I don’t remember where I first heard the phrase, “assume positive intent,” but I do remember when I first understood it.

As children we were taught to distrust. “The government is out to get you,” “The police are corrupt,” “Life is hard,” and “Rich people are evil.” Then the worst lie of all, “You can’t do what you love AND earn a living.”

Somehow all of this ‘advice’ translated into a belief that people in power, or people with money, can’t be trusted.

In the late 1980’s I was fortunate enough to be mentored by the CEO and founder of an educational software company. His values stood in stark contrast to what I had been taught about power and wealth. He wielded great influence, but used his clout to serve. He amassed significant wealth, but wanted nothing more than to give back, while at the same time living an abundant life.

In spite of his graciousness, I never completely trusted his motives because of my twisted belief that people will take advantage of you.

Over time, this belief translated into a general mistrust of everyone, and ironically, a mistrust of my own motives.

As I gained power and increased personal wealth, I surprisingly felt guilty about my success. I remember wondering if I was taking advantage of others to get ahead. What’s worse, I didn’t trust my own intuition and made career choices that steered me away from following my passions.

When I started my first business in 2001 I was constantly worried about who would steal my ideas, or who would take advantage of our company.  As a result of that ingrained mistrust, we attracted people that indeed did take advantage of us.

In the spring of 2008 all of that changed.

I decided to sell my company and was working with our management team to ensure the transition was as smooth as possible.  My personal coach was providing counsel on how to successfully transition team members to clients to minimize the disruption. Due to the impending economic crash, I knew selling the company was the best option for everyone, although I understood the news would not be welcomed.

As I prepared to make the announcement, I said to my coach, “It doesn’t matter how I say it, my employees are going to be upset. There’s no telling how negative they will be, or what they will do in response to this announcement.”

My coach said plainly, “Assume positive intent.”


“Assume positive intent. When you enter any interaction assuming positive intent from the other party, your relationships will improve.”

I was struck by her words, without fully understanding how to apply them.

“Yeah, but people are basically focused only on their own interests, right?  And they can’t yet see the economic crash that’s coming so they won’t know this is in their best interest.”

“It doesn’t matter. If we assume positive intent, the mind will begin to expect only positive outcomes in relationships. If someone still gets upset, hurts you, or takes advantage of you, it usually has nothing to do with your actions.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “People do hurtful things all the time.”

“True, they do,” she explained, “but they don’t mean to. No one really sets out to purposefully hurt us. People are just wrestling with their own issues. So, if you assume positive intent, you’ll find that most people rise to the expectation, and when they don’t, know they are doing the best they can and their reaction has little to do with you. More importantly, when you assume positive intent, you will trust yourself.”

How profound.

Today, ‘ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT’ has found its way into my mind, heart and spirit, and I’ve uncovered some interesting truths.

1)    For the most part, I have attracted people who are whole, healthy and good. They treat me with respect and grace.

2)    I no longer expect people will take advantage of me, and when they do, I assume they are simply trying to protect themselves. I trust they are struggling with their own issues, and doing the best they can, where they are. I assume, no matter what, that they had a positive intent.

And the best part, I am trustworthy.


Did you know there are over 500,000 career choices today? When I graduated from college there were less than 5,000 options available.

At the same time, technological advances are compounding, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay abreast of innovation. I recently read about an Amazon project to have “drones” deliver packages to homes, and Amazon’s CEO expects the technology to be ready by 2016! The impacts of innovation are changing the fundamental truths about the way we live, and consequently, the way we work.

Everything we were taught about career planning no longer works, especially using education to advance our career. Today, earning a degree is not as important as knowing who you are.

The revolutionary changes to the way we learn, the way we work, and the way we earn a living can be overwhelming, as they strike at the core of our identity. Who am I, if I am not my job?

I’ve researched these workforce trends for the last five years as a student of business models and corresponding societal impacts. What I found in the data (outlined in the book New World of Work: From the Cube to the Cloud) alarmed me. There is nothing familiar about this new world of work.

However, hidden within the workforce trends is a revolutionary truth about the way we will work in the future.

That truth is this: What is powering this new world of work is not success, skill, or career achievement. Instead it’s passion, meaning, and freedom. Rather than choosing a career because it “pays well” or “you’ll always have a job in that field” we get to choose a career based on our passions, the meaning we seek, as well as the most important aspect: the freedom to be who we are.

That insight led to another: Our entire educational system, which is built around the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” will have to be transformed as well.

With over 500,000 career choices, professionals don’t necessarily need a degree to be successful in this new world (sorry parents, but it’s true). As a result, the entire post-secondary industry must reinvent itself. New educational models and degree-programs are being created at a rapid pace. In the future, rather than taking the traditional collegiate sojourn after high school graduation, we will probably earn degrees over a long period of time, while working in a field we are passionate about, earning milestone certificates along the way.

