“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche
In the last few years many entrepreneurs have attached themselves to the idea that you can design a simple product that fulfills a simpler purpose and make quick profits. There is a trend, expounded by very smart people like Tim Ferriss (The Four Hour Workweek) and many others, that is focused on creating products that can make you sustained dollars without much effort. Simple apps that generate a passive income, companies that run themselves, products you can create and sell without actually caring about them, all are in-style.
The rise of armchair app developers has reflected this with the app store swelling to over 700,000 downloadable, individual apps that people have spent plenty of time, money, and energy creating. Anyone that spends time browsing through them can invariably tell that the vast majority of them are things you would never use. They are - by and large - just bad.
This trend towards quick financial liberation through executing on a clever idea without any inherent interest in the subject is unfortunate, and ultimately deeply distracting from creating real value in the world. There are far more crappy products out there than there should be for this reason.
What does it really take to create great products and services? If it’s starting a new company or writing a #1 bestseller, what is the fundamental basis for real success?
The answer is purpose.
Purpose is the motivator to define your value to the world. It is both personal and global, and is something that can be found, encouraged and crafted within all of your best endeavors.
Over the course of the last year, I have been deeply interested in understanding the mechanics of success. I have had many long conversations with people who have had what I call “successive success”, defined as having more than one company or project that has done very, very well. I began with people in the nonprofit sector, and found myself talking to some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.
The consistent theme was not exclusively the innate talent of the people involved, nor the quantity of financing, nor the ‘luck’ of the market or the crazy opportunity that they stumbled upon. The principle similarity was in the inherent motivation of the founders. The why of their activities was very clear from the outset: they knew what they wanted to create and the value of why they were doing it.
For most of these individuals, a good idea at the right time coupled with execution was important. But the actual motivator for good execution was paramount. It came down to a deep and inherent understanding of the problem they were trying to solve and why it mattered in the world. Who were they helping? Why were they helping them? Honestly answering those questions created purpose. It created the the drive, ambition and edge that ultimately delivered an amazing product or service.
Money can certainly be a huge motivator, but making a significant impact on humanity was the jet-fuel behind the attempt. The founders that succeeded most had aligned motivations - they were deeply excited about solving problems for their customers or clients, because they had the overarching strength of intention that went deeper than just the payoff.
That’s when people do their best work and deliver their greatest gifts to the world. Success is fueled by finding that depth in your work. This is what is missing in our economy. The quality that comes from building great things with a greater purpose.