Leading From Purpose

A Book Summary

Leading From Purpose by Nick Craig is one of the best books I’ve read on discovering your purpose. One of the many reasons I like this book is because of Nick Craig’s definition of purpose. ‘It is the unique gift you bring to the world’. As Nick says – If you were pulled out of your life and replaced by someone with equal skills, what would people miss the most 3 months later. Whatever it is they’d miss, that’s your purpose.

Purpose is a gateway to the state of peak performance called Flow

He lays out a framework to help you define your purpose. There are 3 Sets of experiences that will help you uncover your purpose.

Magical Childhood Moments

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition

– Rumi

Think back to when you were a child. Consider those moments when something magical happened and changed our perception. Best learners on earth are children. What were some of your peak magical learning moments. I suggest you start an inventory of all of the magical childhood moments you can remember, keep the list in a notebook with you at all times, new memories will come at unexpected times.

Crucible Moments

Pressure is a Privilege

Billie Jean King

Your purpose manifests when all hell is breaking loose around you. Reflect on your most challenging experiences, how did you get through it, what was your way of surviving the journey.

Passions you’ve had for a long time

Passion is energy. Feel the power of focusing on what excites you.

Oprah Winfrey

Think about those activities that are autotelic (Love for the sake of doing) for you. Whether it be reading, playing drums, walking the dog, yoga, karaoke, meditation, any activity at all where you feel like you’re in flow when you’re doing it. According to a study I did in early 2019, 90% of study participants found a strong link between at least 3 of their 5 talents (as per StrengthsFinder) and their autotelic activity. Talents at play are fertile ground for helping you uncover your purpose.

My Purpose

Although I knew my purpose before I read this book (I used to call it my strength statement). The exercises in this book helped me uncover a slightly longer version.

I love helping people loosen the mental knot by stimulating their thinking with unorthodox connections.

I suggest you list as many items as you can remember in the 3 sections, write down your first draft sentence that connects the experiences, show it to a few trusted confidants and ask for their input. Feel free to download this worksheet. https://docs.google.com/document/d/10s9VLRgFRmwC2pRWx10q5kC9TgeFH0YmFyECxSXXhsk/edit?usp=sharing

When you step into the room of your purpose, you feel a surge of clarify, focus and confidence. Thank you Nick Craig for such a succinct summary of what that room feels like.

Physics and Flow…. Or is it Fysics and Phlow?

Everyone’s talents are unique.

Flow is the overlap between peak performance and joy in practicing one’s talents.

Focusing on a few key strength areas can make a profound difference.

These are good reasons to write a strength statement, not an easy exercise but definitely worth it. 

Strength statements are your talents manifest. Unique to you but can be used over and over again; a description of you in flow.  

If I only had one strength statement, it would be;

I love helping people loosen the mental knot

Hopefully this tells you about me; I love to think, I love to learn, I love translating what I know into your context in such a way that you come up with a few powerful ideas.

As someone once said to me; ‘Everything that didn’t matter dissipated until I could see clearly’. That is very rewarding to me. 

 Someone I work with, Jen, created a strength statement for herself;

I use energy efficiently to stimulate the building of momentum to overcome challenges.

I think we all resonate with this one, either because we welcome and appreciate it in others or we aspire to have it in ourselves or both.

I’ve also heard Jen say many a time, ‘time to rip off the bandage’.

Then it clicked.

In physics, Power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used or transformed. Energy transfer can be used to do work, so Power is rate at which Work is performed. 

Power = Work/Time

Imagine you do 100 units of work over 100 hours. Average power (1 unit/hour) may be so weak that people barely notice.  Do the same work in 1 hour and your power is now 100 times greater, that’s packing quite a punch.

Your power output is 10X higher if you run a mile in 6 minutes versus walk it in an hour, even though you’re doing the same amount of work in both cases.

People notice power more than they notice work, that’s the power of Jen’s strength statement.

