In this podcast episode, we’re In The Company of Carolyn Tate, author, business school founder and conscious capitalist. Here we talk with Carolyn about her latest book, The Purpose Project and the impeative a working on purpose with purpose.
Kylie Lewis: Today we’re in the company of Carolyn Tate. Carolyn is the author of many books, including Small Business, Big Brand; Marketing Your Small Business for Dummies; Unstuck in Provence, a personal memoir; and Conscience Marketing. And coming out soon, The Purpose Project, which is what we’re going to talk about with Carolyn today.
Carolyn is also the founder of The Slow School of Business, Talk on Purpose, and the Purpose Project programmes. Underpinning all of her work is a commitment to being courageous and growing in consciousness and doing that while operating in compassion and connecting authentically with others in the spirit of collaboration. Carolyn’s own business, Carolyn Tate and Co. is a certified B Corp and Carolyn herself is a founding member of Conscious Capitalism Australia.
We’re delighted to have you here today Carolyn. Welcome.
Carolyn Tate: Thanks, Kylie. Thank you for the invitation and that wonderful introduction.
Kylie Lewis: That’s my pleasure. I’m really excited to be talking to you about your new book, The Purpose Project today, but before we jump into that, I would like to just go back a little bit and find out a bit about young Carolyn and Carolyn as a child and the kinds of things that you really loved to do as a small person in the world, as a young person in the world. What kind of things did you find yourself doing as a child?
Carolyn Tate: It’s a lovely question and it really had me thinking and reflecting. I was actually a fairly quiet child. I think my mum and dad would always say that I was a good girl. I did what was asked and was probably conformed quite a bit. I grew up in country South Australia in quite a conservative culture I guess and so as a woman, as a young girl, I kind of feel like I had a fairly quiet childhood that was very much focused on being studious. Getting good marks and doing my homework and all of those sorts of things. I didn’t love that, that was just who I was as a child but I was fortunate to grow up in a family that was sports oriented.
In winter it was netball on Saturdays and then in summer it was tennis on a Saturday as well, so I was very sporty. Played a lot of sport. Was quite studious and a fairly moderate child. I don’t know what’s happened to me today. I’m completely the opposite now. I don’t feel like I’m the same person I was when I was a child but there was some really amazing things about my childhood and my family and everything else. I had a very lovely, followed family. Three siblings, country upbringing, lots of friends, lots of bike riding, lots of playing in the fields and the haddocks around our house of the farm that we used to live in.
It was very, very much a country, quiet girl country upbringing until I got a bit older and then things changes. I won’t share in this podcast as to what happened as I became a late teenager and early adult.
Kylie Lewis: We might jump into a little bit of that as your story unfolds but it sounds like the perfect breeding ground for contemplation and testing things out in the world and finding your feet a little bit. Having a bit of a solid ground before you went out into the world. I wanted to also ask you a foundation question for where you’re at now in your life. One of the things that I do in my work with people that I work with is to get to know them a little bit better, I always try and get them to dig into a little of the things that they believe in. It’s such a clarifying question. I wanted to ask you, would you share with us three things that you believe in now at this stage in your life?
Carolyn Tate: I love contemplating that question and thankfully you gave me some warning that I was going to be asked that question because I could probably sit here and talk all day about the things I believe in and I could try and narrow it down to a few things. It was actually quite difficult but I think there’s a few, core things that drive me and that I believe in and that underpin all my work. The first thing is that I believe we’re entering the human age and that we’re entering an age where there’s going to be mass activism happening by individuals and we’ve lost our trust and faith in our leaders and people are starting to wake up to believe that they have a contribution to make. That they can actually not be the victim of the world and sit by the sidelines in apathy and see what is unfolding. There’s a lot of citizen activism happening and that’s something that I’m really passionate about.
The first thing is that I believe we’re entering the human age and that we’re entering an age where there’s going to be mass activism happening by individuals and we’ve lost our trust and faith in our leaders and people are starting to wake up to believe that they have a contribution to make. That they can actually not be the victim of the world and sit by the sidelines in apathy and see what is unfolding. There’s a lot of citizen activism happening and that’s something that I’m really passionate about.
Obviously when the inauguration of the 45th president happened earlier this year, there were five million people marching in 500 cities in 80 countries around the world it was the largest mass global gathering of personal activism that we’ve seen. I think what happened is that Trump held the mirror up to humanity and in so doing, he’s awakened people to realise that we actually have control. I fundamentally believe that we each need to take radical daily activism, we need to take radical responsibility for changing the way we show up at work, the way we show up in our families, the way we show up in our communities.
