Steven Jobs and his company Apple have been in the media a lot lately. Mr. Jobs was on the cover of Time Magazine just recently; his company released the innovative iPad and a new version of the iPhone. All this reminded me of the commencement speech he gave to the 2005 Stanford University graduating class and how it aligns nicely with the fundamental foundation of my blog of increasing the quality of life and living it with purpose.
The key message Mr. Jobs shared with the graduating class, was a simple question he’s been asking himself for the past 33 years. Looking in the mirror each morning, Mr. Jobs asks himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I do what I’m about to do”, and if the answer is no three days in a row, he stops whatever he’s been doing and does something different.
Now pause for a moment and think about this question and how you reacted to it.
If you’re like most people I speak with and coach, they say something like, “Well that’s easy for Stephen Jobs to say, he has all the money in the world and can do whatever he wants”. How quickly we equate this question to money or employment.
Most people generally describe, or define their lives’ in material terms, ie. How much money they earn, the house they own, the car they drive, the job they have, or the position they hold within a company. Just ask someone what they do and they’ll quickly tell you about their job, or their position within the company that employs them.
What Mr. Jobs was asking the Stanford grads to do, was to find the Purpose that defines their lives and only do the things that are complimentary to that purpose. It’s no surprise that Mr. Jobs would ask the grads to challenge themselves in this way because "purpose" is everything to him and his company, Apple. When he co-founded Apple Computer, he and his partners defined its purpose as, “make a contribution to the world by marketing tools for the mind that advance humankind”. You’ll notice that “making money” has nothing to do with Apple’s purpose. That’s not to say they’re not making boat loads of it, but it’s not what drives them. As one of the very early Apple executives, Guy Kawasaki says, “if your purpose is to make money, you will never make meaning, and you will probably never make money”.
Every decision at Apple since 1982, except for the 10 years that former Pepsi CEO, John Scully ran Apple and almost drove it into bankruptcy because he didn’t live the purpose, is driven by their strong understanding and commitment to purpose. Their purpose is much bigger than just making money and their tremendous success is the result of every employee living this purpose and giving their customers, partners and investors “reasons to believe”. They make money to stay in business; it’s not why they’re in business. To learn more about purpose and brand, read my daughters blog at "More Than A Logo".
All the great organizations of the world have a strong sense of their brand purpose, and so should you. Your personal brand purpose will answer Mr. Jobs’ question. If this was your last day on earth, would you be doing things that align with your life's purpose? Even when you have to do things you don’t enjoy, if they align with your purpose, the decisions are easy.
One of my best friends, Bob Willett is a great example a person that lives each day that aligns with his personal brand purpose. He could answer Stephen Jobs’ question with absolute certainty that he only does those things that align with his purpose. Bob’s purpose, simply put is: “Family First”. Now that may sound like it should be everyone’s purpose, but it’s actions that define your purpose, not words, and every action Bob considers compliments the purpose of placing his family’s needs above everything else. I’ve seen unconditional support for his parents and a nephew that became disabled as a result of a horrific car accident that many wouldn’t have considered, because of the financial impact, the love for his wife is unconditional, he left a lucrative career so he could provide “in-the-moment” time with both his sons, the associations he belongs to align with his commitment to family, and these are just a few examples. (By the way, his change in career has become more lucrative than the one he left, although it wasn’t the motivating factor). Bob’s decisions are made easier because he has such a well understood purpose. He provides everyone that knows him the reasons to believe this is his purpose through his actions, not his words. Because his brand isn’t what he says it is; his brand is what other people say it is and actions are the only thing that matters when it comes to your personal brand. (below is a short Youth Juice video with Bob and his son Nolan - a little "1 on 1" time)
I borrowed the following exercise from the great Branding expert Marty Neumeier, who wrote the books, Brand Gap and Zag. To assist you in defining your purpose, ask yourself the following three questions that Marty uses to assist organizations to define their brand purpose. This process can also be adopted to define your personal brand.
Each question gets progressively more difficult and may take weeks, or even months before you finally feel comfortable with your answer.
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why does it matter?
Here’s how I answer these questions:
- Who are you? Robert Armstrong
- What do you do? Increase the quality of my life and the lives of others
- Why does it matter? Because everyone deserves to enjoy life’s full potential
Good luck with the exercise.
And I’ll leave you with this quote from Victor E Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”: “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state, but rather the striving for a worthwhile purpose”.
Enjoy the ride….Rob