversation begins at 3:10. Please let me know your thoughts!
I'm 42 and am finally starting to look my age. I've always had a boyish face, but now, my skin is looser, I have more wrinkles. My hair is graying and thinning. I'm getting injured doing really basic stuff like home improvement and push-ups. Even though I'm still strong and flexible, I have a double-chin and a dad bod. It doesn't get talked about much in our youth-obsessed culture, but this is normal stuff. It's ok. It's good to talk about. There's sadness, fear and gratitude.
As I watch my appearance and body change, I see that my physical structure is no longer an exact match my self-image as an athlete, a yogi, a ready-for-adventure, sex-crazed young man.
I'm sad. I'm grieving that I look older. I liked my 20's. I liked having very little responsibility, traveling, sleeping around, doing lots of drugs and looking and feeling just fine the next day. I liked my 30's. I liked throwing myself against the sharp rocks of transformation programs. I liked having authentic romantic relationships for the first time in my life. I loved purpose work and creating a purpose-aligned career.
Throughout these two decades, my body did pretty much everything I asked it to do, and without reservation. Without question. No sleep? You got it, Brandon! Digest a pizza and a pint of ice cream? Bring it! Meditate 10-hours a day for 10 days? Sure! Extreme sports? Yes! 3-week fast? Get after it!
Well, let's just say, I don't do this stuff anymore. Part of it is a lack of desire. Part of it is that I'm getting injured more and am more present to my mortality, to mid-life and the fear that I might not realize my fullest potential and impact. Part of it is that I'm married to a powerful woman who inspires me to be my best self and has zero-tolerance for living with a gluttonous frat boy or a spiritual masochist.
I'm also joyful and grateful that I have a life and career that, while not as economically secure as I'd like, it feels aligned and affords me the opportunity to do what I love - help individuals and organizations flourish by activating their purpose. I give keynotes. I create things that have never existed before, like books, the Global Purpose Leaders and the Science of Purpose. I like 42 on the whole. I like looking my age. I like the greys, the crows feet, the baggy eyes. I've earned 'em.
Every now and again I get asked what my self care routine is. So I thought I'd share the basics about how I care for my mind, body and soul. Let's start with soul. A big piece of my self-care is my weekly MKP men's circle on Wednesday evenings and my weekly call with my best friend, Pat, where I process my emotions and where I'm stuck and unaligned. With luck, I'll have a breakthrough. I'm beginning to get more involved with MKP leadership, so there will be more NWTA weekends, leadership accountabilities, trainings and breakthroughs in the future.
I believe in the oxygen mask theory - we've got to care for ourselves before we can truly care for others. I believe the body is sacred. It's an end in and of itself, a sacred earthly creation, and also a vehicle for pleasure and purpose. My self-care routine is the better part of 5 hours every morning (~6-11am). It includes prayer, meditation, reading, writing, exercise, a green smoothie and shower. I listen to my body and ask it what exercise it wants. Sometimes a vigorous vinyasa practice, sometimes a long walk on the beach, sometimes cross-training, sometimes pull-ups, sometimes a gentle yoga practice in my backyard.
By 11am, I feel nourished, whole, centered and am ready to contribute to others until 6pmish. I also will find a break for a burrito, massage, playing guitar or a 15-minute nap. At night, I enjoy two scotches, connect with my wife, eat, cuddle, fall asleep next to her. I get up in the morning feeling rested and without an alarm clock. I look over at my wife, kiss her on the cheek and feel grateful and excited for another day on purpose.
I do splurge on occasion. I'll party hard when friends are in town. I'll knock down a double double at In'n'Out. I'll enjoy a cigar in my back yard.
I like 42. It ain't 22 or 32, but on the whole, it feels good. I get that most 42 year-olds don't have this experience. Most are parents, whose mornings, afternoons and evenings are not their own. We'll see how my experience shifts when a kid and mortgage payment arrive:)
Checking in with sadness, anger, hopeless today. I'm at the Social Innovation Summit in LA and have only heard one person mention the climate crisis. No one has brought up the collapse of our democratic institutions. No one has questioned the capitalist system that creates all the externalities their jobs are designed to address. Let me be more specific - their jobs depend on capitalism creating these problems.
I’m wondering if any of these assholes even know about the UN IPPC report, if they have really grokked that we have 10 years to completely re-boot our complex interdependent presence on this planet. Do they get that their children's lives are at stake? Have they experienced Drew Dellinger's Hieroglyphic Stairway? Are they moved by Greta Thunberg?
Instead, we’re jerking off CSR, microfinance and philanthropy execs by giving them our attention.
I’m wondering if I should sit through another day of this, or if there is something more purposeful to do with my time.
I think I’m especially hit hard, as I’m in a deeper inquiry around my contribution and impact. Right now, I’m not feeling as connected to soul and purpose awakening as I am to the word “dignity”. For me, dignity is in crisis. We don’t have a dignified relationship to our planet, our souls, each other. We don’t have a dignified economy. We don't have grown ass men and women dignifying the sacred charge of their offices. We have a bunch of clowns competing for power and mindshare.
This morning, I was sharing my experience with my wife on the phone and a guy overheard me. Turns out he was the former head of CSR at Deloitte. He agreed, this is bullshit. Social Innovation is bullshit. CSR, impact investing, philanthropy - all bullshit. Not what’s needed now.
It’s time for a bigger game.
There were many purposeful people doing their thing in 1941 - hundreds of thousands of teachers, bakers, mechanics, factory workers and entrepreneurs who loved their work. However, when it became clear that all we hold sacred is at stake, they put down their craft and picked up a rifle.
It feels like that time. Time to set down my craft, everything I have worked on, scope the field of battle and forge my attack.
