“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

In The Alchemist, which changed my outlook on life, the protagonist Santiago dreams of treasure in the Egyptian pyramids and sets out to find it. Along the way, he discovers his metaphorical treasure; he becomes wiser, kinder, happier, self-actualized. This book, which the New York Times calls “more self-help than literature” (in a good way!) urges readers through its simple, powerful story to achieve their dreams. “Wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.”

Even – and especially – if it’s at work! When your needs, desires, and passions align with those of your organization and clients, it’s not work at all. It’s passion. It’s fulfillment. It’s leisure. It’s treasure!

Aligning Your Passions with Clients’ Purpose

One of my favourite personal stories is about a project I collaborated on with GlaxoSmithKline. Their purpose: “At GlaxoSmithKline, we’re committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.” Big pharma? Really? Isn’t it their goal to make money? Sure. Make money to fund research and produce life-saving and life-enhancing medications. It was, and is, important for people, including those who worked there, to see GSK as “human.”

Among the projects I helped them with were training videos designed to inform the GSK salesforce about specific products, such as a new medication for managing treatment side effects. I was part of a team that created a video which included real patients to teach the salespeople about not only the product but also about how necessary the product was for people undergoing treatment.

This wasn’t just another medication; it was the difference between getting out of bed in the morning, or not. Between spending quality time with family, or not. Between feeling like you were living… This is what big pharma does.

I knew that I was contributing to and sharing GSK’s purpose. I knew I was part of a team helping to save lives and improve the quality of life for people. This project wasn’t just about selling a drug. If it were, how much genuine passion or enthusiasm could I have drummed up? I was engaged on an emotional level.

Do more. Feel better. Live longer. How great is that!? My talents and goals were aligned with their purpose, which allowed me to find great happiness, even self-actualization, with them. I wasn’t even an employee, yet I achieved that feeling on many occasions while working on highly-engaging projects with them.

Purpose: A Key Differentiator

If purpose can create such passion and engagement in an ‘outsider,’ imagine what it can do within an organization. Punit Renjen, Deloitte Chairman, doesn’t imagine: he quantifies. According to his firm’s research, strong purpose is linked to long-term success.

“An organization’s culture of purpose answers the critical questions of who it is and why it exists. They have a culture of purpose beyond making a profit. An organization’s culture of purpose answers the critical questions of who we are and why we exist through a set of carefully articulated core beliefs. A culture of purpose guides behavior, influences strategy, transcends leaders–and endures.” Additionally, in purpose-driven organizations, 73% of employees are engaged. In companies that are not, just 23% are engaged. That has a tremendous impact on results.

Buy a Pair, Donate a Pair

Warby-Parker is a perfect example of passion strengthening performance. Their mission: providing eye care for as many of the 703 million people, as possible, who currently lack access. Their website proclaims: “Buy a pair, donate a pair.” But wait. They don’t actually donate glasses to these people. They sell them. What’s going on? Are they hiding behind a “purpose” to appeal to socially-conscious spec-wearing hipsters?

No. They know that donations can lead to dependency and unsustainable results. Instead, they donate money to cover the cost of sourcing glasses from non-profit partners. The non-profits train people in local communities to do basic eye exams and provide them with glasses to sell at “ultra-affordable” prices.

The impact of one pair of glasses? It can boost the wearer’s productivity by 35% and monthly income by 20%. So far, Warby-Parker has donated the equivalent of 4 million pairs of glasses – for an estimated economic impact of more than $200,000,000. The only word I can think of is, “Wow.”

But this purpose has another impact: it makes Warby-Parker a tremendously sought-after employer. There are even articles and blogs with tips for getting hired. Employees, particularly Millennials and Gen Zs, want to work with companies that allow them to follow their passion and engage in meaningful, fulfilling work. Organizations like Warby-Parker are able to attract and retain the best of the best.

When companies – and people – have purpose and passion, “work” isn’t work at all; it’s an avenue through which people can achieve self-actualization. Perhaps it’s even the universe conspiring to help them achieve their goals and desires!