By Anna M Clark
Interesting factoid in publishing: one of the best-selling non-fiction books ever written is Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It has sold 30 million copies since it came out in 2002. Success of any given book is contingent upon many variables, but one of the most important is whether the book addresses a “felt need.” If Warren’s book is any indicator, purpose is a need that people are absolutely responding to – even more than the need to make money. Case in point: Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grown Rich has also sold 30 million copies – since 1937. “Purpose” has attracted as many people in 8 YEARS as “get rich” has in almost 80.
This little bit of trivia landed on my radar about 8 months ago while gearing up for the launch of my book Green, American Style. Searching for the secret to turning out a bestseller (what else can I say?), I bought Purpose Driven Life. I can’t believe how simple the message is (though admittedly not easy). While Warren’s book communicates a sound message, I’m not crazy about his churchy, goody-goody style.
On the other hand we have Think and Grow Rich. This is a great book. I love how it uses real-world/historical examples as well as insights into the psychology of motivation. My only issue with this book is that its main objective is to teach the reader how to make money. Certainly not a bad thing in itself. But from my experience, chasing monetary reward can sap my energy and push me away from activities that fuel my sense of fulfillment.
So what about a book that mixes the best of both worlds? I don’t mean a preachy book about why God wants us to grow rich. I mean a smart, insightful, and practical book about how to gain richness in life by achieving our God-given purpose. If you are still with me here, then you now know the topic of my new project.
I started my company EarthPeople because I believe that when you change the way people think, they can become capable, enthusiastic catalysts for a fairer, more just society. I believe that people are a renewable resource. Empowering others is my personal way of unleashing a source of clean, abundant energy to feed the world’s needs. In pursuit of said goal, I work in renewable energy both literally (brand consulting for clean energy companies) and figuratively (motivating people to contribute their gifts for a better world). I uncovered this dual PURPOSE, unique only to me, five years ago. I set out to pursue both the branding and training part of the work, but somehow the branding stuff took over (because people actually wanted to pay me to do it). As a result, for the past several years I’ve spent more time wordsmithing than world-changing. You might say I’ve been so busy protecting the trees that I’ve lost sight of the forest.
When we lose sight of our purpose (or even half of it), work becomes stale. When work becomes stale, we stop being good at it. When we stop being good at what we do, we stop wanting to do it altogether. (For this reason, I’ll be focusing more on training again). This is something that all entrepreneurs face. Naturally optimistic and passionate, we may have an easier time of pursuing our purpose than some other personality types. Then again, being ambitious, driven, and capitalistic, we also have an easier time of losing our purpose if it isn’t directly tied to our immediate income. As we manipulate our businesses to maximize dollars, the reason for which we start the can get pushed aside.
Of course, losing sight of the higher purpose also happens with doctors and lawyers, as well as frustrated teachers and clergy. Nobody is immune. The thing to do when you feel it happening is to correct the course as soon as you discover the problem. I’ve got my own ideas for how to do this but until I solidify them, I’m keeping the experiment open. (Amazingly, only a week after I made this decision, I signed a new client for a project focused exclusively on training and behavioral change!)
Ironically, for all my initial judgments about it, Rick Warren’s book really does have a lot of great material to say on the subject of purpose. Who knew? Some of us just have to learn things the hard way!