“Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.” ~William Shakespeare
Lots of people are ambitious. They want stuff and they want it now. They aren’t lazy so they are willing to expend time, money and effort to get it. In many cases, it works out and they end up with stuff. But stuff by itself lacks something that remains unexamined and undefined, and all that ambition ends up curiously dissatisfying.
There are others, a rarer group that are after something bigger. They intend to create an impact. They expect to make things better. Rewards are often the result. Some of those rewards might even be the stuff of our ambitious friends above. But it is more than that. Satisfaction is the result, pure and direct. Stuff just shows up more as a by-product of satisfaction, rather than the other way around.
If that “something bigger” is undefined, unarticulated, or unbroadcasted it may still come into being. But if no one is clear or no one notices, no one can help. The impact will necessarily be smaller, weaker, and more localized. To have a really big impact requires assistance.
Ambition turned inward can produce self-serving goals. Note I say “self-serving” rather than “selfish”. We have an obligation to care for ourselves and there is nothing wrong with it. It’s just not very big or important or worthy. If you feel a lack of those adjectives, what you need is a mission.
Taking Hill 192, putting a man on the moon, carrying the Word to those who need it: those are missions. They are greater than the individual and have an impact bigger than their direct achievement. They can be spiritual or secular, educating or economic, life-saving or entertaining. They have a draw that a new wardrobe or a shiny car or money in the bank will never be able to match.
If you want your business to have life, it needs a mission. It doesn’t have to feed all the hungry children (although if it can, power to you). But it does need to have verve. It has to be bigger than itself. When Walt Disney announced that Disneyland would be “the happiest place on earth”, people got it. They understood and they wanted to be a part of it, either as a giver or as a receiver.
It is a worthy goal to have a business that provides for your family. But that is no mission. Goals are kids’ stuff compared to missions. A mission goes beyond words. Lots of companies have something they term a mission statement. But you don’t have to be any kind of expert to recognize when a company is devoid of a mission, statement or not. It’s not the words, it’s the reason the words exist.
Your company may be succeeding in that it is surviving. The lights stay on, payroll gets made, and there is some profit left over at the end of the month. But Monday morning, will you be leaping out of bed, ambitiously declaring, “Today, I pay the electric bill!”? Sure, it needs to be done. But there’s no kick to it.
Do you know what I will be doing Monday morning? I will be opening the eyes of small business owners everywhere to their power to transform the world. It’s not just that there are more small businesses than big businesses, there are more people in small businesses than in big businesses. The world economy is not built on Exxon and Walmart, it is built on us. Big businesses exist to serve us. It’s all here for the small business and we need to do something worthy with all that has been given us.
If you don’t have a mission, get one. You don’t have to throw away your business to do it. It goes on top. It creates a guiding principle. Yes, your business will change but only for the better. What your business used to do for you it will still do. But chances are with a big mission it will do it more effectively and more abundantly than ever. On top of that, it will serve a greater purpose which has the effect of drawing in others which serves you. It is an upward spiral.
“It’s not the ambition, it’s the mission.” click to tweet
So if spiraling upward has a nice ring to you, you know what to do. What is your big mission? Tell us by commenting below.
Photo credit: Terry Moran
5 thoughts on “It’s Not the Ambition, It’s the Mission”
Hello Ken – Nice timing on this. Been thinking lots on my personal ‘mission’ for the next few years and beyond. Being ‘on-purpose’ is a huge part of it. Hope all is well! Jerome
You are on to something here, Jerome. We have a new program just up your alley. I’ll send you an email about it.
Thank you, Kenneth (from a tiny, fledgling business owner who had lost her vision in the fog of the myriad things to do to begin) I also transform the world, one International student (and future business owner) at a time. <3
I love the sound of that. I take my hat off to anyone who has to learn English as a second language. English is positively evil! It’s gigantic, it ignores its own rules, and it has a bazillion dialects and made up words like bazillion. 😉
Great post. The Disney illustration really fleshed it out for me. I guess so far my big mission is to have a family integrated business. Someplace my kids can work with us. I’m not sure that translates into a marketable vision like Disney’s, but that’s what I’ve got so far.