Leading on from that, the second thing I believe in is that as adults, we absolutely must be wicked role models to our kids. We have show by doing not by actually telling, which I think for many parents is a trap that we fall in to. Yeah, that’s the second thing I believe in, that as adults we must be wicked role models to our kids and give them the drive and that passion and the activist mindset that I think the human age is bringing on.
There’s a couple of things. Then the third thing is really around minority groups. I’ve been learning around intersectional feminism and what that means in terms of minorities for women in the LGBTQI community, in black communities and just the whole idea that we persecute the minority very much in our world and we’ve seen that a lot with the Margaret Court fiasco that’s unfolded in Australia. That to persecute the minority is bullying and I’m passionate about ensuring that everyone has access to the same love, acceptance and compassion. Wherever they work, wherever they live, whatever their colour, whatever their race, whatever their sexual preference.
As you can tell, I could go on all day about this stuff. Yeah, I just think that these are the conversations we need to be having in business, in our workplaces. Not just the conversations about productivity and profitability and how we can extract greater performance for our people. It’s these human things that absolutely must underpin the way people show up at work and how leaders lead their workplaces.
Kylie Lewis: Amen sister. That’s all I’ve got to say on all of that. I absolutely love those beliefs and I think those are three that we share quite deeply. I’m just thrilled to be talking about this with you today because as you mentioned just in you comments just then, it’s not just about productivity and profit anymore. We need to be having deeper conversations about what it takes to show up at work and be the kind of people that we want to be and have organisations embrace that and encourage that and be leading the way. And them also be the wicked role models that we hope to have in the world.
Carolyn Tate: Yeah. A point on that Kylie, and I know that we share these philosophies fundamentally, and I think that the workplace, that we are so focused on the appointed leaders in our organisations, that they’re the ones that are making a decision, they’re the ones that are now responsible for bringing meaning to their workplace, they’re the ones that need to be driving a higher purpose than profits. Actually I fundamentally believe that that’s not the case. That the appointed leaders would be overwhelmingly relieved to know that they have purpose activists or they self leaders within their organisations that are stepping forward and taking responsibility for bringing more meaning and compassion to their workplace. I think that this idea of purpose, it doesn’t actually have a hierarchy, it’s actually we can all take hold of and take responsibility for.
That’s the good thing about the world today, is I think that if we show initiative and we have a passion and we want to bring it to the workplace, we absolutely can do that and we have to own it and do that without asking for permission and doing it unapologetically as well.
Kylie Lewis: I think what you touched on there also requires a lot of personal introspection and awareness about who you are in the world and how you’re showing up and that belief exercise that we just went through is one of the examples of what I do when I work with business owners and leaders to reconnect them with the things that they believe about because so much of our behaviour is driven by our subconscious that we don’t often spend time to step back and question ourselves and why we’re showing up in this way and is that how we want to be showing up. Which goes to the heart of why you’ve written the book. Your new book that’s coming out shortly.
There is so much talk about like I said, at the moment about understanding your why and understanding what drives you and how to bring that to the world. This idea of purpose, which is in the very title of your book, could you explain to us what it actually means? What does purpose actually mean?
Carolyn Tate: I always think a conversation around purpose actually does need to start with the definition. For many people, it’s a very difficult thing to grasp ahold of. What is my why? What is my purpose? My reason for being? Why was I born? All of those kind of questions. For a lot of people, it’s almost something that’s unknowable or unreachable or unattainable that they can’t actually grab ahold of it. To me it’s absolutely vital that we ground the definition of purpose into something really tangible and practical and something that we can grab ahold of. The definition that I’ve come across and I share in the book and underpin in the book is a definition that was written by a man called William Damon, who wrote The Path to Purpose.
He says that purpose is a stable and then realised intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential to the world beyond the self. There’s three core elements to that definition. It’s about accomplishing something, so we actually have to adopt a project, have an outcome, have a goal, have something to work towards and that’s why I’ve called The Purpose Project, because I feel like we only find out our why if we do something and we actually accomplish something and prototype whether we’re on the right path. That’s the first part about accomplishing something.
