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

The Power of Checklists

A small hospital in Austria saves a 3 year old hypothermia/drowning victim who had stopped breathing for over 6 hours.

An airline experiences severe engine throttle back due to sudden loss in fuel, the pilot recovers the engine by throttling back even more despite his intuition screaming at him to throttle up.

A hospital reduces central line infection rates from 11% to zero, resulting in saving 8 lives and two million dollars.

A 49 year old man burns 10% more calories than his personal best immediately after writing down 5 items on a piece of paper.

Although the last example (mine) is not as powerful as the other three, all four have one thing in common. They unlock the power of a checklist. The first three examples are from an excellent book called ‘Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande.

You may be thinking one of two things; either ‘I love checklists’ or ‘what’s the difference between a checklist and a to-do list’.

A to-do list is like a laundry list or a grocery list. A checklist pushes you to peak performance.

Checklists work in  life or death situations – and let’s face it – we’re all in a life or death situation as long as you expand or contract the timeline accordingly.

In the case of the Austrian hospital, the 911 operator followed a checklist immediately after taking the call and dispatching rescue operations. The checklist allowed the operator to ensure every single expert needed was ready and waiting at the hospital with complex equipment that was in perfect working order. If any one of those people were not there or piece of equipment malfunctioning, the little girl would have stayed dead.

Dr. Peter Pronovost created a simple checklist for performing the central line insertion procedure. Five simple yet powerful steps –  1. Wash Hands 2. Use Antiseptic 3. Wear a mask, gown and gloves 4. Drape the patient 5. Use sterilized dressing on the site. At least one of these steps was being missed at least thirty percent of the time. Nurses had the authority to halt the procedure if all 5 steps were not being followed.

An investigation revealed that a plane which had followed the polar flight path had developed ice crystals in the fuel. These crystals bunched together and clogged the engine’s fuel intake. If you’re a pilot and your plane experiences sudden power loss, you don’t want to read about polar flight path ice crystal investigation findings. You want to read: THROTTLE BACK.

If you can order a book from Amazon, you can execute a checklist. You don’t need ‘Amazon book ordering’ training. Now, imagine if you do have specific skills. A unique checklist designed to call on your specialized skills in a specific situation is like having super powers.

My exercise bike checklist pushes me like a personal trainer.

  1. 00:00 – 07:00 – Take-off – Set Working Load (12-13)@95 RPM – MAX HR 150
  2. 07:00 – 30:00 – Oscillate – [(15-16) – (10-11)]@95 RPM – MAX HR 160
  3. 30:00 – 32:00 – Tumble – (10-11)@85 RPM
  4. 32:00 – 35:00 – Approach – (11-12-13)@90 RPM – MAX HR 150
  5. 35:00 – 40:00 – Land – (10-11)@85 RPM – READ CALS
After a   while this checklist will become a specialized skill called 40 Minute TOTAL Cals

Welcome to the nerd side, we have pi.

Turbo-charge your memory

Did you know there are only ten independent consonant sounds in the English alphabet?
See for yourself, say ‘tah’ out loud and then say ‘dah’. Notice the configuration of your mouth is identical in both cases.
We can leverage this quirk of the English language to create a powerful memory technique.
There are two parts to this technique, once you grasp them, the learning possibilities are limitless.
Part 1 – Associate a number to each consonant sound
1 – ‘t’ or ‘d’  – Hold up one finger, notice it looks like a t without the dash.
2 – ‘n’  – Hold up two fingers and then turn them upside down, looks like an ‘n’
3 – ‘m’  – Now hold down three fingers, looks like an ‘m’
4 – ‘r’  – Say the number four out loud and roll the ‘r’
5 – ‘L’  – Hold up your hand, notice the shape of your forefinger and thumb
6 – ‘sh’ or soft ‘g’ – Notice 6 looks like an upside down ‘g’.
7 – ‘k’ or hard ‘g’ – If you write the number 7 with a cross, it looks like a written ‘k’.
8 – ‘f’ or ‘v’ –  Handwritten small ‘f’ looks like a ‘figure 8’.
9 – ‘p’ or ‘b’ – 9 looks like a mirror image of a ‘p’.
0 – ‘zzzzzzero’ or ‘ssssss’.
Part 2 – Picture an object with each number
1 – ‘t’ or ‘d’ – tie  (a necktie)
2 – ‘n’ – noah (old man with a long white beard, over time you can just picture the white beard)
3 – ‘m’ – ma  (picture a mom)
4 – ‘r’ –  row  (oars representing rowing)
5 – ‘l’ – law  (picture a policeman’s hat)
6 – ‘sh’ or soft ‘g’ – shoe
7 – ‘k’ – key
8 – ‘f’ or ‘v’ – ivy 
9 – ‘p’ or ‘b’ – pie
0 – ‘z’ or ‘s’ – ice

You can use this list and create objects for numbers 10 to 99 as well. For example, the number 14 can be ‘tire’. Say you’re memorizing a list and the 14th object is ‘front closet’ just picture a tire in the front closet and you’re locked and loaded

Let’s bring this home with an example. Pretend you’re giving a talk on turbo-charging your memory and your speech is made up of 7 talk points.

1. Introduce yourself (Picture yourself wearing a funny looking tie)
2. Quirk of the english language (Picture William Shatner – Captain ‘Kirk’ is a reminder for ‘quirk’ – with a long white beard)
3. Ten independent consonant sounds (Picture your ma dancing on a sound speaker)
4. Technique has two parts to it (Picture ‘ying-yang’ symbol – represents two parts of a whole – rowing across the water)
5. Part 1 – Association (Picture a parent-teacher association meeting happening inside a gigantic policeman’s hat)
6. Part 2 – Object (Picture a lawyer in a courtroom standing up and saying, ‘I object’ and the judge has a huge shoe instead of a gavel)
7. Let’s bring this home with an example (Picture a huge key laying on the roof of a big home)

If you read this every day for a couple of weeks, not only will you be comfortable with the technique, but you’ll be able to explain it to others from memory. 

You may even start to believe you have tires in your front closet

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.