EP: 129 Why You Should Be Living Your Purpose With Alise Cortez

BWW 129 | Living Your Purpose

Are you living your purpose?

Do you know what your purpose is if you let yourself really go there?

So many of us get out of college and pursue a job because we need to pay the bills, right? We forget our dreams and do the 9-to-5 because that is what we were taught to do. And we’re good at it. And we do well because we are ambitious and work hard. And we’re successful. And we think we are fulfilled. We do this day after day but eventually wonder, “Is this all there is to life and work?” and “Is this it?”

My guest today, Alise Cortez, says there is more. And that something more is our purpose. My conversation with Alise was magic, and it makes me want to dive into the study of purpose more right alongside her.

During our discussion, Alise and I chatted about:

  1. What purpose is and how it is different than goals, passion, or meaning.
  2. Alise’s path to purpose and how it’s not all roses and rainbows; it’s difficult and not for the faint of heart.
  3. What post traumatic growth is and why it’s important.
  4. How purpose can be found at any age.
  5. What stops us from pursuing our purpose.
  6. How we can live our purpose and get paid.
  7. And how purpose is a choice. You can live “awake” or be the living “dead”.

Listen to the podcast here

Why You Should Be Living Your Purpose With Alise Cortez

I’m going to start with some heavier questions. We’re going to be talking about purpose, so let’s jump in. Are you living your purpose? Do you even know? If you do know what your purpose is, what is it? Let yourself go there and think about it for a minute. Many of us get out of college so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Do you remember those years? Maybe you still are, but I was so ambitious. I was ready to light the world on fire, and then we got to go back down to reality. We pursue a job or multiple jobs because we need to pay the bills. We may forget about our dreams or put them on hold. There are reasons for it.

Life is difficult sometimes. We do the 9:00 to 5:00 or we build a business because that is what we were taught to do. We’re good at it and do well because all of you in this community are ambitious, work hard, are successful, and think we are fulfilled. We do this day in and day out, but eventually something happens. We have this little voice in our head that wonders, “Is this all there is to life and work? Is this it?” 

My guest in this episode, Alise Cortez, says there is more and that something more is our purpose. My conversation with Alise was absolute magic. It makes me want to dive into the study of purpose more right alongside her. During my discussion with her, we chatted about what purpose is and how it is different than our goals, our passions, or even what we say or call meaning, Alise’s path to purpose, and how it’s not all roses and rainbows. It is difficult and it’s not for the faint of heart to live our purpose. 

We also talked about what post-traumatic growth is and why it’s important. Not post-traumatic stress. We’ve all heard of PTSD, but what is post-traumatic growth? Also, we talked about purpose can be found at any age, we don’t have to be in a midlife crisis, we can be younger and find our purpose, what stops us from pursuing our purpose in life, how we can live our purpose and get paid, we can figure out how to do both, and how purpose is a choice. We can live awake or we can be the living dead.

Dr. Alise Cortez is the Founder and Chief Purpose Officer of two companies, Alise Cortez and Associates and Gusto, Now. She is also an inspirational speaker, social scientist, author, and host of the Working on Purpose Radio Show. Having developed her expertise within the human capital and organizational excellence industry over the last years, she has focused on enabling organizations to lead from purpose and create cultures of meaning that inspire passion, performance, meaningful engagement, and fulfillment while encouraging a devoted stay within the organization.

She has helped develop and transform thousands of managers and executives in their leadership along the way. Alise began her human capital career in 1998 as a staffing professional at Analyst, international, and corporate recruitment consultant at VoiceStream/T-Mobile, while simultaneously pursuing her Doctorate degree in Human Development.

Her expertise includes human resources system implementation and change management consulting at Hewitt Associates and PepsiCo and employee engagement assessment and consulting at the Center for Talent Solutions. She co-founded and served as the VP of sales and Marketing at Improved Experience, a consulting firm that offered online feedback solutions and research for the human resource and recruiting industry.

Dr. Cortez also served as a consultant for Insigniam, a management consulting firm specializing in breakthroughs, innovation, and transformation. Before we get started, if you are enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review an Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you’ve already left that rating and review, you know that I’m giving you that virtual hug and high five. Thank you so much. Sincerely, it does mean the world to me. As I create content, I want to make sure that it impacts you and your life and work in a positive way. Your support means the world. Thank you. 

You can also share the show with your family members, colleagues, friends, neighbors, or anyone you think will benefit on your social media feeds. As a reminder, if you do send anything on social, please tag me. Last but not least, have you checked out the Brave Woman at Work Facebook Community? If not, we’re growing and please join us. We continue the conversation in between the show. I also share special love, resources, and tips within the group. We would absolutely love to have you so join us there. Let’s welcome Alise to the show. 

BWW 129 | Living Your Purpose

Alise, welcome to the show. How are you? 

Jen, thanks so much. I’m doing great. I’m with you. How bad could it be?