Then it needs to be meaningful to us, which means that we love it when we do it. It taps into our talents and our passions. It taps into our skills and experience and we feel in flow when we’re doing it. That’s how I feel when I write books. I just know I should be doing it and there’s no guarantee of success but you still need to do it regardless. That’s the meaningful part.
Then it needs to be consequential for the world. Which means that it’s in service to others. It’s repairing humanity, it’s repairing environmental issues or it’s making a difference somehow beyond the work that you’re actually doing yourself. That’s the definition that I use. It’s about accomplishing something, it’s about doing something that you love, that you feel like you shouldn’t be doing anything else and then also that it’s consequential. That it’s making a difference to your corner of the world, your community, your family, your company. Those three ingredients, I think, grounded into something meaningful and practical.
Kylie Lewis: I want to just dive into the different contexts in which purpose might show up. Particularly around people who are working, are employed, working for someone else and who are employed, and then perhaps people in their own business. Then perhaps even the realm of just our personal purpose. Do you see that there’s different kinds of purposes in those different arenas?
Carolyn Tate: Yeah, absolutely. An organisation needs to have a single minded purpose and then we could have a whole conversation around purposes with mission and values and mission, they’re the four core components that companies generally build the foundation of their organisation on. An organisational purpose is very much around why are we here? What’s the contribution we are making? Would we actually be missed if we didn’t exist? That’s a pretty tough question. If you ask a company if you weren’t here tomorrow, would you be missed by the world, your customers and your employees? Probably. Would you be missed and are you actually products and services that are creating superficial wants or are you creating services and products that are meeting human needs and solving world problems? What is the legacy that we’re leaving?
I have a definition of why an organisation should exist as well in the book. I believe that organisations exist to leave the world a better place than it was before it existed and to ensure that each individual stakeholder that’s involved in the organisation is able to reach their highest potential and therefore generate prosperity for all. I like to use the word prosperity because it’s a holistic word, it meas that all stakeholders are looked after whether that your employees, your customers, your suppliers, the planet, or your community. That organisational purpose is very, very important to have a very grounded, common purpose articulated and activated that everybody knows and can take responsibility for.
It becomes the decision making question to ask. If we’re making a decision, is this decision inline with our highest purpose? Is this strategy inline with our purpose? Is the direction or the new product or service we’re about to build or create inline with our higher purpose? I’ve just kind of shared more around organisational purpose and I’ve got lots of example that I share around companies that are very, very driven by having a higher purpose. I think that’s where organisation start but then they can invite their people to bring their own purpose to work, BYO purpose, I call it.
If one of their employees is actually passionate about environmental issues, how are they actually being enable to bring their philosophies and their work into the organisation? If they’re an artist or whatever other passional purpose they might have, which might be latent but is still lying underneath. How do organisations become the arbiter and the curator of people to bring those things right into work instead of having them perhaps spend a bit of time on them out of work or even not all. How do organisations look at the way to intersection organisational purpose and personal purpose? To me, that’s where we start to heal and transform cultures.
Kylie Lewis: There are so many questions, my mind feels like it’s about to explode. In all of that, you mentioned you’ve got some examples of organisations that are leading with purpose. Could you give us an example of-
Carolyn Tate: Yep. Well, I’ll share one which I feature in my book. Which is a company called Safety Culture and they have a workplace safety app called Iauditor and they’re in many, many large global companies around the world. They’re about to expand. They just received 30 million dollars in funding, capital funding to expand their work. They have a purpose statement which I believe is really, really solid and it follows a framework that I share for companies in how they create company purpose statements. Their purpose statement is, “Making safety available to every worker in the world.” It’s really powerful because all purpose statements have a doing word, a verb, it has an intention and it has an outcome. They call it mission but I call it purpose, they want to make safety available to every worker in the world.
The way that the founder of the organisation, Luke Amir, actually activates purpose is he takes his people right to the core of where his engineers, I mean obviously he has many engineers sitting at their desks actually developing their app, and he takes his engineers to go and see what happens in countries like Bangladesh when work place conditions are terrible, when tragedies have occurred in work place conditions, so he really tries to connect his people, very much to the impact that their work can actually have to get them motivated by the company why and to really have a much bigger, higher purpose or a focus on their purpose.
That’s just one small example of how companies actually, not only have a powerful purpose but also inspire and activate their people towards achieving that. They’ll do their best work when they know that the absolute purpose for doing what they’re doing day to day, in coding and building an app for example. That’s just one example of companies that are doing it.
