Robb Holman is a life-long serial entrepreneur and the CEO of Holman International, a global leadership consultancy. He’s also the author of the best-selling book, Lead the Way: Inside Out Leadership Principles For Business Owners & Leaders. Connect with Robb here.

You can listen to the conversation on iTunes, acast and other podcasting apps. What follows here are excerpts from our conversation with Robb, edited for length and clarity.

Agnes: How can one find his or her purpose? Can someone have more than one purpose in life? Can this change over time? This discussion has been popping up in recent months, for instance in HBR, which were centred around how companies can align their purpose to their employees.

Robb Holman: I believe, once someone discovers, or re-discovers their true purpose, their true calling or true personal mission on Earth, they can really get into the essence of who they are, how they are designed, and what they are uniquely wired for. I believe that the core foundation of that never changes.

Here is what I believe does change. How it is channeled, how it is manifested in different seasons, in different times of one’s life, can change. I give you a prime example. People ask me all the time, as I help them discover their purpose; Robb, what’s your purpose? I tell them, my purpose is to help you understand what your purpose is. For example, when I see someone who is down and out, someone who is a little bit discouraged or lost in the season of life, I come alive. I would like to encourage these people, and play a role in their lives to help them discover who they are and why they exist. This looks different in different seasons of my life.

This passion has always been there for me, and I did not even fully realised it until the last handful of years. When I look back now it all started at age 21, after college, when I started my first business that focused on helping young generations. So I started a whole business to use basketball, which I played earlier, as a vehicle to help youth understand who they are. Fast forward, 20 years later, I am doing the same thing, but now I am helping executives and business owners all around the world.

I feel like that there is a foundation in every person, that once we understand what our core message is, we are never gonna stray too far from that core, but how it can look may change depending on the season of live that we are in.

Agnes: Certainly. I think there are certain professional manifestations of people’s purpose to which we can really assign to, for example doctors, nurses of fire fighters. This is rather straightforward for outsiders to understand what the calling of these individuals are. But, what would you Robb tell to all those people who work as employees, or change different jobs over time, in terms of how they can discover their true meaning in life? How would you approach this?

Robb Holman: There are different times in life where people seem to get a little bit lost, and they would like to find themselves again. If people want to discover or rediscover why they exist, what is their personal purpose, I think the starting place for them is to rediscover who they are all over again. I discovered, based on my experience, backed by statistics, that if you want to rediscover who you are the self-discovery process is going to encourage you, and affirm you in your uniqueness.

Let’s think about this way. There are 7,5 billion people on the planet today. Mathematicians and scientists have long been arguing about how many people really walked the Earth in all human history leading up to the present day. They came up with the number of 100 billion people. But do you know that, out of the 100 billion people that ever lived, and 7,5 billion living on the Earth today, there is not one like you. There is not one like anyone else. No one solves problems or thinks the way that you think. This gets people pretty excited. Each and every person on Earth is uniquely wired for a purpose and a plan that is perfect for them.

So, if you would like to understand that and embrace your personal purpose, you need to understand who you truly are. So five very practical ways for people to understand who they are that leads to why they exist are the following:

  1. Number one is core values. The things that stand firm, and they are the core convictions of the heart. They actually are operating out of these very deep convictions all day long in decision making, which we may not fully realise.
  2. Second, what are your top strength or top natural talents. These are the things everyone engages day in and day out. They come very easy to you, ever since you were a little kid. There is an ease with this, a lot of positive fruit, that comes from it.
  3. Third, what are your top passion areas. These are the things that literally have you leaping out of bed each morning, which you would like to do, accomplish and fulfill.
  4. Fourth, what are your top life milestones. These are the things that were extremely difficult, challenging or something of a tremendous blessing in your life. It could be good, bad or ugly, but they have happened in a certain aspect of your life. When that thing happened a stake was putting in the ground, and you knew you would never ever going to be the same again.
  5. Fifth and final area, to help you understand who you are and why you exist, is the belief about the primary gift you have been given in life. On gift, I mean something you have been given in the moment you were born, and brought into this world. That it’s actually becomes, as you live it and give it to other people. It is a legacy you leave behind upon the Earth when you are no longer on the Earth anymore.
Each and every person on Earth is uniquely wired for a purpose and a plan that is perfect for them.

Are you a gifted leader? Are you a gifted compassionate person? Are you a gifted encourager of people? So, I have found that when you understand and embrace these five areas that make up your uniqueness, now you wrap your arms around these five areas, and now you are encouraged and affirmed who you are, and now you can begin to ask, what I call the million dollar question: Why is it that I think I exist?

Agnes: These are the 5 core convictions of the LEAD the WAY, of the Inside Out Leadership?

Robb Holman: These all fit under the core conviction of Live out of a Life with purpose. Basically, one of the strongest convictions of an inside out leader is to live out of a life with meaningful purpose.

Agnes: Could you introduce listeners the Lead the Way Book, and what inspired you to write it? We could later go back and touch upon how listeners of the podcast show, and readers of the book, can use these tools.

Robb Holman: The reason that I wrote the book, Lead the Way, is based on my experience of starting, as you said earlier, 9 organisations of which 3 non-profits, and 6 for-profits, over the last 20 years. It is based on my experience of starting up, getting businesses to a certain place, and either handing them off or merging into a larger company. These are the things that I have experienced along the way. Not to mention, there has been around some alarming statistics that got my attention over the years. One statistics come from a 2014 study, by the Deloitte University Press, which unveils the fact that nearly 90% of workers, team members, employees are disengaged of what they do in the workplace day in and day out. I define disengagement as a of lack of meaningful purpose and passion in what they do at their workplace throughout the course of any week. What is even more alarming is the fact that of the nearly 80% of leaders lack purpose and passion. For me this is a pretty alarming statistics.

Obviously, leaders know that there is a problem here. Over 500 billion dollars in the US alone is spent trying to solve that problem. Leaders are trying to do to solve the problem, but it is just not working, according to my opinion. They are trying to engage themselves and their workers with outside motivational tactics and strategies. They shower people with incentives and perks, for instance. I am not saying that all these things are bad, and I am just proposing a different, a better, way of approaching these issues.

The study finds that throwing at people with incentives is not going to solve the problem. So what I propose and lay out in the book, Lead the Way, is that there is a better way, a different way, and it is called Inside Out Leadership. There is a way for us to get into the heart of the leaders and workers, inspire them at that place, infuse them with life and help them understand who they are, the gifts they have been given. And as a natural result they begin to build up, and they begin to live a courageous, bold life. It just starts to work out and people around them starts to be positively influenced. I have layed out in the book 4 foundations of Inside Out Leadership, and the build up on that the 5 core convictions that make up an Inside Out Leader.

Agnes: If I could ask you Robb to give leaders and CEOs one advice, if they are stuck, if they feel something is missing, they are not really aligned with their purpose, what would be your first advice to them should they want to change their status.

Robb Holman: I would advise that leader to take time that is necessary, intentional and consistent time, get away from the business and craziness, and get to know and embrace who they are all over again. Get to know who you are and why you personally exist all over again. And what you will find if you take the necessary time of self reflection, you will be greatly encouraged and affirmed with your uniqueness, on your personal self-exploration. You will begin leading people out of the place of deep inspiration, that you have never ever thought was possible. So, I encourage your listeners to do just that.