Thank you. I’m excited about our conversation. We’re going to talk about purpose. This is a huge topic for me and something I’m continuing to navigate. You are all about this. Is this your lifelong passion or study?

It’s one of those things, “How did I find myself in this space where I am trafficking meaning and purpose for leadership and culture? How did I get here?” It wasn’t one of those things that I woke up out of the womb and know this is where I’m going to go. It was a path of unfoldment. It’s one of those things where if I could trace it back to my mid-twenties is when it began. I don’t know how far back you want me to go, but I would say that my own life or my own search for meaning and purpose is what ultimately got me where I am here.

I’m grateful that I do get to live my purpose by doing the work that I do. I found these fifteen modes of engagement in my research several years ago, and living your purpose is one of them. I delighted myself when I discovered that in 2015 or 2016 that was where I was going. I was starting to live my purpose. There’s much I could dig under that, but that’s a little bit about the orientation of how I got here. 

I love it. I was researching you and all of the great work you’ve put out into the world is your title, Chief Purpose Officer, and I haven’t seen this a lot. You also have another one that I saw, which is Chief Ignition Officer. I’m like, “That’s pretty cool too.” 

Isn’t that fun? 

That is super fun. As we’re talking about purpose, what does purpose mean to you?

People conflate purpose with all kinds of other things. From my vantage point, there are a few ways you can describe the purpose, but it speaks to one. It’s always about serving other people. It speaks to why are you here on the planet and how can you help. That’s what’s about at its core. What’s interesting about it is that I do believe that everyone does have their own individual purpose. It can certainly unfold and grow over the years, and it needs to be relevant to what the world needs.

It is about serving from an angle of, “How can I lift and better the world or serve humanity in some way in order to make it a better place for all of us?” I do believe that what’s happening here is if we did each get present to our own purpose, 1) We are much more vital ourselves. The vitality that comes from living your purpose is incredible. 2) The difference it could make to elevate the world would be unparalleled. 

I had Karen Hoyas on my radio show several years ago. She’s a little firecracker. She’s in the purpose space too. She said in her book, and we talked about it on air, that only 1% of the globe is fully living their purpose. She said we will get to 3% because people are working at it. When we get to 3%, she said that human consciousness will be raised such that peace is possible.

Only 1% of the globe is fully living their purpose. When we get to 3%, human consciousness will be raised in a way that peace is actually possible. Click To Tweet

What is the percentage of people living their purpose now?

In her book, and this was a few years ago, it’s 1% of the globe is fully living its purpose. She said, “When we get to 3%, human consciousness will be raised such that peace is possible.”

It’s almost like when you talk about using a part of your brain versus all of your brain. I’m wondering if there are all these connections where living your purpose unlocks some different things and energy. When you live your purpose, you uncover this well of energy. What would you describe it as?

This is well-known and documented. Purpose does give us crazy confidence and crazy energy. It also redirects our relationship to stress. When we face obstacles when we’re living and working from purpose, we can often then reposition them to see them as a way to get through them. Not overwhelming things that prevent us from moving forward. It redirects how it is that we experience what otherwise would be seen as stress. The things that I have done high on purpose, a normal person wouldn’t do. For example, one Thursday morning, I was deciding that I was going to do a 33-city book tour in 6 months. That doesn’t happen unless you’re in an altered elevated state.

That’s very true. I want to point something out because people interchange purpose with other words. I saw clearly on your website that you feel strongly about that. Purpose is different than goals, passion, and even meaning, which I thought was interesting. Can you give us your perspective on that difference?

First, let me situate this. In September of 2021, I was speaking at a conference, and I heard a fellow speaker belt out on the next stage over. She said, “My purpose is to double my income.” I wanted to throw up. She had misled the whole crowd. That is not a purpose. What she said is an ambitious and great goal, but it is most certainly not a purpose. As I said, purpose is always, first and foremost, about serving other people, in which case we may also benefit from experiencing fulfillment in that service, but it’s about ultimately serving other people. Goals are things that we individually reach for. They’re interesting and important to us. The vantage point is me.

Passion is interesting. I’m an organizational logotherapist, so I traffic in meaning. If we peel back meaning, what we know from logotherapy is that meaning is our chief concern as human beings. This is what we care about the most and it’s our principal source of energy. Looking at meaning from the logotherapeutic lens, we have three sources of meaning available to us at any one time or moment. The first is our creative contributions of ourselves. What do we give to the world of ourselves? All the meanings always register around what we value. That’s the activation point of meaning. If we’re giving ourselves those creative contributions, that’s one source. That’s what I call passion. We are giving something of ourselves like that.

The second source of meaning that we have available to us is experiences or encounters that are valuable to us. For me, this is a valuable encounter. This is a source of meaning. I call that experiential source, inspiration. The third source of meaning that we have available to us is the attitudinal stance that we take that is within our choice domain. It’s within our standard control of how we respond to whatever life throws at us, especially those difficult and tragic things that happen along the way. I call that mindset.

