The Science of Purpose & More with Brandon Peele

PR 16 | Science of Purpose

Those of you that are familiar with the PIVOT process know just how important discovering purpose is to any transformation, whether in your business or personal life. That’s why I invited Brandon Peele onto the show to discuss the concept of purpose and to bring a level of “tangibility” to what can be considered an amorphous topic. Brandon help professionals and executive teams awaken their purpose-driven leadership and create profitable, high-impact businesses. He also delivers keynotes and workshops at large corporations like Morgan Stanley and startups like Net Driven. Through his talks and online courses, Brandon has guided more than 2,000 people from over 50 countries to find, live and lead with their life’s purpose.

In this episode, Brandon shares with us his own pivot into purpose story: that of pivoting from Wall Street MBA to being a purpose guide. A researcher and evangelist of the science of purpose, Brandon discusses why purpose is “the door that we must all walk through” in order to be successful. You can learn more about Brandon at his website BrandonPeele.com and via some of his endeavors such as scienceofpurpose.org and globalpurposeexpedition.com.

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I have an incredible gentleman with me on this episode. I’m excited that we get to spend some time together. I’m not apt to introduce people even though I’ve done that a lot in my life and being on stage and bringing folks on stage. We’ve got nothing here to sell. We want to be in service. I prefer always to hear from our guests a little bit about themselves, what they think is important in the moment that people know about them. If you could introduce yourself to our audience and share a little bit about what’s important to you.

Thank you, Adam. My name is Brandon Peele and I’m a purpose guide. What I do is I help people find their life’s purpose. I began this about five years ago shortly after doing my own purpose work with Jonathan Gustin who is the founder of the Purpose Guides Institute. It was an itch that I didn’t know I had. I’d been on a journey for probably seven or eight years prior to that. It was just escaping the traditional American mindset. I began my career in investment banking and venture capitals and startups. I had a lot of the normal markers or the orthodox markers of success and I hated it. Not hated the people or the industries but it was like I was a rat in a cage. I was like, “I don’t know what this is. I’m supposed to have won and I did not win that game.” As it turns out, I had my ladder leaned up against the wrong wall. I’d been climbing the wrong ladder. I jumped ship in business school. While most of my colleagues went back to Wall Street or consulting, I went to India. I was like, “I have got to figure out what’s happening.” I came back out to California because I thought that’s where personal development, spiritual development and sustainable business, where all of this was going to happen. Whatever it was, it was going to happen for me there. After basically a seven-year search, going to India and meditating, Landmark, ManKind Project, therapy, hallucinogens, just trying to blow out the cobwebs of what’s real, I discovered that there was such a thing as purpose discovery.

PR 16 | Science of Purpose

Science of Purpose: You don’t intend something without a purpose behind it.

I grew up in Chicago. That wasn’t what people talked about. They talked about happiness, wealth, girls. I didn’t ever have the right language to even ask the question, “Why am I here?” It just wasn’t in my frame. It was just make money, get married, wash and repeat. I come from a long line of thick-necked guys who watch the Bears. They’re great. They’re my buddies. When I discovered purpose discovery work, working with Jonathan, I was like, “The search was over. There’s a reason why I’m here and I got to go do this thing.” After our work together, I launched a company that had a huge success but I also had started guiding on the side because people were asking me to guide them on their path. After about eighteen months, my business partner and I were like, “We’re doing well but we’re not living our purposes doing this stuff. We’re making an impact, our sales are increasing, we’re growing distribution in major media outlets, all this stuff. The whole reason why we started this was to connect people’s purpose to this cosmic identity, it never really manifested.” We both pivoted. He went to go study with Bill Plotkin. He was a soul, underworld type of guy in Colorado. I studied with Jonathan to get certified as a purpose guide. I’ve been doing that ever since. As we’ve talked about it with a number of courses and I’ve got a book. Jonathan calls me the carnival barker of purpose. I’m just like, “Look over here. This is the best. Step right up.” I’m so excited about it. I want to share it. I want to share the books, I want to share it on stage, I want to share it with my clients. That’s who I am.

