What is your mission?
by Clint Korver (Stanford)
There is this lovely period when you are working on a Ph.D. after you have gotten all your coursework and tests out of the way when nobody cares what you do; it is kind of an intellectual romp all over the place.
During this time I ran across The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. His second habit is to begin with the end in mind. He basically says that you should create a mission statement for yourself.
So I spent a month or two trying to create a mission statement and I failed utterly. I would think things like, “What if I created a company like Hewlett-Packard; that would be pretty cool.” But if I were on my deathbed looking at my life, would that do it for me? I could imagine ways of doing it that wouldn’t be very fulfilling. It was the same story for everything I came up with; it would depend on how it happened.
I came to the conclusion that it was not the end that mattered so much as how I lived my life along the way. Instead of a mission statement I came up with a personal creed, which is only 19 words:
- Live life as an adventure.
- Radiate positive energy.
- Meet challenges with love.
- Be true to myself.
- Make a difference.
I am 44 years old now and for more than 20 years those have been my guiding principles. I measure what I am doing against those words and if I am getting to do all those things then I am a happy guy.
Dr. Korver teaches ethical decision making at Stanford University and works with the Decisions and Ethics Center in the Management Science and Engineering Department. He co-authored Ethics for the Real World: Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life. He is a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist and is a principle at Ulu Ventures.