Those are three different ways that we can experience meaning. You’ll recognize that passion is one of those sources of meaning. That’s how we can start to distinguish, which we find meaningful and can lead us to our sense of purpose or our purpose, but they are not the same. The meaning is always about the motivation piece and the purpose is more about the orientation lens through which we’re serving.

It was so well said. Maybe I’m simplifying it too much, but goals sound like very internally driven passion or meaning that they are still self or internally focused versus purpose is externally focused. It’s always on others and how you can make a difference.

Perhaps, but not quite. Purpose is always others focused. I would totally align with that. The other thing about passion, inspiration, and mindset is, for example, one of my most favorite cherished passions is I love to do random acts of kindness every single day. The way that usually shows up is when I oftentimes out in a public area or whatever, I go looking for someone that I can say something kind or positive. Why? It’s because I value empowerment and encouragement. My favorite thing to do is to tell a woman that she’s beautiful.

My daughter is used to this. Whenever she’s with me, she’s like, ”Let’s get this over with. Who is it going to be?” I like to go up and be able to say to a woman, “You are beautiful.” Invariably, she registers surprise on her face. She gets a little taller, and she says, “Thank you.” Sometimes, “Thanks. I needed that.”

I’m expressing this passion of mine. This is a creative contribution that I’m giving and the expression of it, “I’m energized.” That’s why meaning works. It’s an energizing process when we live it and experience it. However, in the expression of it, she’s getting something from that. We can say that there is an internal or a personal aspect of this meaning stuff, but it’s the way that we live and express it, and engage ourselves with others that makes it another issue as well.

That makes total sense. Everyone that’s read this knows that I burned out in a big way. It was interesting that, from there, I had this intuitive nudge to start this show. I’ve had so many people ask me, “Did you take a class? Were you a Journalism major? Did you have broadcasting in your background?” The answer is like, “No.” I started this show and had this huge desire inside of me to help women in their careers, leadership, and the work that I do now that we’re working on now. Is purpose often born from those lows in our lives?

It can be. First, one of the books that I have out, which is called Passionately Striving in Why, is an anthology of women’s stories from around the world that I gathered about how they discovered their purpose and are serving from it. What I did when I got those stories in is the researcher me, which I can’t help, began to look to see their paths. I was able to see that there are four paths represented in that compilation of stories.

BWW 129 | Living Your Purpose
Passionately Striving in Why

One of them is what you’re talking about. It’s the idea of what adversity have you gone through in life that in traversing or navigating through that adversity you became something else or you came to a new understanding of why you’re here. That’s one path. That may be part of yours, but the thing that qualifies for that is you need to be transformed into something else or another version of yourself to count on that particular path.

One of them is passion. What can you not do in the world thing? What are you thrown to do? That’s another path. Another one is what big hairy problem do you stand to solve in the world? One of the stories in there is from a woman in India. Have you ever been to India? It’s an amazing place. One of the biggest problems that India has is trash or garbage. Women in the story talk about how she created a composting company several years ago at a time when nobody wanted to look at their own trash. She’s playful about it. She calls it The Daily Dump. She has been making people compost. That’s what she stands for. She’s out to try to address this big hairy problem in the world.

One other well-known path, which is my path, is what has ailed you in life. What have you struggled with in your own life that has enrolled you and helped you understand something about wrestling that you could help others with that? That might have been your path. Let me share something about this and see if you find yourself in it. That was my path to purpose.

I’m from Oregon originally, a small town. In my mid-twenties, I had the opportunity to join my new boyfriend for a month-long to go move to Madrid, Spain. We were there for six months and went all over Western Europe. I learned French in college, and so then I added Spanish to it. That was cool. We’re all over the place.

Six months after that, he said, “They want to move us to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.” We were there for a few years. We went all over South America. I learned Portuguese. I had a maid, chauffeur, and gardener. I’m traveling the world. This is when I’m 26 to 28 years old. There’s one problem. Do you imagine what it might be?

You have everything, but maybe the purpose isn’t there.

What I didn’t know at the time was this was where my appetite for meaning got stoked. It turns out that when you’re consuming life, it isn’t very fulfilling. What we humans are wired to do is to serve. That’s why people ache to matter. That’s where my whole appetite was born the notion of reaching for meaning and purpose. What I didn’t know is I was experiencing what we say in local therapy an existential crisis, which is also oftentimes called a midlife crisis. Mine started earlier.

When you’re just consuming life, it is not very fulfilling. Humans are wired to serve, and that’s why people ache to matter. Click To Tweet

It was in the reaching to try to understand and make sense of and fill that void of meaning that I started down the path to do my Master’s and then my PhD in Human Development and then kicked off my career in human capital consulting. What you went through very well may either be a stoking engine for you or a reorientation engine for you. Having heard that, what do you think?