So then I looked at few more;

‘I love helping people go from confusion to clarity through dialogue’ (increase signal/noise ratio)

‘I love tuning an idea for a specific audience without losing any of the idea’s meaning’ (transponder)

‘I love it when my days are so filled with a range of challenging, impactful tasks that the only way to deliver on all of my responsibilities is to be so efficient and productive that not a single second of my day is wasted.’ (peak instantaneous power; friction-less energy transfer)

You’ll know a good strength statement when you see one and recognize the person’s unique talents and see what timeless positive force the strength is tapping into.


Knowing others is intelligence

Knowing yourself is true wisdom

Mastering others is strength

Mastering yourself is true power

– Lao Tzu


There is more in you

Talents are like electrons

Some talents – such as stage performance – are easier to spot than others – such as Einstein having an idea related to quantum physics.

So, what is a talent?

This is a very hard question, as evidenced by the fact that we don’t have a universal definition although people have been celebrating talents and peak performance ever since we’ve been people.
In 1925 Werner Heisenberg said ‘discard any hope of observing hitherto unobservable quantities such as the position and period of the electron’.
This statement hit our understanding of physics upside the head.

Talents are like electrons.

One of the basic tenets of physics was that every particle has a position and velocity. In other words, your stuff is in a spot and its either moving or not.

Unfortunately this isn’t true, we can’t know position and velocity with absolute certainly, the more we know of one, the less we know of the other. Physics (and therefore reality) is fuzzy and so are talents, you can’t put out a trap and catch them.
Peter Drucker said ‘Most people don’t know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer’.

Notice he uses the word ‘strength’ as opposed to ‘talent’, secondly he tells you what it isn’t versus what it is.
Surfacing your talents

1. Do the Strengthsfinder survey, its been around for many years and you can do it for $10 online.

2. Send me an email with your thoughts

3. Collect data – count your strong moments over the course of 3 to 6 months

4. Send me another email, I’ll respond with some ideas, I promise

5. Stimulate the context

3Minute Strong Moment Stimulation Checklist

1. 2GO In 60 seconds use ‘5 why’ approach and iterate back and forth between Goal and Outcome until you have 1 Outcome and 2 Goals
2. +-S In 60 seconds define 2 signs you’re on the right track (+S) and 2 signs you’re on the wrong track (-S).
3. ?Q In 60 seconds come up with 2 or 3 questions you want to ask when you are in the middle of the challenge

6. 30 second score – After the challenge is over quickly write all the salient points you can think of in 30 seconds

Excellent Performance = [(Talent)**(Skills*Knowledge)]/[(Fear)**threat]

List Syntropy – Count your strong moments

Happiness is filling your life with strong moments

Consider the following two laws of physics and math

  1. A closed system becomes more disordered over time (2nd law of thermodynamics)
  2. A system cannot demonstrate its own consistency (Gödel’s  2nd incompleteness theorem)

The fact that both of these laws are ‘2nd s’ reminds me of factory seconds. Those jeans with the funny stitching and lopsided pockets are a result of a system disordering over time and proof that the procedure to make those pants cannot be proven to be inextricably perfect.

Ignoring these natural laws can result in having a ‘factory seconds’ kind of day.

There is a cure; it involves measuring and analyzing your strong moments.

What is a strong moment you ask?

A strong moment is any experience that gives you an emotional high or a jolt of energy.

I decided to list my strong moments over the course of 6 months. Every few days I would send myself an email listing all of the strong moments I could think of. I predicted what kinds of strong moments I’d have.

My Prediction 

  • Hedonistic fun – 30%
  • Enjoyable interaction with 5 or 6 strong people – 30%
  • Flow experience – 30%
  • Unknown – 10%

The Results – based on a representative sample of 336 moments

  • Inspired and motivated by ideas – 40%
  • Enjoyable interaction with 25 strong people – 25%
  • Accomplishment euphoria – 25%
  • Fun – 10%

I found this to be an eye-opening experience, here’s what I learned.

  1. Reflective perspective is different than anticipatory – how you feel after something can be much better than how you feel going into it
  2. Smashing through a painful task makes you stronger
  3. Schedule time with strong people, don’t limit yourself to just a few
  4. You can have a strong moment with almost anyone
  5. Pondering strong moments has a positive effect on your physiology
  6. Patterns start to emerge, these patterns are your strength statements

Inject positivity in your mindspace so you can look at the right things the right way

Mastering yourself is true power – Lao Tzu

Self-esteem on one page – forging a strength by fire

My (then 15 year-old) daughter phoned me to get something off her chest.

