Paying It Forward

I was fortunate early in my career to go through a series of exercises with my company’s leadership team to establish our core beliefs, purpose statement and ultimately our mission.  Like most people, I believe organizations must adopt and operate accordingly to these values and aspirations.  The core beliefs of an organization consist of a system of guiding principles and tenets – a philosophy of business and life. 

The purpose embodies the organization’s fundamental reason for existence.  It grows out of its core beliefs.  A mission is a bold, compelling, audacious goal that drives the organization towards its purpose.  So, it’s vital for an organization to understand its purpose.  Actually, it’s a fundamental requirement and according research it can be costly if not done so.   Medley and Wilson* claim the presence of a mission statement can result in a 50% increase in organizational effectiveness

Some of my favorite purpose statements from organizations are:

  • Merck – “To preserve and improve human life”
  • Nike – “To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors”
  • Walt Disney – “To make people happy”
  • Patagonia – “To be a role model and tool for social change”

Just like organizations – I believe it’s vital for people too.  We must live by guiding principles and understand our purpose.  For me, I’m fortunate that I don’t have to develop my own guiding principles. There is a trusty book that was written a few thousand years ago, called the Bible that contains the rules I try to follow.  I’m not claiming to be perfect and I make many mistakes, but I do strive to follow the tenets laid out before me. 

No, I don’t think everyone should publish a mission statement for the world to see – rather, it’s important to understand ones purpose.  The process to understanding my purpose has been a journey.   It hasn’t always been so clear, and has refined itself over the years through various experiences.  From these, I’ve come to understand my purpose: to help others through giving my time and other resources available to me.   The theme that would best describe my purpose would be “pay it forward”.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  It sounds like a cliché.  Perhaps, it does but it’s the truth, and I’m thankful for the clarity to understand it.  
I’ve been blessed throughout my life with key figures that played an instrumental role in my development.  As you would expect, my family has been supportive of me and my endeavors.   During my high school years, my track coach Bill Sheskey played a key role and during college Dr. Richardson and Dr. Alexander spent considerable amount of time with me outside the classroom that proved to be pivotal during those years.  Throughout my adult years, there have been many that have been influential to my personal growth and career development.  A few that stand out are Maurice Painter and Brandon Dyson.  They have been gracious with their time and wisdom that have contributed to who I am today.  I’m thankful for these individuals whom invested in me. 

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve been the mentor and not the mentee.  The interesting thing is that people have sought me out.  I’ve enjoyed these opportunities to where I’ve been a trusted advisor to listen, shared my experiences and offered advice when appropriate.  My friend Maurice shared a life lesson with me and his approach is that he will never turn down an opportunity to consult with a stranger.   I like his approach and have adapted it, as well. 

Medley, G. J. (1992). WWF UK creates a new mission. Long Range Planning, 25, 63-68
Wilson, I. (1992). Realizing the power of strategic vision. Long Range Planning, 25(5), 18-28