Had a great conversation with two old friends the other day, driving back from our annual college buddy reunion, and we ended up talking about our purposes in life. It’s a natural phenomenon: three hours in the car together progressing from careers, to politics, to turkey vultures, to the natural world, science, and personal experiences of a mystical or supernatural nature. You know how long talks with old friends go.

As we continued to talk, I started to think of these different purposes, in stages, each expressed by one of us in the car.

Stage 1: Take care of the kids

Make sure the kids are alright and that they “make it” in life. That’s pretty solid. I get the common commitment to spouse and children, and to what it takes to be a parent. And, it was clear that the “purpose” part of the equation ended within the home. My friend is in the middle of a career shift that has him underemployed and working up from the bottom again.

Noble Concern: “Well, I’m raising my sons right, but the world is pretty messed up… so what good is it going to do, to raise them right?”

Stage 2: Corporate turned – Entrepreneur – turned Corporate

Being an Entrepreneur wasn’t really his thing. What was next for him, was to make design thinking the norm in his industry. In particular, he wants to both expand that conversation within established professionals AND impact young professionals just as they get into the industry. He saw new professionals as a particularly impactful place to show people what’s possible.

Noble Inquiry: Can I have an impact before those fresh-faced newbies become resigned and cynical like the rest of us?

Notice the expanded scope between these stages, from a family unit to a profession (which is one level of community). There is something different there in terms of what’s been explored, as well as something that is now settled and becoming increasingly focused. Not completely figured out, not ready to gauge success, not ready to solidify and expand, but a clear sense of who, and what, if now how and when.

As I listened, and before I shared mine, I reflected on how the scope of the purpose was not only correlated to the level of activity, specifically in making a difference with other people, but also directly correlated with people’s experience of their own life. Ergo, the more contribution to the more people, the fuller your life.

The bigger the cause, the higher the level of excitement. [tweetthis]The bigger the cause, the higher the level of excitement. @unstopconvo[/tweetthis]

Stage 3: A world that works for everyone

Then there was me and I shared one of my two purposes: “A world that works for everyone.” I shared examples of our mutual friends (that we’d just spent the weekend with) to help make it real for my friends in the car. They, or their respective spouses, all had various things that weren’t working: employment satisfaction, career achievement, relationships with bosses, finances, retirement planning, passion levels in work, feeling stuck somewhere in life, including the ability to influence various family members in positive ways.

I shared examples of various conversations over the weekend regarding the economy, the healthcare system, the education system, law enforcement, race relations, and all the other things that had come up in normal conversation about what’s not working in the world.
And I shared how I was committed to impacting all of that, to the extent that in the last 5 years I left a stable, well paying job to start up two companies. I simultaneously invested in three social impact companies, and took on a major volunteer commitment at the same time. All the while, I was raising two young boys and supporting my wife as a newly published novelist.

On any given day I could point to my specific accomplishments or failures (in each of those areas mentioned) so I knew exactly how I was doing along the my path. I know that my goal of “the world working for everyone” is too big to ever be achieved and that is exactly the point. I can look at my life and easily see that the amount of activity is proportional to the size of my goal.

Noble Cause: How can I be consistently effective in my impact?
How can I scale it so I’m not trying to do it on my own?
How do I get enough people involved fast enough that I don’t wear myself out?
How do I focus on my success equally or more than my failures (so many of both!!!) so I don’t start to lose momentum?

The scope and scale of your purpose in life will call you into the next level of action, risk-taking, success and failure; those things which in and of themselves literally prepare you to fulfill on the purpose. A purpose that you know how to fulfill on won’t get you going very fast or very far.

Where are you at in identifying your purpose?
Is it close to home and taking most of what you’ve got to keep that handled?
Is it community wide and you are in action figuring it out?
Is it way bigger than anything you know how to do and you’re able to start measuring your progress while simultaneously making as many messes as you solve?

Whichever level you are at, it may be time to upgrade. [tweetthis]Whichever level you are at, it may be time to upgrade. @unstopconvo[/tweetthis]

Side Note*
For the record, our individual stances on ghosts are “no way”, “I think so”, and “definitely something going on out there.” Interestingly enough, our degree of belief in ghosts was proportional to the extent in which our purpose was being expressed in the world. No idea what that one means, but food for thought.