Is Your Purpose Patent Still Pending?

Image by Hugh MacLeod – Gaping Void – If you don’t know about Hugh you’ve been asleep!

Lots of business owners sit around the office tinkering with the notion of that one great innovation to be patented on the road to riches. Well, I think we’ve all got a patent in us but, for many, that patent remains forever pending. The patent I’m referring to is the “purpose patent” – your personal connection to work the serves a deeper purpose. That patent doesn’t need approval from the USPTO, it only needs approval from you.

I firmly believe that one of the foundational secrets to success in business is to invent, discover, and connect what we are doing with a sense of purpose that drives the entire enterprise. You’ve certainly heard many people talk about the idea of doing work you love, but this is more than that. I’m suggesting that you must connect with some reason beyond the fact you enjoy the work, that you must be able to feel a greater sense of value that drives your entire strategy and filters your decisions at the highest level.

Now, I’m not talking about greater good, higher purpose or mission in a strictly altruistic or spiritual context – although for some that may be the case. I’m talking about understanding the full extent of the value your business brings to customers, providers and staff and hooking on to that as reason for doing the day to day work that makes it all possible.

Frankly, as Hugh’s cartoon states emphatically, life is too short, but you could just as easily (or cynically) conclude that life’s too long not to do something that matters. But, how it matters and to whom it matters, is what you’ve got to come to understand.

In my book The Referral Engine I go as far as making this notion one of the required steps in building an authentic marketing strategy. . .

“There are three ingredients necessary for a rewarding and successful business experience: You must enjoy what you do and feel a sense of purpose; you must be good at what you do; and you must be able to convince other people to pay you for what you do. I’ve met some very happy business people who seem to have the first two in abundance, but who can’t quite figure out how to monetize them. But I’ve rarely come across a truly successful business owner who is happy making lots of money doing something they are good at without a deep-seated sense of purpose.

There is no way around it, really. Businesses that get talked about are driven by a higher purpose, one formed by a passionate owner or by a passionate team mission.”

Here are 5 books that will help you in the quest to find more meaning in your work:

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  • Susan Martin

    Great post John, I couldn't agree more. When clients come to me with business issues, after we clear away some of the psychic “clutter” what we find is that don't have that purpose, that passion. At that point it's less about how to help the business and more about how to help them find that purpose and passion.

  • Richard M Potter

    Couldn't agree more, John. (Got here via @jonathanfields, BTW.)

    Like the metaphor of the patent. Purpose is also like a manufacturer's coupon. It has an expiration date (chiseled into your tombstone), it's worth nothing until you redeem it, and once you redeem it your satisfaction is guaranteed.

    DITTO the comment on gapingvoid…Hugh is worth following. And so are you. Thanks, John.

  • ducttape

    Hey Richard – welcome – guess I was feeling poetic and philosophical all on the same day but sometimes you got to stop think about this stuff.

  • ducttape

    Susan – once I got in touch with that for myself it became the answer to what I do for a living.

  • jonathan rodriguez

    I love your blogs, very insightful. Keep them coming

  • tschnick

    Love this idea of patent purpose. Until you get that, you will never find meaning in, or enjoy, your work. Thanks John…

  • Matt Edmundson

    I think that Purpose must not only govern your business (agree – it is very essential) – but in each aspect of business too. Take meetings for example (been on my mind recently) – they are soooo much better with a clearly defined purpose, and a determination to stick to that purpose.

    Sales meetings with clients – they are much better if you have a clear purpose for your product from the client…

    …finding out the reason why (the purpose) is a great talent that I find in few people — especially myself (have to keep reminding myself of this!)…

    …I am sure there was a reason I started to write this….:D

    Thanks for the post!

  • Adrian Swinscoe

    Hi John,
    Absolutely right, purpose is essential.

    Great list of books too.

    Have you ever read Ricardo Semler's book: Maverick! ?

    It's a one man mission to democratise the work-place. Truly inspiring and a clear example of a man with a clear purpose.


  • Arsene Hodali


    “I’m suggesting that you must connect with some reason beyond the fact you enjoy the work, that you must be able to feel a greater sense of value that drives your entire strategy and filters your decisions at the highest level.”

    You've summoned up my thoughts perfectly.

  • Maxwell Ondieki

    Hi, Susan. I agree, like the say says if you have nothing to die for you're not wothy living.

  • Maverick Money Makers

    Is Your Purpose Patent Still Pending? This content from: Duct Tape Marketing Image!