Start with a Mission

Regardless of how well they adhered to it or lived up to its promise, the corporate coffee company I worked for for many years had a clearly defined mission and it was a mission that I found inspiring. They wanted to put people before coffee and both of those before profit. The idea was that if they treated the people who worked with or for them well, that those people would treat the customers well, and the result would be profit. Add to this a product that people wanted to buy because of the way it made them feel about themselves and you have a successful company, but more than that, you have a cultural revolution.

As rebellious as I was, I bought into this mission and the culture that grew up around it because it made sense to me. I felt that, as far as jobs went, I was treated well. In turn, I tried to treat the customers well. The result was mutually beneficial. The stores I worked at were profitable and I received promotions and raises. When I no longer enjoyed working in the stores, other opportunities opened up and I was able to make a lateral move into equipment service. The whole while, I still believed in the mission and I enjoyed the culture. Things change, but it was good while it lasted.

I recently read a book called Team of Teams by General Stanly McChrystal and he mentioned something in there regarding people entering BUDS training to become Navy SEALS. He said he could always tell who would make it and who would not by their reason for being there. Those who were there to prove something to themselves inevitably failed and dropped out. It was those who were there to serve a higher purpose who made it through because, when they had nothing left to give, their mission, their higher purpose would give them the strength to move forward.

The thing about having a mission, a vision, and a purpose that is greater than ourselves is that they make all of the struggles worthwhile. They give us clarity through the difficulties. When nothing else makes sense, when everything else seems wrong or hard or hopeless, if we believe in our mission, we can walk with purpose.

– Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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