What is higher purpose, and why is it such a critical quality for leaders and entrepreneurs?

What is higher purpose, and why is it such a critical quality for leaders and entrepreneurs?

Today, we're used to getting things fast. However, what is rarely spoken about is how this luxury can lead to a shortsightedness that severely limits our ability to be effective in our endeavours. Higher purpose is more than just the pursuit of a dream or goal. It is a quality that is partly vision (being visionary), and partly to do with going beyond our personal needs for the sake of others (inclusive vision). This article explores both aspects to explain why higher purpose is such a crucial quality if you want to be a high achiever and a successful entrepreneur.


Aug 18, 2021

15 mins read

As human beings living in the modern era, we have become extremely shortsighted, largely the result of receiving just about anything we want on demand. We use food delivery services like Menulog or Uber Eats to bring us whatever we desire any time of day or night, some of us even becoming frustrated when they deliver our order a few minutes late. We can access virtually any information imaginable on the World Wide Web within a fraction of a second, watch whatever content we wish to on video streaming platforms like Netflix, listen to our favourite music via music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, and read as many books as we like on Amazon Kindle. While it's pleasing and, in a sense, magical and mesmerising to have all these products and services at our fingertips, it is far removed from reality in a big picture sense. The products and services we see and use are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many deeper, invisible layers beneath the surface that brought those products and services to us. However, most of us are oblivious to those deeper layers and are therefore unable to see the complete picture in terms of how they came to be at our disposal. Therefore, we should not allow these privileges to lull us into a false sense of entitlement, thinking Existence owes us something and that it should deliver whatever we wish at the click of a mouse or touch of a screen. If you are wondering what this has to do with the central theme of this article, higher purpose, bear with me for now. The connection will be revealed shortly.

The delusion that everything is available to us on demand has shaped our conception of the world we live in – our shared parallel reality – and raised our expectations. But we forget that it takes the effort and contribution of many to see the opportunity or problem vividly and then design, build and successfully deliver any of the aforementioned products and services. As consumers, we only see the final, relatively perfected product. We don’t see – or turn a blind eye to – the thousands of beta versions and prototypes that were created, trialled and failed, the ones that were replaced, rebuilt and upgraded multiple times before they reached the standard we see in front of us now. We also don’t see the high employee turnover that occurred in the midst of challenging times and uncertainties, as not everyone on the team was ready to face the unknown, the unthought of and the new. We fail to see the inauthenticities, lack of commitment and lack of integrity, the betrayals, potential threats and legal battles, the multiple times when the team should have persevered with grit and assertiveness to keep the company going. As you can see, it takes a lot to give rise to a new innovative idea. This is not the reality subscribed to by the innovators, entrepreneurs, high achievers and true leaders. They deeply understand what it takes to build a unique masterpiece. While many – particularly first-timers – dive in despite not knowing how to swim proficiently, they soon learn the hard way how a real entrepreneur should be. They realise that the true entrepreneur’s obsession with shaping an authentic and congruent conception of reality stems from the fact that they know it is impossible to generate a workable outcome the market would willingly use or consume without a relatively high level of awareness and authenticity from the get-go. In other words, real entrepreneurs are not delusional. 

When I first travelled to Italy, particularly Rome and Florence, I had the opportunity to visit many famous statues, buildings and squares etc. I remember standing before the statue of David and my tour guide informing me that Michelangelo spent two years studying the human form in the morgue before commencing his carving. It then took him a further twelve months to complete his infamous body of work. Three years of dedication to make just one statue! This is not how most people operate, particularly today. There are also many examples of unique architecture in Italy that took far beyond the average lifespan of a human being at the time to design and construct. No wonder we have the saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’! In fact, many of the world’s most famous artists, architects and builders in history knew they were unlikely to live long enough to see the end result of their work. My extensive research into high achievers has revealed that they display similar patterns of decision making and behaviour as those masters in history. This is a far cry from the instant gratification attitude adopted by the majority of people, particularly the youth of our era. 

