During the first year of my coaching practice, I was taking a CoachU class and committed to complete my business plan for Maxwell & Associates as part of that class. So I set to work doing so and put together a description of the market I intended to serve, pro forma financial statements, marketing plans, descriptions of services, etc. Like any good business plan it also contained a Purpose Statement.and mine was awful. It was plain vanilla and it did nothing to stir my soul.
So I called my teleclass leader, Bill Foster, a wise man who was once a banker and has become a close friend and colleague, and explained my dilemma. "Bill, it just plain sucks. It doesn't even mean much to me. I am a pretty linear guy and I'm having some problems getting my arms around this ooey gooey purpose thing. Can you help me out here?"
Bill chuckled and said he understood. And he had a possible solution for me. He asked me to find a time when I would not be interrupted. That means calling off the family, turning off the ringer on the phone, and turning off the volume on the computer so I wouldn't hear the ping when another email arrived. In other words, make a time and space available so I could completely concentrate on this assignment. I agreed to do so.
"So, Bill, what do I do?" Bill told me that I need a pen and paper ("Do not type this," he warned "because I do not want you distracted by the squiggly underlines of the spell check."). He told me to just write out my answer. Don't worry about misspellings, or syntax, or paragraph structure, just write.
Okay, I said, but what do I write about? He replied that I was to answer this question: Why am I here? "Bill, this seems kind of new age-ish to me. I am a linear thinker and analyst, are you sure about this?" He assured me that he was and to just have some faith. And, he added, when I am writing, just write what comes to mind, kind of stream of consciousness. If I couldn't think of anything I was literally to write "I can't think of anything" until something else popped into my head and then write that down. When I really felt tapped out I was to put the document away and not so much as look at it for at least 48 hours.
When I returned to my work after the 48 hour quarantine, I was to read it over several times looking for themes, patterns, or things that really jumped out at me. I was then to focus in on those and through a reiterative process boil the whole thing down into something that moved me and expressed what I wanted to do.
Now, a quick sidebar. To completely understand the impact this process had on me, you must know a little of my history. In 1961, at the age of 10, I boarded a train at Grand Central Station in New York City, along with two train car loads of other boys, to spend my first summer at Camp Dudley. It was my first of thirteen summers at Dudley where I progressed through the various age divisions and through the leadership development program, to being a cabin leader and then a staff member running the out of camp hiking and canoeing program into the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York. I went every summer for eight weeks until the year I started graduate school. And today I proudly serve on the Camp Dudley Board of Managers.
This little insight in to my growth and development from a boy into a man is important because as I read over what I had written (and I had written eight single spaced pages in response to the question "Why am I here?") I noticed a reference to Camp Dudley at the bottom of page one. And there were Dudley references on every page after that. Now being a bright guy I said to myself, now there's a pattern. I also knew in my heart that I was neither cut out for nor meant to be the Director of Camp Dudley. But what did it mean?
As I was re-reading it for the second or third time, I stopped at a reference to a five day hike I lead into the high peak region of the Adirondacks when I was probably 21 or 22 years old. I had a strong group of boys and we set out with an aggressive itinerary of climbing thirteen mountains in five days. We entered the woods through the trail head in Keene Valley, NY. We climbed a few small mountains, found our lean-to, made dinner and went to bed.
During the night, a weather front came through and we awoke to a cloud cover that was, literally, about 20 feet over our heads. And it was drizzling. I was not about to take these 14 and 15 year old boys up the five mountains we had planned that day just so we could sit in the middle of a rain cloud. We pulled out the map and studied our options. We decided to take an overland trail that would deliver us to the other major trail head at Marcy Dam, a trek that I later found out was 14 miles, and we were doing it with full packs.
Now if you have ever been hiking, you know that you spend a lot of time looking at the ground, rather than your surroundings, so that you don't trip over rocks, roots, etc. That was certainly my case as we came to a clearing by a stream about noon time and took our lunch break. As I set down my pack I looked around and realized we were standing in the midst of a beautiful birch tree forest, with the beautiful white bark. The green leaves were lovely as they mixed with the wispy clouds that flirted with the tree tops. And there was a very light mist falling. Get the picture?
I said to my boys "Look where we are! This is as beautiful as any mountain top you could be on." We enjoyed the scene, ate our lunch, and then pushed on. We made camp, had dinner and went to bed. During the night the weather front passed through and we awoke to one of those gorgeous summer days with clear blue skies, no clouds, no humidity, no black flies.a perfect day to be on a mountain top.
I roused my boys, we had breakfast, and off we went to scale Mount Marcy, the highest mountain in New York State at 5,344 feet. Now I had been up Marcy several times in the past, but never, ever, have I had a day on top of a mountain like this day. It had to be a 70 mile view. We could clearly see Lake Champlain about 40 miles away and on into the Green Mountains of Vermont. It was one for the ages!
As I was reliving this in my mind, it suddenly came to me. "That's why God put me here.to help people get to the top of their mountains, because when they get there, I get there too." And that's my purpose statement for Maxwell & Associates.
But this story isn't quite over yet. My very first client was married to a contemporary of mine at Dudley. She worked at Dudley for several summers, and all three of her sons have attended Dudley. I told her this story and when I was done I could hear her sniffling on the other end of the phone. She knew and understood exactly what I was talking about. I then said to her that I needed a logo. And she said "Rich, it has to be the birch trees." And so it is. And she designed it for me as she is a graphic artist.
So, as Paul Harvey says."Now you know the rest of the story!"