Stop Trying to Change The World: Find a Better Mission

“Helping others to reach their potential” is not your life’s mission.

Neither is it “to make the world a better place.”
Nor is it to “teach others how to grow and transform their lives.”

Sorry. I know, I might be upsetting you right now.

Just bear with me…

The above statements are descriptions of your potential action and impact. But there not missions.

A mission is a specific calling that comes deep from within:

To decode the human genome.
To master the art of communications.
To define a new genre of personal finance.
To invent a new technology platform.
To create a heart-based approach to marketing.
To change how we value our relationship to nature.
To be the first Jewish astronaut in space.

In other words, a mission is something that is bold, ambitious, and requires a personal stake and investment. It will likely take you a lifetime to achieve (in other worlds, the journey’s often never complete. It just has many unfolding chapters to the story). Of course your higher calling often generates a derivative impact and wide-scale contribution.

As you pursue your mission, you undoubtedly will:
Teach others, make a difference, and transform the world.

But you have to name your real mission, first. Find the bigger story.

That’s something personal, vulnerable, and revealing. Dig deep. It’s in your personal blueprint. Something you’re hard-wired for based on genetics, life experience, and your soul’s destiny. The clues are hiding in plain sight.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
- Howard Thurman

In my case, I’m obsessed with storytelling. Part of my mission is to decode storytelling. Why? Because for much of life, I felt completely lost in translation. I never really knew where I fit in or belonged. Probably explains why I’ve been a lifelong student of human behavior and communications. You might call it a coping mechanism. I consider it my calling. As an entrepreneur, I discovered early on how everything in business boils down to getting others to believe in your story.

I struggled with several huge unanswered questions: (1) How do I get others see and appreciate the same things I do? (2) What does it take to turn something new and different into cultural acceptance? (3) Why do some world-changing ideas take hold — while so many others get lost in translation? These are core questions that have propelled my journey and brought me to storytelling.  It just so happens those questions are at the heart of business, innovation, and large-scale culture change. In other words, my quest is something that many of you equally care about, which is why you read this blog and are a part of our community.

Your mission speaks to something that you are trying to express, resolve, or solve in your own life’s understanding. It’s the underlying theme or story arc that’s shaped your life. For clues, listen to the yearning and desires of your heart. It’s what I think Gandhi meant, when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If you truly connected to your mission, you can’t help but embody the message. So worry less about “fixing” everyone else’s problems. Realize that the mission you’re on, begins as an inside-out journey.

Here’s three questions for you to chew on:

  • What’s the thing you’re most curious about?
  • What’s the riddle you’re trying to solve; or the nut you’re trying to crack?
  • What are you working on that’s much larger than yourself?

We all need a bigger story. The bigger the story, the more room there exists under the umbrella for others to locate themselves. That’s why you want a mission that’s specific, yet universal enough that others can identify with the same mission, and will want to join you on that journey. It’s your job to speak from your place of knowing; that journey of intimate detail, struggle, and collected wisdom.

As much as I have become a so-called expert in storytelling, this is my own life’s learning (and a continued work in progress). I’m forever reminded of the saying: we teach what we need to learn most. So as a storyteller, I remain the student, and always feel like I could be doing a better job of making our branding, marketing, and communications more storytelling-based. There’s no greater journey then to embody your truth. Especially when you have a big truth to tell.

Never forget the personal nature and vulnerability inherent in your own mission. There’s a part of you that you are still making whole by following your deepest desire. Notice wherever the “cobbler’s children wear no shoes” for your own business. It’s much easier to project your mission externally on those around you — than it is to explore your own place of shadow. Just remember your work is often a stage for your own inner-turmoil. Especially the case when you’re an entrepreneur on a path of freedom and creative expression. Just being aware of this dynamic will make you more successful.

Find your medicine. Name it. Tell its story. Nurture it’s expression. By healing yourself, you will heal the world. That is your only true mission.

What’s your answer to the three questions above?

Tell me more in the comments below. If you like this post, there’s no greater love than to share it with your friends.

Want some serious help telling the story of who you are and what you do? Check out my 7-step storytelling system The New About Me, for quick-turnaround results.


