Mission, Vision, and Values with Josh Patrick
“A good mission statement, in my opinion, is seven words or less and can be answered with a yes or no.”
– Josh Patrick
I had the delight of speaking with Josh Patrick, the founder of the Sustainable Business and former blogger for the New York Times. Josh is passionate about helping private business owners create extraordinary value with their businesses and lives.
- The importance of attaching clarifying statements to values
- The makings of a good mission statement
- How visions are different from missions
MVVs are not only for business ventures—they’re a way of life. Values are what guide us in decision-making and shape our experiences. They help us recognize when to say no and when to say yes.
“It's easy to say yes, it's hard to say no. And if you're comparing what somebody wants you to do in your personal life and it doesn't fit with your personal values, why are you doing it?” Josh says. “Too many of us live our life at the cause of other people telling us what they want. And because we're not clear on what's important to us, we don’t know whether to say yes, no, or maybe.”
We don’t need an extensive list of every value that resonates with us—3 to 5 will do. Anything beyond that becomes convoluted. Josh recommends looking at a collection of 50-100 potential values and narrowing it down to 3-5 from the pool.
“The important thing here is to put a clarifying statement around what that value is. For example, I could say to you that one of my values is simplification. If I just say simplification, you in your mind are gonna say, ‘This is what simplification means for me, so it must mean that for you,’” Josh continues. “If I put a clarifying statement around that, that's not likely to happen. For example, my clarification statement for simplification is that I take the complicated to make it simpler.”
Clarifying statements do just that—they clarify the intent of the value to avoid misassumptions and stay true to what it means to us.
There are different categories of values to consider, and which column they sit in affects how they’re introduced and enacted within a company:
- Core values
- Aspirational values
“A core value is something you do 99 percent of the time. An aspirational value is something you might do 20 percent of the time, 40% of the time, even 70% of the time, but it's not enough to make it a core value,” Josh explains. “So for those 3 to 5 values, you can have aspirational values, and you can have core values, but you need to label them properly.”
Josh’s personal mission statement is to do interesting things with interesting people. Not overly complicated or world-shattering, but we know what he means right away.
“A good mission statement, in my opinion, is 7 words or less, and can be answered with a yes or no,” he shares. “Am I doing it, or am I not doing it? So, if I'm not spending my time with interesting people doing interesting things, I know I'm not very happy.”
A mission statement should:
- Roll off the tongue
- Be easy to remember
- Be answered with a yes or no
- Aim for 7 words or less
“There's nothing that says your mission is going to be a good one. You can have crummy ones. I know people whose mission is to make a lot of money,” he continues.
Wanting to provide for your family and build wealth to secure a future is a noble pursuit, but money is a result, not a mission. Wealth is a byproduct of positive progress.
Where a mission or purpose is the actions we take today, a vision is what we want as a result of our actions. In other words, where we want to be 5, 10, 15 years from now. That’s a vision.
“The vision is about you. Where do you envision you're going to be in the future?” Josh says.
He cites Dan Sullivan's classic question from The Strategic Coach: “If we were to get together 5 years from now, what would have to happen for you to feel like you’ve been personally and professionally successful?”
Now that, right there—whatever the answer—is a vision. I invite you to sit with that question for a moment. Let yourself envision 5 years from now and what you would like to report accomplishing. These do not have to be grand ventures, they merely must be true to what you see and want for yourself.
“We use a thing called the alignment conversation,” he continues. “Where are you now? Where do you wanna be at some point in the future? What's the gap between those two? And, if you could fill that gap and successfully go from where you are today to where you wanna be in the future, what is that worth to you?”
The answer to that final question reveals the necessary next steps. If it’s priceless, then what is stopping you? If there’s a price, start investing however you can. We build our futures one day at a time.