Podcast

Episode: 91 |
Nick Craig:
Leading from Purpose:
Episode
91

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Nick Craig

Leading from Purpose

Show Notes

Nick Craig is the author of Leading from Purpose: Clarity and the Confidence to Act When It Matters Most, published in June 2018.

Since 2006, Nick’s firm, Core Leadership Institute, has helped more than 10,000 leaders discover and lead from purpose.

In this episode, Nick shares his perspective on:

  • What purpose is
  • How to discover your purpose
  • The benefits of leading from purpose

While his firm primarily leads private workshops within organizations, they do have two workshops coming up that are open to the public:

Boston from October 18-19, 2018

London from December 4-5, 2018

Learn more on their website at coreleader.com

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Hey Nick, it is great to have you on the show.
Nick Craig: It is great to be here, Will. Thank you.
Will Bachman: Nick, we met, I think, nine or ten years ago at a creativity and personal mastery retreat organized by Srikumar Rao, and you were one of the presenters at that and shared your crucible story. I was wondering if we could start. Could you share one of the crucible stories for you?
Nick Craig: Okay, sure. I’d be happy to do that. And in the context of work that we’re going to be talking about around purpose. One of the places purpose shows up for us is in times in which we’ve most are challenged. In some ways it’s the time when everything gets stripped away, and I think that’s probably a very true for me. Different people have different accesses to purpose, but this is one of them. Probably one of the crucibles that [inaudible 00:00:55] in your audience can appreciate is when I was working for a consulting practice, consulting firm, and I got a master’s in organizational development and was working for a big corp company and doing organizational development work, and I got pulled out to go work for the consulting practice, consulting firm.
And it turned out that I had a gift I didn’t realize I had, which is I could convince people while sitting on an airplane that they should work with us. For those of you listening you know how amazing that is when you give someone a card on an airplane, and then they call you afterwards, and you’re like, “Oh my goodness, this is amazing.” So for whatever reason I seem to have an ability to make that happen, and what that did is as I went into this consulting firm, I became very, very successful very quickly. The upside was that I got to do some really cool things, and I got to have real control over what I did, but the downside was that I sort of didn’t have to follow all the normal paths of growing up.
So at some point I got a little over busy and I ended up crashing on the perspective of being tired and I ended up working for some other guys who I never had to work for before, and they were there to teach me a lesson, I guess is the best way to describe it. Many of those lessons included me being the one who missed my flight, while they caught theirs as I took the rental car back and other things. I got quickly tired of that and I ended up deciding to go take engagement, in which I was replacing the [inaudible 00:02:43] to run this large a leadership program, and I was told by everybody that the guy who ran it was ethically compromised to the point where he would basically leave me or everybody else under the bus. But I thought that I was smart enough and quick enough that I could solve this. So I did this engagement.
So six months in, we were at MIT. It’s the last week of a program that we’re doing there, everything’s been going really well, I’m excited because the night before, a bunch of other of the crew who had been helping out were getting awards. So on the last day I figured I was going to get my award, and I did. I got fired in front of everyone.
Will Bachman: Ouch.
Nick Craig: It came as a shock to me and everyone else. Well, what happened was is that the guy who was running this program, who had ethical challenges, had gotten a promotion as long as he could give this program to another consulting group the following year. But the problem was as I was doing so well with my evaluations, unless he fired me right then, there’d be no way they could get rid of me. Well, he fired me.
So I’m having been on top of the of the world when you go to the Oscars and they, instead of giving you an Oscar, they tell you, “You’re fired.”, it’s a really humbling thing, and for me actually was even more devastating, and I ended up getting really physically sick, sleeping. For three months, I basically couldn’t get out of bed and the consulting firm that I was working for decided that I was a little too unpredictable, and so they said you might want to go do something else for a living. My wife had an equal perception, and she said, “I don’t think we should be together anymore, okay.”
Will Bachman: Wow.
