Chapter 2: Purpose Mastery or Quiet Lives of Desperation?

Its funny that many readers have told me that they have had to camp out in chapter two of The First Questions for weeks. Okay a few there lives got busy sure. The majority however found the same thing I encounter in leaders when I coach. They are not living there purpose.

In fact

They don’t know what their purpose is

Its sad to me that so many people “live lives of quiet desperation” (Thoreau) Rather than engage life with zeal and passion, they trudge through each day clutching tightly to the few things they have identified that matter; typically their family. It really isn’t surprising that the American dream is about having your children live better off than their parents. We want the best for them, we definitely want better for them. I still recall the day my mother firmly corrected me in saying you WILL go to university. No one in my extended family had, to that date, done so. I was to be the first, the success of my parents lineage. They wanted me to succeed. How many parents do you meet that live vicariously through their children? Placing their own desperate dreams onto their children in hope that they can through genetics achieve what they could not in their own life.

All this sounds rather depressing, yet it is not meant to be. As I teach my students to solve a problem we must first understand the current state of the system and the root cause of the undesirable condition present.

So why do most people not know their purpose? I think this has much to do with conditioning. We are raised in a home with parents who espouse certain values and demonstrate certain character traits and behaviors. We take on these beliefs and behaviors ourselves mimicking those we love and or look up to. We stumble into careers based on the limited range of options we perceive are available to us as a young adult then play an elaborate shell game for a career. We move from position to position trying to find anything that fits us. ┬áSometimes we are let go and stagger in the wake trying desperately to pick up the pieces of our lives. We get distracted, we fall in love, we buy stuff, get saddled with debt, have kids, repeat the whole cycle again and again…

Somewhere along the way some of us wake up just enough to say “Is this all there is?” Some call it a midlife crisis and make radical changes, some find religion, some go back to sleep, back to the drudgery.

What do true leaders do?

There is so much crap written about leaders that it is hard to say in as eloquent way as is needed what the answer to this question is. Honestly I am convinced that a significant proportion of so called experts on leadership truly haven’t for a clue of what real leadership is let alone become an expert commentator telling you all about it.

A true leader first looks deep within before they ever look out. They struggle to understand the inner conflicts that exist within themselves. They untangle the knots of beliefs they inherited from their parents and from their society. They make sense of these and can articulate what they actually believe. They dig into the pain and anguish and broken places deep in their heart and learn to forgive and move beyond. They develop a deep sense of inner peace about who they are and what their gifts and limitations are. They learn the long arduous process of loving others such that they can lead them. They learn to see those they lead as similarly flawed human beings in need of direction and care.

This internal process really a life long effort refers to personal mastery and is the point of chapter 1 of The First Questions. Without this it is rather hard to figure out what your purpose truly is. For this reason many struggle their entire life to find meaning. In The First Questions I walk readers through a series of topics that help them begin to uncover their unique purpose. Thing is you have to know yourself and be in tune to listening to your inner voice for this process to work. Do you know your passions? Do you understand the root of your emotional reactions? Are you aware of the struggles of others around you? Do you allow yourself to feel their pain, joy, anger, fear, anxiety, love, desperation?


The work of leadership demands you have a fire deep inside your gut that connects with your leadership role. What is that thing that helps you get back up when you are knocked down for the seventh time? Don’t be the person who goes through the motions, punching a clock. Be the person with a fire in your eye, a sense of purpose that will not be denied.

Be that person!

Ch 2 The First Questions




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