In addition to education, these workforce trends will reshape the way we live.

We no longer have to reside in a certain location, because cloud-based work is plentiful. We also don’t need to stick to a specific career path, because new career options are being created daily as our world rapidly transforms, propelled by an innovation hyper-drive.

Drone-based delivery? What happens to the handsome UPS and FedEx guys who earn a living delivering packages to my doorstep?

When I entered the workforce, I was taught to BECOME the job and climb the ladder of success. “I am a teacher,” turned into “I am an educational consultant,” and then “I am a Director of Marketing,” and eventually, “I am President of an Internet subsidiary.”

Climbing that invisible ladder was my scorecard for the journey. Although I achieved success, I lost meaning, passion and freedom along the path.

The “I AM” my job title which caused us to BECOME our career, not to mention taking on the identity of the companies we worked for, is where things got off track. Our true identity was never defined by the “job”, however, we allowed ourselves to be tricked into the “I AM my career” fallacy.

GOOD NEWS! In the new world of work, we are defined by who we are, rather than what we do. The more authentic we are in our career search (or our business for that matter), the more successful we will be.

If you want success in the new world of work, BE WHO YOU ARE, first and foremost. Your job will change, your business will change, but you will not.

At Succeed On Purpose, we’ve developed a formula to assist professionals in in finding themselves.

1)   Purpose: Your purpose is your WHY. It is the core of who you are. Comprised of strengths and passions, purpose is your north star guiding you towards the special and unique thing you were born to do. Each of us was born with a calling, a gift that only we can bring to the world. Defining your purpose is the first step towards an authentic you.

2)   Persona: Your persona is your HOW. How you like to work, how you like to grow, and how you like to serve. From the physical environment, to the way you’re managed, to the amount of risk, as well as the type of work that you find most meaningful. Persona is your personal compass.

3)   Path: Your path is your WHAT. Starting with whether you want to work for yourself or for someone else, your path is a series of stepping-stones that move and shift AS YOU GROW. There are doors to open (jobs or businesses), as well as detours and curves (in the path) along the way. No door is “right”. Doors are just perfect for “right now”.  Even if you are a business owner (your door), the business will move, shift, change, grow and evolve. That’s why it’s called a path. It never stays the same.

Although the path is important, we are not our “path”, any more than we were our job. Although I am business owner, I am not my business. It’s just the path that I am on presently.

We are however our purpose and persona. That is WHO WE ARE.  We bring who we are (meaning our purpose and persona) to the marketplace (meaning how we earn a living) by opening doors on our path.

For me, as I’ve stepped into my authentic self, removed fear, and focused on growing and learning, I’ve discovered that the path actually happens to me, almost like I am being guiding from one stepping stone to another.  I found that pretty scary at first. But the more comfortable I’ve become with who I am, the easier it is to be guided towards bringing my true calling into the light.

So, what is your purpose?  What is your persona?  Forget about what you do…focus on WHO you are, and then look for hiring companies who value that.

As you know, I am a huge fan of Oprah, as she is a pioneer for being who you are.  Enjoy her words of wisdom and find your true calling.


Oct 28 2013
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Have you ever noticed that no matter where we are in life, we always seem to what more?

I mean, seriously. When things aren’t going well, we naturally wish they were better. But even when life is going our way, it’s easy to imagine dozens of ways that it could be improved.

I used to think wanting more was a bad thing, almost a curse from our consumerist society known as America.  For some reason, because I wanted more, it felt like there was something wrong with what I had.

The truth is, we were DESIGNED for more.

We are born with an internal yearning for improvement. Our soul was designed to grow, improve and BE more.

Unfortunately, for many, our ego transposed this innate desire for “MORE” and confused us in several ways.

First, we got confused by the desire for more and turned it into wanting more things, more money, and more stuff.  This is like trying to quench thirst with a beverage that makes us thirstier. It feels as if we can never get enough. This confusion created a need for “getting more” versus God’s real intent for us, which is to BE MORE.

We internalized that who we are today is not enough because this desire for more feels insatiable. That “not enough” feeling digs the hole deeper and instead of being more, we accept less.

The truth of it is: We don’t want to do more, or even have more. What we are really seeking is to BE MORE. That is the real thirst to address.

Becoming more is a process that starts with accepting who we are today as “enough.”  We can’t be more if we’re not comfortable with who we are today.

Second, we have to understand that the desire for more isn’t about things, money or success. It’s about meaning, growth and purpose. We want more meaning, not more things.

And for what’s it worth, this song from Ten Avenue North sums up the entire search for more.

  • “You are more than the choices that you’ve made.”
  • “You are more than the sum of your past mistakes.”
  • “You are more than the problems you’ve created.”

It’s time to BE MORE.

Here’s the Ten Avenue North video, “You are more…”