Kylie Lewis: Absolutely. I know from your background, you have a 20 year corporate marketing career in predominately in financial services. The thing that pops to mind in the conversation that we’re having is around purpose. Can all business be purpose driven businesses?
Carolyn Tate: You know, this is such a moral, ethical, legal issue to discuss, isn’t it? I think one of the reasons that my work is aimed at the individual rather than the organisation, I mean I work with organisations but with individuals but, I’m very around we can transform companies to become more purpose driven when we can activate people to be there to work at their greatest potential. I think every company can have a purpose only when they start to analyse how they can create prosperity for all through their organisation. Not just profit that benefits the few. Which is what capitalism as a system has created. I think many companies have not yet worked out how they can combine purpose and profit in order to become prosperous and reinvest back into the organisation and their people but helping everyone be prosperous in that process.
We have a very extractive capitalist system that we work in. If we can shift organisations to be value-regenerative, to regenerate all the stakeholder, then that’s the conversation we’re going to have. To place a judgement on an organisation, I mean there’s obviously issues around gambling and tobacco and alcohol. There’s a whole lot of industries which you would say, “Well, how could they actually have a higher purpose than profit if they’re actually creating products that one would deem to be destructive rather than constructive?” It’s a very moral/ethical issue and I think that all organisations have the capacity to transform. An oil company can become a renewable energy company for example.
Yeah, it’s a very, very moral/ethical conundrum that companies face, but I think every company has the capability to reinvent themselves and repurpose themselves so they’re working towards solving world problems and doing something bigger beyond profit.
Kylie Lewis: It’s such a fascinating conversation to have right now in the global zeitgeist that we have with so many people I think feeling like in the opposite direction, I mean that’s happened in the last 12 months or so. It does really make me question about how we go about making this change when we seem to be so fear driven in our culture right now. Actually, that scarcity mentality and pulling back and putting up dividers and creating cultures that come first, ahead of other cultures. It really concerns me and you mentioned the Women’s March at the beginning of this interview. It was such a mirror to be held up to the world to say, “It doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t want it to necessarily be like this.” It reminded me of a conversation I had during International Women’s week, not just day now, International Women’s Week I’m calling it because it seems to be expanding.
That whole idea of do we need to infiltrate these organisations to disrupt or dismantle them and rebuild them?
Carolyn Tate: And maybe they’re not rebuildable, you know? Maybe we need to be … The Hierarchical structures that organisations insist on the silos and some of the structural and systemic issues obviously, legally too and so on. It’s systemic and can organisations rebuild themselves without actually dismantling totally and starting from the ground up? I don’t really know but one of the things that I’m passionate about in my book is that organisations need to tap into what I call the purpose activist in their organisations. There’s a whole lot of people in their organisation that are at massive risk of leaving the organisation. They’re either want to be or about to be corporate escapees.
These are people that are being driven by purpose and passion. They want to bring consciousness to their organisation, they want their company to be doing good. They don’t want their company to be driven by performance and productivity. They want their organisations to become more human and they want to be able to bring their whole self to work, not just the part that’s going to get the job done and that the leaders will reward. They’re now driven by intrinsic motivators, so carrots and sticks, rewards and punishments, bonuses and holidays and cups of coffee and groovy beanbags an office put out, they’re all extrinsic motivators. There are a growing cohort of people and companies that are not motivated by any of that. They want to do meaningful work for a company that’s driven by a higher purpose.
The challenge is that these people are going to leave that organisation yet they’re the very ones that the leaders need to keep. If the leaders can find these purpose activists in their organisations and enable them to infuse the organisation with more meaning to actually give them the leeway and the empowerment to actually start having purpose conversations and helping individuals find meaning, then we can infuse that through the organisation and start to create change within the organisation instead of waiting for our leaders to effect change from above. Which I think, like trickle down purpose, just like trickle down economics, just doesn’t work.
For me it’s about engaging the people that are doing the personal work outside of work. They’re becoming increasingly conscious. They’re watching TED talks, they’re reading alternative business books, they’re very mindful of environment issues and global issues, of community issues and they’re activist in their daily lives and they’d love to actually bring that activism into their workplace. So my call to leaders is to find these people and give them the tools and the support to infuse the organisation with purpose from all angles and all levels. That might not just be employees, it could be other stakeholders that the organisation depends upon as well.
