“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
― Howard Thurman
Purpose can often seem like a fairly intangible concept. In the past I’ve certainly found the task of defining a ‘purposeful life’ a little tricky, largely because the counsel I kept was mostly with myself, and my circumstances (education, finances and family life) often dictated my path.
Discovering the 21 Day Purpose Challenge was a game changer for me. It opened my eyes and heart with practical tools for self-discovery, and provided a community of like-minded people and purpose guides to support me along the way. One of the direct results of this challenge was becoming a co-founder for Ordinary People, so you can probably understand why I’m excited to share with you the interview I recently did with Brandon Peele, Purpose Guide™, Author of Planet on Purpose, and Lead Teacher of the 21 Day Purpose Challenge, but the reason for my enthusiasm is about much more than any personal success.
It is my belief that every day many of us are waking up to the nagging sense of urgency that we should be doing something more to help create positive change in our world. For some, the searching and questioning may have been brewing a while, but often we just don’t know where to begin or how to prioritise our efforts. Whether it is our intention or not, when we are living a life of purpose, and on a path towards reaching our full potential, we begin to positively influence and increase the potential of those around us. Discovering your life’s purpose magnifies the potential of our collective evolution. It is for this reason that I believe purpose discovery work is so essential.
Brandon, tell us a little about yourself, what propelled you on your journey towards helping others ?
Like most American 20-somethings, I craved a life of purpose and adventure, but had let an almost-life of hedonism take its place. I spent my days in cubes making other people rich, my nights escaping my days, and my foggy mornings driving to work with a growing sense of despair.
After my first quarter century, I was a valued employee and about to begin business school at an Ivy League university, yet the path this decision led to – corporate America and white collar suburbia – did not seem worth the journey. As a product of corporate American parents and white collar suburban culture, I saw what happened to people who bought into this and the consequence they bore and imposed on their children.
In the words of people I knew and loved, I witnessed the appetite for adventure and self-expression slowly deteriorate into pat justifications for minivans, sweat pants and khakis. I saw little boys with big hearts and wild eyes who were shamed for their emotions, shamed for just being boys, made to believe they were defective girls who just couldn’t sit still, made to believe that unless they were great by a social, sexual or economic standard, they were worthless. I saw little girls with big hearts and wild eyes who were shamed for their emotions, made to believe they were defective supermodels who had to mutilate and diminish themselves for love and acceptance, made to believe that unless a man rescued them, they were worthless.
I proclaimed to all who would listen that I was going to break the cycle. I was not going to be a pot-bellied, cube-farmed, sports-loving, lawnmower-pushing Dad. I was not signing up for a life where I had to beg my wife to take off her mom-jeans, nor consider it a success if this happened more than once a month. I was not going be the guy who gave up on his dreams and projected them onto athletes, politicians and his children.
After graduate school, I spent the next several years on an intense journey into my own existence. I sought truth in Indian ashrams and San Francisco’s rich transformational offerings: meditation retreats, psychotherapy, psychotropics, philosophy groups, Burning Man, and powerful programs from Landmark and the ManKind Project and finally, purpose discovery work at age 34.
On my purpose journey I was guided by Jonathan Gustin, a veteran Purpose Guide™ and Founder of the Purpose Guides Institute. Through our work together, I began to unpack the meaning I made about my life and the limitations on my life that this meaning imposed. I was guided through numerous purpose discovery methods and had life altering breakthroughs, revealing all aspects of my life’s purpose. And I began to feel for the first time since childhood what it meant to like myself.
In the three months after my work with Jonathan, I left my sexy start-up job, started a purpose-driven venture that served customers all over the world, ended an unfulfilling relationship, created a vibrant community of friends and set strong boundaries in my family relationships. Over the next few years, I began guiding others on their path of purpose discovery. I also saw my body change from a bloated 255 lb. party-boy rugby player to a lean 215 lb. yogi, and my romantic relationships transform from dysfunctional and resentful to rich and emergent partnerships based in open communication, respect and love. In very real sense, I was reborn from my purpose, but not as a result of white-knuckling it. I made these choices easily with the clarity that comes from a deep connection to purpose.
In recognition of this power, it is with great honor and reverence that I join the purpose movement as a teacher, speaker and author to make my highest contribution, to accelerate this movement and make this work widely available.
Was there one moment that helped you clearly define the difference between purpose and passion or has it been something that has evolved overtime?
Yes, but it’s definitely an evolution. Purpose and passion are really different. Passions always showed up for me as ephemeral and there is a huge counter movement to the purpose movement, put forth by a few notable authors and TED speakers suggesting that we don’t have a purpose, that we’re all “multi-potentialites”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes we all have passions, but we also have a purpose, a seat assignment here on Earth, a way to make our highest contribution. I have lots of passions and interests, but these don’t help me make decisions. Whereas, knowing the various aspects of my purpose, my vision, my mission, message, values and essence, help me take consistent actions aligned with my deepest truth. My work with Jonathan accelerated this awareness, but I have to keep going back into the exercises and techniques of the Purpose Guiding craft for the next clues.
