Crafting an concrete, inspiring, meaningful, and memorable purpose statement

Greg Mckeown on how to craft a good purpose statement in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less:

That said, when it comes to achieving clarity of purpose, inspiration does matter. When we think of inspiration, we often think of lofty rhetoric. But while rhetoric can certainly inspire, we need to remember that concrete objectives have the power to elevate and inspire as well. A powerful essential intent inspires people partially because it is concrete enough to answer the question, “How will we know when we have succeeded?”

Some examples of mediocre and good purpose statements:

As the class reviewed more than one hundred examples, they noticed that some of the most grandiose were actually the least inspiring. For example, one had the mission to “eliminate hunger in the world,” but given that there were just five people in the organization, the mission felt like little more than empty words. Then out of the cluttered landscape of such loose idealism came a statement we all immediately understood and were inspired by. It was from a slightly unexpected place: the actor/ social entrepreneur Brad Pitt, who, appalled by the lack of progress in rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, had started an organization called “Make It Right” with the essential intent “to build 150 affordable, green, storm-resistant homes for families living in the Lower 9th Ward.” That statement took the air out of the room. The concreteness of the objective made it real. The realness made it inspiring. It answered the question: “How will we know when we have succeeded?”

Greg Mckeown on the importance of purpose in teams

Here’s what Greg Mckeown (business consultant and author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less) found out from his research of more than one thousand teams:

The results of this research were startling: when there was a high level of clarity of purpose, the teams and the people on it overwhelmingly thrived. When there was a serious lack of clarity about what the team stood for and what their goals and roles were, people experienced confusion, stress, frustration, and ultimately failure.

Is your purpose clear?

The Disruptors

These are relatively new companies that I’ve discovered or I’ve been following that are disrupting their categories. They are of different categories and industries with different models, but one thing they share is their wit and unique brand personalities.

Sleepy Jones
With stores in New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, Sleepy Jones is a collection of luxury sleepwear and underwear for men, women, and children “inspired by the lifestyles of artists”. It was founded in 2013 by Andy Spade, husband of Kate Spade, and two other partners. Their purpose:

We are so connected throughout the day that the greatest luxury isn’t material. It’s the time when we are unplugged and being ourselves. Lounging is a luxury and that is why we created Sleepy Jones.

Quip is a electric toothbrush subscription service. They have simplified the electric toothbrush down to the bare essentials and made it beautiful. In addition, they complement their product with a subscription of toothbrush head replacement and battery so you don’t need to think about when to replace your toothbrush head and battery. Their business philosophy:

We design products that guide good habits (and exclude the gimmicks that don’t), to simplify a healthy routine!

Sir Kensington’s
Sir Kensington’s is a premium condiment startup from New York that makes delicious ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. They aimed to create a category-disrupting ketchup, which eventually got picked up by stores and markets like Dean & Deluca, Williams-Sonoma, and Whole Foods, as well as popular New York eateries. Their mission:

to bring integrity and charm to ordinary and overlooked food

Read their story here to learn about their mission and values.

Highlights about Purpose in 2017

I’d gone through my notes from 2017 and here are info and insights from 2017 that I think you’ll find helpful.

White Paper / Report

Purpose with the Power to Transform Your Organization (Boston Consulting Group) If I had to pick one white paper / report about purpose to read from 2017, this Boston Consulting Group report(Purpose with the Power to Transform Your Organization( would be it. Published this year in May, it covers why purpose matters so much today along with evidence, the definition of purpose, and how an organization can bring it to life.

This perhaps best summarizes the power of purpose:

Amid overlapping transformations, purpose becomes even more important—providing much-needed alignment, clarity, guidance, and energy. That energy acts as fuel to a transformation by providing an emotional connection that inspires greater commitment. Purpose serves as that vital North Star, illuminating a direction and linking and steering various transformation efforts in a way that is logical and accessible to everyone.

It’s a nice document for making a case for business purpose. Highly recommended.


The most insightful talk I came across this year was from Nick Grossman of Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm that have invested in companies like Twitter and Etsy. In the talk he explains how the connection between purpose, mission, and strategy is important to his company and the companies they invest in. In the second half of his presentation, he shares 5 ways to help companies connect purpose, mission, and strategy. It’s around 20 minutes and definitely worth a watch.

Purpose Statement Collection on Pinterest

As a purpose fanatic, I collect purpose statements. This year, I’ve created a Pinterest board of the statements I’ve collected. You can find the board here:

Finally… the Purpose Movie of the Year

Released in January 2017, A Dog’s Purpose is about a dog’s journey to discover his purpose. Despite the controversies and not-so-great reviews, it’s a wonderful family movie, especially for a purpose fanatic.

Fiasco Gelato

Just learned Fiasco Gelato from The Society of Cult Brands. Fiasco was added to their list of Emerging Brands.

Here’s how they introduced Fiasco Gelato:

The purpose driven team at Fiasco stands by its mission to enrich people’s lives. They just happen to do it by making gelato.

Love their purpose statement on their website:

Simple, honest, and filled with passion. In our constant and unwavering pursuit for greatness, we are committed to enriching people's lives, one tiny spoonful at a time.

A nice mad lib for building marketing strategies (via Fast Company)

LINK: How To Build A Brand In An Hour, From The Agency Behind Casper And Birchbox

Mad libs and templates are like shortcuts for brainstorming. I also like them because its forces you to think with constraints, which helps bring out creativity.

Here’s one I found at Fast Company for making marketing/branding strategies. It made by Red Antler, the agency behind branding Casper and Birchbox.

Highly recommended.