Kylie Lewis: It sounds like you need an evolved leader to embrace that idea. An involved leader, a personally evolved leader themselves, that understands why this is important and perhaps is a bit of an activist themselves. As well as the push up, of people speaking up and having the courage to question some of the practises or to propose something different or to get people to think differently. I think it needs to happen at both ends. How do we go about getting more in touch with our personal purpose? It sounds like there’s the cultural leaders, but there’s the call to we don’t need to sit and wait for our leaders to do this, we can be the change agents ourselves within our organisations.
Carolyn Tate: We start by accepting that maybe my work life is not … I have a practise in the book about surrendering. That is such a beautiful word, surrendering. It’s just surrendering to the state of our current work situation. Whether we’re happy at work, whether we’re not happy at work, what’s going on? What’s the cause of that unhappiness? Just really surrendering to what is and acknowledging where we are now and where we probably would like to be. I also think that we need to cultivate a curiosity. So many of us go to work, come home, feed the family, go to be, go to work, come home, feed the family. We’re so focused on existing that we’ve forgotten to colour wildly outside the edges of our day to day existence. We don’t go out and we don’t dance, we don’t go and see live music, we don’t do all these things that are participatory. I think we’re very often voyeurs.
We read the paper, we go to a play, we go and watch a movie. We go and watch our kids play sports, whatever, and we’re actually not participating, we’re spectating. Part of finding your purpose is to get insatiably curios and get interested and actually do things. Whether that’s painting, whether it’s going to dance class, whether it’s writing a book, whatever it is actually tapping into those creative talents. That’s just a couple of the practises that I share in the book. They kind of go with the idea of tapping into the inky guy model, which is the Japanese model, which means reason for being. That model tapped into the [inaudible 00:31:45] of each of us as a human. What we can actually explore is those things that we are good at, what we love, what the world needs and what we can be paid for.
Now most of us are working in the two circles of what we’re good at, so we’re using our talents or our strengths for whatever we’ve been trained to do alongside with what we can be paid for and most of these circles are all about working at our profession. A profession is a very rational and functional thing, very often we don’t bring in that circle of what you love or what the world needs. The other two are circles that we try to integrate into our work so we can get them to dance all together over time. That model forms the basis of the book of how can start exploring and I’ve got 50 questions in the book that people can journal on to get a bit of clarity.
We learn our why, we discover our why through doing. Not by dreaming but actually getting out there and doing something and then really feeling, not thinking, feeling into how we feel when we’re actually doing that thing. That’s how we work it out. It’s something that takes years and years and years to do but we have to just start is my point. Just start.
Kylie Lewis: Do you think that we need to have our why worked out and have that overflowing into our everyday working lives?
Carolyn Tate: Yeah. Look, I don’t think to be really honest, I think our why evolves and we can have a purpose in different facets of our life. We might have a work purpose, we might have a family purpose, we might have a relationship purpose, which I think is really important for relationships to have a higher purpose for being together. I think we can have why’s depending on different areas of our life. My book focuses particularly on work, given we spend almost half our lives at work, we might as well use that as the start of the examination of purpose. I think we can all bring our why to work, absolutely. It just starts with being curious and exploring.
That purpose can also change. Sometimes misfortune or good fortune can happen in our lives, where just all of sudden where we thought we were going in one direction, toward this purpose, it just gets totally sideswiped. So we also have to remain open to the beautiful universe of possibilities. Having a why or having a meaning beyond our day to day existence allows us to deal with the day to day, even the tragedies that we actually experience throughout our lives, if you’ve got something to work towards beyond that then it gives us meaning and something that we know that we have that is keeping us focused and inspired to keep going.
I use the word inspir-action in my book. I totally made it up. It’s a cross between inspired and action. Inspiraction means that basically inspiration without action is nothing and action without true inspiration can at worst be deadly. We need to be taking inspired action towards these things. Also let’s have fun and not get hung up on it. Like I’ll see people who totally know their why and they are so in a line and they do not let anything usurp their commitment and dedication towards achieving. That’s fantastic. Then I see a lot of people who are curious about everything who have no real clarity and that’s okay as well because being curious is great. Being incurious is really is the cause of death. The minute you lose your curiosity, then we die I think.