I was busting at the seams to tell her what was wrong with the way she was looking at things and I was frustrated because she wasn’t letting me tell her how to fix her problem. The call ended with my daughter feeling hurt and my feeling annoyed. My annoyance transformed into guilt as I realized this was not who I wanted to be.

I love my daughter with every fiber of my being. I needed to dig deep and find a healthy way forward.

Then it came to me.

I was reading ‘Six Pillars of Self-Esteem’ (by Nathaniel Branden); I challenged myself to capture the essence of the book on one page. If I wasn’t able to do this, I had no right explaining the concept to my daughter.

I spent 4 hours the next morning and studied the book with such intensity that when I finished I had ‘version 0.1’ of the one-pager. Although I’ve refined the original over the years, I think 95% of the essence was captured that Sunday morning.

Six Pillars of Self-Esteem – one pager by Omer Aziz

Definition – Trust in my mind to apprehend and deal with reality appropriately & confidence in my right to happiness

The Six Pillars

  1. Living consciously – Expand my awareness – A curiosity and desire to continually seek out salient points
  2. Self-acceptance – I am compassionate to myself
  3. Self-responsibility – I am responsible for the fulfillment of my goals
  4. Self-Assertiveness – Honor my needs, wants and values and find appropriate forms of their expression
  5. Living purposefully – Formulate goals, identify actions, monitor behavior and pay attention to outcomes
  6. Personal integrity – When my ideals and practice match

Good habits

Catch and observe negative feelings and thoughts without acting

Count strong moments

Identify and derive salient points

Set clear, demanding goals and persevere

Course correct – monitor and adjust behavior

Bad habits

Belief that feeling is fact

Fear-driven actions

Avoid, ignore or deny relevant facts

Blame my low self-esteem on external factors

Powerless over emotional pain (fear, anxiety, depression, rage, etc)


Knowing others is intelligence;

Knowing yourself is true wisdom.

Mastering others is strength;

Mastering yourself is true power

– Lao Tzu

I learned that it was not my daughter’s self-esteem we needed to focus on, it was mine.

Physics and Positive Psychology

Maurice is one of the smartest most interesting people I’ve ever met. People have taken his courses on photonic propagation and come out feeling punch drunk.

I remember telling him once that I was going to be driving from Ottawa to New Brunswick and needed to wake up at 5am the day after I reached Fredericton. At 5 am (my time, not Ontario time) my cell phone rang. He’d gotten himself up and called me.

I told him I wanted to re-acquaint myself with the equations that describe a spring oscillating under a weight. He dropped by my office one day and derived the equations from scratch on my whiteboard. I remember he was tired that day and literally started to fall asleep standing up as he was writing the equations.

Our rapport created an unusual and powerful combination between Physics and Positive Psychology. I decided to leverage that combination one day be telling him about a concept called Flow.

Flow is a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in the research of peak of performance and one of the most cited authors in the field of positive psychology.

Csikszentmihalyi describes Flow as; a unified flow from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions and in which there is little distinction between self and environment, stimulus and response, past, present and future.

I described the defining characteristics of Flow.
Through that dialogue Maurice distilled them down to 7 simple statements, I love the way his mind works.

1. Goal is clear
(outcome is not vague, you’ll know if you achieved it or not, outcome is dichotomous)

2. Challenge is slightly stretch
(Challenge is slightly greater than or equal to your peak skill – calls for your best).

3. Presence of Feedback loop
(You know how you’re doing at all times, allows you to continually course correct.)

4. You are your talents
(Engaged in the exclusive use of your talents)

5. You are fully concentrated on salient factors.
(No distractions, no extraneous inputs, no compromise of performance due to fear or worry.)

6. Time has no meaning
(time either flies or stands still)

7. You approach the upper limit of intrinsic satisfaction.
(You love doing it for the sake of doing it).

This conversation has kept me interested and excited about this concept for over  ten years.

I learned from Maurice that maybe there isn’t a big difference between physics and positive psychology after all.