Nick Craig: So here I am getting divorced and having to pay my to be ex-wife a portion of the salary that I’m no longer making. Oh, God that was a really, really fun moment. And the thing is, is that when you’re really sick physically you don’t worry about things in the same way. So the good news was is that a to six would be worried about all this. It took me probably, I don’t know, six to nine months before I got physically to the point where I could do anything, and I ended up, well, not leaving, but have to leave this consulting practice as well as the marriage I was in and proceeded to really realize that the key to who I was and what really mattered to me was really finding clients to work with who had incredibly high values and high ethics, which I ended up finding one who thought it was the weirdest consultant because I kept torturing them around their values and ethics to the point where he said, “You’re not a normal consultant, so we’re going to hire.”
Now, if I look at that challenging life experience, I don’t know, probably took me 10 years for me to finally go look at the story and say, “Well, what is the story really trying to tell me?”. And in some ways what it was really trying to tell me was that I was an arrogant character to say the least on the front end of that, and the universe needed to remind me or help show me the deeper truth about who I really was, and what really mattered. As a result of that whole experience, I realized that anybody who hadn’t been humbled at that level in their life would probably not be someone I could trust, because I would not trust the person I was before I had had that experience. And in some ways it also sort of catapulted me over the years to the work I do now, where these crucible stories and having people tell these crucible stories is part of the key ingredient of understanding what is the deeper purpose that’s been leading us all our lives.
So Mr. will, I think I answered your question, but I’m happy to go in any direction from here you’d like me to go.
Will Bachman: No, you did, and let’s use that as a segue to talk about your new book, Leading From Purpose. So, I’m almost done reading it. It’s really great, and for the listeners who haven’t yet picked it up, maybe we could start by talking through kind of the key, the key parts like what is purpose, how do you determine your own purpose, and then what’s the impact once you find it? Could you start with the first part, what is purpose, and then we can go onto how do you determine what your own purpose is.
Nick Craig: Yep. So let me do that, and so let me just do a preface around that. The gift of the last 10 years is, and I’ve probably ran programs in which we’ve worked with at least 10,000 executives from every industry, every demographic, every part of the world. And really going deep on this conversation about who are they in, and also what is their deeper purpose that’s leading them, and I’m talking about everything from oil and gas guys in Oklahoma City, to guys who sell power tels in Australia, to faculty at West Point. Well, the reason I wrote the book is because I kept reading all this stuff around what purpose is about and I said, “No, that is a purpose. That is a Disney version.”, but the real version of purpose is a little more edgy. Very powerful, but boy, I think people need to really understand, have an owner’s manual around purpose that is the true truth that I see and experience when I’m working with many of these leaders around the world.
In some ways that’s really the reason why I wrote the book and what people will be able to read the book is so that you really understand what is this thing called purpose, and what is it really do? So first of all, what is it? The definition I have come to feel is the most authentic is purpose is the unique gift that you bring to the world, and what I mean by that is each of us show up in an event, a meeting, a conversation, and the truth is that what we do is unique to us and different than what anybody else would do. And the real ultimate question for all of us would be as if we were pulled out of our life and replaced with someone equally as good looking and smart and compelling as we are, three months later if you were to interview everyone, what would they say they most missed? Okay.
So it’s not about skills, it’s not about capabilities, it’s about that thing that we bring that nobody else does. And so for me that is purpose, okay, and it is something that has been with us all of our life. It was with us when we were two, it’ll still be with us when we’re 102. We don’t retire from it either. It doesn’t change. We might use different language to describe it over time, but it doesn’t change.
And so that’s the real essence of what purpose is, and the challenge for most of us is most of us don’t know what is the unique gift that we bring to the world around us, and then we chase after everybody else’s idea of what we should be. Many of the executives I’ve worked with, most of them have gotten, been very, very successful, but the final step in their career isn’t about skill or capability. It’s about who they are, and the challenge is most of them don’t know. Helping them know that and helping them know that purpose is theirs so they can lead fully from it, has been probably the biggest thing that I found has the biggest impact on helping them step into the gift and lead [crosstalk 00:11:25]-
Will Bachman: Give us some examples of a two or three that can illustrate how they might be different from one another?
