Few experiences are more satisfying in life than finding a sense of purpose. Recently, my own purpose came into sharper focus. In this essay, I will not only share my vision for Curious Lion but also provide a practical guide to help you discover your own purpose with greater precision.
To accomplish this, I want to discuss five themes that have become essential for me to stay on course. They are:
- Forgiveness → Self-Awareness
- Challenges → Growth
- Vulnerability → Emotional Fluidity
- Health → Wellness
- Relationships → Connection
Consider each of these as a personal journey. Although you never reach the destination, following each path helps you integrate your experiences and transform into a better version of yourself. Without the lessons in these five journeys, I wouldn’t have achieved this level of clarity of purpose.
Before unveiling the vision and strategy of Curious Lion, let us examine each pathway. I have written these insights as personal reminders, so feel free to explore them and see if they resonate with you.
Five Personal Journeys We Never Complete
Forgiveness → Self-Awareness
Throughout my life, I believed forgiveness was about others. While it ultimately becomes about others, it begins with forgiving yourself. Forgive the innocent child of your past who had just the right experiences to shape who you are today and who did nothing less than their best. Forgive and protect that child as the source of your greatest truth and essence, the wellspring of the unique creativity you use to express yourself. Once you learn how to forgive that child and appreciate them for who they are, you can begin to do this with others.
Key realizations in this journey may include:
- If you try to please everyone, you please no one.
- Being curious without needing an answer leads to wonder.
- The things you dislike in others are actually the things you dislike in yourself.
- We all have an agenda and judge ourselves and others automatically.
- A scarcity mindset of always keeping score isn’t helpful.
- Trust your intuition, and the universe provides.
- Clinging to or wanting something to happen often gets in your way.
Challenges → Growth
I dealt with some health issues recently. Nothing major, but I’m 40, and if I ignore them, my body and mind will deteriorate. So I took action and quickly learned that action is hard. It requires sacrifice and presents its own challenges. But through a combination of exercise, nutrition, and sleep, I have never felt healthier. I have grown mentally, physically, and even spiritually since embracing challenges as opportunities for improvement.
Key realizations in this journey may include:
- Tracking metrics is not useful until you have ignited the motivation to change. Then metrics become useful for measuring progress.
- Motivation must stem from something deeper: a vision of what change is possible and the belief that you can take the necessary steps.
- Expect pain and suffering, and you won’t feel them; you’ll be grateful for the burst of creativity that got you to your trough, and you’ll ebb and flow back to a new burst of creativity you’re excited for.
- To reach the next level in business or life, you need courage, a mindset of fearlessness in the face of uncertainty and adversity, doses of confidence and audacity, grit to dig deep enough, and the willingness to endure pain and find calm within it.
- To discover your passion, you must try many things, get feedback, and narrow your focus over time. Growth, however, requires a very different skill set. To grow to the next level, you must let go, follow your curiosity beyond what you think is possible, step out of your comfort zone, and learn how to bounce back from setbacks while putting your learning into practice.
Vulnerability → Emotional Fluidity
Being vulnerable enough to truly feel your emotions is, contrary to popular belief, the source of your greatest power. By understanding and fully exploring your transient emotions, you can create the space to be your authentic self and rise above them. Stop silencing your feelings and listen to them more. Likewise, stop listening to your thoughts and engage with them more.
Key realizations in this journey may include:
- Speaking your truth from a place of vulnerability feels great and helps you connect with your intuition.
- We can be quick to jump to extreme conclusions when ruled by our emotions or thoughts. The trick is to balance them. Sleep on it. Don’t always act with haste.
- Connect with how emotions feel in your body, and you’ll learn to be with others’ feelings without letting them overwhelm you.
- Baby Boomers often struggle with empathy. They never learned how to handle emotions. They were never allowed to feel. But that’s ok.
- Responding to adversity with equanimity leads to far better outcomes than reacting from a place of fear, hurt, or anger.
Health → Wellness
As you age, your body’s signals become clearer, reminding you of your own mortality. But this is not a cause for despair. You’re not too late for anything. You’ve heard the signal. Rejoice that you can do something about it.
