I was always very observant and self-reflective as a kid. I remember being intrigued by identity and relationship, and searching for the greater meaning of things. I wanted to know why things happened, not just how. I wasn’t raised in any particular religion, and so I was curious about all beliefs. I was interested in how people derived meaning in the world and where that meaning came from, for them.
I was fascinated by the indigenous Dreamtime stories taught at school, my great nan’s bible with all of her thoughtful writing in the margins, and I think I was about 10 or 11 when I convinced mum to buy me an astrology book I found in a bookstore. Intrigued by the study of patterns and relationships, of planets in motion, synastry with others – I learned how ancient astrologists used that knowledge as a tool to find meaning. For several years it was my favourite book.
As a young girl seeking out my place in the world, I found comfort in all of these perspectives and the understanding that perhaps everything happens for a reason. I realised that life doesn’t happen to you, life responds to your thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions. Over time I learned that the more I understood about myself and others, the more I could create my destiny. It was empowering.
When I found myself in business many years later – even though I was practising something I really loved, you can imagine how disillusioned I felt when company after company didn’t really seem to know themselves authentically, nor did they understand the inner workings of the people they happened to be in a relationship with – their customers. Business wasn’t about connection and meaning, for many it was just about money or winning… which is ironic because business is about people, and external motivations lead to inauthentic relationships. It’s due to this mindset that a Gallup study has recently shown that trust in big business has continued to decline for the past 40yrs.
Call it idealism, or whatever you like, but business had to mean something beyond money for it to be ‘successful’ or sustainable for me – physically, emotionally and spiritually sustainable, not just financially sustainable. Humans aren’t robots after all.
These are some of the types of people we’ve come across in business over the years:
- The founder/CEO of a small to medium size business. For a while, they’ve been trying to take their company to the next level. Their business might not carry the same meaning for them as it did at the beginning – it’s started to feel more like a daily grind. They have a huge vision but just can’t seem to get the clarity or support they need to get there.
- The Executive at a larger organisation. Over the years they have climbed the corporate ladder, focusing on their career success. In recent years though, they’ve started to question what it all means and is wondering whether or not they’re making a positive contribution to the world. They know their company need to innovate and change to become more relevant – but an orthodox culture and dogged views on ROI make it near impossible to instigate the change required. They have become dismayed by their job, being constantly measured by things that they know aren’t moving the company or the world forward, but rather are keeping them in a constant state of mediocrity.
- Then there are those who have ventured out on their own in the pursuit of something more meaningful. They may have experienced a toxic culture, maybe the work they were doing meant they had to be someone they’re not, or they may have felt the pull to contribute something more to the world.
You may relate to one of these – different scenarios, similar stories of death by ‘business as usual’. There’s something missing at work for each of these people and that’s meaning. So I set out to try and help businesses rediscover it. Over the years I’ve explored and developed ways to help business better understand humankind so they can connect and serve well, not only for their customers, but for themselves, and the world.
I’ve always believed that business can elevate humanity and shouldn’t require us to compromise our values, our identity or our wellbeing. As I’ve discovered over the years, so do lots of other people (you can hear from 20 of them in our first Podcast Series). It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful business people believe that our work can be meaningful and make a positive difference in the world – Bob Chapman, Yvon Chouinard, Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, Simon Sinek, Tony Hsieh, Arianna Huffington, and Elon Musk are just a few.
The minute we decide to connect more meaning to our work, to build a purposeful reality for our business and our future, we re-empower ourselves. We stoke those embers in our bellies and reignite our imagination, passion and perseverance. We help ourselves, the people around us, our companies, and the whole world thrive.
That’s more than just success. That’s fulfilment – and a positive legacy to be proud of.
Imagine a company full of people who felt fulfilled. Just pause and imagine that for a minute. Imagine what problems could be solved in the world if every company empowered people to contribute work that felt meaningful for them. You don’t need to be inventing groundbreaking cures or eradicating global poverty to be a purpose-led business. You just need to decide that there’s more to you than your bottom line. Find your potential – the world needs it.
This is an excerpt from what Nikki shared at the Think. Learn. Connect. event in May 2017.
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