Today’s episode features Thomas Waterman of Purpose Pioneers.  We’re going to talk about purpose and not just any old purpose.  The reason you get up in the morning and the reason you started your business in the first place.

Along the way, I challenge Thomas on a few points about purpose and you’re going to want to listen to his answers.  you see, too often people confuse results with purpose.

For example, you might think that having lots of profit is a purpose.  The truth is it’s a result and you’re going to want to listen to this section of our conversation to find out what Thomas’ answer was.  I thought it was a really good one.

In this episode we’re going to cover:

    • How purpose and mission work together.
    • What a purpose is and what a purpose is not.
    • How to have partners purposes integrate with each other.
    • You’ll see an example of why having clarifying statements around what you’re talking about is important.
    • How values and purpose work together to create a more holistic way of thinking about what’s important for you.


Narrator:         Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.

Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.

Josh:                Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick and you’re at The Sustainable Business podcast.

Today, my guest is Thomas Waterman. He is a co-founder of Purpose Pioneers. It’s a medium that he uses to bring purpose to his life with his best friend and business partner Alexandria Agresta. And he’s really excited, he says, to share stories and talk about stuff that matters to you. But, more importantly, I’m thinking the purpose is probably something that we spend a fair amount of time on even though we actually never say the word purpose. We use values instead. But values and purpose are kind of interchangeable. So instead of me wandering on with what the difference is between the two, let’s bring Thomas on and we’ll start the conversation.

Hey, Thomas, how are you today?

Thomas:          I’m fantastic. I’m excited. I’m ready to talk about the things that matter most.

Josh:                Cool. So start with purpose. I mean, what about purpose is important?

Thomas:          So I believe purpose is the intrinsic motivator for all of us. Think about why we get up in the morning, why we go to work, what’s that greater mission? Bigger than ourselves.

Purpose is the thing that aligns all of us as well. So when I think about common purpose, you think about patriotism. Patriotism allowed Americans who are all different, of all different races, genders, religions to all unite and have incentive to want to get to know each other and want to work together. So when we have that purpose, that thing that’s bigger than ourselves, we stop looking for our differences and we start leaning in and embracing what makes us different and start thinking about what makes us the same.

Josh:                So the truth is my purpose in life might be very different than your purpose in life.

Thomas:          Yes.

Josh:                So that is not a factor that would make us be more inclined to like each other. It probably be a factor to make us not like each other. So where does that fit in?

Thomas:          So I don’t think that’s necessarily true. My co-founder and I we have unique purposes and we found a way to bring them together. So hers is all about creating communities where people feel like they matter. And mine is about showing people why they’re special and helping them ignite that to make the world a better place. So what we did is we found the commonality there by initially supporting each other separately. And through supporting each other separately, we found some commonality.

Really, I think, when I see someone have purpose. I want to help them because they believe in something, because they want to make the world better in some way. So I think the key is to just say like, if I believe that their purpose is worthy, then I want to support them.

Josh:                You just said something very key there. Their purpose is very worthy.

Thomas:          Yes.

Josh:                Because I could give you some purposes that you may not consider very worthy.

Thomas:          Totally, yeah.

Josh:                There are people I know whose purpose is to make as much money as they possibly can—

Thomas:          Right.

Josh:                –the heck with the environment, the heck with other people, the heck with anything. It’s all about me and all I want to do is make a zillion dollars.

Thomas:          Yep.

So it is about how we define purpose. I’m big on, you know, words are very subjective. The meanings are very subjective. So what that means to me could be different to you. So I think it would be smart for us to really get a common definition of purpose.

So for me, it’s helping others do more of what they love by doing what I love. So it’s helping transform other people in a way they want to be transformed. It’s a conditional experience that is about making something better based on what they deem to be better.

Josh:                So what you just described is what I probably would call a mission statement.

Thomas:          Yeah, very similar. Yeah, very, very similar.

Josh:                You know, for me, a mission statement should be 10 words or less and can be answered with a yes or a no.

Thomas:          Yeah.

Josh:                That’s my definition of a good mission.

So I’m going to take a step back to purpose. I think that purpose— I mean, this is just my own opinion. Now, let me know where this falls in. That values actually create purpose. So, to me, it seems that before I start working on a purpose statement, I really need to understand what my values are, so my purpose can be congruent with my values.

Thomas:          Right.

