“What is your purpose in life?”  I hated this question.  A lot.  I think the people asking didn’t really understand it themselves.  So here’s my story.

In this episode, I talk about:

  • The most depressing day of my life
  • What does “Purpose” really mean?
  • Can you have more than 1 purpose?


Tom Bilyeau – Impact Theory Podcast


Good Morning, everyone. Welcome to the Path to 1 Million. This is going to be episode 158. Today’s topic is a little bit inspired. The other day I received an instant message from Nancy Engel asking about purpose and having a purpose in one’s life. And I remember thinking to myself about how purpose actually does make some things easier. But at the same point in time, I remember this entire section of my life where I absolutely hated the very concept of purpose. So if we take a trip back in time, I decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to go off on my own path and I wanted to build something. I wanted to create something. I wasn’t exactly sure what that was, but I attended one of these free seminar classes that one of these life coaches was putting on. And one of the questions that he asked the class, and I knew it was going to happen because I saw this at other places, I saw this in a book and all this other stuff.

And I remember that one of the things that he said to us is, “What is your purpose in life?” And I was like, God, I hate that fricking question. I really do. I despise it. I can’t stand it. And the reason why is because first off, I didn’t know what my purpose was. And second off, I thought it was really cheap to sit there for five minutes and try to figure out, well, gee, what’s my purpose going to be for the next 40 years? And to be truth be told, I really didn’t know what that was. And I always struggled with it. And I remember these people always saying the same thing, that you can’t go anywhere in life until you have your purpose and stuff done. And I think as I’ve gotten older, as I really wrestled with this topic, as I have started to define what my purpose was, as I’ve realized that there’s actually like multiple levels of purpose that are out there, there’s an overarching purpose of what is the purpose of my life, which is such a huge and grand question come to think about it.

And I, and I remember thinking back to like for instance, all back in high school, people were always asking me, well, you know, what do you want to do for a career? What do you want to do for the rest of your life? And at first I didn’t think that was a very daunting question because my answer was super simple. I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. But I never really thought about it in context until I actually landed my aerospace job and it was my first day and I had to go to HR and fill out all this paperwork. And the lady said to me, Oh, and let’s see, so you’re 26 so now when you retire in 40 years. Dot. Dot. Dot. And from that point in time, it was like being in that Charlie Brown classroom, cause all I heard come out of her mouth was [Insert Charlie Brown Teacher] as my brain was, my brain was melting down thinking my God, I’m going to do this for the next 40 years.

Right. That really depressed me. Like my mom and dad were in the generation where worked for 20 or 25 years and then you were done. But now I’m looking at 40 years and all of a sudden that seemed like extremely daunting to me. And so I think that there’s a difference between between having a purpose that is more short term versus a purpose that is longer term. So for instance, you know when I initially thought that you know, my life was to be an aerospace engineer, that was my purpose, that was my focus, that was my goal. That made getting out of bed every single day super easy. When I finally got my act together, it made doing homework, taking quizzes, taking tests, that whole thing became easy because my life revolved around that. And if it didn’t have anything to do with achieving that goal or keeping that objective or fulfilling that purpose for that matter, I didn’t, I didn’t focus any energy on it.

I just put it off to the side and said I will address that at some future date. But that’s where I kept my focus was primarily on what is a, you know, what is my, what is my purpose and what is my goal? And of course when I had that completed, then I was adrift because I didn’t know what was going to be next. And the thing is, if you think about your life in terms of stages, which I certainly do, I realized that as I’ve gone through stages throughout my life, that my purpose and my direction have also changed as well. So before it was about building a business, but now it became more about how can I impact people, right? That little bit of a paradigm shift. So now that over the past handful of years that I’ve really focused on what I’ve loved ever since I was a little kid, what I focused on ever since a little kid, it’s about impacting people.

It’s about inspiring people. It is about sharing stories, it’s about letting other people share their stories. So even now, if somebody were to walk up to me and say, Hey cliff, what is your purpose? My purpose inside of me feels more like a feeling and that I can’t really articulate it into words. And I know that a lot of people will tell me, “Well, Cliff, your purpose really is our purpose if you can’t articulate it.” Trust me, I know that. I am working on it. I’m trying to define it every now and then I’ll pull out a scratch pad. I’ll write some thoughts down, see what words or gel together to see if I can capture the feeling, capture the emotion, capture the spirit of what that overall goal is. Or what that purpose is and the new direction that I want to head, you know, versus just being adrift.

And I think that if I had been completely satisfied, but just staying the draft or whatever it is, I probably would’ve kept that aerospace job rather than eventually walking away from it. But I just remember thinking to myself, you know, now that there’s bigger things at play and I want to do bigger things and I want to scale and I want to impact more people than I really need to kind of have that defined. Right. So like I said, that is something that I work on. Something that I stretch my brain on every now and then just trying to get out the message that I’m trying to get out. With some people they are very lucky. If you take for example, Tom Bilyeu, he has a podcast that is called Impact Theory. Guy literally from my perspective, came out of nowhere and he is tearing it up. He’s interviewing all of these high achievers and, and all these world class athletes and authors and stuff.

And his podcast is really good. It’s really great. But he was in his twenties when he defined what his purpose in life was. And his purpose in life was defined by the fact that so many people in his family were overweight. And so that’s what he dedicated his life to was to make healthy food that tasted good. Cause for the longest time and anybody who, who grew up, especially when I did, if you got anything that was healthy it had no taste to it. It might’ve been the best thing on the planet for you. But I just tasted horrible. And so what his whole focus was is to create snacks, create food that was actually nutritious for you and tasted good. And of course, that’s how he became one of the founders of Quest Nutrition. One of those they call them a startup unicorns where he walked away from that an absolute billionaire from it.

So, kudos for him for being able to know at such a young age what his purpose in life is. And even that purpose as of today remains basically the same. So, and he’s talked about this on this podcast before about people that have too loosely defined purpose. I’ve run across this before when I’ve talked to people and they say, “Well, what is your purpose in life on life?” I don’t know. I don’t think I can really articulate it. And they say, Oh well mine is that I want to help people. You want to help people walk across the street? You want to help people bag their groceries? You want to help people? Well no, I want to help people do. And then all of a sudden they start getting a little bit more specific. But then at some point in time they get jammed up as well because all of a sudden they’re having trouble articulating, cause no one ever pushed him.

No one ever said to them, Oh well how do you want to help people? So being able to crisp that up and being able to carry that message forward creates a definite creates a definite, definite – that I can’t even talk. It creates a purpose, creates a direction for you to head and be able to follow and measure everything against. So, you know, and at the same point in time, while I absolutely love the concept of a purpose and what it can do for people, for the longest time, absolutely hated it. Cause I just couldn’t define it. But I think if you take a look at it in terms of short term versus long term, like my short term plan, my short term purpose is to achieve this. And sometimes you just need to experiment. And I think that’s where it came from in my life where I needed to experiment with what I didn’t, you know, I need to experiment with something to be able to figure out, Oh you know what? This isn’t working for me. I really don’t like this. So then change gears and sometimes you need to cross off things on your list in order to find that what you truly want. So anyways, I hope that made sense that some of the things that rattling around in the back of my head, I will be back again tomorrow with another story and I hope you guys are having a fantastic Thursday. I will see you then.