“You know, more than anything else, I just want to matter. I just want to make a difference.”
This is what my buddy Romy Camargo said to me some years ago. He was a Green Beret, a great friend of mine, served with me in 7th Special Forces Group on multiple tours to Afghanistan. He was shot through the neck in Afghanistan, gravely wounded, quadriplegic, on a ventilator and his wife, Gaby, fought an amazing recovery over a period of years where he had cutting-edge stem cell surgery. He taught himself how to breathe again during the day. He managed to get out of the hospital and live at home with his family to raise his children. And then, he and his wife opened a nonprofit spinal cord injury rehab center right here in Tampa, Florida. All of these things were things that people said he could not do—that he would never be able to do. Again, the resistance, the voices in the head—it would’ve been easy to listen to that but Romy didn’t for one reason—his purpose. That is the real topic of this fourth of six episodes on Rooftop Leadership mindset. It is the power and the pursuit of purpose. It is such a critical aspect for leaders.
In military operations, we give what is called Commander’s Intent. So if I’m a commander, and I give my intent to my troops, it must contain two things: task and purpose (why).
What we found in the military is this. Troops will get anything done in the world – regardless of how tough it is, or how big of a complex situation it is – as long as they know the answer to one simple question: WHY?! Human beings are meaning seeking creatures. We want to matter. We want to know why. That is just the way it is. That’s the way it has always been. So when I define purpose here, I’m talking about the true north on your life compass. I’m talking about the stuff that when your feet hit the ground in the morning you feel it. You feel it in your gut. You feel it in your head. You feel it in your heart, your legs, your whole body. You know that you’re on the path of that higher purpose that you were put on this earth to do. We all have it.
We all have that true north. The problem is that we have covered it up. The enemies to our purpose—this is key—they are internal and they are external. The internal enemy is, obviously, resistance. Once again, Steven Pressfield’s coined term of that inner force that stands between us and our higher purpose. Resistance is such a powerful thing. It’s that head chatter. It’s the ways that we cut our own knees and take ourselves out of the game. We tell ourselves we’re not good enough. We tell ourselves we don’t have a story. Romy Camargo saying “I’m just a quadriplegic. I’ll never be able to open a spinal cord injury center.” If resistance had won, that center would never exist and the number of people who are being treated there today would never have happened. Romy’s son, Andres, would have never have had his dad around because he would’ve given up. That’s what I’m talking about. The enemy to purpose is resistance.
On the outside, there are enemies as well. The rat race. The daily cycle that we go through. That gerbil on a wheel to satisfy the man, to go to the JOB, to do what society wants us to do. All of those things—that is the rat race—very powerful.
And then, finally, the churn. This is the loss of trust and the in-group and out-group dynamics and behavior that goes on to fight against that. I will tell you that my book Mission America that I wrote to help warriors come home from military service, I wrote that out of purpose. I felt like coming out of 23 years in the military—almost 23 years—I had lost my purpose, and so, I wrote that book so that I could bring purpose back into my life and it really did that. For me, it was even just writing a book that helped me reconnect to that purpose.
Here is what I would like you to do. I would like you to go to someplace sacred. You will always hear me talk about sacred places; you need those places where you can go off the grid a little bit and just get deep on yourself and reflect. I would really like you to do a eulogy exercise.
I would like you to think about it being the day of your funeral when you’ve passed on and the person who loves you who held your hand when you took your last breath is talking about you in the eulogy and what you stood for. What would they say? What would the purpose be? Some of you have heard me talk about this in Leaving Tracks where that person who held your hand in your last moments actually talks about the impact that you made, the tracks you left behind in the earth. A similar thing.
But do an exercise like that because what you will find if you will do that, if you will open your heart up to that to begin with the end in mind, as Stephen Covey said, you will find that you can define your purpose. You can get clear on what your purpose is. Listen, guys, when a leader is clear on their purpose that is when we follow them to the rooftop. That is when we believe in them. That is when we do whatever it takes—we run through walls with them—because they are operating on why. They are clear on their why. Like Simon Sinek said, people buy why you do something not what you do. If you haven’t seen that video, we will put that in the link, you absolutely have to watch this. So really work on getting clear on your purpose.
The other thing is this never ends. We should always spend our life reflecting on our purpose. Guess what? You’re going to come off the path. You’re going to make mistakes. When that happens, don’t worry about it. Just right the ship, as Bo Eason says, and get back to your purpose. It’s what we’re supposed to do.
Now, my last little plug here in the P.S. You heard me talk about the Mission America book at http://www.missionamericabook.com. If you haven’t read that book—if you are a veteran, a family member of a veteran, or if you know a veteran—you should check this book out because it really goes a long way to helping us understand the challenges of transition. We even talk a lot in there about purpose.
If you’re a civilian who has never served, my chapter on “Purpose and Passion” will help you. So check that book out. All proceeds go back to our veterans and getting more books in their hands.
Thanks for watching. Get clear on your purpose. I’ll see you on the high ground.