Josh:                And, by the way, the reason I say this is that actually a process we do with folks is that we start with values. And then we create a mission statement which could also be a purpose statement. But I can’t create that mission statement until I’m clear about the values because I want to make sure the values are congruent with the mission. And the reason I do that, I have actually seen people who have a mission statement that has nothing to do with their values.

Thomas:          Right. So I agree completely, Josh. In in our journey, we take our clients through, they start with uncovering their values.

Josh:                Okay. Cool.

Thomas:          And then uncovering them like getting the words but creating those value narratives. So like you said, 10 words or less. What does that value mean to you in an actionable way?

Josh:                That is such a good point because–

Thomas:          Yeah. How do you bring this to life?

Josh:                Yeah. I mean, like, you know, one of my values is simplification.

Thomas:          Okay.

Josh:                And if I was to say to you, one of my really important values in my life is simplification, do you really have any idea of what I’m talking about?

Thomas:          No.

Josh:                No.

Thomas:          That’s why we need value narratives.

Josh:                Right.

Thomas:          I could assume four or five things. But that’s the problem, I think is, often we assume things about others. And that doesn’t do anyone any good.

Josh:                Right.

Thomas:          That’s why we always talk about being really clear about what we believe in, what our values are, what our purpose is and what we need from the world so we can serve in an effective way.

Josh:                So what I call step two with creating values is actually step three or four but we’ll call it step two for the purpose of this conversation. After I figure out what the values are that are important to me, if I don’t put a clarifying statement around that, nobody else has any clue what I’m talking about.

Thomas:          Right. That’s the biggest problem is I believe being clear on values and expressing them is a good way to build trust with other people. But if they had no idea of what I mean then there becomes a void of assumptions where I’m making things up about what you mean which doesn’t create a real human connection. So I think you’re right, that clarity on that narrative of the value is so important.

Josh:                And you also brought up another really interesting point here is trust, is that if you’re not congruent with your values nobody is going to trust you. But if you are congruent with your values, then you do build trust because you’re being consistent and you’re walking your talk.

Thomas:          Yup. Oh, that’s the whole thing like humans need to know what you’re going to do next. Like to trust you, I need to be able to be predict what you’re going to do next. And that’s what values do is I can predict, I can forecast in my brain that you’re going to show up in a certain way. In a way that allows me to survive and feel safe.

You’re spot on. I mean, values are so important. And that’s why we say, you know, everything is purpose driven to help people go somewhere and become a means to an end and create a better world. And then values are the filters that steer those decisions and become the boundaries for those decisions.

Josh:                It sounds absolutely, completely true to me. And it’s actually what I just released my last two videos about so.

Thomas:          It’s so powerful because it also creates a scalable culture, right? Think about business. Like, how— for hiring a bunch of people and they don know how to show up, how make decisions, then there’s going to be no trust in the culture. And there’s going to be no trust with the customers. So when we have a set of values and we have a common purpose, we can now create scaled trusting community, internally and externally.

Josh:                I wouldn’t say that there’ll be no trust. I would say that it’s more difficult to identify who should be there.

Thomas:          Okay. I was speaking a hyperbole, I suppose.

Josh:                Yeah.

You know, for me, it’s like, you know, one of the main reasons I love to have a clear purpose for life and having a clear purpose around a business is that people can select in.

Thomas:          Yup.

Josh:                And people can also select out.

Thomas:          Exactly.

Josh:                You know, it’s really interesting. I don’t know if you have been watching what Amazon has just recently done is they’ve adopted Zappos’ $5000 leave bonus. You know, Zappos, for years and years, which by the way is owned by Amazon. And for years after— I had forgot if it was 30 or 60 days, they offer you $5000 to leave the company.

Thomas:          I love that. It’s going to save them more money, right, in a long run?

Josh:                It does.

Thomas:          If they think long term, [inaudible 00:09:12] great people in, it’s going to save them money. And a lot more than $5000. And it probably made them a lot more than $5000 too so.

Josh:                I mean, [inaudible 00:09:19] this makes a ton of sense to me which I love. If I’m paying you $5000 to leave, you’re only going to take that and leave if you say this is not the place for me.

Thomas:          Right.

Josh:                If it is the place for you, you’re going to say, “I don’t want the $5000 because, frankly, I love this place. I’m going to make a lot more. I’m going to be successful here. So why would I take your $5000 and leave?”

