Crave Purpose at Work? Aaron Hurst Helps You Find It In New Book, “The Purpose Economy”


Aaron Hurst Image Image Courtesy of  The Purpose Economy
Pro-bono guru and Taproot Foundation founder Aaron Hurst discusses how we’re transitioning from the Information Economy to the Purpose Economy. Read on for tips on how to find a more meaningful and purposeful career.

When we learn, we grow.

That’s why the curious and the purpose-driven have always been attracted to General Assembly. And because personal growth is 1 of the 3 types of purpose (alongside social and societal), it leaves them feeling satisfied. As does the book dedicated to the topic of building meaningful careers, “The Purpose Economy,” which hit bookshelves in April.

Over 13 quick chapters, author Aaron Hurst – aka pro-bono guru and Taproot Foundation founder – outlines “how your desire for impact, personal growth and community is changing the world.” He defines the new drivers as:

Purpose: The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

The Purpose Economy: The emerging economy defined by the quest for people to have more purpose in their lives. Where value creation is focused on enabling purpose for employees and customers – through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth, and building community.

(Spoiler: We’re all trying to self-actualize. And the good news is that markets are forming to reinforce this behavior and expand education.)

Overall, the 246-page tome shifts between academic and scientific. He pulls from studies from the Pew Research Center, empirical journals such as Psychological Science, and, of course, a few TED Talks. Throughout, the voice is consistent – unleashing wild entrepreneurial optimism. He gets his calculated methods from his father, a second-career social innovator, and his uncle, who first coined the term “Information Economy” in a 1977 doctoral thesis. Building on this, Hurst takes the baton a step further, looking at what led us here and the way forward.

What Led Us Here?

Hurst reminds us of the first three economic eras in order to introduce us to the fourth: The Purpose Economy, of today.

The 4 Economies

The Purpose Economy builds on the Information Economy, which is comprised of the tech boom that developed in the mid-to-late 20th century and is still present today. For the 200 years prior to that, the Industrial Economy drove businesses – most notably, automotive and commercial manufacturing. And for the 12,000 years that came before that, we were an Agrarian Economy due to our agricultural and domesticated crop resources.

But while the Information Economy succeeded at scale and efficiency, it left us with a loss of connection.

The State of Work

This loss of connection is seen and felt in offices nationwide. Admittedly, most people hate their jobs. According to the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index, “Americans feel worse about their jobs today than ever before.”

Because 71% of the workforce is disengaged, the freelance revolution has also begun. Now 42 million freelancers in our nation have transformed their careers by becoming independent contractors and finding purpose in finding their own clients and caring for their own skills. This is building each day.

How We’re Evolving

This move represents how we’re moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Having accomplished tiers 1-6 (of 8 total), we’re making the move from 6 (knowledge and information) to 7 (meaning and purpose). Hurst explains that, “in the nations of the developed world, most people’s basic needs for sustenance, shelter, and information are met. Accordingly, we have emerged … that we might fulfill our higher-order needs …”

The Way Forward

Hurst explains, “Purpose drives employee engagement, productivity, and improves well-being.” In short, it’s a good business strategy and people are beginning to expect it. GOOD and The Economist are writing features about this philanthrocapitalism. “Running a company now without purpose is as reckless as in the early 90s without technology,” says the author.

Purpose In Business

Organizations are starting to prioritize purpose for one or all of the following: their customers, employees, or supply chains. Heralded in the book are Whole Foods, Virgin, Etsy, Zaarly, and Mozilla to name a few. This isn’t limited to just companies. Non-profits and L3Cs (mission-driven for-profits) are also leading the way, such as Catch A Fire. And government is noticing the change. The Obama Administration has even set up the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Your Purpose

My purpose is different than your purpose. It’s based on personal motivations. Hurst dug in to this topic during the General Assembly livestream book club last Wednesday, July 7 at 6:30pm. He stated, “Start by building awareness about what builds purpose for you.” Here’s how:

Exercise 1: Take 2 minutes and write down 1 moment/thing that gave you a sense of purpose. Do this for a week or month and then look for patterns.

Exercise 2: Tap into what drives you, take time out of the day to reflect. Ask yourself: What surprised, inspired, and moved me today?

3 Purpose Drivers

Then, uncover your purpose drivers. Remember: purpose is not a noun. (Not civil rights, immigration, poverty.) It’s an approach. So determine who you feel most purposeful working for (individuals, organizations or societies). Next, why (karma or harmony). And, finally, how you connect with them through your greatest skills (community-, human-, structure-, or knowledge-centered). The author’s company, Imperative, has created an online diagnostic.

For a good look in the mirror, take it today. “Use the results and connect to others with similar purpose,” said Hurst emphatically in the livestream.

Purpose in Your Career

The days of “learn early, earn in your prime, then return your gifts to charity” is outdated. Today, we can all learn-earn-and-return simultaneously in all phases of life. Recruiters who have noticed the Purpose Economy coming now focus solely on finding you meaningful work. This includes ReWork, Onramps, Idealist, and Commongood for example. Five sectors that have the most opportunity for change in this new economy include: retail (e.g. 3D printing), real estate (e.g. house sharing systems), finance (e.g. social lending), education (e.g. new models), and healthcare (e.g. interconnected systems).

The urban professional’s fear today is this: Fear of a life that doesn’t matter. To get down to what matters – for you – download The Purpose Economy (50% off for GA members). And for other related reading while you’re at the beach, try “The Start-up of You” by Reid Hoffman, “Flourish” by Martin E. P. Seligman, and “Give + Take” by Adam Grant.

If you include yourself in “all working towards building an economy that serves people and the planet,” Hurst’s book is a true call-to-action. To act on finding your purpose and leveling up your career, search General Assembly’s one-night workshops or 10-week, evening programs.

Watch our interview with Aaron Hurst on his new book, “The Purpose Economy.”

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