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What is Your Business Mission? (Lessons from Mario and Princess Peach)

Why do you exist?

I don’t mean “I help entrepreneurs create more value by using generic phrases.” I mean why do you exist.

What is your primary purpose for even being in business?

Mario might say something like “I exist to Save-a the Princess. I’ll burn-a down, jumpa on, and beat anyone who threatens my princess’s safety to death with a turtle shell-a.” He’s been saying it for over 30 years, he’ll probably say it for another 30 more.

The reason I bring this up is because no one is really talking about it. Sure you can read about Unique Selling PropositionsBrand Characters, and Ideal Customers all day long, but if you don’t know why you exist, your primary mission for being in business, you’re sunk.

What’s An Adventure If You Don’t Have a Princess to Save?

To go back to the Mario analogy, businesses who don’t know their mission become enthralled with the Fire Flowers, Super-Stars and Tanooki suits of the world. They’ll talk about how these are the best power-ups in all of world 1-7, and that if more players used them, they could be powerful too.

But, without the princess, what’s the point? Aren’t you destined to move from power-up to power-up until the badniks eventually team up on you and it’s Game Over: No Continues.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that more people -big names included- who are worried about the power-ups than there are people saving the princess.

Granted, there’s money to be made in the “talking about power-ups” business, but even so, if you don’t exist for those questing to save the princess, you’re doomed.

I think – and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments – that the problem stems from a few different scenarios.

  1. You started your online business based on what you know.
  2. You heard “blog first, sell later.” was the best way to go so you just went with it.
  3. (possibly the scariest) No matter how hard you try, you truly don’t know why you exist, and you’re bursting to justify your existence online.

If Any of These Scenarios Ring True…

I’d like to submit that you haven’t found your business mission because you’ve yet to throw yourself into something that’s totally outside your comfort zone.

Remember, Mario started as plumber. If at any point he said, “Imma plumber, you needa your pipes fixed, that’s-a one thing, but she’s not-a my princess. Senda me home.” It would have been a very boring game franchise.

For a real life example of mission finding by risk, look at Danny. He’s the Freddy Krueger of Blogging because in the beginning he risked rejection by emailing multiple bloggers with guest post requests, then buckled down and wrote when they all said yes.

I’ll bet you anything he was clear on what he was meant to do after it started working.

Unfortunately, I think the real problem is too many businesses are afraid to take the first step outside of their comfort zone. And if not the first step, then certainly those that come after it. Imagine how terrifying it must have been for Mario to learn that jumping on one mushroom means safety and eating another means your body grows three times its original size!? That revelation alone would be enough for most people to say “forget the princess!”

If that’s not you, you know your mission is simple, not because it’s save the princess, but because you know the princess wants to be saved. (some might argue the princess prefers being saved to being safe, but we’ll leave that for the psychology blogs 😉

It Comes From Your Customers

Going back to Danny, Write Like Freddy became one of Mirasee’s flagship products because that was the most in line with his readers personal mission.

Now this is very important to note – even though his guest posting spree originally had nothing to do with WLF – it was because he committed to a seemingly impossible action that he found his mission – And that’s what people wanted to know how to do the most.

For proof, just look at the most popular posts. The major themes link to building relationships, creating solid strategies, and dogged consistent execution. Reading Write Like Freddy’s curriculum, these all look like topics Danny covers pretty extensively.

For me, I discovered my mission by putting 95 hours a week into a video series about online marketing. But it wasn’t until my AdSense account got banned that I discovered what that mission actually was.

Originally, the goal was to make YouTube Partner to get 50% of ad revenue. In order to jump start the process, I purchased a few thousand views. Realizing that was a risky (not to mention dishonest), I stopped. Unbeknownst to me, someone on my team continued purchasing views and so the AdSense account was banned.

This was the best thing that could have happened though, because people still wanted to see the videos. So I stripped away the garbage and made our mission crystal clear; to mainstream online marketing by making it fun and easy to watch.

Seems simple enough now, but when the mission wasn’t clear, we were getting caught up in the power-ups (so to speak.) Turns out, the reason why people were tuning in in the first place was because they were understanding concepts that had challenged them in the past, and getting a good chuckle every now and then. Once we stopped worrying about direct monetization, delivering that experience was what mattered the most.

If You’re Struggling to Find Your Princess…

I think the only way to find your mission is to do the thing that scares the shit out of you.

Right now, I know there’s at least one idea floating around in your head you’ve been putting off. You know the one – you’ve been putting off for months, maybe even years, in favor of the safe bet. I think if you really want to find your mission, you have to do that thing, and you have to be loud about it.

Don’t just do it and hold it at arm’s length, really embrace the crap out of it. Let it be a part of who you are and show everyone else this is what you stand for. They won’t all support you, and they won’t all understand, but to those who do, they’ll be the ones that really help you shape your business mission.

I think the only way to understand your bsuiness mission is to take the risk then ride the wave. Danny did it by emailing a bunch of bloggers, I did it by purchasing views (and losing a revenue stream), Mario did it by eating mushrooms and jumping on turtle shells.

Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe it is as easy as saying “This is my mission.” I’m not sure, what do you think? Is it possible to just make a declaration then run with it? Certainly this seems to be more comfortable, but is this the best way to get people behind you?

I know there are two different camps of thinking on this, and I’d really like to use this article to kick off the discussion. Do you have to take small business risks  to understand what it is that you’re really meant to do? Or can you just state your business mission and move forward?

Leave a comment – I’m looking forward to seeing what you think! 😉

About Tommy Walker

Tommy Walker is the Editor-in-Chief of the Shopify Plus blog. It is his goal to provide high-volume ecommerce stores with deeply researched, honest advice for growing their customer base, revenues and profits. Get more from Tommy on Twitter.

35 comments

  1. Marena Drlik says:

    The Question: “Do you have to take big risks to understand what it is that you’re really meant to do? Or can you just state your mission and move forward?”
    I think we do have to take big risks to understand what we were meant to do. However, I think the ‘risks’ seem big only because our heart, our soul, the very essence of who we are is out there on display for the world to love, hate, make fun of, and (worst of all) dismiss as worthless or inconsequential.

    I think for the majority of people if they don’t start out scared of their mission then they probably have yet to find the passion that will drive them forward to “save the princess.” If their passion is missing, then so will be their best work, their most creative ideas and the joy of being who they are truly meant to be and doing what they are truly meant to do – the joy we call happiness.

    You can just declare your mission and move forward but you’ll lack the stamina for the long haul, you’ll miss out on the scariest leaps that lead to the most awesome experiences, and you’ll never know who you could be because you never pushed the envelope.

    So ‘really embrace the crap’ out of the scary stuff, ‘lean into it,’ cry if you want, whine for a little bit, then pick yourself up, find a friend, coach, mentor, blog post and let go of your resistance to feeling the fear and taking action anyway!

  2. Paul Silva says:

    Hi Tommy,
    To answer the question, “Do you have to take a big risk?”…
    The answer is Faith. The “all in” approach is required if you want to sustain a mission over a long time. But beyond the feeling of taking a risk by going all in, comes the peace of knowing that stepping out in faith allows God to honor your commitment to fulfilling His mission for your life by providing what is needed to accomplish it.
    Yes, that’s right, I said God. I’ve noticed in the stream of comments expressions like where life is leading you, or the universe. It may offend many, but by giving the glory to God, I’m doing right. So what if I’ve limited my audience to only about a billion people? All the internet guys are saying you need to speak to a specific audience, right?
    I say that because I have talked to people in the on-line marketing community that think they have to be strictly secular in the language they use to promote their businesses. Not so.
    To answer the other question, is it enough to just claim a mission? Simply, no.
    The mission has already been given. The key to finding what you can both get excited about and stay excited about can be found using 2 tools.
    First, your mission needs to be your personal expression of the mission we are all commended to pursue. That’s right, the love your neighbor enough to encourage him to come to know the savior, Jesus Christ.
    So how do you do that? Tool number one is the clues given by what God built into you as an individual. You have innate gifts that I don’t and vice versa.
    See Don and Katie Fortune’s book- Discover your God Given Gifts. (I am not an affiliate)
    The second tool is retrospective introspection. Sounds all wwo-woo I know. Just look back over your life to see what God has brought you through. Those hardships were not an accident. They were meant to equip you to help others.
    Risk? None. If you use the unique gifts and experiences that God gave to you alone, to pursue the life that He planned for you before you born, there is no risk.
    Marketers always tell me to build a good guarantee into an offer. A guarantee is only as good as the guy making it. Under what circumstances can you imagine God not being powerful enough to make good on His promises to you?

    1. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I know I’m a few days late in responding to this, but thank you, I love this comment, and couldn’t agree with you more. 😀

  3. Mike Kawula says:

    I’m going to go with taking risk 🙂

    Love your statement: that you haven’t found your mission because you’ve yet to throw yourself into something that’s totally outside your comfort zone.
    All to true.

    Mike Tyson said: Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

    I’m personally going through this now and need to just get going, this was a great article. Seeing you everywhere with great advice Tommy. Great interview with Entrepreneur on Fire and now this great article. Thanks!

    1. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      😀 Oh good!

      Yes, it’s sort of a baptism by fire approach. If you survive, you’re stronger. If you don’t, well… at least you tried right?

      What is it that you’re working on right now that has you going through this?
      Glad you mentioned the Entrepreneur on Fire interview! Did you see the ThinkTraffic, Hubspot, Remarkablogger & Problogger articles too? I did about 20 guest posts all told this month 😛

      1. Mike Kawula says:

        Saw ThinkTraffic will have to check the others, you’re rocking. So many good sites out there, but like everyone need to set a max time so work gets done :)!

        I’ve started 3 businesses, 2 were franchises and my last an online retail store that has 200,000 products and runs itself (kinda). All of those were so easy for some reason, though I’m starting a new site on something I have a ton of passion for and maybe I’m trying for perfection, just need to get started. Had this made to explain what I’m doing (only $15 on Fiverr 🙂 ) http://youtu.be/JUQ3wsigGpw Let me know thoughts.