Nick Craig: Well, so I’ll give you a couple of examples. Well, one of the guys I’ve had the privilege of working with is this guy, Jostein Solheim who was the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s. Okay. So in 2011, he and I are working together, and he’s finishing up a two-year turnaround of Ben & Jerry’s from negative growth to positive growth, and he’s been promised this big promotion to corporate and all the money that goes along with it. But he figured we work on his purpose and his purpose turns out to be is to thrive in ambiguity and paradox for things that really matter. Okay. Now that those kind of purposes, the interesting thing about purpose like that is it means that you are the happiest when all hell breaks loose. Okay, and when things are going well for the most part, you’re bored. And you want to be in a place where things are really crazy, but it really makes a difference.
Well, turns out that the job he was in was the job that would make him most able to lead from his purpose, but he was being asked to take a promotion, move to London, his family would be happy, everybody would be happy except for him. So he turns it down, first person ever in the company he worked for who ever turned to him a two step promotion. The whole system literally really had a heart attack.
Will Bachman: Does not compute.
Nick Craig: He calls me up and he says, “Okay, you won’t believe what’s happening.”, and I’m laughing. I says, “Well, some of your purpose is …. that’s what you purpose does”. So he’s stayed for eight years. Okay, and he grew a Ben & Jerry’s from half a billion to a billion in revenue. And one of his crowning moments when after he’d have his [inaudible 00:13:35] is saying that his head of marketing came to him with this idea for a flavor, and he said every previous guy has been sitting in that chair you’re sitting in has turned this idea down, but I think now that you’ve decided to stay and that we now know what your purpose is that I think is a perfect flavor for us to introduce in the Christmas season this year.
So this guy says, “Look, I got this flavor. It’s based on an Alec Baldwin sketch from Saturday Night Live, and it’s basically the Saturday Night Live gets called Schweddy Balls, and it’s about a Christmas candy. Anyway, but obviously it’s got an interesting side message. He says, “We want to launch Schweddy Balls.” Jostein’s first reaction is just, “No way we’re going to do that.”, and then he said, “You know what? We are going to do it.”. Oh, my God, the system thought he was completely crazy. Well, it was ended up being the most sought after [inaudible 00:14:36] in the Christmas season in 2011. Every major retailer, delisted them. The CEO of Walmart was apparently heard to say in a big meeting that, “We are not going to sell Schweddy Balls.”
So he did it because what he realized was that for him to truly own this iconic brand, he had to fully step into his purpose. Now he got in trouble with mothers groups and those kind things, all of his bosses were pissed, but it was this major moment in which everybody at Ben & Jerry’s knew that they were fully once again in control of their destiny. So that’s one example of what’s the essence, the ingredients of what purpose is.
So another example or story … I mean I get to work with some interesting companies, but I never thought Dutch Bankers would want to do stuff on purpose. I mean, what? Now we’ve been rolling out a program with a major Dutch bank, and we’re rolling out purpose to the top 5,000 right now. [inaudible 00:15:59] Anyway, whatever, it’s a bank. So I’m sitting down across from this guy who’s the treasurer. I don’t know about most of you who are listening, but I never figured out what a treasurer does for a company. CFO, I understand and all the other things, and the finance guys, whatever [crosstalk 00:16:18]-
Will Bachman: I think they keep the treasure, yeah.
Nick Craig: Where do they keep the [inaudible 00:16:21] exactly. What is it? They sit on top of a little treasure chest or what? I don’t know what normal ones do, but this bank guy said to me, he said, “Look, what we do is we’re the bank within the bank. Basically, we hold all of the financial instruments that is used to allow us to lend money, all the bonds, and everything. I’m like, “Oh, okay. This is a serious job.” Okay, I’m like, “Ooh, okay.” So I’m sitting there going, “I wonder what this guy’s purpose is.”
And one of the things that we do when we work with people is we have people tell their magical moments from their childhood. Now, some of us may have not had magic. Most of us, including me, did not have a magical childhood, but there were moments that were magical. So for this particular individual, he said one of my most magical moments as a kid was, and he grew up in Europe, and they went camping in the woods in a place where there had been a World War One or World War Two battle fought. So one day he just decides that he’s going to start digging a hole and he’s going to find something. So he starts digging. He’s digging, he’s digging, he’s digging. He’s probably about a foot and half, two feet down, and he’s still going, and everybody else was like, “Come on, let’s go. Let’s go do something else.”, and he hits something. Turns out he pulls up this metal that he takes out and keeps.