You used the word pivot and this is The Conscious PIVOT Podcast, which is about pivoting with intention. When I say intention, what underlies intention is a purpose. You don’t intend something without a purpose behind it. It is the great symbiotic relationship between those things. Maybe you could dive into purpose with us a little bit because it’s one of the more challenging words for folks who’ve done some work on themselves. I grew up in Queens, New York and probably not very dissimilar from maybe the place where you grew up in Chicago. Personal development was not even a term. The only thing that would be close to that was the self-help section of the bookstore. When we used to go to a bookstore, you could see self-help and be like, “What the heck is that? Maybe it’s a diet book area.” I never went in that area. I never read anything from there until I was similar to you who’s running on the wheel. I used to describe it like a rat on the wheel and I was trained to run because bills to pay, people to take care of, responsibilities, houses, cars, kids, all that stuff. The answer was to run faster. If you want to be your own person, if you want to be free, if you want to enjoy your life and be happy, run faster, make more money and then someday you’ll have all the things you want.

That clearly is not the recipe. People have to discover that for themselves. It’s not so easy for me to say it because I lived it and was in great pain as a result of it. I had to take myself off the wheel. That was a process and that’s part of this path. To me, it’s a spiritual development path but in a more generic sense, it’s a personal development path. I started to explore things like purpose. Then that word had a meaning to me. People in this space, they’ve heard it now and they’ve done work on it, and yet, still it’s a little amorphous. Whereas, when I first started to think about it because I was looking through life through a lens of business and being a lawyer and all that stuff, when I heard the word purpose, I raised a flag, “Purpose, of course. That’s what life is all about. That’s what it has to be all about. It’s purpose. I lack purpose. If I could figure out my purpose, then my life is going to work. It makes sense.” Any light that you can shed on the nuances of what it is would be helpful.

I’m going to share an orienting framework because there are a couple of moments that were powerful pivots for me. There’s a model that comes out of shamanism that there is essentially a triple purpose of life. You’ve got the upper world to become one with God or the units of intimacy. It’s basically disappear and have consciousness and learn with intent. There’s a middle realm of personal development but it’s becoming an adult. There are a number of tests there of emotional authenticity, having a purpose-driven livelihood, giving and receiving love, experiencing joy, taking care of your body. Adulthood 101 is that middle world, like how do you inhabit this physical plane in a way that is your purpose in a sense? Then the lower world is the realm of soul. This isn’t my framework. I got this from Bill Plotkin who got it from School of Lost Borders who got it from the Peyote Indians who got it from who knows where it came from. This lower world was the conversation that was silent in my upbringing. There’s nothing about it. There was either like you’d be this middle world genius, go out, make a lot of money, have fun and all that stuff or you’d leave that aside. I was raised a Catholic and it was like, “Transcend that and become pious like a saint or Buddha.” That was the dichotomy. You could be fully in the matrix or be fully out. What was missing is that lower world, that soul awakening, where you could be a yes to both, where you could live your divinity while also achieving and enjoying and all that stuff.

For me, I was raised pretty much firmly on that capitalist, American dream mentality. My first pivot was right after business school. I went to India. I was on Vipassanā retreat and the door had opened maybe about six months before that there was such a thing as God or an interconnected experience of reality because I had read some articles in this personal development program when I went to New York. Then when I got there, it was the fourth day of a ten-day silent meditation retreat, that’s where the upper world identity came through. I really got that I was part of it all in an experiential level. It existed cognitively for me before, so from that point from 2004 to 2011 almost, I was all about spirituality. Meditating, spent tons of time alone in nature and just wanting to just completely leave this world. Obviously, it’s a huge disservice to my other gifts. I wasn’t creating sustainable enterprises. I wasn’t leading teams. I was basically saying, “All of this is bad.” It was an important pivot because I had to explore this upper world but I also threw the baby out with the bathwater.

