What’s Your Purpose? Can you Make It a Brief Description?

Abundance Purpose


Over the years I have spent considerable time thinking about and working on my life’s purpose. I once spent a week away on a personal excellence program, deep in the Oregon woods, on sort of a personal “anthropological dig” with the aim of better defining my life’s purpose. My work on the Character Triangle had its genesis there. The essence of spending time on one’s purpose is built around the belief that each of us will achieve a greater sense of fulfillment if we can define our life’s mission and build on our core strengths and attributes. This goes beyond “form” ( i.e. what type of job/career we have …e.g. engineer) or “outcome”  ( i.e. end result …e.g. make a lot of money). Developing a life’s purpose is a deeper and more motivating concept. Ideally it is the basis for the action we take daily and in total summarizes our reason for being. My formal purpose statement has a spiritual, physical, and personal relationship dimension to it that I won’t go into here. But my work purpose is to make a meaningful and lasting contribution by adding enormous value to others as a leader, teacher, and coach. I have been in many different roles and companies, but my personal work mission remains my anchor regardless of changing circumstances. In my current role I want to achieve all the success that is measured by financial means but this is not what drives me and gets me up in the morning.

I realize that many of us feel fortunate in this current economic environment just to have a job. And all of us have a variety of personal ups and downs that can make the idea of a purpose statement seem almost trivial. It could even feel like an academic exercise to spend time on this. But my view is that investing in this is a very worthwhile and practical personal activity. Most of us don’t have the luxury of going into the woods to self reflect. But there is merit in having this intimate conversation with yourself over a cup of coffee or during a quiet walk. If you want a kick start, I suggest you get involved in an exercise called ”What’s Your Sentence:  The Movie.”

Many of you who read my blog know that I’m a fan of Dan Pink. And readers of his book Drive may remember the “What’s Your Sentence?” exercise from page 154. Dan has a 2-minute video (below) to get up to speed if you need a refresher.  The exercise asks you to distill your life — what it’s about, why you’re here — into a single sentence. It’s tough, but it’s powerful. I encourage you to participate.

The Character Triangle is a value and habit system and when you apply it to your life’s purpose it becomes exponential in its value to each of us and all the people we interact with. Please invest in yourself on this. You’re worth it.

With character and purpose,


No Steroids! Get There with Extra Value & Creativity

Abundance Contribution


This is not intended as a political statement but a personal appeal regarding how I think you and I make a difference to America, and our ability to compete better on the global stage. I have the luxury of travelling to other parts of the world and am watching global competition unfold daily. The US is in an economic “dog fight.” You and I are in it whether we like it or not. It’s personal and it is not going away. There is no back to the future relative to global competition and the personal impact on our daily lives.

I really respect Thomas Friedman, the New York Times Pulitzer prize winning author, as great thinker and journalist. Some of you may reject Friedman and the NYT because your views differ with its political stance. But I ask you to have an open mind regarding quotes from Friedman’s article in the Sunday New York Times, October 25. 2010.

“We compensated for years of stagnating middle-class wages the easy way. Just as baseball players in the ’90s injected themselves with steroids to artificially build muscle to hit more home runs — instead of doing real bodybuilding — our two parties injected steroids, cheap credit, into Wall Street so it could go gambling and into Main Street so it could go home-buying. They both started hitting home runs, artificially — until the steroids ran dry. Now we have to rebuild America’s muscles the old-fashioned way.

…good jobs at scale come only when we create more products and services that make people’s lives more healthy, more productive, more secure, more comfortable or more entertained — and then sell them to more people around the world. And in a global economy, we have to create those products and services with a work force that is so well trained and productive that it can leverage modern technology so that one American can do the work of 20 Chinese and, therefore, get paid the same as 20 Chinese. There is no other way…

Lawrence Katz, the Harvard University labor economist, has it right. Everyone today, he says, needs to think of himself as an “artisan” — the term used before mass manufacturing to apply to people who made things or provided services with a distinctive touch in which they took personal pride. Everyone today has to be an artisan and bring something extra to their jobs.

For instance, says Katz, the baby boomers are aging, which will spawn many health care jobs. Those jobs can be done in a low-skilled way by cheap foreign workers and less-educated Americans or they can be done by skilled labor that is trained to give the elderly a better physical and psychological quality of life. The first will earn McWages. The second will be in high demand. The same is true for the salesperson that combines passion with a deep knowledge of fashion trends, the photo-store clerk who can teach you new tricks with your digital camera while the machine prints your film, and the pharmacist who doesn’t just sell pills but learns to relate to customer health needs in more compassionate and informative ways. They will all do fine.

But just doing your job in an average way — in this integrated and automated global economy — will lead to below-average wages. Sadly, average is over. We’re in the age of “extra,” and everyone has to figure out what extra they can add to their work to justify being paid more than a computer, a Chinese worker or a day laborer. “People will always need haircuts and health care,” says Katz, “and you can do that with low-wage labor or with people who acquire a lot of skills and pride and bring their imagination to do creative and customized things.” Their work will be more meaningful and their customers more satisfied……..”


This idea may seem somewhat exhausting to you. But I encourage each of us to use it to our advantage. The Character Triangle gives us a framework and system that will help us become artisans and to put definition behind what “extra” means. It does not necessarily require us working Saturday and Sundays, but it does mean thinking about every day as a day we can sharpen our skills and add more value.

