The Key To Your Success Is To Find Your Rocket Fuel
Unless you're born a Kardashian, your business has to make money. This isn't about saving face or looking stupid if your business tanks. Your business is your livelihood. You won't have much luck surviving if your business consistently runs in the red. But chasing profit as the be-all-end-all North Star won't be enough to sustain you as an entrepreneur. The key to your success is to find a mission that fuels your rocket with a sustainable source of energy.
The more you focus on money, the less it becomes about helping the people you serve. Which ironically enough, means your business is set on a trajectory for failure. It's like bolting up an empty teeter totter as someone dangles a carrot at the other end. You'll climb for a second or two before taking a deep nose dive to the ground. Chasing greed is a fundamental law of nature that carries cataclysmic consequences when broken.
It might not be today, tomorrow or even in ten years, but you will face a stark reality. It's not about how successful or unsuccessful you are in the moment, it's the trajectory of your daily habits that decide your future as a business.
I read one such startling example of businesses that ignore these fundamental laws of nature. The average lifespan of a Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 company is now less than 20 years. These are the biggest and most "successful" companies in the world.
Consumers are not blind to a company motivated by profit. You can see straight through their bullshit. Walmart can say "Save money. Live better." But for a company to shut down stores in communities that attempt to start a labour union (because they can't survive on the wages they're receiving), are they really that concerned with you living better? They forget to include a big fat asterisk that speaks the truth - only if it serves them and their shareholders.
Fast Company does an issue with the 100 most creative people in business each year. Every page is dog eared, starred and underlined with all my favourite ideas by the end. You can't help but feel inspired, motivated and driven to work towards something bigger than yourself.
You don't just see business being a force for good, you see it being the very foundation for a better world.
POET, the world's largest producer of biofuels, is literally changing the world. Some businesses exist for the profit. POET operates for the cause. Our heavy dependency on fossil fuels is another such example of sprinting up an empty teeter totter. Everything has a tipping point. We've surpassed the greenhouse gas emissions of what the world is willing and capable of sustaining.
You can wait for a painfully slow juggernaut like the government to look after the world's best interests, or you can fuel your rocket with a mission-first culture like POET. Every innovation they spearhead is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so you and I have the luxury of living somewhere that doesn't resemble a post-apocalyptic Mad Max world.
The very nature of fossil fuels should be enough to unearth the old adage, you are what you eat – because the very source of fossil fuels is decomposed plants and animals buried in the ground for millions of years. POET will help us avoid a similar fate.
Biofuels offer plant-based solutions to the Earth's growing energy problems. In its first year, POET produced one million gallons of ethanol and employed 13 people. Today, POET produces two billion gallons of biofuel annually with a team of 2,000 and operates 28 ethanol plants throughout the American Midwest.
CEO Jeff Broin's mission is to replace petroleum with environmentally-responsible, renewable resources. He has cut through the bureaucratic red tape to replace 15 percent of petroleum with biofuels in America.
Products backed by purpose have the ability to change the world.
If you ask most people what their life purpose is, they'd have no idea. The idea of having a mission like Jeff Broin seems like something you're born with. Let the words of holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl be a sobering jab to your ego: “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that he is who is being asked.”
Rather than take one day at a time, with no purpose beyond surviving, see that you are the one who chooses your destiny. You get to choose the why that drives you to wake up and renews you with a sense of energy to do whatever it takes to fulfill your mission.
To escape the feeling of merely existing, is to align your values with a purpose bigger than yourself. Don't be discouraged by thinking it has to be something on the scale of Broin's. It can be whatever the hell you want it to be. Author Hal Elrod describes it as anything that resonates with and inspires you to wake up every day and live in alignment with your purpose.
When you're first starting, the simpler and smaller the better. Heck, you can change your purpose whenever you want. “The secret of getting ahead is getting started," as Mark Twain encourages.
It could be as simple as saying "I'm going to say hello and smile to everyone I pass so that I can bring a little more happiness to those I meet." Or, "I'm going to ask all my friends and family what I can do to help them work towards their goals." Or, "I'm never going to accept less from myself than I know I'm capable of because those I love are counting on me."
How do you think you would feel if you lived every day aligned with your purpose? Aligning your thoughts, words and actions with your purpose is life-changing. It's not magic, it's what you are put on this earth to do. That's why it feels so damn right. Nothing else will provide you with this same sense of fulfillment.
Still can't decide? Use one of the ones I mentioned. Write it down, post it in the comments, tell a friend, set a daily reminder on your phone. Take action right now before you do anything else.
As the brilliant Nike ad reminds us, “Yesterday, you said tomorrow.”
It's not about perfection. It's about starting.