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“Finding Your Purpose” Isn’t Enough to Succeed

With all the trending celebrity commencement speeches for the graduating classes of 2017, we hope you didn’t miss Mark Zuckerberg’s recent address to the Harvard graduates. If you haven’t heard it, or need a refresher, here’s your chance to catch up on latest advice from Facebook’s remarkable founder and CEO.

Right up front, Zuckerberg says that he’s not there to give a normal commencement speech about finding your purpose, because, as he says, “Finding your purpose isn’t enough.” Yes, it is a good pursuit, but in Zuckerberg’s eyes, finding your purpose means next to nothing if you don’t also help others find theirs.

What is Purpose?

Zuckerberg defines purpose as, “that sense that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for.”

As entrepreneurs, searching for that purpose feels like a natural instinct. We want to make an impact on the world, we want to support our families, we want to live a life we are proud of and we want to love what we do. But it requires that we start looking beyond ourselves and give others the chance to embrace a similar sense of purpose we find.

When Facebook was still a relatively new company, it suffered from a lack of purpose on all fronts. When other companies came around wanting to buy Facebook, almost everyone wanted to sell. Except Zuckerberg. He knew that they were on the cusp of changing how we experience the world. But hardly anyone around him saw or wanted that higher purpose.

Of this experience, Zuckerberg says, “That was my hardest time leading Facebook. I believed in what we were, but I felt alone. And worse,” he says, “it was my fault.”

He learned that forming a greater sense of purpose starts with one person at first, but then spreads to those around you. Since this troubling time at Facebook, Zuckerberg’s team changed drastically. He feels that “we can all keep moving forward together,” now that they are guided by a common vision.

On your own, your purpose will only get you so far. But when that motivation extends its initial reach, you can be unstoppable. The question then is how can you make a space where everyone has purpose?

Work Together on Bigger, more Meaningful Projects

The first way to create these purposeful environments, Zuckerberg explains, is to take on a big project that is meaningful. Even when your “defining work” starts small, it can bring together millions of people if it is guided by a worthy purpose (one you share openly).

As an entrepreneur, understanding this is crucial to your success. You won’t sell anything unless you get others to see why your product or service is valuable. You need to show them its purpose.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to turn a small project into one that matters. No one knows exactly what they are doing when they begin. What if Zuckerberg had waited to start Facebook until he knew every in and out of running a social media channel? In his words, Zuckerberg says, “I never would have started Facebook.”

You have opportunities before you to make a huge difference. When you find a purpose worth fighting for, act now before the chance walks away from you forever.


Make it Possible for Everyone to Pursue their Purpose

The next way to create more purpose for others is to give them the freedom to do so. Not everyone has the opportunities Zuckerberg or other successful entrepreneurs do. If they don’t have “the freedom to fail,” as Zuckerberg says, they won’t emerge as a great success.

Poverty, lack of education, nationality and other factors too often halt a person on their path towards purpose. Who within your scope can you help to find meaning and hope to keep trying?

Zuckerberg shares an experiences when he taught middle schoolers from the Boys and Girls Club. At first, his volunteer teaching was more of a pressure than a blessing. After all, the young CEO was trying to run one of the fastest-growing companies. He didn’t have much time to teach kids.

But those kids made a huge impact on Zuckerberg’s life, and he on them. Even after the classes ended, Zuckerberg continued his relationship with each of kids, inviting them over for dinner every month for five years. Each one of them now is heading off to college, the first ones in their family to do so.

We may not feel like we have the time to help someone else, but we need to make that time. Zuckerberg says, “Let’s give everyone the freedom to pursue their purpose–not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because when more people can turn their dreams into something great, we’re all better for it.”

Build Stronger Worldwide Communities

Zuckerberg’s last suggestion is to build community. Like was mentioned earlier, alone we only have so much strength. But as a connected whole, we have much more power, “to achieve things we couldn’t on our own.”

When you are part of a community, whether that be a business team, family, school, church, or wherever you fit in, you start seeing beyond yourself. You start seeing the bigger picture. That picture goes beyond profits or sales or creating a name for yourself. It’s the key to making a real difference.

Building global communities that change the world start on a local level, Zuckerberg says. Any change starts small, but it starts with you. Look beyond yourself to see where you can build a community, united under one goal. Bring them in under your purpose, that will permeate until it’s theirs as well.


By following these steps, Zuckerberg hopes that we will create a world with a stronger entrepreneurial culture. Such a culture, urges people to take more chances, to make bigger changes. Zuckerberg says, “We’re all entrepreneurial…Our culture of entrepreneurship is how we create so much progress.”

This culture starts with you and your purpose. But it can’t end there. Let others into your vision and your dreams, and let’s start making a difference.

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