What is my purpose?

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Everyone ends up asking oneself this question eventually. Some really early in life, some when in a crisis and some as a result of a discussion or external influence.

The following is my story of determining my purpose. It might be a long read, but hopefully a good one.

I vividly remember asking myself this question in March 2002, when I had just finished reading “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I was part of an IT project team stranded in Ahmedabad, Gujarat during the infamous 2002 Godhra Riots and even though we were in a safe part of the city, we had nothing to do as our project was stalled and such existential questions often emerged as part of the environment we were in.

Deciding upon one’s purpose is usually an iterative process and so was mine.

My first iteration was to define my purpose in terms of my job. So my first purpose was:

** My purpose is to build the best networking solutions for my customers **

While this looked fine, it somehow lacked the idealistic flair that well defined purpose statements (especially organization mission statements) have. Also it felt too limiting and dependent on my job.

My second iteration was to define my purpose in terms of me as a person. And the role I have to play in life. So my second iteration got me to:

** My purpose is to be a great son and a supportive brother **

(I wasn’t married at this time)

Again, this still felt a bit limiting. After all, don’t we all aim to be the best version of the relationships we maintain? What’s so special about that?

Now it was a morose time in Ahmedabad. Everybody went about their business in hushed silence and the sombre tension in the atmosphere was depressing and often weary. You could notice that even though the violence did not affect us directly, everyone was tired of it.

These were the days of Internet cybercafes which used to be the only place you could check your emails, if you could not afford a costly dial-up internet connection in your home. I remember waiting in line for a computer terminal to free up when I heard the cybercafe owner lamenting about how his IT guy had not done a good job of setting up his network and everyday was a struggle with getting his network working.

I offered to help him redesign his network and sat up with him in his shop past midnight to configure all his computers into one well configured network. Sometimes as a techie, you just want to switch off your Word documents and Excel spreadsheets and just get your hands dirty with technology.

Three days later, when I went back to the shop, Rasikbhai was all beaming.

“Navinbhai, ekdum (totally) firstclass!! Not one problem. Even the speed of surfing is better.”

Everyday since then, when I passed his shop, Rasikbhai would wave at me with a happy smile. He could not stop telling other people what I had done. For him, I was the technical magician who improved his business. Moreover, it brought me joy and pride that I could help someone with my skills.

And it was then that I realized what I believe is my unique purpose:

My unique purpose is to bring a smile to everyone I meet

For me, that “smile” is a metaphor. It can be telling a funny story to someone who’s down, bringing a word of encouragement to someone who is demoralized, helping a Rasikbhai with my technical skills, helping a client solve his business issues with my consulting or just sharing a friendly smile with the doorman or parking attendant. It is taking away the “pain” from another person’s mind, even momentarily, to enable them to smile.

Yes, it sounds foolish and rhetorical. I have been laughed at by interviewers when I’ve stated this in interviews, scoffed at by well meaning friends who would tease me to become a stand-up comic as well as had many dismiss me as an idealistic fool.

But I truly believe that this is my unique purpose. To be a catalyst in other people’s lives, as much as I can. To bring a smile to anyone I meet.

After all, Rasikbhai’s smile is always a testimony to the accuracy of that purpose.

*********

(Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is my favorite book. Its a great book to start the thinking process and to discover your purpose and calling in life. I will highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it before.)

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Outsourcing Marketing

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What elements of the Marketing Mix would a Software company look to outsource??

This was a great question asked by Atul Dhakappa on Linkedin. For the benefit of a larger audience, here is my answer to the same:

That’s a dilemma that really baffles a lot of marketing managers, especially when you’re dealing with intangibles like Software Services.

There are two aspects to Marketing activities: The development of the message and the execution of the communication.

The first aspect, development of the message, is very central to what you intend to communicate about your product, service or organization. There is essentially no way that you want someone external to your organization, do this for you. Not just for the simple reason that they might not have an understanding of your organization, but even if they have, they would be too caught up with the "how to communicate" rather than the "what to communicate".

The second aspect, execution of communication, is the spadework that goes into marketing. The development of content, design of marketing material, management of events etc. are what goes into this aspect. I believe that you could count on external agencies to help you do this, specifically letting their expertise in the execution help to get your message across effectively. I am of the strong opinion that completely outsourcing any component would be suicide, as its your product, service or company’s image on the line there. It would always be essential to have close oversight over all activities.

So if we were to take an inventory of your listed activities:

Design: Outsource the actual design process. Keep the idea generation and message creation inhouse.

Branding: Completely inhouse for the positioning and message creation. You may solicit opinions from consultants if required.

Newsletters: Keep a strong hold on the content. Outsource the creation and distribution.

Website Content: Like newsletters, keep a hold on the content and response. Designing, hosting and analytics can be outsourced.

Ghost writing of Blogs: I’ll have to agree with Karen Olenick [Another professional who answered the question] on this. Let employees / internal stakeholders generate the content in the blogs. You can have certain checks for confidentiality and equity, but try not to censor. You may outsource the blog website maintenance.

Event Coordination: This you may outsource to a event management firm who have the requisite expertise, though you have to keep a close watch on the execution and effectiveness of the events.

Integrated lead management programs: This may be outsourced, but it would be more effective to engage a sales and marketing consultant and put a solid lead management process in place. I prefer taking the conservative way and having the sales team generate and manage leads. This way you’ll have stronger leads than just a huge list of names and contact details.

Key Accounts Marketing: These are your biggest customers. I prefer not to let go of the personal touch with them. All marketing to these clients should be done by you. You could outsource the development of the material, but delivery has to be done by your team alone. It can be rather damaging to your image if they found out they were at the receiving end of cookie cutter marketing.

I would love to hear your [the reader of this post] opinions on this.