Sunday, November 27, 2011

What's Your One Sentence (Purpose) at Work?

I just finished Daniel Pink's Drive, recommended by a friend / fellow GEer from my congregation.  A great read, many wonderful nuggets to explore and contemplate.  The three-legged stool of autonomy, mastery and purpose is especially relevant.

The one that sticks with me right now is Pink's reference to Claire Boothe Luce and her advice to John F. Kennedy, resonant with Kawasaki's seminal Positioning Statement in his own book, Enchantment:

In 1962, Clare Boothe Luce, one of the first women to serve in the U.S. Congress, offered some advice to President John F. Kennedy. “A great man,” she told him, “is one sentence.” Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” Franklin Roosevelt’s was: “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped us win a world war.” Luce feared that Kennedy’s attention was so splintered among different priorities that his sentence risked becoming a muddled paragraph.

You don’t have to be a president—of the United States or of your local gardening club—to learn from this tale. One way to orient your life toward greater purpose is to think about your sentence. Maybe it’s: “He raised four kids who became happy and healthy adults.” Or “She invented a device that made people’s lives easier.” Or “He cared for every person who walked into his office regardless of whether that person could pay.” Or "She taught two generations of children how to read.”

As you contemplate your purpose, begin with the big question: What’s your sentence?

My own sentence sounds something like the quote on the banner I bought at Peaceful Inspirations a few weeks ago:

It is literally true
that you can succeed best and quickest
by helping others to succeed.

What is your one sentence (purpose) at work, vocationally or both? Share it so we can all know it and uplift it, too.


  1. Until you reach a certain income level, most people don't think about this and aren't at work for any other reason than to make money and survive. For instance, im not sure the master Barista at Starbucks would be there if they had a choice. Unfortunately the laws of natural selection say you must feed your own mouth before others. Even myself as a senior network engineer knows that I am limited in my abilities to make much of an impact on humanity through my current role. Therefore, I don't really try to allign my career goals with too much outside of maximizing my profits from money invested in myself in the form of education and knowledge. I usually donate money or time on the weekend to the causes I wish to support.

  2. Chris, you're clear about your purpose and that's great.

    Knowing my purpose is not mutually exclusive from meeting my basic survival needs (e.g., making $100 a week as a writer right out of college): I've done both simultaneously and it's proven to be an interesting path.