This is back to the good old fashioned commitment to being personally excellent every day. The CT will help! It is exhilarating to compete by being better everyday personally. If we commit to being great individually the collective force will take on a momentum of its own. Let’s win.

Live the Triangle,


Using the Character Triangle to Build Trust

Accountability Books Organizational leadership


I promised in a previous post that I would have more on Lisa Gansky’s thought provoking book Mesh. Gansky states that there are seven keys to building trust in a Mesh environment:

  1. Say what you do (manage expectations)
  2. Use Trials
  3. Do what you say
  4. Perpetually delight customers
  5. Embrace social networks and go deep
  6. Value transparency but protect privacy
  7. Deal with negative publicity and feedback promptly and skillfully

Upon reflection, I think the same principles apply to our behavior as individuals in an organization. Self accountability involves delivering on our promises. When we do that; it builds trust with those around us.

Think about each of the seven trust builders above and how you might apply them personally. In Gansky’s book, she points out that San Francisco based Curtis Kimball’s Creme Brulee cart is so popular, he’s attracted 14,000 followers on Twitter. People tweet where he is, flavors offered, etc. Is it possible to create this type of response at work? How do we get fans raving about our work? Why is it important?

Building trust in our work environment is important. When we live in the Character Triangle, we take responsibility for our personal behavior. When we build trust amongst others, people want to work with us and for us.

In the Character Triangle,


The “Go” Game at Work

Accountability Collaboration Teamwork


Partnership and relationship skills have always been important but in the rapidly changing ecosystems that surround us, this capability becomes heightened. More than ever we have to be capable of listening and attending to the agenda of the groups that make up our supply chain. It is not a winning strategy, if it ever was, to take a win-lose position in these relationships (unless in mortal combat of course). The most constructive position is to be abundant in our mindset; how can we expand the benefit to all rather than a “winner take all” approach.

In the literally acclaimed novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, there is a great quote about the great Asian-based game of “Go”:  “It has been proven that in order to win, you must live, but you must also allow the other player to live. Players that are too greedy will lose. It’s a subtle game of equilibrium… what matters is building well.” (p 110)

I don’t know much about the game of Go, but I do know there is much wisdom in it. I think what matters most is building well. When it comes to working with colleagues or other departments, the same principles apply:

  1. Make it a partnership so you can both win.
  2. Avoid zero sum (winner take all) situations. Don’t be greedy.
  3. Build well. Be proud of the work you do and the contribution you make.
  4. Bring other people and departments into building well.

Who are people and/or departments you can better apply these principles with?

You may also want to learn the game of GO.

Live in the Triangle,


The Chilean Miners’ Business

Courage Resilience


None of us really know how we would react under dire circumstances. The answer only comes if fate chooses to put us in such a spot. But we can learn a lot from the actions of others who live to tell the tale. The incredible rescue and survival of the Chilean miners from the San Jose mine is a spotlight on the character of man. Stories that may be somewhat disappointing are likely to emerge at a later date but for now this is what we know:

  1. The miners chose NOT to be victims from the beginning. For 17 days without contact to the outside world they chose to live, to fight, and to move forward.
  2. They worked together as a team, recognizing they each had a role to play in surviving. Imagine the respect for self and others during the 69 days. Anything else would have torn them apart.
  3. They took 2 days worth of food and made it last 17. They chose to focus on what they had, not what they lacked. They had an abundant mind set in the scarcest environment.

The last miner up the rescue capsule, at his insistence, was the shift supervisor Luis Urzua. This man, while I obviously know little about him, likely embodies every element of the Character Triangle. His leadership was symbolized by his last act as shift supervisor. He chose to be first by being last.

While suffocating in total darkness sometimes generates the brightest light, you and I (thankfully) can embody and employ the aspects of self accountability, respect, and abundance daily without the need of a rescue capsule. What we need is the conscious presence and commitment to act that way daily.

Thank you to the Chilean miners and their competent and brave rescue team to remind us who we are and what living with character means.

Live the Triangle,


Do You Have a Black Book?

Accountability Personal leadership Productivity


For the last 20 plus years I’ve carried a Black and Red notebook with me daily. Why? I make a point, at every meeting or interaction, of highlighting key listening points. I often mind map the comments, collecting them into a system of connected points. This helps me remember, recall, and really focus on the conversation in a robust and meaningful way. Rarely a day goes by without me referring to notes from one or more of these meetings.  I have hundred’s of archived notebooks.

Listening and journaling go hand in hand. If we’re going to live the Character Triangle it is important to capture the viewpoints of others and to specifically note commitments made (especially ours). So I highly recommend using a book to keep a record of our transcripts (an analogue version). If you are more digitally inclined the iPad is a great tool too. This may replace my Black and Red.

One final note: at the end of each day, write down how we “moved the ball down the field.” What progress, however small, did we accomplish? This simple but habitual journal entry will give us a sense of accomplishment. Also it is beneficial to write down one example of where we’ve applied the Character Triangle too. This way, cultural development and character development growth together.

At the end of reasonable milestones, we can review our progress. The little stuff ends up being momentum.

Do you have a black book? Start now. Get one.

with Character,