Kylie Lewis: I’ve seen my kids go through primary school and going into high school, it’s one of the things that you want to hold on to is that there is more than one answer to a problem. There is more than one right way to do something. It’s a really tough struggle, raising children in an environment where you want to keep their curiosity and their creativity and harness that and also raise a responsible citizen who understands the morals of being part of our community and there’s a whole other conversation we could have about education but, one of the things I loved from before was that, your why can also evolve and change over time. With the beliefs exercise that I do with all of my clients, your beliefs can also change over time.
One of the things that I got back from when I was over challenged about what are you values, you know that whole kind of thing, was they felt like I had to make this in stone, written in blood commitment that if I didn’t stand by this for the rest of my life I was a flake. As soon as I was able to step back from it and say, “Well, this is where I’m standing at this point in my life and these are things I believe in,” I give myself the grace to grow and through curiosity expand my world view. It took the heaviness out of it and said, “It’s okay for you to be able to own the way you are in your life right now. You’re not the same person that you were when you were 20 and you’re not going to be the same person that you will be when you’re 60.”
It’s okay to be here at this point and to give ourselves permission to say, “This is where I’m at right now,” and hold that. One thing-
Carolyn Tate: Yeah-
Kylie Lewis: Go ahead.
Carolyn Tate: Sorry. I was just going to share something with you around my own highest purpose. My highest purpose is to write books that really matter. I never had the courage to call myself an author or to own that purpose and to say that I am here to write books that truly matter. Now my next book isn’t a business book. I’ve already got it in my head, it’s going to be a novel. I’ve got the theme going and the characters and it’s already in my head. I know that writing books is actually my highest purpose and it’s the thing that when I’m doing it, I don’t think I should be doing something else. I’m writing and it just feels like there’s nothing else that I need to do. If I was told tomorrow that I couldn’t write anymore books, that I couldn’t write full stop, I wouldn’t want to tell you the ramifications of that.
I think it’s a rare person that can get to that point where they just know they have work to do without any guarantee of success. I do not know how this new book is going to be received. I have no idea but even if it’s not well received, I still know that I’m going to write my next book. That’s taken me seven years of explorations. I will have written five books in ten years. I don’t say that to brag. I’m saying that to show that when you keep showing up and having to do that thing, and do that thing, and do that thing regardless of what other people think, just putting your heart out into the world as you know Kylie, is the most … It takes your breath away. It’s so fear inducing. Like last night I came home from Queensland and I went to bed and I was just gripped in this panic of fear like my whole body was gripped with fear about the fact that I’m about to
release this book.
I think that that’s a good thing. I’m not judging that it’s good or it’s bad, it just shows that I’m human and I’m still pushing forward to do this work despite the incredible fear that I was feeling. And so that’s what we’re trying to aim towards, I think.
Kylie Lewis: It’s the courage to show up when there is no certainty and that’s the very definition of vulnerability. Part of the reason why we operate from fear is because we’re afraid of being vulnerable because we’re afraid of putting ourselves out there and the judgement and the rejection and all of those things that come with the idea of seeing vulnerability as a weakness rather than it being seen as that greatest measure of courage. When you are deeply uncomfortable, like you mentioned, the waking up in the middle of the night going, “What the hell am I doing? [inaudible 00:41:43].” That’s the sign that we need to say this is important work to us. It’s looking for those cues in our lives that says, “I can’t but help do this.” You know?
Carolyn Tate: Yes. Beautiful.
Kylie Lewis: I was at a conference on the weekend with a bunch of creatives and they were talking about, “I don’t really have a choice in whether or not I do this, it’s just what I’m drawn to be in the world.” We often hide in fear of what that might look like if we dared to show up like that because it’s vulnerable and it’s uncertain. The question that I was actually wanting to ask you which led into this conversation was, what’s the cost of not doing that?
Carolyn Tate: Well, the cost of not doing it is that we live an unfulfilled life. The book that Bronnie Ware wrote it’s called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. She interviewed many, many people in their last days before they were dying and she asked them what their biggest regrets were and the number one regret was not living a life true to myself and living the life that others had dictated for me. Something to those words. Not having the courage to live a life true to myself. I think that that is a really, really interesting carriage to live the life true to ourselves.
Really we’ve come out of the industrial age where we’ve been all indoctrinated to become workers and consumers and the more we consume, the more we need to earn and work and then the more we need the consumption. We’ve been given this very, very flawed and unhelpful definition of what success really means and that definition is very much attached to money and qualifications and job titles and the car we drive and the things that we own. That is actually part of what we need to do is to redefine what success means to us. To think about when we do [inaudible 00:44:33] or when we are remembered after we’re gone that we actually did all we could to make an impact and to do what we’re passionate about and not conform.