It’s a reorientation engine. It feels like my whole body and life was like, “Not this way.” It was like, “You’ve always been a gold star chaser. You’ve always been the one that could do all the things and achieve all the things, but it was fulfilling nothing.” Every time I would achieve something, I would feel empty after. I don’t know if this resonates, but now with the work that I’m doing with women, this show, all the things, and the books, people will ask me. It’s very interesting.

It’s almost people in purpose and not in purpose. It’s an interesting dichotomy. I’m not trying to say, “We’re so special than people that haven’t found purpose.” It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe you can touch on that, but people that are not on purpose will come to me and be like, “You need to slow down,” because they’re worried about me burning out again and how energetic I am. I’m like, “No, you have no idea. I am writing my own energetic wave. You have no understanding or concept.” Does that resonate at all?

Absolutely. That’s why I am so bent on doing the work that I’m doing where I’m helping organizations to activate meaning, purpose, cultures, and leadership because it’s so vitalizing for them as individuals, as leaders, as the organization, and everybody attached to that. One of the best things you can do for well-being and health is to find and activate and step on the purpose trail. I tell everybody, “This ought to be up there with getting exercise, drinking water, having vitamins, and taking a shower. It’s that fundamental.” 

That makes a lot of sense to me. You also mentioned a term that I want to bring back. It completely rocked my world the first time we talked and you said this term. I looked it up because I had never heard of it before. It is post-traumatic growth. You normalized something that I felt almost weird about. You were like, “Jen, you’re fine,” because I was feeling so energetic about this work and I was almost worried about going, and I still am, I’m not going to lie. I’m always worried about a second burnout because I do have my corporate career and I have this whole purpose project and work that I’m doing.

I always say that I’m dancing on the fire’s edge, but you normalized it for me. It’s not saying that I can work like I worked before robotically. I have to take care of myself and be mindful of all those things, but when it comes to this purpose work, you’re like, “Jen, it’s okay. You’re in a whole period of post-traumatic growth.” I’ve heard about post-traumatic stress like we all have. That’s very normalized in our culture, but when you said post-traumatic growth, it’s like a huge light bulb. I’m like, “That’s what’s happening.” Can you explain that concept?

I’m so glad you got some utility out of that. It was so clear to me when we were speaking that was what was happening to you. There are so many things that happen in life. I can’t help but view this through a logotherapeutic lens because of my training and my conditioning. All of us are going to experience hardship in life. It’s part of the experience, but it’s how we relate to that hardship, how we make sense of it, and how we move through it that makes all the difference.

What we know about humans is in order for us to be vital, we need some attention between who we are and who we’re striving to become tomorrow. That’s why goals are useful. That’s why the challenge is useful. What we find is when we’re stagnant or apathetic about things, that’s when we decline in our health. We need that bigger reaching in and working towards something. What we find is that the biggest growth areas often come in correlation to the size of the snowball that’s been hurled at us.

For example, when I was in my 30s and 40s, I used to say, “I probably won’t amount too much in life because I haven’t gone through very much. Life hasn’t catalyzed me into something big or more.” One thing that helped that whole process a lot was when I got divorced a couple of years ago. It was not my idea, but it was a very good idea. It hurt like a son of a gun and was very disorienting. I felt discarded, a mess, upside down, lost, scared, and all those things. All of that stuff catalyzed tremendous growth in me.

What’s interesting is what I find in the work that I’m doing. I’m always thinking about, “How can I create, recreate, or somehow put into my programs and workshops, something that would catalyze a post-traumatic growth event? How do I introduce what would be like to have somebody get fired, divorced, or go bankrupt? How could I introduce that in a program?” We can do that. It’s called artificial reality or virtual reality. There are ways to introduce these kinds of things so that people can feel and experience those things and truly get to have the bump that comes with that.

The thing is those kinds of situations elicit all of these hormones, chemicals, and all these things and induces a bigger-than-expected response to that. That’s the post-traumatic growth that you wouldn’t get the same level of growth if it were easy and you’re sitting on the soap eating your bonbon. It doesn’t happen that way. 

Wouldn’t it be easy if it did though?

Yes, it would. It would also take all the snap out of it, too, and the motivation for that matter.

That’s true. If anyone’s going in through this or feeling that, I hope this resonates with you. We want to make you feel good and see the other side. I wouldn’t say I’m entirely on the other side of this, but I’m in the latter stages. I feel like not bad about the burnout anymore. It was almost like it had to happen to propel me forward and forge me into something new. If you’re in it, you will feel like, “This is terrible,” in the initial stages, but eventually it makes sense. Is that part of the process too where you go through that mental, “This stinks and sucks,” and then eventually you start to learn from the journey? 

