My Purpose

As part of my (soon-to-be-announced) Agility Scales project, I decided to practice what I preach, lead by example, and eat my own dog food. I am happy to share my personal purpose in this blog post.

Every team, organization and individual benefits from crafting a purpose (also called a mission) and focusing on meaningful work. A purpose (or mission) is about why you do your work.

As Simon Sinek says, start with why.

I firmly believe that your purpose should match your actual behaviors. If your intent is to do one thing, but your actions show you’re doing something else, then your purpose has a problem. That’s why I had a critical look at my work habits over the last few years to see if there is a clear “why”.

Patterns were hard to identify because I’ve done many things that seem totally unrelated. I cannot say that my purpose is writing, or speaking, or changing the world of management, because I happily also did other things that did not fit those categories, and I did not consider that a waste of my time.

However, I only do work that I enjoy; I always try to turn that work into revenue streams, and I only want to do things that matter to other people. I canceled many experiments because I lost interest, lost money, or lost people’s support.

This insight reminded me of a slogan that I once came up with:

Make fun, make money, and make a difference.

I have decided to turn this slogan into my personal mission statement. It describes what I’ve done for the last seven years; it’s what I want to do for many years to come; and it guides my decision-making process, at least for now.

Some critics from the English language police may object and say that “making fun” should actually be “having fun”. I know that. But I like having a bit of fun with the English language, and many people know me for making fun of both myself and others. I don’t take everything too seriously. So there.

Other critics may point out that the statement is too general. Almost any kind of work could match this purpose. In fact, it looks suspiciously similar to the Ikigai model, which says that your purpose is the cross-section of what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what people are willing to pay for.

I agree.

But maybe that is exactly the point of my mission statement. It’s not the purpose of a team or company; it’s the purpose of me. I want the freedom to do anything I want, and be able to change my focus to any new opportunity, including things I haven’t even imagined yet. But the self-imposed constraints remain: I should always enjoy the work, earn an income, and do something meaningful for others. Make fun, make money, and make a difference.

And that’s a fine purpose to have, I think.


Photo: (c) 2009  Seth Sawyers, Creative Commons 2.0

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  • Gerardo Barcia

    Nice! Why did you put “make money” in the middle? By the way.. I’m happy that you are writting again here! 🙂

    • jurgenappelo

      Because it sounds good.

  • Bryan Agosto

    I wonder if you changed make fun to create fun how that would impact it. I understand the notion of make fun from your explanation of it in the article but it also has a negative connotation to it. Make fun to me means make fun of others that then does not engage, empower, or energize others. Making fun of others as a purpose can lead to them feeling unwanted leading to lack of engagement and decreasing the feeling of being empowered and energized. Maybe I am reading too much into it but thought it would be good to suggest another way of saying it:

    “Create fun, make money, and make a difference.”

    • Jurgen Appelo

      Indeed, I think you are reading too much in it.
      As a writer, I like my version much better. Your version takes the fun out of it because it destroys the rhythm and the cheekiness.

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