Thomas:          Yup. I love it. And I think it speaks to the power of other currencies, something my co-founder and I always talk about is that money, US dollars, are an important currency but so is trust, so are relationships, so is impact, so is personal growth. These are all currencies that companies are trading in with their employees and their customers and don’t even realize it. And that the era that salary and the corner office was enough currency to be paid in is over because we’re moving into a new economy where people are demanding a lot more from their employer or their brands.

Josh:                Well, that’s certainly true with your generation.

Thomas:          Mm-hmm.

Josh:                With my generation, it wasn’t nearly as true.

And even with your generation, there’s an awful lot of people who are working at jobs they hate, doing things they dislike, in ways they feel like they’re trapped.

Thomas:          Been there.

Josh:                I just finished reading the book Janesville which I highly recommend.

Thomas:          Janesville.

Josh:                Yeah. And in there, it really talks about Janesville, Wisconsin and the closing of a GM plant. That’s really the basis of the whole book. And it talks about the people working in the plant who feel like they’ve been stuck. And when the plant closed down, the world imploded on them. And what you’re saying really requires that you’re willing to take responsibility for your life and take control over your life—

Thomas:          Totally.

Josh:                –and that certainly fits in with your purpose. Unfortunately, there’s an awful lot of people in the world where it doesn’t fit it because they don’t even think about it.

Thomas:          Right. Oh, I love that.

So the reason, I believe, our generation is very purpose driven and not willing to settle and all of that is because we live in an era where anything’s possible. So the internet– because of the information economy, the Internet has created a world of abundance where we can get everything we need in an instant. So I no longer have to settle. I no longer have to do anything. Everything becomes more of an obvious choice.

Josh:                I’m going to push back a little bit with your generation on that because I think for a very significant portion of your generation, you know, the creators in your generation, the people who are the leaders, the smart guys, the smart women that are— they’re happy to take control of their life and say, “This is for me. This is not for me.” And they’re very clear about it.

Thomas:          Yeah.

Josh:                And we had, you know, probably 10 — 12 million kids marching over the weekend–

Thomas:          Yeah.

Josh:                –about a very strong purpose. Whether you believe in it or not, those kids were purpose driven that they got involved over the weekend.

Thomas:          Right.

Josh:                There’s also a huge group of people, probably much bigger than the purpose driven, who aren’t. And they feel like they’re stuck, life stinks. They really don’t have an option for them.

Thomas:          Yeah. I think the Internet and access to everything is a blessing and a curse. So it allows us to choose. But the problem is, now we have too many choices. And now people don’t know what to do. They don’t know what decision to make.

I can look up anything I want. Any book in the world. I can create any job in the world I want. I could learn anything. So the problem is people don’t know how to make decisions. So that’s why we believe purpose is the answer. Because if we can help people get clear on a path. It doesn’t have to be, you know, their holy higher purpose but get clear on a path of how they want to make an impact in the world and how they want to show up in the morning. Then, they can begin to weed out all of these decisions and make one clear path for themselves. And I believe that’s the key to a meaningful life and a successful work career as well. So I think you’re right, there’s too many options.

Josh:                I’m not sure it’s too many options. I think it’s that the people who are not opting into a purpose-driven life feel like they don’t have options. They feel like they’re stuck. And these are the kids who you may have gone to school with who weren’t getting A’s and B’s. They were getting C’s and D’s, barely hanging on. They came from families that might have been on the cusp of poverty or not working.

And those folks, we— I’ve had lots of those sort of folks working for me over the years. And what I found is, by having a purpose driven company, when they came to work for us, because that was part of our hiring process, they were able to opt in even though they grew up in an environment that basically said, “You’re stuck. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Thomas:          Right. Well, I think that’s beautiful. So I agree with you fully, actually.

And I don’t think people are all supposed to quit their jobs and come up with their own purpose by themselves and do that. So I really believe in the leadership of for-profit private organizations. Now, I think that that is one of the keys to creating purpose in people’s lives. So I think you’re spot on. It’s up to the people leading those organizations to really help their employees and their customers have meaningful lives.

Josh:                The opportunity, I think here, for business owners is to get the right people in their company doing the right things. And the opportunity for the employees of these companies is to join a company that you actually believe in what they do.

Thomas:          Yes. A wonderful world that would be, if ever [inaudible 00:14:52] that.

Josh:                Yes.

I, unfortunately, fly too much and one of my main carrier I fly on, it happens to be one of those airlines that keeps getting themselves in trouble in the news. And they’re definitely not a purpose-driven organization. And their employees, almost universally, hate the company. And as a result, their treatment of their company’s customers – me being one of millions, is not always as good as it could be.

