You probably spend a lot of time thinking about customers’ path to purchase. In this chapter we are going to look instead at their path to purpose.

 Path to Purpose lies at the intersection of your shared purpose and your DNA. The shared purpose is what makes it universally accessible and valuable, whether creating beauty, improving health, or making people smile. The DNA is what makes it uniquely yours.

Path to Purpose lies at the intersection of your shared purpose and your DNA. The shared purpose is what makes it universally accessible and valuable, whether creating beauty, improving health, or making people smile. The DNA is what makes it uniquely yours.

First let’s do a quick recap on our progress for this Shift Guidebook on Strategic Narrative. We’ve looked at the need for a new kind of storytelling that engages audiences as co-creators. Hopefully you’ve started to identify a shared purpose that passes the t-shirt test. You’ve found a metric for your purpose that rings the bell. And you’ve located the unique DNA for your company or brand that connects the past with the future. 

A common concern about shared purpose is that it isn't distinctive enough. But that's the point. You want your shared purpose to tap into a universal need or aspiration. Everyone should want to wear the shirt—it creates the gravitational pull around your brand.

DNA is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s uniquely yours. No one else can have your DNA. Purpose and DNA come together in your Path to Purpose

Think about it like climbing a mountain. Your shared purpose is the mountain. Everyone on the mountain is pursuing the same purpose. But there are different ways up the mountain. 

Your path to purpose is the part of the narrative that tells people HOW you are going to achieve the shared purpose.

One Purpose, Two Paths: Starbucks vs. Oprah

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Starbucks' mission is to "inspire the human spirit." But Starbucks isn't the only one working on this purpose. Oprah Winfrey's purpose WITH is for everyone to feel they have value and purpose.

Same mountain, different paths. For Oprah, her path goes back to a childhood desire to be a teacher. For Starbucks, the path began when founder Howard Schulz visited Europe in 1983 and realized everywhere he went, people came together over a beverage for coffee and community.

“We are the third place in 
the lives of millions of our customers. We are the coffee that brings people together every day around the world to foster conversation and community.”
— Howard Schultz

Exercise: Path to Purpose

Fundamentally, a path to purpose is a point of view about how the shared purpose can be achieved.

Step 1 - Try completing the following sentence:

“There are many ways to foster [Shared Purpose]. Our way is to [Path to Purpose]”.

Starbucks' mission statement says: "To inspire the human spirit -- one cup, one person, one neighborhood at a time." Their path to inspiring the human spirit is through coffee, community and connection.

For Oprah, it's a similar purpose but a different path. Oprah has said her path to purpose is "to inspire my students to be more than they thought they could be."

Step 2 - Test the path to purpose against your DNA:

It's important that the path is authentic and natural to who you are. For Starbucks, the idea of a third place was Howard Schultz's original inspiration. For Oprah, she always wanted to be a teacher, even when she was a little girl.

Step 3 - Make sure the path to purpose doesn't collapse into a path to purchase:

In his book Onward, Schulz talks about how Starbucks lost its way when it started thinking it was in the coffee business instead of the third place business.


Up Next:

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In the next chapter we’ll go further on how to connect Path to Purpose to your products and services. You’ll also discover what you bring to the potluck.

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