I’m a dad and I have an eighteen-year-old son. Randi and I have four kids, we have three girls and a boy. This is a male, father-son thing where I know I rejected my dad at a certain point. I rejected his teaching. I rejected his way of being because I know, at the age I’m at now, that I needed to do that in order to establish my own identity. I don’t want to put it out there like it is a have-to, but it’s not surprising to me that that pivot for you was a rejection on some level of what it was that was familiar. The grooves in the record that were programmed for you is the same thing with my son. Our son is rejecting some of those grooves in the record. It’s tough as a parent because you know that part of what you’re trying to do is model something that has a long-term likelihood of sustainable success. That’s what you’re hoping to do as a parent, not perfectly but the best you can do. When someone rejects that to discover for themselves what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense, and I came back to understanding that a lot of what my dad was modeling and teaching was great and correct and I have readapted it. It’s great to not have that ten-year hiatus but that’s so vital that independently, we’re able to confirm or reject what is true for us.

Pick up the journey there because a lot of people are probably at that stage at a certain point where they’ve got to make a decision whether they just keep living a life that’s based on someone else’s methodology and program. More likely than not, their methodology and their programming was someone else’s before them and they picked that up from them. It’s a question of whether you question or you don’t question. To bring that to full circle, as much as I know in our family, for example, I would love our son to trust the path that we’ve taken at least as a trustworthy path. I don’t know what his path will be, he’s eighteen. As I heard you telling that story, I’m thinking to myself, “I could see our son rejecting it all and going off to figure out what’s going to make sense for him.” What is beautiful in that is that I hope that he has been raised to be independent-thinking enough, to have trust in himself enough to actually do that. I don’t know if you’ve looked at it this way before or not but that you had the trust in yourself to do that is a credit to what they did with you as a child.

I see it now but at the time, I made them wrong, I got into arguments and I got thrown out of the house. My dad and I, we had a number of breakups during this period like the whole baby boomer insult thing. I know there’s a healthy way to do it. I didn’t do it the healthy way. I did it the nasty, ugly way where I’m calling my dad these bad names. Not being as overtly and with my mom and I would be passive-aggressively like, “Get away from me. You can do nothing for me.” The third pivot point was learning to embrace a lot of the stuff that I cast off. I was in this spiritual existentialist bypass for seven years. I was like, “Transcend the body, transcend the markers, just completely give myself to the absolute and one day, I’ll become enlightened and then I’ll be teaching or whatever.” That’s how I thought it was going to go for me.

PR 16 | Science of Purpose

Science of Purpose: When you add that purpose piece, the stool starts to balance and you can get closer and closer to integration.

When I met Jonathan Gustin and we did our purpose work together, that’s when the second piece happened. I was like, “I’ve been ignoring this entire lower world.” Bill Plotkin talks about the seed assignment here on Earth like, “What I’m put here to do and be and what is the ecology and my place inside of it, how do I inhabit my soul here?” When that work came online, that was the second piece. I was like, “I’m not escaping in the upper world of meditation or philosophy, but I’m actually descending myself rooting myself into my relationships and my community and to my craft, my career. That has been a series of openings. As soon as that soul connection was established, it was just the most amazing wild ride romantically, professionally. Michael Meade talks about pulling the golden thread, the Upaveda, this thread that runs through your whole life. As soon as I started pulling that with doing purpose-driven work and looking into some rituals and practices about how to stay on it, that’s when I stopped hating everything. I was basically like Tyler Durden. I was like, “I’m going to burn this place down. I’m only going to be God.” Ironically, you can’t be God when you hate everything. It was totally wrong-headed.

My secondary pivot was when I was like, “I can actually use all these skills around strategic thinking and business development and writing and public speaking. I can do all these things that I had cast off before to make a difference and to live my spirituality, live my soul’s purpose.” That’s been bringing me back into the middle world. It’s having me create great relationships with my parents and romantically. Cleaning up all the messes that I made with my exes and taking care of my body in new ways. From the outside, if you looked at it, you would say, “That’s a pretty normal 40-year-old guy. He’s got a fiancée and a house. He’s got good relationships. He’s got good friends.” There’s nothing that remarkable about it but for me, it is. I’m creating my life in this very soulful, intentional, and purposely way that it doesn’t look that extraordinary other than the books I write and the programs. For me, it’s a breakthrough. It’s like, “I’m pivoting back home. I get to be a regular guy who loves this lady now.” The third pivot is coming back into the middle world and having high integrity relationships and just integrity.

