She says that she fears for this generation of kids, “who don’t come out and say ‘Screw you.’ Where’s the rebellion? These kids have no sense that they could change something.” –
Diana Kapp, Why Are Palo Alto’s Kids Killing Themselves?
We have a crisis in this country.
Seriously – we have a crisis in this country.
The Daily Beast has a weekly feature: “The Daily Beast’s Best Longreads.” In this week’s compilation, they linked to the article about the Palo Alto suicides, quoted above. And, I read, and hurt, and pondered…
The statistics are breathtakingly sad: 4600 teenagers take their own lives in this country every year. That is the crisis I was speaking of.
But the quote above set me to thinking… “Where’s the rebellion? These kids have no sense that they could change something.”
I read business books. Here’s a common, dominant, relatively newly rejuvenated theme: a business has to have a great, big “WHY?” to lead to genuine success.
Having a significant purpose is nothing new. But the current “business” emphasis probably started with Simon Sinek’s TED Talk (a shorter version has been excepted: “The Golden Circle”). He later put his thoughts in book form: Start with Why.
And, in Exponential Organizations, the idea is that a company needs a “Massive Transformative Purpose – MTP.” From the book:
This is the Massive Transformative Purpose, or MTP – the higher, aspirational purpose of the organization. Every ExO we know has one. Some aim to transform the planet, others just an industry. But radical transformation is the name of the game.
Back to the crisis. I (we) don’t know quite know why there are so many suicides each year, especially among teenagers. But, maybe it takes a little rebellion to rise against purpose-less companies, and purpose-less lives.
I think that when a person has a reason to get up every day and try to transform an industry, or maybe even the planet, then that person might want to keep at it, because the great purpose beckons such devotion. Consider these words, from Bill Gates’ Harvard Commencement Address, 2007:
Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.
And I hope you will come back here to Harvard 30 years from now and reflect on what you have done with your talent and your energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world’s deepest inequities … on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.
You remember Maslow’s Hierarchy, don’t you? If you look at it this way, once you have your basic needs cared for, you then need something greater. Maybe that “self-actualization” level is all about having a reason to get up and accomplish something important. And when a person does not have such a massive transformative purpose, life is not quite worth living…
Here’s what I know. We’ve got a crisis. And when a person, or a company, does not have a great purpose, it is hard to more forward.
In other words, a true purpose might, for some, be a life-and-death issue – for a Palo Alto teenager, for a company, for you, for me…