Your purpose story is fundamental to who you are as a person, at your core, and what you want others to believe about you. It’s about how and why you want to make meaning in the world. But it’s also a universal story that everyone can relate to. Why not spend a few hours this weekend on a treasure hunt with the kids?
We all have a desire to understand how we came to be who we are, to know other people’s backstories, and to see a larger purpose in life. Your purpose is what made you want to lead. It gives context to where you and your company came from and where you are heading.
A purpose story isn’t about making a lot of money. It’s about an ideal—wanting to make a better product or create a service that will serve people better. This story often involves transformation, a defining moment that led you to your purpose in life. It gives people a sense of where you’ve come from and where you’re heading and ties together your business, your philosophy, and the contribution that you want to make as a leader. Ultimately, your purpose is not about you but about how you want to make a difference in your customers’ lives.
Suze Orman is a personal finance guru with an in-your-face style on her cable television show and nine consecutive New York Times best-selling personal finance books. (You know she’s a personal brand by the quirky spelling of her first name.) Orman’s purpose story involves her family’s precarious financial condition during her childhood in Chicago. A defining moment came when a fire engulfed her father’s chicken takeout store, and he rushed back in to recover the cash register, leaving him with third-degree burns. That’s when Orman learned that “money was more important than life.”
Later she worked as a waitress at the Buttercup Bakery in Berkeley, California, before she took charge of her career and financial life. Orman describes her purpose as her desire “to change the way Americans think, talk, and act about money.” Howard Schultz of Starbucks famously wanted to create the “third place”—after home and the office—to hang out, but he also had a deeper purpose story. His defining moment was when his father lost his job and the family lost its health insurance when he was a kid. So part of Schultz’s leadership purpose is to provide health insurance, even for part-time workers at Starbucks.