Purpose > Ambition

 If you are an executive and currently feeling ill, this may well explain it.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain

In Indiana Jones – The Last Crusade, the knight encourages Donovan to “choose wisely” the cup. As we all know, he didn’t and death quickly overtook him. Over the last 10+ years, I have allocated one morning a week to meet with men who selected the wrong career. For some reason, I get weekly requests to meet with men (age 30-50) who are searching for true purpose, due to a lack of fulfillment in their current careers. So what happened?

Like Donovan, these men chose poorly. Somewhere in their past, they sought ambition over purpose, or their parents or mentors encouraged them to pursue something not aligned to their purpose. In the last few months, I have met specifically with one gentleman who, at the age of 41, decided to pursue his passion. It was a difficult decision, because it meant he had to start from the bottom. There was no lateral movement, Today, he is quickly rising through ranks of his organization, but I keep reminding him to stay focused on the goals we set, appreciate the inner well-being he now has. Is he making less financially? Heck yes, but the purpose bucket in his life is being filled each day. Regretfully, most men I meet with can’t change course because they are so in debt. There is rarely a lateral movement in these cases, and it requires starting at the bottom of the rung.

Business experts and psychologists make the case that purpose is a key to exceptional performance in both business and life. Specifically, psychologists describe it as the pathway to greater well-being. Doctors have even found that people with purpose in their lives are less prone to disease. If you know my story, I had a tumor in my colon at the age of 39 that re-corrected my course and put me back on purpose. (To learn more, read my book JUNK, available at Amazon.) I had multiple companies, board member for multiple non-profits, running for state senate, a third child on the way, and struggling to juggle it all.

“Purpose is increasingly being touted as the key to navigating the complex, volatile, ambiguous world we face today, where strategy is ever changing and few decisions are obviously right or wrong.” HBR May 2014

I see so many men putting their business legacy over their family legacy. The desire for status, to simply validate who they are, exceeds the desire to impact their family’s life. Wives seek approval from other men, and children seek happiness in drugs. It is a common scene in our most affluent communities. In many of the men I work with, they are seeking to gain validation from their fathers. They simply want to hear their dads say, “I am proud of you.”

People who are seeking ambition over purpose will begin to find the success they find yields no internal satisfaction. The new car smell quickly wears off. They fail to achieve internal success, and fail to realize their true professional and personal legacy. If you are in a place of depression, sickness, or miserable at the life you selected, get with a mentor or executive coach to help you take the tiller of your life and correct course before it is too late. FYI- It is never too late.

Mitch Smith
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Contact Mitch Smith at 803.466.3220 or [email protected]