VOL. 132 | NO. 151 | Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Sense of Purpose Drives Entrepreneurs
By Michael Graber
Editor’s note: This column is the third in a three-part series. If you are struggling to decide if being an entrepreneur versus a person who prefers a corporation or organization, ask yourself this question: Why do you work?
There are three levels in defining your relationship to work:
Job: If you work for money alone, you have a job.
Career: If you work for power, security, or to see how far you can rise in an organization or field, you have a career.
Vocation: If you feel called to your work and sense it has an abiding and meaningful purpose in the world, you have a vocation.
While all three levels – job, career and vocation – have merit and intrinsic value, entrepreneurs cannot suppress this all-consuming sense of purpose. For them, facing new and increasingly complex and creative challenges offers a mirror in which they can learn themselves more completely than through intensive meditation.
The payoff is learning to take more risks, sustaining a culture and making a positive impact in the community.
At this point, I’d have more financial security if I’d stayed on a corporate path. But I’d lack all of the experiences I’ve earned. I would have to suppress my creativity and curiosity about human nature. In fact, these traits are my most valuable assets in my field.
You can extend that thought further: What makes me an effective consultant makes me a bad employee. As one with an inherent sense of vocation, I yearn for the workplace to live up to its potential. I become impatient with the false pieties of rank and titles, cannot stand by and watch a fear-based compromise dilute market value or brand equity without pointing it out, and see little point in continuing a wasteful process or procedure that has no real purpose to the firm.
If you rankle at such behaviors and have a strong conviction that there’s a better way, honor your muse. Take a leap and launch your own venture.
If your thrill is crafting a better way to do something – and you notice what can be improved – honor your muse.
My material grandfather, Leo Brody, couldn’t help but notice the flaws in pieces of luggage while working in pawnshops on Beale Street.
First, he created a side business fixing damaged pieces. Then, he started making his own. Fast forward several years and he was selling to all of the large department stores their first brands of private-labeled luggage. He created this category.
At the height of the venture, Trojan Luggage was manufacturing 2.4 million pieces of luggage a week. He treated his team well, inspiring great loyalty, and built a highly productive culture. At his funeral it was stated that he was “possessed by a vision and the will to manifest it.”
He couldn’t help it. Nor can I.
What about you? Why do you work?
Michael Graber, managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, can be reached at southerngrowthstudio.com.