Thomas:          Right.

Josh:                So part of this thing with purpose is, “Gee, I want my customers to be treated well. But doesn’t that mean I need to be thinking about my employees in a different way?”

Thomas:          I think that’s the key, is if our values are kindness and respect. And we want that to be reflected to our customer, and we’re not reflecting it to our employees, then there’s a misalignment. There’s a gap.

And that gap creates tension. It creates resentment. It makes people not show up in the same way. And that’s why we really believe it’s all about alignment. It’s about infusing your purpose and values into everything you do, from the leadership down to the lowest employee because then people will show up how you want them to show up. So I think you’re spot on, again.

Josh:                So here’s a question I have around this is, Okay, I have seen employers tell me that their values or their purpose is one thing, and I know it’s a lie.

Thomas:          Oh, yes. So that’s misalignment.

So we were just talking about that in our workshop last week where someone was talking about Coca-Cola. And they were saying, “Oh, someone said they’re doing so much purpose-driven things now.” And then the other person said, “Oh, it’s all a sham. It’s just for marketing purposes.” And that happens when there’s misalignment, when values and purpose isn’t infused into every process of the company. It isn’t infused into every decision made in the business.

So you’re right, there’s misaligned that happens. And that makes them worse off. And if they can just be consistent, then that mistrust won’t happen.

Josh:                We also have to be honest about the values.

Thomas:          Yes.

Josh:                And about your purpose. I mean, I’m a big fan of a guy named Patrick Lencioni. I don’t know if you know him or not.

Thomas:          Yeah. Yeah.

Josh:                And he wrote a really book called The Advantage. And in there he’s labeled values under four different ways.

Thomas:          Okay.

Josh:                There’s core values, aspirational values, permission-to-play values and accidental values. And what we’re really talking about, if you’re going to build a purpose that’s real and can be trustworthy, it has to be core values only. Or if it’s an aspirational value, it has to be labeled as such.

You know, for one of my favorite examples is I had somebody I knew who would say their company was a learning organization. And it wasn’t there yet but it was something they clearly wanted to do and they clearly were taking steps towards. But until they got there, they would’ve been better off saying, “Look, if this is something we want to do, we’re not quite there yet. We’re doing our best to get here, and I need your help.”

Thomas:          Mm-hmm. That’s the power of vulnerability, I think, you’re speaking to. And the first thing we do with our clients before we talk about values and purpose is talk about authentic communication. And the first step of that is the power of vulnerability.

So I think you’re right, it’s saying, “Hey, this is where I’m at. These are my intentions and I want your help.” There’s something really powerful to that where that honesty and that depth which could seem really scary is actually really powerful and it actually incentivizes people to lean into us as an organization. So I think you’re right. We don’t want to be untruthful. We want to be vulnerable and honest.

Josh:                That actually makes a tons and tons of sense to me.

So Thomas, unfortunately, we are out of time for the podcast episode.

Thomas:          It was a powerful conversation.

Josh:                Yeah. Yeah.

So if somebody wanted to find you, how would they go about doing so?

Thomas:          I would say our new websites launched, so is the place. Or my Instagram is chiefpurposepioneer on Instagram, so @chiefpurposepioneer.

Josh:                Okay. Cool. And do you use email?

Thomas:          I do. I do, on occasion. I dabble.

I prefer Facebook Messenger so if you want to add me on Facebook as well, Thomas Waterman. But if we were to exchange emails, it would be

Josh:                You must be a real millennial. That’s all I have to say [laughs].

Thomas:          Well, I was born into it, man. I was born into it.

Josh:                Yeah. Yeah, I get that. I get that so.

Thomas:          [inaudible 00:19:30].

Josh:                [laughs] I don’t know. They had me email addicted.

So I also have an offer for you. I just wrote my first book. Here it is, called Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. To get it, it’s pretty easy, you just go to where you can push a big orange button and buy it there. Or you can go to Amazon and buy it.

And if you buy it off my website, you get two free bonuses with it. One is a free 20-minute conversation with me. And the second is a 30-some-odd page how-to. Since this is a parable, you don’t really learn how to but I’ve written an e-book with the how-to’s with the lessons inside the book itself.

So you’ve been at the Sustainable Business. This is Josh Patrick. Thanks a lot for sticking around. I hope to see you back here really soon.

Narrator:         You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at, or you can send Josh an email at

Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.

Topics: mission, sustainable business podcast, values, Sustainable Business, purpose

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