We live in a very conformist world and the world needs more healers and change makers and renegades and artist and creatives and we need those people to balance this insane imbalance that we’ve created in the world. So yeah, the cost of not actually going on this task … By the way, I would say Kylie, you don’t need to run away from your job and start all over and go and find your purpose in another country or another company or start as an intrapreneur.
I think we’ve been sold this niche that you have to find a way outside of where we are right now at work, that’s actually a total myth. We can start right where we are no matter where we work or who we work for. It’s about taking personal responsibility.
Often, yeah, it’s that thing. Finding the courage to do that thing we’ve always wanted to do or that we’ve just been inquisitive about and to give it a go and see where it leads us.
Kylie Lewis: One of the things that Bronnie Ware talks about in her work where we put on hold the things that [inaudible 00:46:01] that we feel purposeful about, the cost of not being like this in our lives is that it shows up in the social science research. That is the foundation of anxiety, depression, addiction, rage, resentment and even inexplicably sadness or grief in our lives. The cost of not exploring this work, I think is actually enormous and when we see some of the patterns of behaviour in our society of what’s happened and the disconnect between who we really are and how we want to be in the world and then what’s expected of us or what we’re sold, as you just mentioned, the costs are absolutely enormous. What happens if you are someone who does this personal work and in doing so, finds yourself in a job or in a situation like that, where you realise I’m completely in the wrong place or working on the wrong thing or I actually do need an overhaul and like you said, it doesn’t necessarily need to throw all the chips on the table and start again?
What is a step forward into, if you’re in your work and you realise I don’t want to be a debt collector anymore because it’s not working toward my higher purpose or I don’t want to parking inspector anymore, where do you start?
Carolyn Tate: I believe that we all need to start where we are. It’s not an either/or scenario. It’s an and/and scenario. If you are a debt collector and you don’t know what your purpose is, stay at your day job and start to explore things outside of work that will light you up, that you get excited about, that taps into your curiosity and your creativity. Encourage creativity and curiosity. My view would be work, find some project, create a project that you can work on outside of work that will help you gain more clarity around that. Then most often that project in some small way may be able to be integrated into your own work.
I remember for example, I was speaking to a litigation lawyer after I was at a conference recently. She was a young girl and she told me that she hated her work and she was going to give up her job and go travelling and then see what would happen, maybe start her own business. Through some exploration, because the secret to purpose always lies in our past, I can tell you it’s always there. It’s in your history, it’s not out there in your future. It’s something that’s just waiting to be tapped into. I asked this young woman, “Well, what are the things that you loved as you were growing up?” We talked about her passions and her pains and one of the things that she loved when she was at university was she headed up this mentoring programme for women in law. She was matching women studying law with women that were already practising law to help them get some kind of grounding on what their future would be like as a lawyer and to give them some guidance, etc.
She said that she absolutely loved building that community. She loved connecting women. She loved talking about law and that it’s a very male dominated industry, so she shared some of the issues and topics that she was passionate about problems within the industry. Through the course of the conversation, I challenged her not to leave her law firm. I challenged her to pitch a purpose project to her partners. Lot of P’s there. Pitch a purpose project to partners. And to actually say, “Can we as an organisation build a women’s community, a women in law mentoring programme?” To this day I don’t know if she did that but this is an example of how if we’re ingenious and creative, we can tap into something that we could be really passionate about and actually bring it into our work.
You can see all the benefits of a litigation firm actually supporting a women in law mentoring programme. There’d be a massive opportunity for that organisation to sit themselves apart from other organisations to be seen to be mentoring and supporting up and coming women in law and so on and so on. I couldn’t see any reasons why an organisation would not support a young woman wanting to bring that kind of initiative into their organisation. This is why I say where we need to start where we are. Even if you’re a debt collector, the people that you’re dealing with are going through extreme pain and financial difficulties, etc. etc. What can be done to alleviate that pain? What can you do to behave in a way that makes your job helpful, compassionate, meaningful and so on to those particular people?
