Recently I spent a long weekend with a group of friends. We did guy stuff, golf, a party, a game.
One of my friends is a very successful CEO. It’s a big company, think global leader big. We’ve known each other for over 20 years, through the good times and the bad we have been there for each other. It’s safe to say that we know things, explicit or not, about one another that nobody else on this planet knows.
He asked me a simple question in the car that weekend. It was related to something he and I had talked about before and I had some knowledge of. He asked if I thought his company should get behind a particular cause publicly. It was a noble endeavor and an important issue. It was something I personally try to support. Furthermore, I whole-heartedly believe that only companies like his can solve these types of problems for the world.
I surprised myself with my answer. “Nope.”
We both looked puzzled towards each other. I repeated myself, still slightly confused by my own answer.
“You are not committed to it, and you don’t want the public digging into it.” I said backing up my position.
When I asked why he was considering it he responded something about it being an easy win. I hate that shit, but it got me thinking.
I realized that I used the word “You” not “the company” intentionally and re-iterated my point to him with a few stories of how he personally didn’t represent a commitment to the cause.
Weeks later I continue to think about that short conversation. It’s really about more than commitment I now realize. It’s about Purpose. Individual purpose.
I think my friend struggles with this concept, he’s not comfortable thinking this way. He is very generous, extremely smart, and no doubt incredibly talented at leading companies, and people. The problem is he can’t lead himself, nobody can. We need a purpose.
Finding your purpose is hard. Maybe the hardest thing we will do in our lives. It takes time, energy, and with ourselves being our harshest critics, we don’t often like what we see.
There are many substitutes for purpose. This is not a popular opinion for many but sometimes we use faith as a substitute. That way we can let someone else do all the hard work. We can be told what our purpose is. Taken too far, faith is dangerous. We know this to be true but it’s easier than doing the work ourselves.
I think addiction is a substitute for many, compulsion for others. Sometimes these are one in the same. Now that I think about it all the Seven Deadly Sins (think Se7en) might be nothing more than substitutes for a lack of purpose, or stem from an unwillingness to try and find it.
What does this have to do with writing (besides Se7en)? Good stories have a purpose, but more importantly their characters either have a purpose, or are trying to find it.
Writers must find their purpose as well. We cannot write about purpose without having one.
For me it is about focusing on the means, and letting the ends go. I don’t want to write for my screenplay to get optioned, or my TV series to get made. I do this sometimes but I don’t want to.
My purpose is to tell a story, a story only I can tell. The irony is that my stories are about my characters searching for purpose, telling it lets me find mine.
PURPOSE drives life.