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  • Kirsten Weiss

    Yes!!!  Thank you!

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  • Keimstorm

    I like your post very much…. this is a discussion I have very very often…. “mission” for me is although slightly different: I see “mission” as your role in your “vision” seeing “vision” as the photograph of the future and “mission” being the final objective that could perfectly need decoding the genome the genome…

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      I so appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this! Isn’t so interesting how we each have our different ways of approaching that mission/vision construction? I’ve always been biased towards mission over vision in that to me mission is the core purpose, and vision is the outward manifestation of that impulse.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      I so appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this! Isn’t so interesting how we each have our different ways of approaching that mission/vision construction? I’ve always been biased towards mission over vision in that to me mission is the core purpose, and vision is the outward manifestation of that impulse.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      I so appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this! Isn’t so interesting how we each have our different ways of approaching that mission/vision construction? I’ve always been biased towards mission over vision in that to me mission is the core purpose, and vision is the outward manifestation of that impulse.

  • StevenHolt

    Excellent article, but you should really have proof read this before you posted. 
    If this were an amateur blog, I’d understand, but being as that you are a professional writer its kind of embarrassing. I’m not going to point out your grammatical errors, but if you read it over, they should stand out. 

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Hi Steven –

      Appreciate your feedback. Glad you like the article. I focus my time on sharing and the expediency of that sharing over — always getting everything perfectly right. Hopefully the truth of the message shines thru despite the rough around the edges delivery. As a friend likes to say, “what’s the opposite of perfection?” — Done.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Hi Steven –

      Appreciate your feedback. Glad you like the article. I focus my time on sharing and the expediency of that sharing over — always getting everything perfectly right. Hopefully the truth of the message shines thru despite the rough around the edges delivery. As a friend likes to say, “what’s the opposite of perfection?” — Done.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Hi Steven –

      Appreciate your feedback. Glad you like the article. I focus my time on sharing and the expediency of that sharing over — always getting everything perfectly right. Hopefully the truth of the message shines thru despite the rough around the edges delivery. As a friend likes to say, “what’s the opposite of perfection?” — Done.

    • Shibui

      Perhaps, on a post such as this, you also should edit and correct your own errors.

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  • Carla Della Beffa

    As you learn, Michael, and write posts like this one, i see i already have to change my just-finished Thenewaboutme-driven bio. For the better, but still… more work! Thank you.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Always a work in progress, right? :-)

  • Mankul65

    To succeed in your Mission, it is imperative that you care profoundly.One way to achieve this,as told to me by my late father- put yourself in the shoes of the person who would benefit from your Mission.You would then understand their pain much better.
    Michael- I very much enjoy your Blog.Warts and all notwhithstanding.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Thanks Mankul65! Ideally, your mission is a direct reflection of your own inner pain. In return you’ll obviously know who to serve. Others who you see and recognize as suffering from that similar path, obstacles, and challenges.

  • Trish Comer

    I was amused by the “grammar” comments.  I always follow the philosophy that we all have strengths and we should let them flow…and then there are Copy Editors – thank God!  I am new to your blog and to you as well, but from what I have seen and have read in your book, your message is spot on!  I am looking forward to finally getting ‘my story’ out from my heart to paper with your encouragement and shared wisdom!  

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Thanks Trish. I really appreciate your comment. I’ve always believed its best to have a story worth telling over fretting about the “right” way to tell it. In my experience, when there’s a real story to tell, it tells itself, even if it includes a few typos or other mistakes.

  • Greg

    Great post! I especially love the quote by Howard Thurman and “Teach others, make a difference, and transform the world.” I work in a not-for-profit so the title grabbed me right away. I love my work and helping fight poverty is something I am passionate about. This post has gotten me thinking and has challenged me to dig deeper to define my mission. Thanks!

  • http://www.MajesticPath.com John Germain Leto

    Wow, Michael.  What a great article.  I think it’s beautiful the way that it speaks to our own personal work that’s connected to our greater mission.  For me, I’ve certainly been on a path of how to live a more heart-based existence and elevate my own consciousness.  Hence, it’s the work that I feel called to explore with others. I’m simply here to share what’s true for me on my path from my place of knowing.  It’s awesome seeing you share the same.  Keep up the great work, bro.

