Gary Horton | Personal Purpose Brings Us Closer

Gary Horton

Our company just completed an annual retreat for 180 of our leaders, office staff and field leadership. Interestingly, most of our time wasn’t spent on goals or profits or plans – that usually happens in smaller settings. 

Rather, we talked about our company purpose, personal purpose and how all of it ties together to build a great company and strong and rewarding lives. 

A landscape company preaching purpose and values to its leadership. Can you imagine? Shouldn’t we be talking about shrubs and trees and how much we can wring out of a client for them? 


Our stated purpose is, “We make our clients’ lives easier and give them peace of mind.” We say our purpose to provide, “peace of mind” in shorthand. Peace of mind to our clients and peace of mind to our coworkers and the communities we serve. 

Now, what gets fun is when our individual team members shred through their own thoughts and wishes and minds to sort out their individual purpose. Some folks have done this exercise, while many haven’t. 

But most of us would agree that life is much more fulfilling when you live your purpose, know your reason for being, and follow that “true north” in most or all of what you do. 

For us as a company, providing “peace of mind” means many business behavioral things, most of which are basic, yet remain rare or inconsistent among contractors: Transparency. Clear communication. Accessibility. High aesthetics. Proactive service. Constant contact. Thoughtfulness of the customer’s unique situation and needs. Honesty always. Stuff like that.  

When we deliver all this consistently, folks come to rely on it all and it gives them confidence and peace of mind that everything will be great and on time. 

That’s our purpose: To provide this confidence, this peace of mind to our customers – most of whom are commercial and use our services as part of what they provide to others. They depend on us, so they don’t let other people down.  

Individually, we should all understand our own unique reasons for getting out of bed in the morning and throwing ourselves at our days. 

Everyone is different and there’s no wrong answer, unless your purpose is to rob, maim, kill and destroy. That’s shrink time, and if that’s you I hope you find one fast. 

But assuming the better side of things, most people, when they really dig down deep, discover their individual purpose somehow makes the world a better place. And not just for them, but also for their family, friends and maybe everyone. 

At our retreat, we went through an exercise that required our people to peel back the layers between how they are on the outside to get to what they really want to be on the inside. The two aren’t always aligned, and that’s where we get into stress or even distress. When our outside is aligned with our best view of our inside selves, that’s when things really click, and life feels good. 

One older, hardened construction leader shared with us that he feels best when he is teaching young people skills that help them in life. 

He talked about how he teaches landscaping skills, which is great because he does that every day. But then he surprised us all when he said he feels particularly whole and rewarded when he sees his 15-year-old son cooking gourmet food in their family kitchen. 

It turns out our crusty old landscape leader was also once a professional chef, and he’s spent years teaching his son his skills, and now the son is a superb chef. This man repeated over and again that he just loves to share his knowledge that helps others improve his life. That’s his purpose. 

It’s hard to get too rough and tumble or angry at red folks or blue folks when all you want to do is teach folks cool skills.  

A young business developer shared how he loved to sell, “those big, unique jobs.” He loves selling skyscraper work. And giant parks. And unique stuff like restoration jobs that are highly technical. He loves chasing down and winning new clients. 

And, he added, he has four kids to feed, and his job allows him to do it, while doing what he loves. 

Then, we turned to his personal life. What does he like to do with his time off? He’s a big wave surfer. A mountain bike rider. A black diamond skier. A scuba diver. This guy is a thrill seeker. He gets a rush out of highly physical activities. And then he realized he gets the same rush when he scores a big job or a new client or something fun like a 42-story skyscraper.  

His purpose? To build lives while enjoying the thrill of personal achievement. He loves adventure and he found a way to pay for his life through the “thrill of the hunt” while what he sells also builds good lives for others and him own family. 

Peel back the layers in your own life. What really turns you on? What makes you feel best about yourself? What are the most rewarding things you do? 

As we invest ourselves in those things, rather than in the distractions of overwrought headlines or social media or bad habits… staying the course on where our real purpose is, we feel better and better in our own lives while usually we end up helping others, also. 

In the process, we will all find we accomplish a lot more good things with a lot less infighting, because deep inside, we all mostly want positive things for ourselves and one another. 

And realizing that can only bring us closer as a community, state and nation. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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