Would you call that integration? What would be the word, if there is a word to describe that? In essence, bringing the three things together but not having, at the beginning, perspective on the other two, it’s tough to tie that together.

I see people trying to do that a lot. They try to integrate their mindfulness practice with their job selling real estate or whatever it is. I see people try to reconcile the cognitive dissonance between this undivided reality and then who they have to be to make money. It’s hard because it’s like journalism. They don’t want to mix. Work and play can’t be the same thing. Whereas, I feel like when you add that third piece, that purpose piece, the stool starts to balance and you can get closer and closer to integration. I’m only at the beginning. About two years ago, it was when I realized that my path forward wasn’t going to be being more spiritual or being even a better purpose guide. For me it was like, “I need to do a bunch of leadership integrity work,” just shoring myself up such that I am the demonstration of my message and my vision and my mission. Adam, it was not pretty. My finances were all out of whack, the home life was a mess and I was compartmentalized. The results of a lot of these leadership programs I’ve been doing, I’m starting to be that expression of my purpose for my spiritual path.

Most people, for whatever reason, maybe it’s the ego or it’s just the perception that you should be perceived a certain way don’t always state that, that the thing was a mess and it wasn’t a mess twenty years ago but even two years ago which is a blink in time. There’s that element of mess. My life is messy even today. We’re building a brand new business out of the ashes of an old business or at least an old business relationship and there’s mess involved in that. You’re creating and in the creation process, shit’s going to fall on the floor. You’re going to carve a statue and the floor underneath the statue is going to have a lot of debris on it, potentially. Things get chipped and broken and it’s messy. I appreciate you going there and saying that.

I want to see if we can tie some of these together because you identified, in marketing terms, you have to know what pain you’re the solution to. If you can’t identify clearly in the marketplace what pain you are solving for people, you’re not going to be effective in getting people to follow anything that you say. You identified the pain of folks that are wanting to have that level of higher consciousness and purpose-driven awareness come together with what they do to earn money. They still want to be a conscious person but they also don’t want to be living as a monk. They want to still live in a big, beautiful home or they want to take great vacations. They don’t want to have to worry about money. Is there some wisdom or experience you can share on that topic whether it’s dialing in on the purpose side or what can you say about that? That is a major challenge for a lot of people.

The only thing that makes sense and this is why I am the carnival barker purpose, when people do purpose discovery work, one of them with a guide or they do an effective program, the particulars of what their life is supposed to look like get revealed. Those are the crafts. What is their life’s worth? Their unique genius, the way that they transform people, what that thing is. Once you know that, that basically tells you who you’re supposed to serve, what you do to them and what they look like when you’re done. Also who your masters are, who you’re supposed to be learning from so you can get better and better at this for the rest your life. At the end your life, my life, we’re like Newton with his calculus or we’re like Melville with his Moby-Dick. We have these things that we’ve given our life to. Everything that we’re doing, whether we’re watching a movie or we’re interacting with our children, there’s always one year that’s like, “How is this going to move my work forward in the world, my impact and the reason for my being?”

I work with a model that has ten different aspects of purpose. It includes mission, vision, your virtues, and your life’s work or your craft, this thing that you do as well as what you’re great at and the things that you need experience flow to be fully aligned, fully in the moment, Also what is the cohesive story that both ties it all together and also ties you to the world, your world view. When that high-definition understanding of your purpose comes into view, it’s like, “Of course,” there’s an organic outpouring. It is just that thing. I don’t have to think about all the different things over here, what Adam’s purpose is or what Oprah’s purpose is. There’s no sense of competition anymore. It’s like, “I need to perfect my craft, bring my vision in the world, and listen to what breaks my heart and contribute my efforts towards it.” I like to think of it as your personal religion, it’s your code. A colleague, Cynthia Hendricks, talks about the boundary by which you’re going to live your life. You’re going to stay in your lane so you can function at the highest level inside of that.