For tomatoes to grow, the farmer must wait for the plants to grow, nurturing them for months. And yet it takes seconds for us to purchase tomatoes at the grocery store without any thought for the farmer. Have you ever stopped to think how much time, resources, innovation and energy has gone into designing and building the smartphone you use multiple times a day? As consumers, we are at the end of the supply chain. However, entrepreneurs and innovators – who are also consumers, just like the rest of us – don't live life from this viewpoint. They are present to the fact that it takes an extraordinary amount of R&D, countless hours of work and extreme risk to bring any of the services many take for granted, like Uber Eats and Netflix, to existence. They possess a quality lacking in the average consumer, a quality I distinguish in the Being Framework as ‘higher purpose’. Higher purpose is part vision (being visionary), and part going beyond one’s personal needs for the sake of others (inclusive vision). Let’s explore both aspects to explain why higher purpose is such a crucial quality if you want to be a high achiever and a successful entrepreneur.


The two aspects of higher purpose


1. Vision (being visionary)

We all know the benefits of paying attention to the present moment. However, the mantra, ‘live in the moment’ has been taken too literally by some. A high achiever does not only live in the moment. They go far beyond the here and now. They are willing to sacrifice immediate benefits, needs and wants for the sake of much greater potential rewards in the future. They know this is risky, but they have the vision to see the bigger picture.

In 1972, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted an experiment called the ‘Marshmallow Test’. He and his team gathered several children and gave each of them a marshmallow with two options: eat the marshmallow now, or wait ten minutes and receive two more marshmallows. This experiment highlights what I mean by the visionary aspect of higher purpose. It’s about being willing to look beyond the present moment and delay your gratification. 

The typical employee expects to be paid for their time spent contributing to the organisation, whether or not they produce the intended results. They adopt an ‘I work and I get paid’ mindset. An entrepreneur, on the other hand, subscribes to a totally different mindset. They know that if they work, and work, and keep working, they may stand to receive a much larger and more significant reward later on. This requires living life from the viewpoint of higher purpose. Imagine if The Beatles had not operated with this mindset. They would never have persevered after being rejected by at least four respected recording companies. The same is true for J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Jack Ma, Gabriel García Márquez and countless other high achievers who were rejected multiple times before achieving the phenomenal success they did.

Higher purpose and being visionary demands sacrifice. If you are pursuing mastery in any field, such as wanting to become a top computer programmer or an Olympic athlete, then you should let go of all other possibilities, such as becoming a surgeon or an actor, for example, and commit to your pursuit with laser-beam focus. A person who is not willing to sacrifice other potential pursuits for the sake of mastery in a limited number may not be authentic with the reality of the world. This is known as ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ because Peter Pan lived in a world of fantasy and was not willing to sacrifice childhood to grow up and become a mature adult. He knew that growing up would require him to make multiple sacrifices and relate to reality in a different way than he was accustomed to in his childlike state. Ironically, he ended up becoming the King of Neverland, which metaphorically means ‘nowhere’.

Making sacrifices in order to focus your energy and attention on one area dramatically increases the probability of achieving mastery and reaching the top of your field. This is when you break mediocrity to the point where you attract people in need of your expertise, resulting in extraordinary personal rewards. You become like a rare diamond, in high demand because supply is extremely short, someone who is irreplaceable, which is a powerful position to be in. Extraordinary effectiveness (mastery) is a source of the charisma required to follow through in life. This may lead to a much greater chance of fulfilment and prosperity. At this point, you would end up having raving fans, a delighted community of clients who see you for who you authentically are and value what you have to offer. We can see that great composers like Antonio Vivaldi or poets like Robert Frost or entrepreneurs like Enzo Ferrari each created something so magnificent and enduring, that their contributions are enjoyed for generations, long after they are gone. Everyone has the potential to create brilliance, but only the rare few are willing to commit to the creation. Getting to know the real you, the one who is irreplaceable, requires you to keep polishing/developing yourself. Most people want to mould themselves to a job or role in high demand within the market. However, ironically that is precisely what makes them replaceable!

Those who go beyond the need for immediate rewards, acknowledgement and their own personal ambitions are visionary. They are the ones with discernment, the ones who do their best to predict the outcomes, take calculated risks and generate and deliver value while also being content to be with temporary failure. They know that failing to meet their objective in the first few attempts won’t break them. All this is impossible unless they are also present to others, and their needs and wants, which brings me to the second aspect of higher purpose.