Yes. What’s also worth saying is that for you to recognize post-traumatic growth, you have to do that with hindsight. You stand here now and look back and go, “I remember I was going through all that burnout, how it felt and I wasn’t able to get up in the morning, and now we got all this crazy energy and I see things differently.” Now, you can recognize with your new whys that you have gone through a post-traumatic growth event and recognize and celebrate it as such. When you’re in the trenches with it, it’s hard to know, “This is good I’m growing.”

It’s because growth is painful. It’s like growing pains when you’re a kid or, as you said, your divorce. It’s not always pleasant. Sorry, everyone. We’re all in it with you.

No, it isn’t pleasant. One of the beautiful things I love about the work that I get to do too is we bring people together and talk about these things together. I love hosting the women’s storytelling sessions that I do over this book and such, especially when women come together and share in an intimate, open, and vulnerable way what they’ve gone through in life, what they’ve navigated, how they struggled, and what they’ve learned.

BWW 129 | Living Your Purpose
Living Your Purpose: When women come together and share in an intimate and vulnerable way, they find more sense in their lives.

What happens is everybody in the room gets the benefit of that perspective. They can then sometimes feel like, “My life makes more sense now.” The other thing that happens is, invariably, everyone in that group feels enlarged by the sharing. It is so incredible what can happen when we start sharing. That’s why your show is so powerful. The sharing that you’re doing is part of what emboldens and enlarges your readers.

I never thought about it that way. Thank you. You paid it forward. You said a very nice compliment. You’ve done your one thing for the day.

Does that count for that?

We’ll count it. You’re going to refute this. There’s that whole proverbial midlife crisis. When my burnout happened, I was 41. That goes in the categorical box midlife or that whole crisis, but it showed up for you younger. Can that whole purpose thing show up when you’re 12 or 15? Do some people become the lucky ones and get purpose early?

No doubt about it, they do and have. They’ve shown up in my research. You’re asking a fascinating question. You probably don’t recognize how brilliant the question is, but what I can tell you is that as we continue to evolve as a species or society, by that, I mean looking from the generational lens. Look at the Traditionalists, the Boomers, the X-ers, and then the Millennials are also called the Y Generation, and then the newest one is Z.

What you’ll see is that there’s an ongoing elevation of consciousness as each of the generations comes forward. What might have taken our generation a little bit longer to get to and maybe ease into or let ourselves get present to this idea of purpose is the younger generations demand meaning and purpose. That’s why the work that I do is so important they will be the majority of the workforce here in about five years. They are insisting on enjoying meaning and being able to work for organizations that align with their sense of purpose.

BWW 129 | Living Your Purpose
Living Your Purpose: The younger generation demand meaning and purpose. They insist to work for organizations that align with their sense of purpose.

The younger we go, it becomes a little bit easier to access. It’s like we have a greater sensitivity for purposes as the newer generations emerge. Also, what happens in terms of the proverbial midlife crisis, what that speaks to for a lot of people is that experience happens when they have been working long enough to have a measure of economic comfort in their lives. In the process, that dynamic tension that I told you about starts to go away. Now, it feels like you’re not striving for something like you were before and you’re thinking, “Is this all there is?”

That’s when people start wandering around looking for maybe an affair to have, this sports car to pick up, or whatever they’re doing. They’re going to maybe move across the world and go anywhere or whatever it is. Largely, they’re trying to address that existential crisis that I had when I was in Brazil. It’s not so much about age as it is the circumstance in which you find yourself and what generation you are working from.

That speaks to me in a way I didn’t realize until this moment. My career had success, thank goodness, and through my own efforts. In my twenties, I wasn’t ready. I was almost blinded by the potential sense of purpose because I was so worried about paying my rent. I was so focused on hitting a certain economic goal. Now, that’s been hit and, in some cases, surpassed. You’re saying that gives you the space to be like, “Now, what?” Is that correct?

When you’re so busy running on the hamster wheel, it’s hard to get present to and listen to that beautiful little voice inside of you that’s trying to tell or whisper to you why you’re here or where’s the next placement of the foot on the lily pad. It’s very hard to hear that voice when you’re running as hard as you are.

When you are busy running on the hamster wheel, it’s hard to get present and listen to the beautiful little voice inside you. Click To Tweet

To that end, I have to ask about the purpose and getting paid. I’ve never said this on the show. In 2005, I distinctly remember I was working at a financial institution. I’ve been in banking for over twenty years and still in banking and don’t mind the field at all, but there was this little voice that came to me. This was probably mid to late twenties. I was super into personal development and there was this coaching company that was certifying leadership and executive coaches. I’m a leadership and career coach in the purpose work that I do for women.

I remember banishing that voice like, “I can’t get paid.” I put that in a box. I’m here to tell everyone vulnerably that it comes and finds you. It doesn’t let go. Maybe you can comment on this. I did put it in the box because I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to get paid. There’s a lot in here, but the question is this. Can we pursue our purpose with bravery? We have to walk through fear and get paid at the same time.

