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One true purpose

There is so much to learn in this life, and we are all so busy, busy, busy. I make the time to read, because I find it one of the best ways of importing the experience and wisdom of others. You’ll very often find me with my nose buried in a book by business writers such as Karen Martin or Peter Drucker. I’m fascinated by success stories, and the fact that people rarely get where they planned to go by following a straight line. The road to success usually has many bumps along the way!

I also gain great insights from being challenged in my views by the works of Yuval Noah Harari, whose Homo Deus rocked my world when I first came across it a few years ago. And at the opposite end of the spectrum from business gurus, I’m fond of the writings of Eckhart Tolle, praised by Oprah Winfrey who said, “I keep Eckhart’s book at my bedside. I think it’s essential spiritual teaching. It’s one of the most valuable books I’ve ever read.”

So why am I mentioning these various writers and thinkers? Have I started a book club? No, but I do want to look at a factor which can determine the success of a startup or new business, and that continuum I have just outlined of my reading, from Martin to Tolle lies at the heart of it. The key question is: What’s the reason for you doing your business?

One Lambo good, three better?

What’s my reason? This may at first sound like a completely stupid question, but pause, think a moment. If your reply is that the reason for your business is to provide you with a Lamborghini or three, then OK, I can accept that. Some entrepreneurs really are driven by the desire to create wealth, and be seen to have created it. But is that the ultimate force which pushes them to succeed? I suspect not. I mentioned Oprah Winfrey, who by almost any measure is a successful person (with a net worth of $7 billion in 2019). She was born in extreme poverty to a single mother, and became pregnant herself at the age of 14 – not the greatest of starts in life. And yet she is hugely influential, a brilliant entrepreneur, and yes, very rich. But did she set out to have a net worth of $7 billion? I very much doubt it.


Which leads me to another observation about people who start businesses: they must have a sense of purpose, and that is actually the thing which marks out someone as being potentially successful. Not only is there a sense of purpose, but they must develop their true purpose. This is where my observations are more towards the Eckhart Tolle end of the spectrum. It’s clear that if you are in business, then a measure of success is that it makes a profit over time. Maybe not at first, but by diligent management, you’ll get there. If it doesn’t make a profit, then it isn’t a business. Maybe it’s something else, like a charity, but what I’m talking about are startups and new businesses which have all the characteristics of a machine designed to make money. In other words, no-one sets out to lose money!

Purpose provides the reality check

When we know our own true purpose, then it gives us a different kind of reality check to what we get from spreadsheets and balance sheets. So I ask you again, are you an entrepreneur because you want to get rich (and the sooner the better!), or because it will support and develop your true purpose?

Perhaps my own story is instructive. I have always been fascinated by business, and created startups in Europe and the USA, as well as becoming an investor and advisor in the crypto arena. By most external measures, you would say that I was successful. And yet, and yet… I increasingly felt that simply ‘doing business’ wasn’t my true purpose. Fortunately, I became ever more involved in startups as an advisor, coach and trainer, and I have gradually come to understand that this is my true purpose: to help others on their own path to success. Of course my path must also be successful, to generate profits which support my family and my team. My path must also be sustainable, so that what I do today I can do again tomorrow. Sometimes there will be huge changes as I hit those ‘bumps in the road’, but I can now say with sincerity that I know exactly why I do the work which I do.

So it’s actually not an easy or ‘soft’ question to ask yourself: What is my true purpose? Find the honest answer and you will most likely have found the key to being Serious About Success.


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