Well-cushioned or dead broke? It doesn’t matter when it comes to finding your purpose instinctively. What really matters is something else entirely.
I’m Robert Gerlach, a German-born creativity coach, and author. My coaching focuses on creative thinking for knowledge workers and leaders.
A few days ago, Mark Zuckerberg gave an inspiring Commencement Speech at Harvard. It was all about “Purpose.” At some point, the Facebook CEO claimed: “We are Millennials. We try to do that [finding your purpose] instinctively.” Since I have dedicated a whole chapter in my book Innovator’s High on how to find your true calling, I’d like to elaborate a bit on Zuckerberg’s statement, and what I believe is instrumental in finding your purpose instinctively.
How non-millennials found their purpose instinctively
To find your vocation is probably the single best thing that can happen to you. Why? Because life becomes a great ride! Meaningful, invigorating, fulfilling, and exciting! Here are three examples of Non-Millennials (including me), and how we stumbled into our mission instinctively:
1. Find your purpose instinctively because you meet the right people
Back in the 60s, Diane von Furstenberg did not know what to do with her life. By chance, she met Angelo Ferretti, an Italian textile entrepreneur, who invited her to visit his factories in Como. She went to Italy, stayed there for one year and created some dresses that she later presented to Diana Vreeland, who was the editor-in-chief of Vogue, New York. Vreeland declared the designs “absolutely smashing” and encouraged von Furstenberg to become a fashion designer. In 1974 the Brussels-born designer became a household name when her body-hugging wrap dress hit the market.
But maybe, that’s not the whole story on how Diane found her purpose instinctively. Maybe it helped being married to the right man too? Her husband, Prince Egon von Fürstenberg, was well off. Mark Zuckerberg states in his commencement speech: “I know too many people who hadn’t had the chance to pursue their dreams because they didn’t have a cushion to fall back on if they failed.”
So, is finding your purpose connected to being well-heeled? Let’s have a look at how another outstanding career started:
2. Find your purpose instinctively because life is hard
Johnny Depp wanted to become a guitar player and moved with his band The Kids to Los Angeles. At some point, he had to pay the bills, so his good friend, actor Nicolas Cage, connected him with his agent, who got Johnny a well-paid job as an actor in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
Looks like hitting rock bottom does a pretty good job of finding your purpose instinctively too! So, does it really matter whether you are well-cushioned or dead broke when it comes to finding your vocation? And if it doesn’t, what is the true key to finding your purpose instinctively?
3. Find your purpose instinctively because others inspire you to
Looking back at how I found my mission, I’d say it was because I was surrounded by some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met! I wouldn’t be sitting here today writing about how to find your purpose instinctively if it had not been for the inspiring people at the advertising agency KBS in New York. In a nutshell: I started as an intern in the account services department. But every day I would sneak over to the creative department, magnetically drawn to the magic the people created overnight – literally out of nothing. After three months, Creative Director Bill Oberlander opened up the door for me into the magic-producing-department. Being amongst the Gods of creativity, something life-changing happened: I discovered my talents and felt compelled to propel myself up to the level of those über-creatives. I wanted to know everything about design, illustration, commercials, advertising; anything connected to art. A whole new world unfolded before me. I learned graphic programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator from scratch. Today, I’m still benefiting from those early learnings. It was an intoxicating experience that changed my life forever. I got hooked on “working” which was far better than studying. I understood what a great job could do – enable me to discover life anew.
I believe it doesn’t matter whether you are well-cushioned or dead broke when it comes to finding your purpose instinctively. It has more to do with the people you meet and the ones you surround yourself with. By the way, did I mention that a good friend helped Johnny Depp to kick-start his career? To find those people, you have to leave home and courageously venture out to discover the world. It is then when you suddenly stumble into your vocation. Von Furstenberg went to Como and later to New York. Johnny Depp went to Los Angeles and I went to New York.
If you haven’t found your purpose yet, there is another way to discover it. How? Search within yourself first and then stumble upon it instinctively. In chapter depleters & replenishers of my new book Innovator’s High, I provide you with 15 questions for you to encounter the unknown inside, make space for the unknown to awaken and get better at what you love.