A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine who is really into Life Design, ran me through it and said that I’m a reflector. I amplify what is arising. I perceive the world from the vantage point of the world, humanity as humanity, cosmos as cosmos. It resonated. This view was main ingredient in Planet on Purpose.
In this light, purpose work / soul awakening at scale still feels necessary, but not sufficient, not big enough. We need more than soul right now. We need dignity. We need systems that reliably meet our needs, that honor the dignity in each human soul, that empower us to live in harmony and realize our full potential.
So I sit here in the lobby at the Hotel Intercontinental in downtown LA, listening to technopop, watching the train of Louis Vuitton purses and Armani suits network their little cross-fit asses off, and I'm wondering, what would Tyler Durden do?
When I was a younger man, I was very self-righteous about the kind of personal development I would and wouldn't do. I would do hard, extreme things, work with demanding teachers and protocols. I'd do 10-day silent meditation retreats, vision quests, 2 concurrent 10-hour a week training programs (Landmark ILP + PGI Purpose Guide Training), 3 hits of acid and on a solo journey at Burning Man, and fast for 3-weeks (I lost 30 lbs. and couldn't think or walk). I had it that the harder, more difficult, extreme and elite something was, the better.
"Pain is weakness leaving the body." - Arnold Schwarzenegger
My book, Planet on Purpose, contains a good deal of this sophomoric vigor. I made it longer and more complex than it needed to be. I was showing off. I wanted everyone to know I was the real deal - smart, passionate, innovative, unfuckwithable. A common reaction from colleagues was some version of "you're trying to hard." Ouch. True.
In the same vein, I would not do anything that Oprah or Elizabeth Gilbert said was good to do, deeming myself above the mainstream self-help realm. In the last couple years, I have completely reversed my opinion. I now know it's actually harder to write simply, to reach a larger audience and meet them where they are at.
Given that I'm in a period of reflection and renewal, I went back to a mainstream purpose classic, The Passion Test by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood. I did it the first time it came out, around 2006, and then again with my friend and Passion Test facilitator, Randy Crutcher, in 2015. I enjoyed it both times and got something new from it. I did it again this morning and want to share my results.
The premise of The Passion Test is pretty simple. Write down 10-15 passions (talents, ways of being, states of perfect vs. specific goals). Once you have your list, you do a little whittling, by taking the 1st and 2nd and asking which is more alive, more essential. Then the winner from that vs. the 3rd. Then the winner from that vs. the 4th. And so on.
When you get to the end of the list, then you have your #1 top passion. You remove that from the list and repeat 4 more times until you now have your top 5 passions.
Here are my top 5:
As for what's next, who knows, but immediately after completing it, an idea occurred to do something big and fun with a crowd funding network. I'm adding it to the list of ideas that are coming through. Stay tuned:)
(a few pics from my last day virtual toast)
Friday, May 31, was my last day at Imperative. Although I had a good deal of success and love the team, it became clear that it’s time for me to drive the purpose movement in other ways. I’m taking the next few weeks to reflect and explore, but want to share a bit of gratitude.
I joined Imperative to develop our California business and had the pleasure of:
In this role, I did what I love - inspire people to bring a deeper connection to purpose into their lives and organizations -, expand the size of the purpose movement, and work with a stellar team equally committed to the movement.
While I’m sad to be leaving, I’m excited for the future - so many possibilities:)
When I began my career as a Purpose Guide, I was talking with my dear friend, Emma. Emma was in her late 20's and seemed to not have a clue about her purpose, so like a fool, I tried to enroll her in the purpose journey. As can be expected, her response was muted. She told me she didn't want to know her purpose, but rather just wanted to explore, play and create.
I have since learned that this too is purposeful.
I've always considered myself somewhat of a generalist, a B+ student, an amateur. I like discovering, playing, creating across a wide variety of fields and mediums. In college, I loved taking 100-level humanities courses. To this day, I love learning, but not perfecting new songs on the guitar. Even though I now have clarity about my gifts, what moves me and what I am devoted to, I still value having an seductive relationship to the unknown.
In this New York Times op-ed, "You Don't Want a Child Prodigy", the case was made that greatness more often the result of breadth, play and experimentation. I agree. Especially in one's teens and twenties, play, creativity, exploration are critical to having a unique experience of oneself. We have to try and fail in a wide variety of things, to develop our intuitions about our purpose, what is ours to do in the world. It's not that explicit purpose / soul discovery work is not helpful, but that there is also no substitute for play, creativity and adventure.
As Bill Plotkin illuminated in his opus "Nature and the Human Soul", the path to purpose must first go through the stage he calls "The Thespian at the Oasis", wherein we try out a bunch of funky stuff, just cuz. Just cuz we wanna. And for many of us in the West, we chose not to give this critical stage its due attention.
I know I didn't. For the most part, I went right from child to hard working student athlete. I bought into the American Dream success ethos and started thinking about college in junior high and how to become wealthy in highschool. Luckily, I regressed and found myself exploring and experimenting heavily in my 20's, until I heard the call to discover my reason for being in my early thirties.
Although this fun, experimental stage is a critical stage of soul / purpose development, it's also not a one and done. It's important and fun to take field trips back to this time of joy, play, spontaneity and creation.
For many years before and after my purpose journey, Burning Man was my favorite structure for no structure. I'd go out to the desert for a week once a year and just roll the dice with each moment, each day. I got hurt, had fun, learned a bunch of cool stuff, danced, almost died, met God, mourned, found love, made some amazing professional connections, had insights, communed with the Cosmos, and basically just allowed myself to listen to my desires.
And today as I explore and listen to what is next for me in terms of my impact and contribution, I am again feeling the call to play. Feeling a call to improv comedy, diving more into the genre of magical realism, maybe writing a song on the guitar.