What is your life’s purpose?
My purpose is to grow and use my gifts in a way that makes life a little bit easier for others, especially those of us who have been pushed to the margins by systems of oppression.
How are you living your purpose?
I am playing to my strengths, namely using my voice (both through speaking and writing) to open doors in people’s minds. I am also making time for rest because rest is a form of protest in a materialistic world that wants to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of us before we die.
More concretely, I founded and run a strategy + design firm called Brevity & Wit that is dedicated to designing a more equitable world. I am also the author of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives that helps leaders scale diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in their organizations.
How did you find your purpose?
Throughout my twenties and thirties, I hopped around from job to job and worked for a lot of different causes — humanitarian aid, journalism, trauma psychology, reproductive rights, global health — at some prestigious organizations — Doctors Without Borders, Sesame Workshop, Bellevue, Boston Metro. Somewhere along the way, I read this quote, “Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” And I realized the mistake I was making was seeking prestige instead of daily happiness and meaning.
So I started focusing on discovering what daily tasks made me feel happy or fulfilled. Around that time, I also picked up Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, and they have some incredibly practical advice on how to find what energizes and engages you (and why energizing and engaging activities are not necessarily the same thing). By doing the exercises in the book, I began to design a life that worked for me.
Eventually, I landed a job with Cook Ross, a diversity & inclusion consulting firm, and it felt like I had come home. I have always been thinking and talking about issues related to diversity and inclusion, and I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to this work, regardless of the outcome. Which is not to say outcomes aren’t important, but I knew I would never tire of doing this work, no matter how long it takes to build systems that are more inclusive and fair.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Don’t worry too much about being passionate about a cause. Instead, focus on what daily activities you like, what skills you want to build, and then I promise you can find a way to employ those skills meaningfully.For example, when I was working in global health, people would sometimes show up with a passion to end HIV/AIDS. But you know what’s one of the most critical skills needed to end HIV/AIDS? Supply chain management. I can’t think of anything more boring, and so if I had been passionate about ending HIV/AIDS, it would have been hard for me to put aside my ego to do work I find depleting in order to really serve the mission.
However, by focusing on the activities that do fill me up (speaking, writing, consulting, marketing) and my strengths (strategic thinking, authenticity, wit) I was able to design a career and a life that allows me to contribute my strengths to a much greater cause. Therefore, it’s not about me saving the world, but about me growing and thriving in a way that also benefits others. The next stage of human evolution will require this shift away from self-actualization towards enlightened interdependence.
What resources do you recommend?
Designing Your Life is a great place to start for anyone on the hunt for a more fulfilling career. I also really liked So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport; it makes the case for why skills are more important than passion for building a happy and fulfilling life. However, book recommendations are highly personal.
On the website for my book, we have a section called Minal’s Bookshelf that lists all the books that have influenced my thinking and development. Peruse the list and choose the book that engages you the most in this moment. After all, we should all start from where we are.
Connect with Minal Bopaiah
Contact page: https://theequitybook.com/contact-us/
Book: Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives
Social media links:
Minal Bopaiah is the author of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives. She is the founder of Brevity & Wit, a strategy + design firm that combines human-centered design, behavior change science and the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility to help organizations transform themselves and the world. Bopaiah has written for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Hill and has been a featured guest on numerous podcasts and shows, including the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU. She has also been a keynote speaker for many conferences, inspiring thousands with her credible, authentic, and engaging talks. For more information, please visit https://theequitybook.com