The Purpose of Life
In light of a recent tragic event affecting a wonderful family connected to many who receive four-i each week and also sadly marking the second anniversary of my nephew’s fatal accident I’ve been reflecting on my purpose and that of the Property Academy.
In the beginning, the business was set up as a consequence of working with many companies on their marketing but discovering that rather than a communications issue, they actually had business problems and missed opportunities that needed a different prescription than a new website or advertising campaign. In time this led to our working with many company owners at ever deeper levels including several where it became much more personal, i.e. we were helping them individually as much if not more than assisting with their business operations. Today it’s a combination of the two – we assist people and their businesses to fulfil their potential, indeed we aim to go further and actually inspire them to realise their all, to be the best that they can be.
Now, whilst I’ve shared this with several people, sometimes in a lighthearted, jokey kind of way, I do believe that the most important lesson I’ve learned in forty years of working with many brilliant people, some of whom have achieved quite extraordinary things, is what “it” is all about – i.e. the purpose of life. I can hear my daughter saying, “whoa, that’s heavy Dad”, but as I say, in view of what happened two weeks ago and also in Ben’s memory I offer up what might be the biggest lesson I have to share.
I believe there are three components to achieving a fulfilled life:
1. Be the best that you can be.
Everyone has something they either are or could be brilliant at. Often we dismiss these things as being “not that impressive” or of little/no consequence, perhaps because we’re so exceptional at it we don’t give it due credit. My sense is the British are particularly poor at self recognition, we often amplify our negatives and play down our talents. This is a great shame because by continuing to invest in areas where we excel, we have the potential to break through new heights. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve had so many Olympians, other sporting legends and adventurers at our events – they all have an incredible story to tell of how they managed to fulfil their potential. This year we have Natalia Cohen describing her nine month row across the Pacific – it’s a truly inspiring story. Likewise hearing Jonathan Davies talk about overcoming personal tragedies, one after another, to rise to the very top of both codes of rugby. We also have three young agents, that have each started their own business because they know they have it in them to succeed, who will share their inspiration. Every single one of us can be exceptional at something – it won’t necessarily be easy, indeed it’s likely to be extremely tough, but we have it in us and fulfilment is, in part, making the most of what we have, to be the best that we can be.
2. Have loving relationships.
To quote the poet, John Donne:
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”
Most of us function better when we are in and have loving relationships. And rather than restrict these to immediate family, the most fulfilled people I know have high quality, deep and meaningful relationships with many people. What’s more, they tend to go into each interaction with a spirit that’s positive and open and trusting. Yes, this might expose them and leave them vulnerable, (I know I’ve been fooled a few times), but that’s a small price to pay for the dividend of seeking and pursuing mutual benefit, indeed as Stephen Covey taught me, the key is to seek the interest of another first.
3. To make a meaningful contribution
I remember first hearing this lyric, (from Crazy by Seal) and being really disturbed by it:
“A man decides after seventy years
That what he goes there for, is to unlock the door”
Just imagine that the summary of your life’s work is to just open up the shop.
Having seen thousands of people do amazing things for the different charities I’m connected with, I deeply believe that at our core we wish to contribute and that not to do so would leave us totally unfulfilled. Similarly, so many successful business people continue to work despite having achieved financial freedom because the purpose of their organisation is far greater than just generating an income. Whether you like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Walt Disney or not, (to name just three of many), you have to acknowledge they made a significant contribution to the world and did so long after their financial security was assured.
Each of these three components, that add up to my take on the purpose of life, deal with a different dimension. The first is to do with self, the second your immediate community and the third with the wider society. I think that our purpose is about achievement in all three.
Tragically, as evidenced two weeks ago, life doesn’t pan out as it should. But for those of us lucky enough to be in good health and able to take on the challenges and opportunities presented, I feel it’s good to occasionally get above the daily minutiae and remind ourselves of our true purpose.
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