Purpose is so overrated

Photo by William Poulos on Unsplash

“I’ve found my calling.”


“The purpose of the business is to radically change the world.”


Off the scale.

Then again, I don’t buy it. Not one little bit.


The whole purpose thing.

Why’s that?

Well, what’s real? Our thoughts, our actions, our results?

You’re called or you think you’ve found the one thing that God had in mind for you, and you do it until the end of your days or at least until something better comes along.

But are you called, truly?

As for the company thing, I’ve lost count of the number of companies who arrive from nowhere, talk a load of horsesh*t (but still get a lot of attention), only to disappear into the ether. Give me something plain and very ordinary with no web presence, less still a TikTok or Instagram page, and I know that their work speaks for itself.

The purpose, well, that’s in that in the circumstance of what they do or deliver.

As usual, I’m sure I’ve got this all wrong: you only have to dial into the social media airwaves to appreciate how big a money-selling deal is the meme of purpose. Sh*t, even the Net Zero 2050 thing has become another faux purpose statement. For the record, even if it were true (i.e. we’re going to save the world and ourselves), the world’s still going to be smashed to smithereens by dint of our obsession with must-havery, money and being all you can be.

Instead, and I’m ready for the brickbats, our only job in life, personally and professionally, is to ask a better question. And not because I say so but instead because, otherwise, we’re trapped in a timewarp of growth and expectation that was ontologically speaking right in, say, the 50s but when you’re showing off your purpose prowess against the backdrop of the Anthropocene, well, it looks stupid. No, it’s more than that. It’s delusional.

When I say a better question I mean something meaningful to you, something reverent of your soul and something that connects with all sentient beings?

An example might be:

how can I live fully whilst doing no harm to mother earth?

Now that’s worth more than all those stupid billionaires extolling the virtue of getting rich and touching the void but, in case it’s not already obvious, are dining out on the blood, sweat and tears of the legged-over proletariat who’ll never be able to escape the torpor of working for the man. Or as Charles Bukowski said:

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

But you won’t do it. Ask a better question. Or certainly, that’s my experience. Instead, if you’re not already, you’ll be sucked into the system and find your guts ripped out on the altar of fear.

Before you whisper to yourself that I’ve fully lost the plot or I’m drunk on my own self-importance, I can tell you I’m deadly serious. For too long, too many of us have bought into the idea that if we’re not already claimed by our higher calling, drilling down on our genius or gifts that in no time at all we’ll stumble across the treasure trove that will mean we’re fired up and ready to make our dent in the Universe. But, rarely, if ever, does it work out that way.

As for the company thing, trust me, having worked in and for more than my fair share of businesses, not one of them had a purpose beyond making money for either the shareholders or partners and anyone who tried to tell me otherwise was, I’m afraid to say, lying. Yes, there might be some outliers that avoided my attention but anyone wearing the regnant label leader needs to understand that a business is extractive and not regenerative and that means that however high and mighty your purpose, you’ll be forever in the debt to mother earth.

To be honest, I’m not sure why I’m even jumping into the snakepit of purpose and the industry that’s been built up and around it. In a sense, I couldn’t give a fig if you market and/or brand yourself this way but I do care when you try to bludgeon others to your way of thinking. And that includes your employees who I’m pretty sure will be trying to square the circle between what they think and what they’re being told to assimilate and espouse.

And you?

Do you think the purpose thing is wearing a bit thin?




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Julian Summerhayes

Julian Summerhayes


“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” ― Dogen