The fuel that ignites careers

The fuel that ignites careers

I was dining beside the Bosphorus in Istanbul. My guest was Pilot Sam, a senior Turkish Airlines captain with 11,000 flying hours. “How did you know you wanted to become a pilot?” I asked as we sipped raki after a stupendous meal. His response had a twist. It’s a message critical for happy, thriving, long-lasting careers.

I expected a story from Pilot Sam about his seeing a plane in the sky above as a kid, and his knowing instantly that his passion was for flight. How nothing makes him feel as free or inspired as controlling an aircraft through the skies. How sunrises from 30,000 feet make you feel like you can touch God. Okay, I am going on a bit, but you get the idea.

Instead, Pilot Sam told me this story. “My father took me to the airport when I was 9 years old. I walked around. Saw the planes taking off and landing. Saw the flight schedule clicking over on the board. And then I saw the magic. It was this sight that made me realise I wanted to be a pilot. It showed me my purpose.

“I saw the passengers checking in. I realised in that instant that I wanted to be responsible for them. I wanted to be accountable. I wanted a career where my focus was safe-guarding others. So I became a pilot, and I have loved every day of my career for 22 years, being responsible for others.”

Sam’s message for me was how powerful having clarity on what your true Purpose is to making sure you love what you do, and do what you love. Often that Purpose is not the obvious. It’s more subtle. And more profound.

I have been working hard these past four months shaping a new business I will gently launch later this year. It’s all about helping leaders accelerate growth. I spent time thinking about what my true Purpose was. Why did I want to build a business helping leaders accelerate growth?

All my logical answers did not nail it for me. Then I got it. What drives me, and why I turn up every day, is because I love relationships. I love starting new relationships, building them, keeping them forever. It’s what has been the very best reward to come from my career, and what energises me.

So my Purpose became clear. Build enduring, valuable, meaningful relationships with people I like. It just took me 30 years to work it out.

That insight has given me huge clarity as to what I am really trying to achieve every day, and the types of decisions I should be making. It helps energise me for the day ahead, and makes me look forward to every meeting. Knowing what underpins your inspiration and ambition gives you a very special, turbo-charged energy. It makes even tough days feel fun. It gives you strength, and lifts spirits.

I know this Purpose thing is a bit opaque. It can feel fluffy. But it is real. It has value. It will evolve as your career evolves, and then might settle on what it means for you once and for all. That’s okay. It’s worth the effort to keep thinking about it. To reflect. To try to nail what is at the core of who you are and what you are about. It has for me.

So — don’t give up. Think about the legacy you want to leave, about what drives you. Try to grab those moments of clarity when you feel you are working in your element — doing what you are good at and you love doing, that feels absolutely natural and right for you. Keep an email file, titled ‘Purpose’, and scribble notes and messages to yourself so you keep building your insights. Diarise an hour every six months to review the file, and to push for clarity.

Having clarity on a Purpose will build your optimism and resilience. It will be a powerful fuel to give your career momentum and thrust. It’s also a journey. Stay with it. Please.

More reading

One thing you need to achieve your goals, every time
This powerful source of career inspiration is always on tap
Living with purpose


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