And he tells a story to us, and they were looking at the sort of all the data about who he is, and how he operates And his insight is his purpose and the metaphor for his purposes is to always dig and find the metal. Now, I can’t think of a better purpose for somebody who is the treasurer for a multinational bank, because what that really says is that he’s got the ability to know where to dig. Right? And I go, “Oh, my God, what a perfect match of purpose to role.” So by the way, he calls his wife and says “Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what my purpose is, and she’s quite for a second. She said, “So do you still have the metal?”. He says, “Yeah, it’s in this little wooden box.”, and he explains where it is, and she goes and gets it and opens it. He hears this gasp as she looks at this thing and says, “Oh my God. That is so you.” Two very different people, very different backgrounds, very different roles.
And so this is in some ways, this is the beauty of the clarity of knowing what is the purpose that has always been leading us is that we can own this beautiful suit to that only fits us, that allows to see the world differently than other people would see it.
Will Bachman: So in the book, Nick, you give some exercises on how the reader can work on finding the purpose. Could you maybe give an example or two of those here for listeners so they can start that journey?
Nick Craig: Yeah. Well, this is [inaudible 00:19:41]. The three access points to the purpose, all of them are about our stories in our life, and it’s looking at what’s the thread across the stories that jumps out. So there’s three different access points, or main access points. One of them we’ve talked about is when we write down our most challenging life stories. For some of us, there’s a part of who we are that shows up in those that ends up being truly the essence of who we are. That’s one access point.
One of the other access points is, and we were just talking about is thinking back to one of our magical moments as a kid, whether it’s playing football or baseball or swimming or watching. I have one guy whose metaphor is every day when he was a kid, after school, he would go lie in the grass in the backyard, and he would watch the airplanes go over, and then he would imagine himself on the plane and imagine where he’d be going. And that metaphor just grabbed him, and his purpose is to help people be on the plane that helps them go on the adventure that they were meant to go on. Now, wouldn’t you love to have him as your boss? So that’s another access point.
The third place is for some of us, there’s a passion that we’ve had in our life, and we may not even be doing it now, may have been something that we did for some extended period of time. Most cases we probably weren’t world class at it, but we did it because it just fed the deeper part of who we are, and in there is a metaphor. In there is a metaphor. The World Cup just happened, and there’s a number of people for which their growing up had soccer as a central element. I had one guy who the metaphor for him of who his purpose is he was always was referred to as a midfielder. So he was sort of in the middle of field. He was a captain and the beauty about that is, is that he could see what was going to happen and then help the whole team adjust in real time, and he had this ability to see what no one else could see. Well that was his purpose. So those are those places.
The beauty of this is in writing down the stories. In the stories, as you read the stories, and as you write the stories, you end up stepping into purpose. You may not know what the words are. When we look at purpose statements is kind of like it’s the title for the movie, but the movie is the stories. So writing the stories is probably the most important thing for someone to do.
Will Bachman: What’s the impact that you’ve seen when someone does discover their purpose?
Nick Craig: Well, let’s talk about the visceral impact in the moment, and then we’ll talk about the impact over time. So the visual impact of the moment: there’s a level of energy, there’s the curious little kid inside of us jumps out, it’s a sense of clarity about who we are and why our life is the way it is. All of this comes together and when we discover what those words are that help us crystallize what is that purpose that’s been leading us. So when we run programs we usually run programs that are lasting for two or three days and so forth. When people discover that [inaudible 00:23:36] the rest of us all know when it is a HR sugarcoated version or it’s real version, and when it’s the real version, we all, including the person saying it, completely know it in that moment. Once they have it, it’s like, “Oh my God, this is it.”.
