September 15, 2008

Good morning, team,

I read a quote in “Wired” magazine recently that I want to share with you this week. Shai Agassi, the man quoted, has created an audacious plan to put electric cars on the road. These cars are not hybrids: They are totally electric. Agassi also wants to create a nationwide grid of charging stations to plug them into. His story is interesting, and you can read about him in the September 2008 edition of “Wired.” But back to his quote.

When the fellow who interviewed Agassi for the article asked whether he was worried about competitors, Agassi looked at him like he was an idiot. He replied, “The mission is to end oil, not create a company.”

I’ve been thinking about this statement all week. It made me wonder how many companies were created for a particular mission and then, because of competition, the founders lost sight of their mission and let the companies become something else. Look at the banking industry. Banks were created to lend money to people so they could build homes, create businesses and work toward a better life. Remember when the local bank loaned money to farmers so they could grow more crops and feed more people?

Look at the banking industry today. It still lends money to people, but the industry has become so competitive that it’s much more about sales than service, with disastrous results. Financial institutions that no more than five years ago were worth billions of dollars have just collapsed due to greed and mismanagement.

When I started coaching 10 years ago, I was completely jazzed about the potential changes I could help facilitate in companies. Many of my clients were going to work disheartened and disengaged. It had become too hard for them to get anything done in environments rife with politics, where people put up obstacles in front of each other so they could win their next position. Think of how much healthier the work environment would be if we could encourage people to focus on the core business and work together more successfully as a team.

Years later, when someone asked me, “What’s your competition doing and how do you plan to flip this company of yours if you can’t leverage yourself?” I was shocked. I hadn’t started coaching people so I could create a company to flip, and I had never thought about competition. I started coaching because I believe in the service it offers to make the world a better place. I figured that for all the people and companies who needed a coach, there was plenty of work to go around.

People could argue that my mission won’t create a good retirement fund for me. But they would need to understand my interpretation of what a good retirement fund consists of: By acting in service to others, I feel incredibly abundant and know that I have more than enough of what I need.

Your challenge this week is to explore how far away you’ve come from your personal mission just for the sake of competing. If you own a business, examine whether your emphasis still matches that of your original mission. Are you still as passionate about what got you started in the first place? If you work for a larger company, what are you doing each day that furthers the original mission of the company and are you still excited about it? Are your external efforts aligned with your internal desires? What’s meaningful to you in your job?

Maybe you don’t think you are in a position to ask yourself these questions. My clients often say to me, “I don’t have the luxury of doing what I love, I have to support a family and send my kids to college.” But I do think that each of us has an opportunity to work with others to add more value to the world (and I don’t mean just monetarily). Competition has its place. However, if it’s become your main goal and has taken you away from doing what you originally set out to do, try putting your focus back where it belongs.

You may just find that by refocusing on what you originally set out to do, you actually become the best at it without trying to be better than anyone else. And you might  just change the world for the better as well.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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