Your Purpose Matters

Purpose is the source of inspiration; it influences culture and guides actions.

Over the last several years, I have been a subscriber to the Sunday edition of The New York Times. Somewhat incredibly, one of my favorite segments is the obituary column. It consistently astonishes me. I discover the stories of people I have never heard of but who have lived extraordinary lives, achieved amazing things, and contributed significantly to human progress.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was quoted as stating: “I want to put a ding in the universe.” While that may appear beyond the aspirations of most people, it is, in fact, a desire of many.

This is where we often face a conundrum. Do those of us who are not rich and famous really, truly matter? If we have not changed or contributed to the world like Nelson Mandela or Bono or Mother Theresa or Oprah or the many other humanitarians, artists, and leaders who are passionate about improving the human experience, is there any real significance to our existence? Where will be the evidence that we existed, apart from a notation on a gravestone?

At my church, we have an outreach called the Dignity Center. The center caters to people who are homeless and struggling, yet have made a commitment to doing everything they can to live a life of self-sufficiency and dignity. What they need is not only encouragement, but also the resources and practical support to get back on their feet.

Every day, volunteers such as lawyers, accountants, carpenters, caterers, engineers, counselors, government workers, ministers, college students, and many others with varying degrees of expertise show up to provide the guidance and direction the clients need. The results are inspiring. I have learned that homeless is not synonymous with hopeless.

People who put their ding in the universe have a sense of purpose. They know every contribution matters. It is unwise to judge what contributions are more important than others. There are many needs in all sectors of society and in every corner of the world.

Whereas the media may give attention to what might be deemed more “noble” or selfless pursuits such as the Dignity Center, my experience suggests that a well-run business that operates ethically, that is conscious of its footprint, where customers are cared for and employees feel safe, and where they have opportunities to provide for families and secure retirement makes a powerful contribution to a better world.

There is a significant payoff to being committed to a worthy purpose. Life is lived on a feeling level. When we are contributing to something we believe in, we feel good. If there is a healthy answer to feeling good most of the time, it is contributing value every day to the people, the work, and the organizations that are important to us.

All winning teams are aligned behind a common purpose. That purpose transforms people who feel that every day is a marathon into a team that knows when, where, and to whom to pass the baton. Purpose is the source of inspiration; it influences culture and guides actions. Clarity of purpose is clearly visible in the way people think and act.

The Marathon of Hope

Early in my career, I produced an inspirational film called The Power of Purpose. The film was about Terry Fox, a young Canadian who, at the age of 18, lost his right leg to cancer. If you are unfamiliar with Terry, let me share that he now is regarded as one of Canada’s greatest heroes.

At the time of his diagnosis, Terry was understandably in shock and disbelief. But what captured my imagination about Terry’s story was how he discovered an incredible and compelling purpose in the midst of adversity. His attitude was summed up in these words: “If this is the way I have to go through life, I’ll make the most of it.” And, indeed, he did.

After three years of rehabilitation, Terry committed himself to what he called The Marathon of Hope. A dedicated athlete, despite the loss of his leg, he even had completed a marathon. Now, however, Terry would commit to a much larger purpose: to run the entire width of Canada and raise $1 million for cancer research.

Terry never made it across Canada as the cancer metastasized to his lungs, but he did complete 3,339 miles of the journey, and the final tally for cancer research was $24 million. Terry died within a year, but today the foundation established in his name has raised $750 million through its annual Marathon of Hope runs throughout the world.

Purpose has power. It transforms the mundane into the magnificent. Purpose inspires, provides a clear focus for the day, and gives the courage to transcend life’s greatest challenges. Discovering your purpose is the ultimate expression of how you will leave your “ding in the universe.”

David McNally is the CEO of TransForm Corporation and an internationally acclaimed business speaker. He is also a member of the Speakers Hall of Fame. McNally’s knowledge of what motivates and inspires people has been recognized by authorities such as Larry King, Pat Riley, and Greg Norman. McNally is the author of two best-selling books, “Even Eagles Need a Push” and “The Eagle’s Secret.” His co-authored book, “Be Your Own Brand,” is used by many business schools throughout the world. In fall 2016, McNally will release his new book, “Mark of an Eagle.” Companies such as Delta Airlines, Pulte Homes, and Thrivent Financial, are just a few of the organizations that have embraced TransForm’s work as a key component of preparing their employees for an ever competitive and complex future. For more information, e-mail or visit