So I was working with this woman, and we were struggling to figure out what her purpose was. And she had these two parts of her. So one is that she loves to put on events and she’s been doing it her whole life. I mean one of the things she most loves is planning a birthday party, which she does for a living and she actually plans big corporate leadership development training programs. But the other thing was is that she always finds herself always in the limelight even though she’s not the key person. And the story she told is of when she was a kid, she was in the there’s a play Wizard of Oz she was part of, and she was supposed to be Dorothy, but she didn’t get Dorothy, so they made her a Munchkin. No worse downgrade that you could have going from Dorothy to being a munchkin. I mean it’s like, “Really? We’re going to …”. Now the worst part is she was twice as tall as all the other kids who were munchkins so this is totally bad, bad casting. But what happened was is that the next day in the front page of the local little newspaper there’s a picture of her, not a picture of the other girl that was Dorothy, but of her being this oversized munchkin with these other little munchkins.
Will Bachman: It’s a giant munchkin.
Nick Craig: [inaudible 00:25:29] Well, as I we’re sitting there because she says, “I don’t know what it is about my life or my purpose, but I’m always doing sort of this thing behind the scenes, and then the spotlight’s are on me. And it’s not like I want to be in the spotlight as much as spotlight just seems to get me.”. And so it’s like we’re looking at these two pieces, and we’re like, “Okay, how do you take these two things that don’t fit together and put them in the same box together?”, because in some sense that’s what happens for all of us with our purposes is that who we are is a paradox, and it’s not supposed to fit in any normal box. If it did, it’d be boring, and there’s nothing unique about that.
So we play around with it. So here’s what we came up with, and we came up with it and when we both said it, I’m telling you, it was like a transformation in the moment. Her purpose is to be the magical munchkins that plans your birthday party. Okay?
Will Bachman: That’s cool.
Nick Craig: Now, as you say that, now this is a really serious high level senior executive. Okay, but as we said it, it was so much so true as to the combination of who she is. Her life will never ever be the same. Now, this wasn’t where she was operating from already. This has been happening all her life, but now she’s fully got it. Now she has such much better access to it on an ongoing basis. The issue here around purpose is anybody who’s listening is like, “Well, I don’t know what my purpose is.”. Okay, you know what? That’s not the issue. The good news is that 40% of the time most of us are living or leading from our purpose. We just don’t know what it is, but you can look at moments in your life, and you go, “Okay, probably that’s when it was happening.”
The opportunity though is the more of you can crystallize what is the beautiful words and what is the metaphor that really jumps out for you is to be able to fully own it every day, especially when it’s not around, and you need it. That’s when it’s most useful.
Will Bachman: Why do you think that purpose seems to be occupying more and more mind share recently? It seems like there’s been more sort of talk about it, some more books about it, more interest in it perhaps. I haven’t done one of those google in N-grams on purpose, but I imagine if you did it would be spiking upwards. What do you think it is in the air or in the water that is driving this growing interest in finding your purpose?
Nick Craig: Yep, but purpose has been around for a long, long, long time. So Marcus Aurelius who wrote the emperor’s Handbook, who was the emperor of Rome, and of sort of wrote this book, which was sort of mostly his own meditation on sort of what does it mean to lead, talks about purpose, but none of our parents probably said you need to know what your purpose is. Most of our parents might have said you need to know what your career should be or na, na, na, but purpose was never sort of part of the lexicon.
But what’s changed, I think, is that we live in a world where the … I call it The Certainty Uncertainty Paradox. So today, for the most part, for anybody listening in within about 15 minutes of you is a Starbucks, and you can order your own customized coffee drink, which includes whatever combination of coco milk or whatever the case may be, and you can go to any Starbucks anywhere in the United States and for all intents and purposes, that unique combination that you want, will taste the same. You can order a book and have it custom signs with or have something signed as a gift card and have it sent and have someone receive it the next day. I know now whenever it’s raining, wherever I happen to be, my phone says it’s going to start raining in about a minute, and when it’s about to stop raining, it says it’s going to stop reading in about a minute.
We have enormous certainty on a lot of things that for the most part, I don’t know if we really care about. We have incredible uncertainty instead of things for the last 50 years we took for granted. NAFTA and NATO are having a hard time, these guys. The European Union, I mean you read stuff in the New York Times and on a daily basis, and it’s just humbling what’s shaking? We have 500 year weather events happening bi-annually. I have a picture of a street sign in Arizona that’s melting to the words are melting because it was so hot.
