“Set Europe Ablaze!” — Winston Churchill told Hugh Dalton, the person tasked with building the British Special Operations Executive (SOE)
When Churchill gave this order, SOE had few agents and fewer assets. They were instructed to slay the Nazi dragon with a spoon.
The one thing they did have, though, was clarity of purpose. Churchill did not soften or modify his message, and it was not hyperbole. SOE’s job was to make things go boom.
As a statement of intent,“Set Europe Ablaze” is about as clear as possible.
Contrast Churchill’s clarity with how successful companies describe their missions today.
Kroger (~$24 billion market cap):
“Our mission is to be a leader in the distribution and merchandising of food, pharmacy, health and personal care items, seasonal merchandise, and related products and services.”
Bird (~$2 billion valuation):
“Bird is a reliable last mile electric scooter rental service.”
Snap (~$16 billion market cap):
“We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.
Why is this important?
Because clearly understanding one’s professional purpose is deeply powerful and liberating. It allows us to harness and direct our animal spirits.
Some people call this being “mission-focused.”
Mission-focused companies send powerful signals to partners, competitors, and potential hires. Salesforce is a good example.
I, for one, don’t want to give 50% of my life to be “a leader in the distribution and merchandising of … seasonal merchandise.”
But I sure as hell would have given my time, energy, and focus to sabotaging the Nazi war machine. Or curing cancer. Or building cities of the future.
Significant work remains to make this a better world. Discover your mission and find your team.