Healthy living is the foundation, which means focusing on nutrition, exercise, sleep, and managing stress.
Four factors that make me a better person all stem from healthy living:
- Mental focus
- Mind-body connection
Strong Relationships → Connection
It’s easy to say, “I don’t have time.” You are guilty of this, particularly when it comes to maintaining relationships with others. However, when you prioritize relationships and genuinely share love with others, you are rewarded with kindness and well-being.
Key realizations in this journey may include:
- Your closest family and friends have always accepted you for who you are, and yet, sometimes, you fail to do the same for yourself or, worse, for them.
- Time goes by quickly. Don’t let relationships with friends fall off the radar.
- Tough conversations with loved ones often go better than expected, demonstrating the value of vulnerability and honesty.
- When communicating with your loved ones, speak from the heart because their minds are already full of ideas, projects, and plans. They’ll be more receptive to thoughts from the heart.
- Assume everyone you meet is trying to make the world a better place and their actions contribute to your vision of a good world. Root for their better angels.
- Be firm but friendly; people will respect you more and want to be a bigger part of your world.
- Everything is connected, so go forth and create, trusting that if what you create is the truth, it will be well received.
- True love is the impulse to uphold the light in others, so you can even love relative strangers.
How I’m Applying This At Curious Lion
Now that we have a shared understanding of the five essential paths to keep walking, I want to show you how I’m applying this to my business.
We’re going to break this up into two sections:
- Leadership and Team Development – how I think about my leadership style and developing a team.
- Business Strategy and Growth – how I think about clarifying our vision and purpose and what that currently is for Curious Lion.
Leadership and Team Development
My superpower is the ability to relate to people and make them feel included, combined with the ability to see patterns and the potential to combine people’s unique talents for a greater purpose. I’m an organizer, a director, a producer, or an impresario. This is what I’m good at, and doing anything other than this for my work is not a good use of my time.
I’ve come to this realization about my future by looking deep into my past. I was always good at organizing plays in the backyards of our friend group’s parents’ houses in Fish Hoek, South Africa. I get that from my Dad. I was always good at acting the fool and having fun so others laugh and loosen up around me. I get that from my Mom. I admire craft. I can spend hours asking you about what you do if I find it interesting. As a result, I can quickly identify talent. I’m good at world-building and learning new things. I’m decent at writing.
The sum total of this is that my leadership style is Inclusive Leadership. I’ve since learned that inclusive leadership inspires loyalty. And loyalty unlocks massive leverage.
What does this mean for how I develop teams?
I don’t expect my team to work eight hours a day or 40 hours a week or whatever it is now. I expect my team to produce their most creative work in whatever bursts of energy they choose and for them to agree with me beforehand on what a valuable body of creative work for a given period of time would be. To get good at this, we need to be really good at identifying the right things to measure so that we can measure our progress precisely and plan our approach to growth.
Finally, I know my work is never done. You can only take people as far as you’ve been, so I keep pushing to be the best I can be.
Business Strategy and Growth
The ultimate purpose of my work is to leave everyone I’ve touched with the belief they can be better or improve their life by learning. To leave them aware of their own potential and feeling empowered to pursue it. To feel ownership of their choices and confidence in their ability to change.
I want to do that by bringing people together in a safe, trusting community to heal. To learn from each other. To realize the beauty of their purpose in life and see how similar it is to others when expressed through values. I want everyone I’ve touched to experience the warmth of belonging and to know that their voice matters, giving them confidence in their contributions.
We can create such a community at work if we understand a few things about personal growth at work
Here’s the thing about growth:
We change our identity when we learn something new. It shapes our worldview, but most fundamentally, it shapes our view of ourselves. Learning how to play tennis causes you to identify as a tennis player. Learning how to cook makes you the de facto family chef. At work, learning doesn’t have as fundamental an impact on our identity because we don’t see ourselves as our work. That’s a problem.