Why do you feel it is so important for people to get clear on that?
Without purpose, there is only what you think you should do, and this background of noise isn’t really you. It’s a tangled mess of carnal desires, existential fears, social narratives and parental values. I’ve been in this place and it stinks. It’s confusing and contradictory, leaving you with self-doubt and socially derived success measures. Without purpose, there is no true north. Purpose gives you a true north and when you cultivate it, you get access to the good life. Your life’s purpose is a scientifically-validated path to living 7 years longer, increasingly the likelihood that you’re a leader by 50%, and increasing your experience of love by 31%. If you want to be successful, full of vitality and have great relationships start with your purpose. I’ve aggregated the research in this field at brandonpeele.com.
Thankfully, a large majority of people would now agree “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”. What will make The Purpose Movement successful in creating the ‘radical change’ humans need in order for us to flourish?
I agree. No one is coming. As the recent Gilens / Page study out of Princeton confirmed, democracy is broken. We no longer have the luxury to wait for a white knight to come in and implement some kind of new deal. This is an “all hands on deck” moment for our species. We’re each called to lead and fix a system that seems intent our destroying us. Purpose is the key to every human’s action and leadership. Without purpose, you can cannot share a vision and be held accountable to it. If you cannot be held accountable, you have no integrity. Without integrity, no one will trust you to lead.
With your purpose, the reverse is true. You know and share all aspects of your purpose, take actions consistent with that identity, have others hold you accountable to your actions, and thus you step into greater integrity. From this place, others can trust you to lead. Your life’s purpose guides your decisions, aligns your actions and purpose, and empowers you to lead.
Purposetism, an interesting concept I read in the latest planet purpose blog, one that touches on the current political climate in America but brings up a relevant question. If we live together but respectfully follow our own purpose, since we also live in a world of diversity, is that not a democracy?
It’s important to make a distinction here. Context is part of your purpose, so if you have a purpose that says build casinos and put your name on them, that is a context-agnostic purpose, meaning its a totally inappropriate expression of purpose given the state of the human and ecological condition in 2016. Having a context-aware purpose means that you have to express your purpose in a way that hurts no one and has a net generative impact on the human and ecological condition. A very tall order, but one that is demanded of each of us in order to create a future that has humans in it.
The argument can also be made that without purpose, we don’t really have a consenting adult, just a tangled web of desire and fear. And if we don’t have purpose-aware consenting adults we don’t have a democracy, but rather an easily manipulated populace and a democracy in name only.
The reason I ask is because you write, “Post-modernism is a philosophy and a cultural orientation, a system of thought that holds all perspectives equal, and basically allows anyone to do, be or say anything as long as they can get away with it.” It seems from your writing that you agree with the thinking that ‘democracy’s end when they are too democratic’, and that Trump is the scary reality of “too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery” Plato. Do you think Purposetism has a place alongside democracy and if so, how do we protect it from morphing again into the story we have today?
Democracy is fine if we have consenting, purpose-aware adults. We have a created a system that rewards other outcomes, so not only do we all have to dive into our purpose and lead with it, but we need to enact a plan such that only the purpose-aware can have power. We have to demand each human and especially our leaders furnish a life purpose and the means by which they were guided to it. Notice, I said guided, not arrived at. Purpose is a precarious journey that cannot be figured out in one’s head. In only very rare circumstances does someone come into the fullness of their purpose without guidance. It should not be attempted alone, it needs to be done with a trained Purpose Guide™, or in a group, and for a sustained period of time.
For many, working to keep a roof over their head and provide for their family is purpose enough, and ideas of living a purposeful life outside of meeting those needs may seem out of reach. What advice would you give to anyone struggling at the moment that wants to make the change?
We all have a purpose, and if prompted in the right way could actually speak to parts of it quite well. Yet identifying with our purpose is rare. Purpose discovery work is not that common, and it is my soul’s purpose to change this. The 21-Day Purpose Challenge is a free online purpose course that anyone regardless of income can take. But you are right, purpose is not as important as food, safety and shelter, so in that sense, we have to make sure we meet those needs first. My advice is to keep working towards physical and economic security, and when you have a few hours a week to spare, get a friend to join you for the 21-Day Challenge. If you don’t have the time, but want a great book on the subject to feed the desire to live purposefully, I recommend “The Soul’s Code” by James Hillman, Michael Meade’s “Fate and Destiny” and Thomas Moore’s “Care of the Soul”.
Brandon’s book, Planet on Purpose (Hay House / Balboa Press) is due out in early 2017.