We all can activate something within our work. We might activate it outside of work and see how we can bring in it or over time, we might go and do something totally different with that. My number one advice is not to run away from where we are because in our world we’re taught to run away from pain, we dull it with addiction, with alcohol, TV, digital devices and so on. Instead of shining the spotlight on the pain that we’re not happy where we are, let’s try and bust through that and have the appropriate conversation to see how we might actually bring our why to work. If we can’t bring our why to work, then maybe we need to leave and find something else, but number one advice is always start where we are.
Kylie Lewis: Can I also just ask you, in the work … That’s amazing. I love everything and I wanted to ask you in that process of helping people uncover their why, which you did with the lawyer, do you ever use five why’s technique?
Carolyn Tate: Why is that important? Why is that important? Why is that important?
Kylie Lewis: Yeah.
Carolyn Tate: Yeah I do. The question is the thing here Kylie. It’s the quality of the questions that we ask that will determine the quality of the answer which determines the quality of the deed. That’s why I feel like the fundamental success to finding your why is the quality of the question that you ask and the why is that important question.
Kylie Lewis: Yes. Again, when I’ve done that with my clients, it always lands in some realm of being of service to others.
Carolyn Tate: Always.
Kylie Lewis: Always. And it doesn’t matter how you do that and what contribution you bring but if you can tap into that and have something outside of just yourself, it’s always the things that people experience goosebumps, start tearing up about when they really, really get to the heart of why it is so important that they do what they do. So I was curious if you had had that similar experience?
Carolyn Tate: Yeah.
Kylie Lewis: It’s been so amazing to speak with you today Carolyn. In wrapping up our conversation, my last question to you, and there’s been so much in this that’s so rich in this conversation but, if we had to boil it down to three things that you hope people take away from this conversation today, what would that be?
Carolyn Tate: Firstly I would say, I’ve already talked about start where you are and really develop a sense of curiosity to explore those things that are beyond the day to day existence that we all tend to live in and creativity along side of that. Everything that’s beautiful that remains in the world will be rooted in both courage and creativity. Whether that’s a book, a piece of art, music, whatever it might be. Creativity is very much the part of us that’s been dulled through our work and so I’ve been encouraging people to get curious and get creative outside of work. I’d be asking them to adopt a project, we didn’t talk a lot about project and what a project might look like but the only way you discover your why is by doing and actually testing and prototype and experimenting.
Actually if we take away that idea of failure, like there’s no such thing as failure, we only fail if we don’t learn from that experience. Really thinking about what would you do? I had this question the other day. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Is a really good question but I’d also say an even more powerful one is, what is the thing you would just have to do even if you did fail?
Kylie Lewis: The question I’ve heard that rephrased is, what’s worth doing even if you did fail? Yeah.
Carolyn Tate: Absolutely. I think the quality of the questions, you know. My book has 50 questions that we can journal on to determine the passions that keep coming up. There’ll be words, there’ll be themes, there’ll be something that keeps coming up time and time again. I think a lot of synchronicity happens. Noticing, paying attention and noticing the opportunities and the people that appear, the opportunities and circumstances that appear around you as you’re doing this work. And start small. Here’s my last piece of advice. How do you eat an elephant Kylie?
Kylie Lewis: One bite at a time.
Carolyn Tate: Absolutely. Don’t go for this big, universal why that’s too massive. Pick yourself a small project with a six month limit on it. Give yourself an outcome. Set yourself some milestones. Know what it is you want to achieve, but more importantly your why and let the how unfold a little bit loosely. I’m a big believer that the how is not always set in concrete, that it happens a bit more fluidly. Pick yourself a project and just do it and test your sense of joy as you’re doing it. How am I feeling about this? Am I happy when I’m doing it? Do I itch to do it even if I am so busy, I still make time for it? That’s a really important thing is just try something, just do it and see how you feel about it.
Kylie Lewis: Amazing and we could keep talking for hours.
Carolyn Tate: We could.
Kylie Lewis: I am going to just ask where can people find out more about you?
Carolyn Tate: Okay. They can find out more about me at Carolyntate.co. They can buy the book there. There’s a sample of my books so they can get a taste test of the book on my website. The book will be available very soon and yeah, that’s what they can do and get started on their why. Let’s start a purpose movement across the globe Kylie.
Kylie Lewis: I’m with you lady. Don’t you worry about that. It’s been great to be in your company today, Carolyn. I look forward to reading the book when it launches and thank you so much for sharing all your insights and wisdom and for putting your work out in the world. It’s important and I’m so grateful. Thank you.