Are you saying that it is giving you greater focus because when that becomes clear you can be laser-focused? That is a big issue for people that they bounce all over the place. Their head is spinning constantly and they just don’t ever seem to be concentrating or focusing on any one thing.

Yeah. I often talk about what you get out of purpose and that’s clarity, confidence and courage. The vision of your life is revealed. To get to that, there’s a bunch of middle world stuff you’ve got to deal with like the fears and limiting beliefs, all of that stuff. All of that stuff have kept people inert or on the sidelines doubting whether or not they should or they could or if they even want to or would it make money or what would people think, all that stuff gets dealt with. You really have the confidence to go forth with it. Then the courage to ask, as soon as it becomes clear and you’re not encumbered by all that stuff, the mommy, daddy stuff, the fears and limiting beliefs, you just start asking for it. You start asking for big things. You do it in your prayer, you do it with the people who are going to be your masters in your craft, people who are going to help you advance your mission. You start enrolling people and saying, “Help me do this awesome thing. We’re going to change the world.” Purpose is the missing thing. There are a lot of the research points to that. There’s a University of Pennsylvania research that says 97% of Americans view purpose as something important to have. You have to have it. On the other hand, the imperative, NYU research comes out and says that only 30% of our whole workforce is in any way connected to their purpose. There’s a 65%, 70% gap where people want this thing that they don’t have and they know it. They can speak like, “I need my purpose,” but they don’t know how to do it.

There are a lot of other poll statistics that reveal very similar information on the side of how many people are not engaged at work and are, in addition to being disengaged, actually looking for other work or not loving what they’re doing and not even thinking they’re going to stay there forever. It’s also come up and been relevant regarding millennials more recently. What can you say or does anything come to mind in regard to millennials and that question of purpose?

I don’t think I could do any better justice than Mark Zuckerberg did at the Harvard Commencement Address. It’s my judgment that what Mark did in that half hour is not yet regarded as this big moment in history, but this was like a Martin Luther King-type speech. That’s the significance. Mark basically said, “Our task is not only to find our own purpose because if that’s all we do, it’s just as self-indulgent as a boomer’s desire to have two houses. Our task is to create a world where everybody gets that.” Millennials, and Mark is probably the most famous one, are about not only their own purpose but are like, “This whole system has got to work. It can’t just be me loving what I do and performing art and serving people. The whole thing’s got to change.” Millennials get that in a way that you know boomers and Gen X don’t.

I dig Simon Sinek and I’ve recommended Start With Why to a lot of people. I watched his interview which got another 4 million or 5 million hits. It’s a great interview about the problem with millennials and a lot of what he said made sense. Yet, there was no silver lining. It was quite an indictment of the millennials as a whole. I don’t think it was very much positive that came out of it, the whiny, needy, “Me, me, me and I’ve got to have it my way and I need a latte as I work,” and all that stuff. It was like saying that they don’t like to work hard. This is a group who don’t want to struggle or work or get sweaty in the process. I’m not saying that’s entirely untrue but he certainly didn’t bring out what just said Mark Zuckerberg said, which is that they also have a vision. I’ve got kids this age and I know at least as our kids go, their vision for the world is beautiful and what they want in the world is beautiful. Do they not want to commit the sins of the past and do the stupid things that have led our world to the place where it is at the moment when we look at the things that are challenges? Yeah. They do absolutely see something grander and are not necessarily willing to tolerate the status quo that has gotten us this far. Are those two things reconcilable? Is Mark Zuckerberg and Simon Sinek, and those things reconcilable?

PR 16 | Science of Purpose

Science of Purpose: Purpose is the missing thing.