To help people transform through learning at work, we must help them transform in their lives. We work with sales teams, so let me use that as an example.
What we currently teach sellers:
- How to stick to call scripts
- How to handle objections by memorizing them
- How to apply rubrics to qualify leads
What we should be teaching sellers:
- How to tell stories
- How to be resilient in the face of change
- How to solve complex, open-ended problems.
This can result in them seeing themselves differently as
- a storyteller
These identity shifts, and the skills that come with them, can be applied in almost any aspect of life, and they also help sellers sell more. It works at work!
We think about learning at work all wrong. We see them as separate things. We force people into having split identities. What we should be doing is integrating them. We should see work as an avenue for authentic self-expression.
How, then, do we help people grow at work?
Personal growth requires connecting with present reality, acknowledging dissatisfaction with that reality, envisioning a preferred future, and understanding the initial steps toward that future. This combined force must outweigh the resistance to change.
Ludwig von Mises explored this concept in his book on economics and decision-making, Human Action, in the 1940s.
David Gleicher formulated the idea into the change equation in the early 1960s.
Kathie Dannemiller refined it in the 1980s.
The problem is you can’t start this process without stopping first. You can’t connect properly to your present reality without pausing to reflect. Numerous distractions prevent us from doing this, some of which we willingly invite into our lives.
We must teach people about distractions and emphasize the importance of presence and focus, even if only during brief moments of reflection on a video, podcast, or client conversation, to write down what we can learn from it.
Without time to reflect, connect with our thoughts and body, and process what’s going on, there is no growth.
Next, we must empower our teams by relinquishing control. They are responsible for their own growth, and learning cannot be forced. Focus on boosting motivation instead.
The best way to do this is to:
- Establish a validated and shared vision of a more desirable future
- Outline a clear, measurable path to achieve that future
- Make the first step clear
- Reduce resistance by eliminating the fear of taking action
- Showcase noteworthy early wins (make good first impressions)
But you can’t stop there
This is not enough for learning in a team, let alone an entire organization, to take place successfully. Learning is part of an ecosystem. You must address organizational learning as a system, or no independent learning intervention will ever realize its desired effect.
The best way to do this is to look at the following:
- The people in the system and how they are treated.
- The org design to understand the implicit rules of the game.
- The vision to understand if people feel committed to it and if it provides clear direction.
- The values to understand what governs interactions between people.
- The leaders to understand what kind of behavior is modeled.
- Each individual’s approach to personal mastery to understand the collective attitude toward curiosity and personal development.
- The team approach to learning to understand how knowledge is shared and how people mentor and coach each other.
- The approach to knowledge management to understand how the fruits of team learning are captured, stored and made easily accessible for others to benefit from.
Finally, we must incorporate a culture of coaching as the reinforcing mechanism in our system. A lack of effective coaching to help with implementation is the number one reason why teams fail to become learning machines.
All of this leads me to our business model at Curious Lion.
We build learning machines
Our machine can be thought of as a cross between a talent academy and a knowledge pipeline. Revenue teams can use our machine to sustain a high-paced revenue motion and raise their collective ability to scale company growth. We can measure the efficacy of this learning machine and tie those results to metrics that matter. We can pull almost infinite levers to improve the machine once it’s working.
Other benefits our clients see from using the machines we build:
- Provides a channel for consistent messaging, product knowledge updates, and skills refreshment
- Clarifies career paths and attracts the kind of talent that seeks personal growth
- Enhances engagement between companies and their people, as well as among employees
- Fosters flourishing relationships and promotes a positive company culture
- Contributes to a reputation as a special and unique workplace while promoting efficient revenue growth
Don’t run out of money
The final lesson for me is that running out of money makes you do stupid things. Never run out of money.
What does your personal journey toward purpose look like?
I’ve shared my personal journey towards purpose based on five themes: forgiveness, challenges, vulnerability, health, and strong relationships. I’ve shown how I applied these themes to our business, covering leadership, team development, business strategy, and growth. Our aim at Curious Lion is to create a community of learners and build learning machines for our clients.