Purpose, Priorities, and Productivity

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

Why Purpose is ImportantCarl Boch came to the United States as a refugee after World War II. But he wasn’t just a refugee trying to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany and Nazified Europe. He came with a PURPOSE … to a make a difference in his life and the lives of others. And I certainly applaud that as PURPOSE is the 2nd of 12 keys that are taught in my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program.

Of course, without a solid grasp of the language and without a formal education, finding a BIG job with a BIG paycheck wasn’t easy, if even possible. Carl started his career at a slaughter house, standing in blood, having to chop up meat and then carry it up two flights of stairs. Still driven by his purpose, he heard that “selling” was a great business, but the only company that would give him a sales job was the Fuller Brush Company. No problem. Within a short time he was the #1 salesman on the West Coast.

About that time, an insurance agent sold him a policy, and always curious about moving upward, he asked the agent how much commission he would receive on the policy he just sold him. The agent told him, and Carl quickly decided he would never sell another brush.

Carl found an insurance agency, applied for a sales position, and was told he had to pass an aptitude test first. Carl failed it twice. Then the somewhat astute manager asked a very important question. He said, “Carl, I know you’re the #1 Fuller Brush salesman. How many more calls do you make each day than the other salespeople to attain and maintain that level of excellence?” Carl answered, “100 calls.”

The manager told his testing team, “Forget the aptitude test. Mr. Boch doesn’t need any more aptitude. Get him a contract.”

Some years later, one of my professional speaking friends had a chance to pass Mr. Boch’s office on the way to coffee. My friend asked Carl if he would like to join them. Carl pulled a $5 bill out of his pocket and said, “No, but the coffee is on me.”

Now get this … this was the day of 5-cent coffee. My friend replied, “The coffee won’t cost that much.” Carl replied, “If I went with you guys, it would cost me $50 because that’s what my time is worth.”

That’s what purpose will do for you.

1. Purpose clarifies your priorities.

Without purpose, you wander and waste. You wander around, wondering what you should do, and waste an awful lot of your life in the process.

As John William Gardner, a former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, put it, “Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Few have excellence thrust upon them. They achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly by doing what comes naturally and they don’t stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.”

It was one of the huge take-aways that Alline Scott from the U.S. Army picked up at my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program. She writes, “Dr. Zimmerman, I just wanted to let you know that I began applying some of your techniques even before I left the program and they really work! This program was just what I needed! I learned to clarify my purpose and I began to live and work ON purpose. And I’m making a difference. How very enlightening and inspirational!”

(Click here if you’d like to join us for our next “Journey to the Extraordinary” program)

When Carl Bock turned down the offer to go for coffee, it was because his purpose told him he needed to focus on certain business results that day. Of course, my friend didn’t immediately understand this “purpose” thing, so he went back to call on Carl. He asked Carl what he meant about the coffee break costing him $50.

Carl said, “Sit down. It’s very simple. The way I figure it, most companies give their employees two 15-minute coffee breaks a day, which invariably turn into 20 or 30 minutes. Let’s say each one lasts 20 minutes. There’s two of those each day, which makes 40 minutes. Times 5 times a week makes 200 minutes. Multiply that out and you soon realize that the average employee spends 10,000 minutes or 23 working days a year on coffee breaks.”

Carl continued, “I know that if I work 23 more days a year than most people, I can easily outperform them. I’ll make more of myself. I’ll do more for my customers. And I’ll have more to give my family. It’s my purpose in life that drives me.”

And by the way, Carl wasn’t blowing smoke when he gave my friend that insight. At that time, Carl was earning more than $1 million in commissions every year, and that was 50 years ago when $1 million actually meant something.

Do you have a clearly defined purpose? Could you easily tell someone else what it is? And does your life reflect the fact that you’re living ON purpose? I hope so.

2. Purpose leads to productivity.

The greatest psychologist of the 20th century was undoubtedly Abraham Maslow. He said the history of man is the history of man selling himself short. If you don’t have big dreams, if you don’t think high and reach high, if you don’t have a bigger or higher purpose, you will miss an awful lot of the things you’ve always wanted.

Without a clearly defined purpose, without big dreams, without believing more than you already do in yourself and in your destiny, you may find some happiness, but never real joy. And you may have some success, but never real significance.

In fact, all of history was changed when one man let his purpose keep him productive … year after year … when he would have quit otherwise. I’m talking about William Wilberforce who spent his life pushing the English Parliament to abolish slavery.

Discouraged and when he was about to give up, his elderly friend, John Wesley, heard of it. From his deathbed Wesley called for pen and paper. With trembling hand he wrote, “Unless God had raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and of devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? Oh be not weary in well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, til even American slavery shall vanish away before it.”

Wesley died six days later. But his note reinforced Wilberforce’s purpose … he went on to fight ANOTHER 45 years. Three days before Wilberforce died, slavery was abolished in Britain.

Do you need to be a bit more productive at home? At work? In your relationships? Then get on with the work of getting a super clear purpose … because a clear purpose and a strong purpose will give you an anchor when things are crazy and chaotic … wings to soar when you need them.


Take two actions this week that will get you and your life MORE ON purpose and MORE OFF auto-pilot.