They absolutely are and the way I hold it is that the boomers, the post-modern generation, they infused all of these values around equality, sustainability, justice and that became part of the water. So many of them ended up selling out. They ended up cutting their hair and going north of that and all that. There’s nothing wrong with that and I don’t blame them, but the damage was done. The floodgates were open. People were like, “This is awesome but what do we do about it?” My generation, Gen X, clung to punk music and grunge like, “I’m just going to be angry for a few years and then I’ll go back and go work in an office.” What makes the millennials unique is that they have a sense of possibility that I don’t think we had or at least my generation had like punk and grunge and all that. It was more like, “It’s all empty and hollow.” It was like the Donnie Darko-type movies. The sentiments were like, “The whole thing is going to die.” Whereas this generation is like, “No, it’s on us. The boomers failed, X hasn’t showed us anything yet, it’s on us.” Do they not want to do mundane office jobs that don’t make the world a better place? Absolutely. The research is saying that 70% of them, their work has to be the expression of their purpose which is awesome. It’s phenomenal. May they always hold us all to that standard like, “This doesn’t express my purpose or my values.” We put probably a little bit too much focus on them because Gen X and boomers, we have more knowledge, better networks and more capital and we’re coming in to the question at the exact same time.

I’m 40, my colleagues are dealing with some version of an empty nest. There are guys who’ve made partner in whatever firm and they’re like, “That’s it?” Obviously the boomers, our parents are retiring, these boomers who are getting sick and tired of retirement. My mom for example she was one of my first purpose guiding clients and she’s like, “I can’t be retired. This is empty. It’s silly. I don’t want to drink margaritas and watch the sunset all the time. What I want to do is make a difference.” We’ve got boomers coming in, the Gen X and millennials. Everyone was coming in to the same questions at the same time. They’re like, “Let’s find our soul’s purpose. Let’s work together. Let’s create a world that allows each of us to live and contribute with our purpose, make our highest contribution.”

It’s not a black or white thing. That was the thing that disturbed me a little bit about Sinek’s interview was there was no other piece of it. I thought to myself, “Does he have kids who are millennial age?” and I’m guessing none. I thought, “If you have kids that age, then you’re going to know them a bit better than that.” This has been a great time together. Is there something you’d like to share that you think encapsulates or ties this up in some way?

The last thing I’ll share is that even if you’re unsure about whether or not you’re going to find your purpose, just look at the science. There’s so much science out there that says, “If you know your purpose in life, your life is going to get better.” All the things that you already care about, better health, better relationships, a career of leadership, impact, fulfillment, all that stuff that you want, the purpose is a door you’ve got to walk through to get to it. You can go to ScienceOfPurpose.org where I have collected a lot of this research go to my website too. I’m happy to support any of you who want to walk this purpose path.

What is your website?

It’s BrandonPeele.com.

Brandon, what a pleasure. I loved having you on. This topic is going to be around and with us and relevant in our world for a long, long time. What’s great is that the more people we get to share this with, the more that they get to experience or at least ask themselves, “How I am experiencing myself being right now, is this the highest expression I can conceive of or that’s possible for me?” Just that stream of questioning what you’re here to do, “Is it just all random or was I actually brought here for a reason? Is there an assignment for me?” You don’t have to have the answer to the question. It’s in many ways just the asking of the question which invites the answer. I love the fact that that’s what you’re committed to because I don’t think there’s anything more important than for people to be doing that work. No downside, only upside. Thank you so much.

Thank you, Adam.

As always, I wish you all of your heart’s desires and that you wake up tomorrow morning. God-willing, you wake up. What’s more important than that? To wake up spiritually, physically, mentally on every level that you wake up and then knowing that in the moment that you take in that first conscious breath of the day, there are people who are taking their very last breath, which makes that moment sacred. In that moment that is so sacred, you have something tangible and real to be grateful for. If you’re in that state, wish to stand up and put your hand on your heart and declare, “I love my life.” It’s a powerful intention and we’ve shared that with a lot of people around the world and we got great feedback. Things just shift when you’re willing to give yourself that level of self-care and self-love. I wish that for you every day. I will see you soon. Ciao for now.

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