First, purpose isn’t always convenient. It hasn’t necessarily been a convenient easy path for me. Honestly, I could go and probably make a whole bunch more money with far less effort than what I’m doing now to honor my purpose, write the books that I’ve written, create the leadership programs that I’ve written, and all of this stuff. I could probably go and sell some software or whatever and be comfortable. To your point, I am called for this. I’m compelled to do this. I get to do what I do. There’s no greater feeling than honoring that purpose. This is an important thing to talk about. In the pursuit of our purpose, finding a way to monetize that in the way we are serving is the crucial differentiator.

There’s a concept out there called Ikigai. I’ve had somebody in my show talking about that, but what I like about that concept is it’s a Japanese word that speaks to living a good life essentially. What I like about it is if you look at the components, it has a way of getting you to answer for yourself what skills or talents you have that you can make money at, what you are called, what you are passionate about, what you love to care about in the world, and what the world needs from you. This is critical because that’s the purpose piece. What does the world need? That’s the piece that you’re serving from. I forget what the other piece is, but you’re looking to see how you put all of that together. When you do that, then you can monetize your purpose.

For example, I had Paul Skinner on my radio show. He’s a great friend of mine. He wrote The Purpose Upgrade. He talks about how when we start looking at how can we serve our purpose. We can always upgrade that purpose considering what’s going on in the world. You can’t say that your purpose is to be a world-class chef, but you’re working in a food dessert where people don’t have the ability to have their basic meals. Therefore, you’re not able to serve your purpose because the world that you’re serving can’t sustain that.

It does mean that you have to be sometimes quite creative about how you find the tribe that you want to help and create your product or service to monetize to be in service of that. That’s where people fall off the track because that’s a hard thing to do. I’ve been working at it now for the last couple of years putting this engine on the tracks and learning how to monetize it. That’s where people quit because it’s hard to do. It’s not impossible, and it’s better if you get some help. That’s the disconnect that people don’t always make.

When you say that’s where they quit or they end right and then purpose gets left on the shelf, in my body, that hurts my heart a little because that’s so hard to hear. Tell me if this is accurate. Is it fear of scarcity? Is it, “I could go get a job and this would be easier?” I’m not saying that people’s purpose can’t be in corporate or a job. It absolutely can. It’s not about being an entrepreneur or having a business, everyone. It’s not about that. I’m wondering if there’s anything in here about fear of scarcity, not having enough, or those fears that come into the mix.

No question. We live in a capitalistic society. We have to earn income to live. The known thing is to go off and whatever you’re going to do, get a job, or whatever it is. You’re right. We don’t need to all be entrepreneurs to be living our purpose. What’s cool is getting to do this inside the organizations. It is when I help an organization to articulate their organizational purpose. Everybody’s connected that understands what that is. We then work individually with everyone on the team to help them understand their own individual purpose and how it aligns with and maybe thread through that of the organization. Now, you’ve amplified a person’s purpose through their job. That’s cool.

Sometimes it takes looking and getting aware of that. You could stand right where you were, the moment before you figured it out, and realize, “I’m living on a whole other planet now because I’ve discovered why I’m here. What I’m doing now, I can better live it through the course of my daily actions.” What happens all too often is people get this major a-ha, “I’m supposed to be helping children in India or whatever else it is. How do I do that?”

There are lots of ways that maybe you could with an organization that somehow has connections to India, children, or whatever that would fulfill that sense of purpose for you. It does take looking and being agentic about, “How can I create a livelihood around the service of my purpose?” That’s where people need some help.

I agree with that. That’s why you’re doing the work you’re doing. With purpose, can it shift? Can you also have one purpose in your earlier life? Let’s say you have a family, and then you’re like, “I’m going to start a business, and that’s my key purpose?” Can it evolve, or is it one underlying theme the whole time?

The jury’s out on that. What you’re speaking of is the purity of a purpose. That’s what is behind your question. One, I do generally subscribe to the idea that there’s generally a purity or some key aspect of your purpose that gets lived out in various ways. For me, it is that empowerment piece. I can trace it back to being in second grade. I can trace it back encouraging my uncle in the shop he was working at to get through his day or whatever, and he recognized that. That’s the main theme that I can trace through everything that I do. If I build on that, the stuff that life serves up to us, you’re going to get opportunities. Things are going to come your way that you didn’t expect or anticipate. They will catalyze or elicit something in you that you didn’t otherwise have.

For example, both of my parents died 28 days apart in January of 2019. I wrote another book about that. It’s called Coloring Life: How Loss Invites Us to Live More Vibrant Lives. I didn’t plan for that. That wasn’t on the purpose track for me, but it elicited. I speak from that book. I gathered people who have gone through loss together and talked about it. In so doing, we normalize this sense of what loss is. We talk about death and what does it mean. I didn’t plan that. This is something that happened along the way.

