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Everything I know about purpose I learned in kindergarten.*

When we go through the process of clarifying a profound purpose, we find ourselves getting back to some fundamental truths about who we are and why we do what we do.

It reminded me of Robert Fulghum’s, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. In his book, Fulghum showed us how the things we learned pre-grade school were some of the most profound lessons that we will ever encounter.

Thinking about all this made me realize that there are some parallels between what Fulghum illustrated and what a profound purpose helps our organization do.

Here are a few of those things we learned way back when and how a sense of purpose helps them flourish in the work we do today.

A sense of purpose is rooted in the profound difference we make for those around us. A sense of purpose naturally connects us with the golden rule. Putting others first is such a simple idea, yet it is something every organization and every one of us could work on. I’ve been working on it since, well let’s see…yep. Kindergarten.

When I was five, I don’t remember any part of the kindergarten class time that was dedicated to learning how to finagle things from our classmates. We were taught to share. Unquestioningly. This unselfishness is native to a meaningful purpose. It is the mechanism that unites us all to turn our pursuit of purpose into a movement powered by all those we share with — team members, customers, prospects, and more.

This goes hand-in-hand with sharing. It wasn’t every-man-for-himself (or herself) when we were five. We learned to care for each other. Once again, this is an idea at the very heart of purpose. If we are embracing something this meaningful, we are focused on how we can help those around us. It’s through genuine help that we make a difference for others and for our organization.

I don’t know about you, but I was taught to pick up after myself. I learned early to leave the place the way I found it. No, scratch that. I was told to leave it a little better than I found it. After all, there were others that would be here after me. Thinking about others and the things around us is a powerful orientation. A purpose ensures that we are always dialed into this sense of responsibility for others and the world we live in.

Kindergarten was a time of wide-eyed discovery. We were encouraged to explore and learn and grow. It is through wonder that we develop a deep respect for everything around us. Wonder is innate in a truly meaningful purpose. It makes us marvel at a profound difference we could make. It catalyzes our inspiration and our aspirations.

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Maybe I should say that, in this example, it is pre-elementary. Purpose shares those same character-forming powers that we encountered at the beginning of our learning adventure. Those were lessons that formed the successful people we are today. Imagine what it could help us and our organizations become in the days ahead.

If you are interested in learning more about clarifying your purpose and using it to transform your organization’s success, drop me a line.

*Apologies to Robert Fulghum and his wonderful book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the forthcoming book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life. He regularly shares his insight here, on Linkedin, and at

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Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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