Our purpose will change throughout our lives. In 2017, 14 billionaires, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, signed a “Giving Pledge” to dedicate large sums of their money to philanthropy. At the time that Bill Gates was just beginning his journey to becoming one of the richest men on the planet, he probably wouldn’t have said, “I’m building Microsoft so that I can generate billions of dollars to give to charity.” As noble as that may have been, that isn’t why he built Microsoft. He built Microsoft because he had a vision of a PC on every desk. Now, he’d like to improve quality of life across the globe. Purposes can, will, and should evolve over time.
Changing the world is “why” on a broad, overarching scale, but what does that mean for me? We have to get a bit more specific for this to become practical and we’ll do this with what I call the Gift-Giving Framework.
Let’s start with our gift. A gift can come in many forms, and it doesn’t have to be a talent. Many use the word “gifted” interchangeably with the word “talented,” and though you may have a talent as one of your gifts, we’re not limited to just talents. Below are just a couple of categories of gifts to get you thinking about what your gift(s) might be:
Position: Abraham Lincoln was gifted with the position of President of the United States, which he used to push for the end of slavery.
Talent: Robin Williams was a truly talented performer gifted with a great sense of humor. He used this talent to create happiness and improve the lives of millions with laughter.
Love: There is a lot to be said for simply loving the people around you. In his day, Jesus was the best example of this. For a man that knew he would be crucified, he never tried to fight back against his oppressors. He turned the other cheek, and even called on people to love their enemies. That is insanely difficult to do, and if you are naturally inclined to love and forgive others in this way, then that’s truly a gift. If you don’t have such a strong gift of loving, you should still cultivate and improve that ability—it will be important no matter what you do.
Work Ethic: Some great successes were not talented at all, but they were gifted with extraordinary work ethic and persistence. For all of Stephen King’s success as a novelist, it’s largely because of his work ethic and not simply talent: he writes around 2,000 words every single day. That’s a gift that any and all of us can emulate.
Vision: Steve Jobs saw a “computer for the rest of us,” Bill Gates saw “a computer on every desk and in every home,” and MLK saw his children living “in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” These three had a better vision of the future, and that’s as much of a gift as anything.
In sum, your gift may come in any number of manifestations, but you have to identify at least one gift that you have before you move on with this book. It may help to think about the people you admire and look up to. If you admire Steve Jobs, you might do a bit of reading about who he was and what gifts he had, and how he gave them to the world. Try this with any person or figure you admire. You will probably find similar sentiments and gifts in your own life, which will in turn help you understand how to give your gift(s).
You probably don’t know exactly what you’re going to do with your life right now, and quite frankly, none of us do. However, this is no excuse to not develop gifts now in order to give them to others later. This is the groundwork for your future, and though you cannot be sure what the future holds, you can be sure about the work that you put in now.
Once you’ve identified your purpose, all that’s left to do is give your gift: that’s what Part II and this entire this book is about: developing skills, habits, and mindsets that will make us highly effective individuals and allow us to maximize the output of our gifts.