BWW 129 | Living Your Purpose
Coloring Life: How Loss Invites Us to Live More Vibrant Lives

Also, in my experience and putting groups together around this, it’s activated another level of expression for me of my own purpose. I don’t know if it’s a branch on a tree or another level of spiritual living that I’m going for because the purpose is certainly the newest spiritual realm. Whether or not you are connected to faith, believe in a God, or whatever it is, that’s not what I mean by spiritual.

This is about being conscious, awake, and activating your sensitivity intelligence to see what’s happening in the world around you, what is it catalyzing in you, what is it evoking you, and what is it bringing out of you that you can serve from and help from. That’s not always planned and therefore stable and linear like a single-issue purpose might seem.

I’m going back to the time horizon you gave me. You said 5 to 7 years when you’ve fully stepped into the purpose and there was so much happening for you. There was a divorce or an ending of a relationship then your parents. Do you find that these events also pushed you along your own journey?

Absolutely. The size of the bomb can elicit the actual response. Those things that happen along the way provide that activation component that we do need. Otherwise, we have a tendency to walk through life dead. We are going through the motions, but those powerful interruptions punched us in the face or the gut, and it’s like, “Hold on, I’m going to get your attention on this.” They elicit something that wouldn’t otherwise happen in the normal course of our lives when we’re in comfort and ease.

Those powerful interruptions in life punch you in the face or the gut. They call your attention and elicit something that wouldn’t otherwise happen in the most comfortable course of your lives. Click To Tweet

Let us talk about living away versus living dead. Someone might be reading saying, “I go to work and come home. I don’t know what you guys are talking about. I don’t have a purpose.” There are a couple of questions here. Does everyone have an inherent purpose? What is the difference between moving awake versus being dead and walking around that way?

When I’m out speaking to audiences very often, especially when I’m talking about my signature talk, at some point in my talk, I will then turn to the audience and say, “What are you passionate about?” I then watch the audience from the stage. What I notice invariably is a few of them will light up, but for a lot of them, what registered on their faces, they realize they don’t have an answer to that question. They don’t know what they’re passionate about. That’s when they have a major a-ha. That’s when they start to recognize that they’re maybe going through this on the hamster wheel and maybe you’re at least somewhat dead along the way. There’s an activation process.

What I’m finding in the work that I do is that almost everybody is open to the idea and wants to be able to experience passion. They want to know what it feels like to be passionate about something. Most people are very interested in the idea of purpose, but some people are very intimidated by the idea of purpose. They think it’s too lofty, “That’s about saving the world.” Purpose is all kinds of different things for different people.

I do tend to believe that every human being has a purpose inside of them that is waiting for them to discover. I have come to believe in my own track of life that what if the whole reason that we’re here on the planet is to get present to our own purpose, to hear that heartbeat and then serve from it so that we can make a contribution that raises humanity and is worthy of our one precious life? What if that’s the whole reason that we’re here?

I do tend to believe that every one of us has the capacity to find and experience our purpose. I also know that it’s not for the faint of heart. Some people are not interested in that work. Therefore, it isn’t interesting to them and they won’t look and reach for it. That’s okay too. Everybody’s doing their own journey.

Maybe it’s harsh when we’re saying living dead inside. For people like us that are purpose speakers, I’m still a speaker, but you’re probably a more full-purpose person than I am. I’m still on the path to getting there. We all are, but you might be farther along in the work that you do. It is okay to not want to pursue that path and go that deep on that journey. Is that right?

Let me be very clear. How do I know about what’s the walking dead? I was a card-carrying member myself. I know what that feels like. I did that. When I was a member of The Walking Dead in many ways, I had a very nice life. I have a nice lifestyle, travel, and the whole thing, and I knew I wasn’t honoring all of those internal cravings of who I was trying to be in life. I knew at that time that I was, and I hated myself for it.

Some people are not going to be as interested in the idea of increasing and elevating their consciousness where they’re reaching deeply for the well of meaning. They’re comfortable and fine. That’s terrific. Everybody has to live their own journey, but from my research, most of us do want to have meaning in our lives, whether that’s a meaningful relationship with our children, or whether it feels like we’re doing something meaningful with our spare time. We love to garden or whatever it is. There are varying levels and degrees of this whole meaning and purpose journey.

For example, James Creedon in Dallas, an IP attorney. He is the first law firm that is a B-certified Corp, which is a huge accomplishment. He’s the living, walking, and breathing element of somebody who has incorporated purpose all over his life. What he gets from all of that effort is so fulfilling, big, and magnetizing. As I’ve said before, the purpose journey isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart and it has such a tremendous capacity to compensate you with fulfillment, mattering, and vitality.

I’m on the journey. I’m on the way. I want to make sure that people know about your books. You have multiple books. For women that are reading that might be interested in this topic, what are a few of your books that you might recommend them to read or start with?

