After building a business and leading by design, the next step is the first one in an ongoing journey: re-evolving as an entrepreneur with purpose.
Every entrepreneur knows the struggle of creating something that satisfies a market need and getting a business off the ground. But despite all of that hard work, this is only one part of the journey.
As I explained in my previous blog, all of us tend to go through an entrepreneurial evolution—what I call “E-Volution”—that has four key stages:
- Starting a business based on opportunity and passion
- Building a business by design
- Becoming a leader by design
- Seeking purpose and building a life by design
The last step is the most meaningful stage of entrepreneurial development: discovering what truly motivates us, plugging that purpose into our next project, and taking steps to live our entire life by design. It’s a door to freedom, but it takes some growth and introspection to unlock it.
How this plays out takes varying forms among different entrepreneurs. Many of us jump back into startup mode again; this time, building a new business with the benefits of wisdom and purpose. Others choose to spend time with family or channel their entrepreneurial gifts into nonprofit work or another passion project.
In any case, uncovering our “Why” for doing things—what truly propels us—unleashes incredible potential.
E-Volution and the purpose-driven life
When entrepreneurs examine every part of our lives—not just business—we start to make conscious choices. We become active participants in our journey. We become designers.
The four phases of the entrepreneurial journey change us. We pass through them by necessity, and they mold us into the next version of ourselves. Stage one sees leaders wearing multiple hats—nose to the grindstone—making the personal sacrifices necessary to get a business going.
Stage two is the perfect time to explore the Entrepreneurial Operating System®. Leaders focus on obtaining traction, building a winning team, and developing an operating system that takes them out of the day-to-day management.
Stage three is leadership by design. This is where knowing your values really pays off, and so does the power of embracing vulnerability.
And stage four is when living a life by design begins. The entrepreneur starts making decisions based on what fulfills their true purpose—something that can be obtained by asking, “Why?”
What is my Why and how do I live it?
The Why Discovery process reveals the purpose at our core. This meaning is an engine that can drive us to business success and personal freedom if we invest in understanding it. For many entrepreneurs, this realization doesn’t happen overnight. But uncovering a Why enables leaders to identify, articulate, and actuate their authentic self and make all future decisions—professional and personal—from a place of purpose.
The process is profound without being heavy. It can lift the weight of confusion and wasted time from a leader’s shoulders. It can also be a lot of fun because of the immense growth and new opportunities involved. Remember the excitement you felt as a kid, wondering what you’d be when you grew up? It’s like that—only, this time, we have the tools and power to make it happen for real.
Once your Why is in place, the big question remains: Exactly how does an entrepreneur start to live their life by design? My ultimate answer may seem a little cavalier, but here it is: You tell me.
There’s no blueprint for a life by design
What constitutes living a life by design comes 100 percent from you. This is where you’re truly in control. There’s only one shareholder to placate.
Let’s say you are a successful entrepreneur who built a profitable business and sold it for a nice sum. Or, you kept the business, but it almost wholly runs without you. You’ve got a lot of time on your hands that you have to spend elsewhere. And once you understand your Why, the next decision you make and project you take on can be aligned with that purpose.
After I built a successful, sustainable company, I decided to start two new businesses. One of them involves coaching, helping other entrepreneurs implement traction and go through the same process of E-Volution that I experienced. Because this new path completely aligned with my Why, I jumped into it with renewed energy and enthusiasm that have paid huge dividends in success and satisfaction. I love what I do. And because of this, I am better at it.
Each of us can take this next step in different ways. But most entrepreneurs jump back into the E-Volution cycle in some way, and it starts by asking, “Okay, what’s my next passion? What’s my next thing? Where do I focus my energy and time?” This could be a novel expansion of an existing business. But for many entrepreneurs, it’s an entirely new enterprise where we find and fill a different market gap. For example, I went from the food industry to tech to consulting—three very unique sectors. As long as the new project aligns with our purpose, it’s exact nature doesn’t matter.
And here’s the best thing about hitting stage four of E-Volution: after you define this new effort and jump back into the cycle, it goes faster. We return to startup mode a little older, a lot wiser, and much more adept at navigating the challenges of building a business.
In the new stage one, we go back to becoming a technician again, but we’re better at it. We spend less time developing processes and spinning our wheels on setting up distribution, navigating legal challenges, or creating marketing strategies. We know more people and often have a strong network of peers in place to support us. We have a proven process that worked in our previous business, and we can replicate what works in the new one to bust out of the growing pains of startup mode quickly. Finally, we have a purpose that enables us to match our efforts to the things that motivate us, while ignoring side projects and shiny objects that don’t fulfill our Why.
Basically, entrepreneurs go through the entire cycle of E-Volution again—but we use our superpowers to do it faster and better.
Your next project is up to you
Most of the entrepreneurs I know jump back into the cycle by starting a new business because we’re wired that way. Taking on a startup is in our blood. This isn’t always the case, however. Some individuals sell their organizations and truly retire from the business world. But they don’t retire that entrepreneurial spirit, because applying their superpowers to build something is a way of life. Once they’re in “retirement” and find a new passion, that’s their new entrepreneurial phase. It could be working with nonprofits or donating their time—it doesn’t have to be a business, per se.
We live the entrepreneurial spirit in everything we do. Whether it’s finding new ways to raise money for a charity, building a new company, developing a novel strategy to reposition a business, or mentoring other entrepreneurs, we expend that energy somewhere. And as long as whatever project is aligned with our Why, we are living our life by design.
Maybe your ideal future involves working a 4-hour week like Tim Ferris. Perhaps your perfect design is striking the right balance between you, your loved ones, and your business. It might be a workday that allows plenty of time for meditation or exercise—or, you could be one of the many entrepreneurs who live to start yet another business.
Whatever the choice, leaders start to live a purposeful life when their business decisions become part of who they are. We’re in the driver’s seat, with the experience, wisdom, and meaning to do things that fulfill us, and do them better and faster.
This is exciting stuff. And I love witnessing other entrepreneurs reach this stage and put their superpowers to work almost as much as I enjoyed it myself.
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