How a Jerk Revealed Her Purpose

On November 20, 2011, I had a car accident that landed me in the hospital for several weeks.

I received a menu from food services every morning. But I was busy doing other things. I didn’t fill mine out.


Purpose in a menu:

A food services worker came to my room in the afternoon.

“Mr. Rockwell, we don’t have a menu from you. You won’t have anything to eat tomorrow if we don’t fill this out. Would you like wheat toast, white toast or rye? Would you like jelly?”

She completed the entire menu and left with a smile.

The next day she arrived in the afternoon with a smile. “Mr. Rockwell, we don’t have a menu from you. Would you like wheat toast, white or rye?”

She arrived on the third day still smiling. “Mr. Rockwell, we don’t have a menu from you.”

I finally realized that I was making her job harder. I interrupted her.

“I’m being a jerk. You come up here every afternoon to do something I should do. How are you being so pleasant?” She spoke four purpose-filled words.

“Food makes people happy.”

She was in the happiness business, not the menu business.

A leader with purpose:

  1. Endures difficulty and adversity with patience.
  2. Finds energy to keep going.
  3. Makes wise decisions that go beyond standard operating procedure. “What are we really doing here?”

Find purpose:

  1. What’s behind your nagging frustrations?
  2. What do you want to change on your team and what does that say about you?
  3. What stories from your youth still impact you today? Your purpose hides in your story.
  4. What adversity have you endured and how has it equipped you to serve others?
  5. What value would you love to bring to others?

Compelling purpose goes beyond personal happiness.

What does purposeless leadership look like?

How might leaders keep in touch with purpose?