  • Tiki_dcn
  • Ginger Roels

     Love it and you’re absolutely right, changing the world must be passed
    down, for if you truly want to change the world you have to understand
    you can’t change the world in the few years you’re in it but you can
    make quite a dent :-D 

  • Thabo Mophiring

    There is an incongruity between your message and the examples. Just being bigger than yourself is really ego – like 1st Jewish in space. It lacks the very thing you dislike – how does this change the world. The real contribution to mankind.  An investment banker another odd achievement lacking that element.

    Also, it is a question of evolution of personal consciousness, It starts broad, unformed -. make a difference and if not forced, gently tailors itself or with the environment (co-creates itself) or  to quote  Shakespeare
    ‘Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”

    William Shakespeare,

    Twelfth Night

    The worst thing a person can do is hurry the process along and miss the benefits of the development of consciousness and therefore mission. result -> ego-driven.

    I regret none on that slow and painful journey for in many ways – the journey is the mission. The people we touch and who touch us along the way begin to unfold that continuously clarifying mission.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      Thabo, I suspect you may have misunderstood my post. The first list of so called callings are ego defined. In order to find your true calling, you have to heal yourself at a deeper, more personal, intimate level. 

  • Ginger Roels

     Thabo,

    Wouldn’t the very nature of being bigger than yourself exclude your ego?
    My perception of that statement is you’re realizing how small any one
    given individual is. The natural sequence of events once that
    realization occurs would be to look outside yourself and at others,
    allowing them to teach you along the way thereby expanding your mind and
    reach.

    I can’t speak to the authors intent or meaning but I read it as “broaden
    your focus for what you believe people need is based only on limited
    knowledge. Your mission can not be fully realized if it is infinitely
    broad and unfocused.” I truly believe that he who has greatness thrust
    upon him would do himself a service in seeking the advice of he who
    achieved greatness or was born and lived his life in the midst of it.

    • Thabo Mophiring

      I looked at the examples to to get a sense of ‘bigger than yourself’ and found some lacking. For comparison, Hitler achieved a lot that was bigger than himself but it was primarily ego. He certainly had a mission. he was very focused to the detriment of humanity.

      Greatness is nothing more than achieving your mission well. If you follow other’s advice, you will achieve their mission.

      The real problem is trying to take the fastest road between two points. Being aware of signals from the environment is how you achieve a mission that is not only bigger than yourself but is of value to humanity.

      It is allowing your agency to benefit from and be part of the construction of that greater whole.

      Because anything truly great or worthwhile in modern society will involve the assistance of others. This means your mission will morph as it develops.

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  • nick

    what if your life work is to help people reach their full potential and become something much larger then the bile spewing apes they really are?

  • Hưng Nguyễn

    Dear Michael, I’ve found your page through Google when I searched the keyword “change the world” and I want to get connected with you. I think that we would have some same things to talk to each other. Best wishes for you!

  • http://www.shiragellman.com Shira Gellman

    I think you summed it up when you said, “By healing yourself, you will heal the world. That is your only true mission.” I truly believe that if we spent more time re-examining and exploring our own needs and purpose, we would be better at helping others do the same. It’s important to recognize the separation between people’s realities and experiences. We can’t give advice, we can only speak about our own experiences and let others decide for themselves. It’s more helpful to listen and ask questions to help them discover and develop their own ideas. (That’s what I would want someone to do for me.)

  • Dustin Martinez

    I am glad you came quick to the point your blog has a controversial intro per se. Although I like it because it really does fit. I have always wanted to make a difference in the world, but my goal has a more tangible reach as I want to go into international business and relations. Although it is quite ambitious (haven’t said what it is, but I don’t think I have to) I will still go for it, go big or go home am I right? BTW you had me at Ghandi quote thats my favorite.

    • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

      ha! yeah, this post is one of our more provocative ones. Glad you found the payoff worthwhile.

  • Shruti Pant

    One of the clearest can-do articles I have read that defines a calling, and shows how to dig deep and find it. Thank you for sharing your story alongside.

    • Michael Margolis

      Thanks Shruti! So…what is your calling?