So there’s just a massive amount of uncertainty. What happens with this massive amounts of uncertainty is, is all the things that we’ve been standing on as the solid ground we stood on with a strategy on how we’re going to execute it the way the institutions operate, the way the business operates, they’re all broken. So what are you going to stand on? My view is that purpose is the last man standing. It’s the ultimate antidote to uncertainty. It’s the one thing that doesn’t change, and so knowing it becomes even more important because if you don’t have external certainty, where you’re going to find it. The only place you’re going to find it is inside yourself. If you’re leading today, and you’re having to make decisions, and you have more data than you’ve ever had, but the problem is it’s less helpful because of the unpredictability of what’s going to happen tomorrow. You’re going to have to make that decision from some place.
So the thing that has had the most impact for most of the leaders, I interviewed about 80 people for the book, the thing that purpose had is the biggest benefit for them of having their clarity of their purpose was their ability to make decisions in times of uncertainty.
Will Bachman: Nick, you’ve been an independent professional, and would love to hear your thoughts about how purpose relates to independent professionals and the importance for independent professionals of finding their purpose.
Nick Craig: Yeah. So if I look at my professional career … so I left, I got sick, I and as I got better, I sort of started doing consulting, and I did a bunch of work on strategy execution work for a number of years, and then I got bored with that. I actually grew a business, and then decided I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I started working, looking at some of the material that this is all based on, I really got into the area of authentic leadership, where is where purpose showed up because it was one of the key things, key ingredients of authenticity is purpose, and I ended up working on that piece.
As an independent consultant doing this stuff. I had spent so many years teaching so much stuff, and I pretty much knew what kind of an outcome I’m always going to get, and how much enthusiasm there was going to be for whatever it ever was I was doing. So I were teaching Michael Porter stuff on strategy. I knew how to do the case method and I knew how to sort of get people engaged, and it would have a good entertaining time, but I was also a realistic as to what would be the residual benefit of having done that a year or two later. It’s a really good job. The reality it was when I started doing the purpose work, something else happened, and it really sort of took me by surprise, but what it did is it really helped me realize that I was stepping into something that had so much more amperage than anything else I’d ever done before. And that at the time, 10 years ago, a little over 10 years ago when I was doing this, there was nobody doing this. So if I didn’t do it, nobody was going to.
So the first place right before the recession in 2008, I’m working with a Fortune 10 company I’d gotten into through a friend and we were doing a version of this with the 30 of the top 300, and we’ve been doing this three times a year, and the company’s stock went from 56 to 6. And so when I was watching this thing meltdown, this company of great hubris melting down, but what was interesting was they kept us around, and then they started having people come back from the original programs that we did, and participants would say, “What have you learned most that’s the most useful for you relative to dealing with being successful during the recession? They would all sit there and look at them and say, “Well, you just need to know your purpose.” The first time, the first person that said that, I literally fell off my chair and I’m like, “Oh, my God. This thing really works.”
There’s one guy said, “Look, my purpose is to be the whitewater raft guide that safely gets you to the other side. I, when the recession hit, all the bonuses I’d given every body were gone and all the stock options I’d given them were useless, and we had to do things in the business. We’d never had to do with and more difficulty, and we didn’t know if we were going to be sold or kept. And the only way I kept that group together is I told them my purpose, and they said, ‘Well Jim, that was the only reason we were hung out with you in the first place.’” Now for him, that story came from and his early twenties when he was a professional whitewater raft guide, and he actually had saved people’s lives. We stood on something that was truly solid ground for him.
For me, and I think for all of us as independents is there’s something that speaks to us in the work we do, and it’s listening to that and then following it and just staying in it and to the point where it shows us what we’re meant to see that we can’t see until we get there. Will, you’re a perfect example of this, which is, look at what you’re doing now, and there’s no linear path to the work that you’re doing, but if you hadn’t followed through on it, you wouldn’t be here.
Will Bachman: Very much a random walk.
Nick Craig: Exactly.
Will Bachman: You’ve mentioned a couple times the sessions that you’re run, sometimes two to three day sessions, and I think a lot of them are our corporate and close to public, but you also run some that are open to the public. I think you have some upcoming ones. Talk to us about what we would experience if we’re, if we were going through one of your two to three day events.