2. Inclusive vision

The second aspect of living life from the viewpoint of higher purpose is inclusive vision. This is the willingness to go beyond your own needs and immediate desires and take the needs and wants of others into consideration. In short, it’s about having an inclusive vision as opposed to being isolated or operating in a silo. For example, while most people are fueled by a desire to make money or discover opportunities for themselves so they can put bread on the table and pay the bills, an entrepreneur strives to create opportunity, not only for themselves, but also for others to take advantage of. An example of creating opportunity is job creation. As a result, a ripple effect is created, generating personal rewards when the vision is executed in the right way. It’s the difference between a person who grows fruit and vegetables for themselves versus a farmer who produces for themselves, their community and others. They take on the responsibilities and hardships to create jobs and recruit and lead people to produce beyond their own needs. Many of today's self-proclaimed entrepreneurs fail to recognise this. They are so focused on accumulating money (currency, to be exact) that they lose sight of the group of people they are meant to be serving.

At Engenesis, whenever I ask first-time entrepreneurs and business owners why they chose to be business owners, many tell me they want to make more money than they could as an employee and that their number one objective is to accumulate money. Those who respond in this way are so obsessed with their desire for monetary wealth that they forget that the most effective way to make money is not to focus on making money! The focus should be on giving first. This totally contradicts the mainstream view of what rich people are like, which is that they are arrogant, selfish, uncaring and greedy. Below is an excerpt from my book, BEING, that addresses this point.

‘Choose the pathway of serving others through your unique offering so that it is so appealing to a large group of other human beings – let’s call it the market – that they willingly choose to exchange their hard-earned money for your offering. That is how you will become wealthy. How do you think the Fortune 500 companies created their wealth? Companies like Amazon, AWS, Microsoft, Apple etc. all offer products, commodities and services that large groups of consumers value so much that they are willing to exchange money for them. Obviously it’s not as simple as that, but I’m sure you get my point. Higher purpose (specifically, a lack thereof) is one of the Ways of Being that we found gets in the way of people achieving what they want in life, especially business leaders. I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important it is to make the shift from focusing on the getting to the giving.’

Furthermore, just as ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, it took the help of many to build it. To achieve greatness requires the contribution of many. No matter how modest your vision, you will likely need others to contribute and collaborate with you in your quest to serve, such as co-founders, partners and employees. This requires a level of care because, unless you care about those you work with and their needs and wants, it is impossible to make them voluntarily exchange their time for your vision. This will have an impact on the revenue being generated.

To recap, one of the most important characteristics of high achievers is what I call higher purpose. By higher purpose, I am not referring to a big goal or dream you may have; it is a way of being. Many observe the lifestyle and wealth of people like the world’s most renowned tech company founders and wish they had what they do. However, what they don’t see is the struggle and pain they went through, the times they failed but kept going, the sleepless nights etc. Ask yourself, ‘How willing am I to live like they do in order to get to where they are now?’ An individual with higher purpose is someone who cares about matters beyond their own needs and wants and always takes others into consideration. They have both vision and inclusive vision. They are visionary in terms of their will to achieve greatness, and work relentlessly towards their vision, making sacrifices – including the sacrifice of instant gratification – for the sake of better, more meaningful rewards in the future, both for themselves and others. This is how I distinguish higher purpose from having a big dream or goal. Hopefully this article has shed light on why higher purpose is such a critical quality for entrepreneurs.

To learn more about higher purpose and the thirty other Aspects of Being critical for entrepreneurship and leadership, purchase a copy of my book, BEING.

The Being Framework - The Being Book by Ashkan Tashvir


Ashkan Tashvir
Ashkan Tashvir

About The Author

As founder and CEO of Engenesis, Ashkan heads a business movement of global venture builders, professional investors, business management consultants, advisors and ontological leadership coaches who adopt and apply his frameworks while also encouraging and facilitating their use by others for personal and organisational transformation. Committed to lifelong learning, he is currently in the process of completing a research degree in Leadership Transformation at Sydney University.

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