Getting Closer to Our Purpose

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The origin story

End of April 2021, Neal, Matt and myself regrouped one afternoon at my house to discuss and exchange face-to-face. It was the second time we met physically since we started the Personal Antifragility circle (the first was the inauguration meet-up). When we started this circle, it wasn’t clear what “this” was, nor where “this” was going-to, but we all had a feeling we had to somehow walk together in the dark to figure it out. Afterall, if we wanted to start a “thing” about the notion of Antifragile, being partly what can benefit from uncertainty, then we should have to be brave and together we shall find the truth about our joint destiny!

When we first met for the Personal Antifragility inauguration, after sharing more widely and discussing the upside vs. the (self-conscious) downside, we came out with a couple of outcomes. We realised that it is always the best time to start as long as you get it started; that we needed to have a common desirable objective; that our current stage is still very much undefined, we are at what is called a “discovery” phase; that there were elements are in their raw shapes, a sort of primordial soup from which something alive could emerge; and that hopefully we will start to see what are key building blocks of this “antifragile thing” we are trying to grasp here. 

Whatever we initiated there, is making us feel that we are onto something, and I hope we will gain clarity soon.

From loose principles to strong values

On our first meet-up, while we shared our main related stories we ended-up with a list of 6 loose principles. We didn’t know if they were the right ones, but we knew for sure that they resonated with each of us and that they were ours, all coming from our respective experiences in life. The path you took is unique to you, so is mine, and we must share some common values somewhere. So, we decided to capture them and make this time matter. We each wrote them down on a piece of paper, and co-signed these to demonstrate ownership and commitment. This format also allows these principles to sit for a bit with us at our desks or on our bedside tables, keeping them in the back of our minds so that when we go on with our lives for a couple of weeks we can refer to these and see if they still resonate as much. After which, we would come back together to unpick these…

And so we did! Couple of weeks after our inauguration meet-up, we regrouped at my place to dive into these initial principles. I pulled out foam boards, pens and sticky notes and started replicating these 6 lines. We tried to find out what inspires and motivates us, what are our shared impacts and contributions we should offer to the world. It isn’t easy. Most of this information we are trying to reach is feeling-based, it is deeply rooted in our limbic system, a part where language syntax is absent in our brain. So, in order to connect better with our guts, we literally used a list of “visceral verbs” and started to pick and regroup per affinities with each of our principles. We did this all together and took the time to really discuss each of these choices, like how each verb made us feel, how we saw the connections, would you see it more as an action or as the result of another action, etc. It was really important to be all in the same room, since it speaks to our feelings. We had to feel it together rather than analysing it.

It was a bit like walking in the dark, trying to find your way around a new house. You don’t know where the kitchen, the bathroom, nor the bedroom is, until you actually explore enough of the space. Little by little your brain will start to map this “new” territory and will make it easier for you to “navigate” in this space. But the extra difficulty is that this house may not be like any typical houses, and that’s what we have to find out first. So, each of us, alone, had to look at this list of visceral verbs under each of our initial 6 principles, and we had to narrow these to a few key contenders that really resonate with ourselves, individually. After which we come back together to regrouped our shortlist of verbs selection. Mutually and genuinely discussing and questioning the choices made, allowed each of us to rethink our initial decision by listening to others about how they are perceiving and feeling when encountering such and such visceral verbs. Finally, we all voted on the top key verbs that resonated the most with us. I believe that this final shortlist of visceral verbs will help us draft a vision for this joint adventure.

Next: Our Why and our Hows

If we follow the precept preached by Simon Sinek in Start with Why, these “themes” we came up with hold the key to unlock our vision and our values. The vision statement is a way to make our joined-purpose alive in this reality, so that ourselves and others can understand what we are trying to achieve in this world, the “why we do what we do”. For that we will have to now play a bit around with our top key verbs and start phrasing them using a syntax where first comes the contribution, then the impact: To [contribution], so that [impact]. By constant tinkering, meaning trial and error, we hope to see emerging a vision statement that not only will resonate strongly between Neal, Matt and myself, but more importantly will resonate with others who wish to follow this vision and contribute to it.

Using the remaining visceral verbs, we will then address a set of values that will inform the “how we do what we do”. It is an important pillar for any organisation or group of individuals. As human beings, we have to behave, especially when interacting with others. These needs to be not too precise, not too vague. Saying we value innovation doesn’t make it unique, most people value innovation. What is it especially in “innovation” that you really value over anything else? Saying we value collaboration isn’t enough for people to understand how they should collaborate (without being too prescriptive). In short, values first should be verbs, because they are about actions, and they also need to have a contextual description, so people can navigate them in their day-to-day life.

Still a way to go, but we are definitely getting closer to find out what this is all about. Not that we will have discovered it all, but enough for us to make a concrete start. I can’t believe this is happening!