Nick Craig: Yeah. Well, before I do that I just want to say we worked really hard to get the book to the place where you can get your hands around what the purpose may be. And so what I’m going to talk about is what the in the room experiences, but I don’t want to take away from the fact that the book has its own power. The in room experience is we start out looking at some of this stuff around certainty and uncertainty, and what we start to look at is the reality of why purpose matters in this time right now. And why is it that it has such leverage in this moment? And we’ve been talking about that already, so I won’t go back into it.
We also do an exercise where we look at what has a step into our deeper authenticity. To do this work, you have to be really authentic with yourself, and the only exercises we do is we have people look at what most people see about them. What is it most people don’t see that is the key part of who they are, and where does it come from in their life? And in that answer usually is some of the deepest and most powerful insights about what makes each of us tick, and what our life journey and some of our journey with our family systems has been. And as we do that, what it does is it instantly brings a level of transparency and vulnerability and authenticity into the room. So we do this and most of the work we do usually is in groups of six.
And we then look at the crucible stories, and people tell three crucible stories in a row, and they do them in a group of three, and they start to hear all these stories, and they start to really realize how common is some of the common challenges are that we’ve all faced, because most of the things that whatever crazy things happen to us where we were the only ones that have happened to.
From there, we worked on looking at stories of when we’ve been most proud of who we are, and what we’ve done, and really looking at what are the common strengths, leadership strengths that are in those stories that really begin to help describe purpose but they really also show what are some of the things that we bring to what we do that is our combination of gifts that show up.
We also look at the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that we all have, and how we fit that together with the gifts that we have into how much time are we spending doing the thing that is our gift versus doing the stuff that’s taking out the trash. So that in some sense covers Day One of the journey. Day Two of the journey is really a deep dive into purpose and this is where in a group of six you end up telling your childhood magical moments, your passion, and a whole series of other questions that we sort of have people think through that in telling them we can watch when you stepped into that place of purpose. We may not know what the words were, but words are that help us [inaudible 00:40:10], but we know when you step into it. And over about half a day, a group of about six people will go on a journey of helping each other to uncover what’s the set of words that best helps you access your purpose, and it’s kind of like a key to that room of purpose for each one of us.
We then spend time that afternoon really saying, “Well, that’s great. Now that you have a sense of what it is that’s very helpful for what you need in a cocktail party, but what are you going to do in your life, and how you’re going to lead from this purpose more deeply.” And we spend the afternoon really having people do the deep reflection and internal thinking and planning and discussing around how are they’re going to lead from their purpose, a factor of 10 more than they ever have in the past now that I know what it is. In some ways it’s a Declaration of independence that each person writes of what is it that they’re going to step into, and what are they going to honor. Then the group sits down and reviews those and give each other feedback. Then at some point we then get everybody to stand and say what is their purpose and why those words that they came up with, and that brings us to the end of the Second Day.
We then continued working with the groups over a couple of months, a couple of conference calls, and check ins, and help people refine that journey of how are they going to lead from purpose. Because in some sense it’s not about the words, it’s about the actions, and how do you fully step into those, and what does that really look like for you in your life, both work and personal?
So that’s what we do when we take them … When we need to we do longer programs, we put in some stuff around values, we’ll put in some stuff around how do you deal with your weaknesses and how do you transfer them in the strengths. Now with the new material in the book, we have a whole other set of material around purpose’s relationship to stress, and how it changes that some, how do you use purpose to make the hard right versus easy wrong decisions in life, and what does that mean, and what is the relationship between purpose and our identity. We all have roles and expertise and all kinds of other things. That’s when they’ll get stripped away, what is left, and what is it that purpose can do for us. We have a whole number, interesting number of things that we’re beginning to play with as well.
Will Bachman: What sort of changes have you seen people making in their, in their non work lives and their personal lives after really discovering their purpose?