Pertinent to the idea of women’s stories here, you’ll find some inspiration maybe some recognition of your own journey if you pick up the Passionately Striving in Why: An Anthology of Women Who Persevere Mightily to Live Their Purpose. If you go to Amazon and type my name, Alise Cortez, you’ll find all my books, but that’s one that I would recommend for women. You will find solace and solidarity in that. I also recommend my very first book, which is Purpose Ignited. It’s a book to awaken people to their passion and purpose and start them down the path of becoming inspirational leaders. I recommend that for everyone, men and women. I would start with those two.

I always ask everyone this question. What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work?

I don’t do a ton of coaching anymore unless I’m working with an organization or full team, but what I can tell you unequivocally, and I bet you could speak to this, too, is that women can be much braver at work by doing two things. One, advocating for themselves in their career. It’s making sure that their boss and other people are aware of their contributions. They’re not waiting for someone to come and recognize them. “If I do a good job, they’ll find me and promote me.” You have to steward your own path or journey and advocate for yourself. That’s one.

BWW 129 | Living Your Purpose
Living Your Purpose: Women can be much braver at work by advocating themselves. They must make their bosses aware of their contributions instead of waiting for someone to recognize them.

I’ve been coaching one of my clients for a couple of years now. She refers to her brag board. She will say, “This goes on the brag board and I’m going to tell my boss that this is what I’ve gotten done now that I’m proud of.” It’s a way for her to share what she’s doing with her boss so her boss knows, but two, it also tells her boss what matters or is meaningful to her. It is more women advocating for themselves and staking an active stance in stewarding their careers.

The other thing that goes with that is your paycheck, advocating for when you want a pay increase, and making a case for why that works for you. Women don’t do that or work for free basically. It’s part of our culture that I stand to help to address because advocating for your pay and career is critical, and to be brave at work for women.

I have to share one of my coaching clients. I’m not going to show this person’s name, but I’m giving them a shout-out. They know who they are. She did such a good job. We worked through the negotiation process and made her comfortable with asking for more. She texted me or sent me a Marco Polo after a session. It was in between sessions. She got $20,000 to $25,000 more. It makes my whole day. I’m like, “One more woman who’s getting paid what she’s worth.” That’s part of my purpose. I’m like, “I’ve done my job. Who’s next?” I had to share that because women asking for what they’re worth is so important.

I completely agree, Jen. That’s awesome. That’s so great. Ladies, learn from that. Do your homework. It’s so important that you take charge of your own financial career and future.

Where can women find you and your work online? It sounds like you do a lot of work with companies. Anyone that’s working part of any size company, where can all of these folks find you online?

The easiest thing is to start at my main website, which is my name, AliseCortez.com. You can find me on LinkedIn. At the other site, you mentioned, the Chief Ignition Officer, that’s my Gusto, Now site. That’s my online platform for learning and development. I do work with individuals there too. I’m building a community there. That’s Gusto-Now.com.

I could hang out with you all day. You’ve got other stuff to do, but I loved our conversation, so thank you so much for being here.

Me too, Jen. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a delight and so are you a delight. Thank you for doing the work that you’re doing.

Thank you.

That does it for my awesome chat with Alise. I hope you found our discussion both valuable and inspiring. Here are a few questions to journal about or meditate on until next time. Let’s be honest with each other. Are you living your purpose now? Why or why not? What is your purpose? You don’t have to tell me or anyone, quite frankly. This is for you. What is it? Put it down on paper or think about it. What fear or mental hurdles do you need to traverse to live your purpose more fully? How can you ignite your life and work, so you can feel and use the energy that Alise and I talk about during our conversation?

From someone that spends at least a little of my time working on my purpose, it’s amazing how much energy it stirs up right inside of you. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Until next time, show up. Live your purpose and be brave. 

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About Dr. Alise Cortez

BWW 129 | Living Your PurposeDr. Alise Cortez, is the founder and Chief Purpose Officer of two companies, Alise Cortez and Associates and Gusto Now. She is also an inspirational speaker, social scientist, author, and host of the Working on Purpose radio show. Having developed her expertise within the human capital/organizational excellence industry over the last 25 years, she is focused on enabling organizations to lead from purpose and create cultures of meaning that inspire impassioned performance, meaningful engagement and fulfillment, while encouraging a devoted stay within the organization. She has helped develop and transform thousands of managers and executives in their leadership along the way.

Alise began her human capital career in 1998 as a staffing professional at Analysts International and corporate recruitment consultant at VoiceStream/T-Mobile while simultaneously pursuing her doctorate degree in Human Development. Her experience includes HR System implementation and change management consulting at Hewitt Associates and PepsiCo, and employee engagement assessment and consulting at the Center for Talent Solutions. She co-founded and served as VP of Sales and Marketing at Improved Experience, a consulting firm that offered online feedback solutions and research for the Human Resource and Recruiting industry. Dr. Cortez also served as a Consultant for Insigniam, a management consulting firm specializing in breakthrough, innovation and transformation.

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