Why Are You Here? Get It In Writing.

[Cache #215]

By Andris Pone – President, Coin Branding

Why are you here?  Why do you do what you do?  What is your unique purpose in this life?  And why should anyone – most of all you – care?

I have asked variations of these questions many times on this blog, but today, change is in the air.  Summer has said goodbye.  The temperature is dropping, the colours are starting to change and a chilly wind blows.  So let’s get literal.  Just as I demonstrated two weeks ago how to articulate a position for your personal brand, this week I will share some simple techniques on how to express your personal core purpose.

(Then, in the next couple of weeks, I will share my methodology for articulating the character of your personal brand, and voila – you will have the tools to build your very own three-element personal brand foundation, one that can focus and drive all aspects of your life into next year and far beyond.)

What is a core purpose?  My mentor Ted Matthews long ago defined it as Why we (or I in the personal case) exist.  I have adapted the definition with my personal branding clients to Why I do what I do.  As I have also mentioned on this blog, Simon Sinek has achieved great traction by referring to your core purpose simply as your why.

And so your core purpose or why is the reason you get out of bed in the morning, and why anyone should care that you do.  It’s about what you fundamentally believe.  Critically, it is not about what you do.  Your what may be selling cars, or being an investment advisor, or a marketing executive or a stay-at-home mom.  And while it is great and in fact imperative that you have a what (otherwise you won’t have anything to do when you get out of bed), there are two problems with it.

First, your what is, in a word, boring.  It is uninspiring.  Much of this is due to the fact that your what is also, by definition, the same as every other car salesperson, investment advisor, marketing executive and stay-at-home mom.  And thus it is – if you want people to truly “get” you, recognize you as unique and resonate with your one-of-a-kind purpose on this planet – table stakes.

For those of you fortunate enough to have distance from corporate gobbledygook, table stakes is a metaphor from card games, defined as the minimum bet you must make to stay in the game.  And it is not just the minimum, it is the same as everyone else.

Enough with the branding gobbledygook.  With reference to some powerful core purpose statements written by clients of mine in the long term care industry, structure your core purpose in one of three ways.

Core purpose – why I do what I do

1. “To…”
To share the burden as people walk the road they cannot change. (Linda, who works in palliative care)
To help people grow from where they are, to where they want to be. (Karen)
To change the perception of long term care from “dead end” to “high end.” (Debbie)

The “To” method is the most popular.

2. “I believe…”
I believe wholesome, nourishing food and enriching meal experiences are universal human rights. (Jane)

3. “Because…”
Because good enough isn’t good enough. (Steve)

And now some observations:
1. The statement tends not to be just about you, but about your role in helping others.  And yet, your core purpose is yours alone.  If your statement happens to be all about you, that is obviously and completely your decision.  Note, though, that its power to inspire others will be weakened.

2.  The statement must be one sentence, one sentence only, and be a short sentence at that.  Anything longer will be rambling and uninspiring.  And people, including you, will find it difficult to remember, further sapping its power.

Why do I do what I do?  Because I believe that every person – most certainly including you – has the right to experience the thrill of sharing their unique gifts with others.



IN THE MEDIA LAST WEEK:  On CBC Radio One re Volkswagen, and in the National Post re Mac’s convenience stores.

NEW VIDEO: Check out my presentation in Houston earlier this year (to client USG) on what a brand really is.  (For the abbreviated version, start at 3:45 and stop at about 6:00.  For the longer version, watch the whole thing.)

Coin Branding president Andris Pone is co-author of the Globe and Mail #1-bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo and appears as a branding expert on CBC’s The National, CBC Radio One, the Globe and Mail, National Post and other media outlets.

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