Nick Craig: Yeah. Well, the just thing is that in some ways that’s the place people make more difference, more changes, because in some ways … Well, it’s this way: I’ve had the luck in many cases of when I get to do these programs, I’m doing it with senior executives a lot, and most of them are living their purpose fairly effectively on the work side. The personal side is a little more complicated for many of them. So for many people it’s really been about making making real changes in their relationship with their kids, and how they’re interacting with them, the kind of time they’re spending. Not just the time, but how they spend their time has been a big change for a number of people. I cannot tell you how many people when they do their planning, put them starting to have date night with their spouse. And I’m like, “Man, nobody’s doing date nights, but it’ like it really makes a difference. It was like having that special time with your spouse and what does that mean, and bringing your purpose to that person.
So that’s just a whole other level of what this looks like. I’ve had a number of people who realize that the roles they had and the things they were doing really we’re not an expression of their purpose, and they needed to make major changes, needed to move to a different part of the world, and really start the thing that they knew that had always been calling them. So it’s a wide range of things.
Will Bachman: And this is a little personal, but how would you articulate your purpose, Nick?
Nick Craig: Yes. So my purpose, I have two ways of phrasing it. One is, this version that I’ve had for a good bit of time is my purpose is to wake you up and have you finally be home. I think that’s a wonderful expression and description of my purpose, but about three years ago a lot of the participants in the program came up to me and said, “Nick, that is not your purpose. Let me tell you what I think your purposes.” They said, “Your purpose is to be the Gandalf that knocks on my door, and if I open that door, the deeper truth will be revealed in my life will change forever.” And when they said that, I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so much better.”, because as a kid, when I was a teenager, I spent all my teenage years reading those books. It was like is where I lived my life for about three or four years as I was going from a kid to an adult. And so the metaphor was just so poignant for me. It’s kind of like when Gandalf knocks on Frodo’s door at the beginning of the Lord Of The Rings-
Will Bachman: Adventures. Bagginses don’t go on adventures.
Nick Craig: But I mean seriously, have you opened that door, and it’s like, “Oh my God.”? I cannot tell you how many people you know who I’ve stayed in contact with for many, many years, have said “Do you realize how different my life is now from what it would be like if we had not met? And it’s not like you’re saying it’s all good, but it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’” I mean, I had a woman who was a decided to become head of HR for the World Food Program right before the Syria crisis, Ebola, and everything else, and when it all was blowing up was when we were talking. She’s like, “Oh my God. It’s like if I knew knowing my purpose was going to get me into this much trouble.”
Will Bachman: Would’ve stayed home at Bag End. One question I’d like to ask all guests is if there’s any routines or habits that you have found really worked for you, and maybe they’re ones that you’ve had for a long time or maybe they’re a morning routine that you’ve developed recently, but we’d love to hear any kind of routines or habits.
Nick Craig: You know, I think, there’s a whole series of routines and habits. For me, for example, whenever I’m struggling, I always step back and say, “Okay, if my purpose was working on this problem instead of me, what would be happening here?”, and there’s always a wonderful, clear insight that comes out of that, and in some sense my purpose at its core is about stepping into the deeper truth. And whenever I do that it’s like a [inaudible 00:47:07] forces me to pause, step back and say, ‘Okay, so there’s what I’m doing and how I’m reacting, and then there’s what would really actually be the deeper truth and what that would look like.” And so in some ways it gets to the point where it’s just a part of you, so as a routine.
Benjamin Franklin has a wonderful thing he did when he was a man in his journey, and it’s something that I actually find very helpful to do is at the beginning of the day you say, “What am I going to do today that’s an expression of my purpose?”. At the end of the day, you then say, “Okay, where did I live my purpose and where could I have lived it more fully?”, and in some ways it becomes a daily score, and I’ve found that to be a really helpful exercise for me.
Will Bachman: Nick, your book is incredibly powerful. You’ve also got a couple of other ones out there, ones that you wrote with Bill George-
Nick Craig: Bill George, yeah.
Will Bachman: … and Scott Snook, right?. To North, Discover Your True North FieldBook, and Finding Your True North The Personal Guide, and with your new book. I think this is so relevant and such focus for a lot of people that this is a great intro, and I hope people check out your book. I’m really enjoying it, and I wanted to really thank you for being on the show.
Nick Craig: Well, thank you so much for having me on the show, and I really enjoyed this conversation and jumping into this journey of purpose with you. Thank you.

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