It was an average Saturday morning on the westside of Los Angeles. My buddy Warren was in town and staying with us. We decided to take a walk to our local diner (OP Cafe for you locals) for some Saturday morning brunch.
We were chatting away as Warren and I are prone to do when catching up. He is one of my favorite friends because our conversations range from stuff we are reading and have recently learned to pop culture, family, and relationship challenges. It’s all very Sex in the City (if Sex in the City had been set in LA and featured 40-year-old men as the protagonists.)
I am not quite sure how it came up. But I know right when it happened. We were waiting to cross the street at a stoplight. Warren said to me, “I read this article recently about how to find your life’s purpose.”
I was intrigued. I have been wondering about the purpose of my life for as long as I can remember.
“How?” I asked. Curiously.
Warren replied, “Think about your childhood. What was most absent that you wish you could have had? Your life’s purpose is to bring that to others.”
I could not believe what happened next.
I started to tear up right at that intersection on the side of the road.
Now I have no idea if that question is as big an unlock for others as it was for me. But for me, it was transformative.
I realized what was missing most in my childhood was real connection. Although I had loving parents and good childhood friends, I spent much of my childhood feeling lonely. I longed for deeper human connection and often wondered if I was alone in my desire.
At that stoplight, I experienced the clarity I had desired for many years. The purpose of my life is to help others feel less alone.
This clarity has reframed the way I think about my life and my work.
In my life, I am now clear that the purpose of relationships for me is real connection. Experiences and adventure are lovely. But I am really in it for the connection.
As a parent, I now realize my main aim is connection with my kids. I can teach them things; I can help ensure they learn proper manners and a sense of right and wrong. But what I most desire to be for them as a parent is a source of real connection. I want them to know that whatever happens elsewhere in their lives; their relationship with me is a place they can feel seen, understood, and heard.
This clarity has also changed the way I think about my work.
By some measures, my work at the moment is a bit scattered.
I spend much of my time coaching CEOs and other executives. But I also run a new podcast, do quite a lot of writing, invest, and even have a new app I am tinkering with during this pandemic. The thru-line in all of it for me now is that all that work is aimed at the same purpose: helping others feel less alone.
I coach so that leaders are less alone in the most challenging moments. I write and podcast so that other entrepreneurs do not think they are the only ones going through the hard parts, the self-doubts, or the anxieties. Even this app I am working on is aimed at helping people to be more connected and less alone.
The app, in particular, has been a funny thing. I thought after selling my last company, I was burned out on software and tired of the endless cycles of brainstorming, building, testing, talking to customers, etc. etc. etc. What I realize as I once again dip my toe in the water of product is that I was not burned out on building. I was burned out on feeling misaligned with my work.
I spent the first 30+ years of my life having no idea what my life’s purpose was. Because I did not have a strong sense of my purpose, I was unable to choose work that was aligned with the change I wanted to see and make in the world. I ended up running a fantastic company that had no direct alignment with my own heart. And that is a recipe for burnout.
Understanding the thru-line in my work across projects has been tremendously energizing for me. I know what I am about. I know why I am here. I know the changes I want to make through my relationships and my work.
I am loving exploring this new approach to my life and work. I am tremendously grateful to all those to help me arrive here. And of course a special note of appreciation to Warren.
What do you know and not know about your purpose for your life?
What happens for you when you explore that question of what was lacking in your childhood?
Are there other routes you have found helpful in discovering your purpose?
Where are you aware of misalignment in your own life? What are you willing to do about it?
If you are looking for a partner in your exploration, I would love to speak with you. This work is not easily navigated alone; let me know if I can help.