        Hope you hit the $100k 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Yeah, I love this so much. I came across it through one of the interviews we did with the good folks of Fangamer. They’re friends of the artist and sell tshirts / posters of it. I think you can guess what’s on *my* Christmas wish list!

  4. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Good Question!

    I would dig deeper into why you do what you do, and sometimes that means really throwing yourself further into your work, talking to people, and finding out why they go to these things.

    So “why” raise awareness of crafting? What happens when crafters are more empowered? Why do they do what they do? Is it Freedom? Money? Love?

    Once you dig into that, you’ll find that your blog, (usergroups, etc) are vehicles for delivering that message, and helping on that mission. Everything else tends to fall into place after that 🙂

  5. Interesting how many people are avoiding actually answering the question. Surely you’re here to do more than post comments about how awesome Danny and his post are (true though that may be! ;P )

    Personally I’m here to experience as much of the rich tapestry of existence as possible, sharing as much of the joy, freedom, laughter and fun as possible with all living beings in the short time I have here. I choose to do this by helping normal people expand their sense of what’s possible through the experience of creating the one, lifelong dream they’ve always secretly believed was impossible. Running one successful Kickstarter campaign, even for a small amount, when it’s for something personally meaningful creates more than the money. It automatically sets up the leverage / accountability that inspires consistent action as well as a community of supporters sharing fun, support and ideas that makes the trip emotionally fulfilling. More importantly it gives an experience of having the whole world see that they *were* capable of doing it, all along, giving them the confidence to go out and enjoy, have fun and share the joy of life with others (which secretly helps fulfill *my* mission! Muhahahahaha! :).

    That’s what I’m here to do.

    1. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      I love it! And I’m thinking I should have gotten in touch with you before I started my crowdfunding campaign (That I’m currently on)

      As far as avoiding the question though, sometimes I think it’s a matter of not understanding just how powerful our minds and ideas actually are. As someone who helps with Kickstarter campaigns, you probably see that a lot, right?

      How many people have you helped who didn’t think it would ever be possible?

      1. Honestly, I’d say that not everyone, but *almost* everyone goes in hoping for the best, but generally thinking deep down that it isn’t going to work. The only people who really go in thinking it *will* work, tend to be people with a history of business success beforehand (like the folks behind Planetary Annihilation that we just interviewed).

        Most people are pretty shocked twice over. Once when they realize that people gave them the money to do what they wanted… and a second time when they realize that now they’re actually going to (have to!) do it.

        On the mindset thing though, one sad cycle that seems to come up over and over again, is people saying that they need “the mindset” (which is true), but trying to change it just through things like affirmations and motivational posters. When that doesn’t work they seem to blame themselves and repeat the cycle ad infinitum. 🙁 Sure things like affirmations can help. My experience though has been that creating a supportive yet challenging environment and having real life experiences of success tend to change mindset much, much faster and more effectively.

        That’s why, in my opinion, (advance appology for sounding like a broken record) “all or nothing” crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter (with 41% of all projects being successful) have a much higher rate of success than the usual goal setting + affirmations.

        When people have the experience of:
        * A clearly defined, publicly stated goal
        * That they enlist friends, family and the world into
        * That they put work into
        * With a clearly date that can’t be put off and
        * Progress reports that can be seen by *everyone*…
        * With a real, meaningful “all or nothing” payoff for success

        …that strangely enough people who have failed elsewhere have a far stronger tendency to get “the right mindset” together and actually do what it takes to succeed. When they don’t expect to succeed and they do, they take it on as an identity and tend to keep it up as a pattern.

        As much as mindset really does breed success, I think it’s important to also remember that sometimes (with a bit of a nudge here and there) that success can help build a great mindset.

        1. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          What a great point and an excellent comment 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

          As far as success is concerned, what would you say are some easy “little” wins a person can make for themselves?

          1. I’d say that the concept of creating an environment that supports doing something new (and meaningful) is more important than “little wins”. Whose confidence increases when they feel like they’ve won “little”? On the other hand, if you do something magnificent, and have everyone see it, even if you had an environment that helped make it happen, you’re likely to feel pretty darn good about yourself. 🙂

            As far as setting a helpful environment up, any of the bullet points above though would be a good start. It’s not hard to define a specific goal. It’s not hard to share it with friends and family. It’s not hard to set up a specific deadline with consequences. I love the trick of giving money to an independent friend who will either donate it to a cause you love or a cause you hate *publicly*, on a specific date depending on whether you follow through or not (thanks Tim Ferris).

            None of these bullet points needs Kickstarter. Kickstarter just does a great job of setting up the environment to encourage people to “do what it takes” themselves, letting them (rightfully) feel great about the successes that come from that, when done right.

  6. Cindy says:

    Great article and great timing! I’m in a bit of limbo with my business, and need to refine my goals. But your article brings up one question for me: is it okay for you to have more than one mission? My business actually has multiple facets. My business is all about promoting the crafting industry, specifically by organizing events for crafters. There’s also an instructional aspect to it — some of my events are instructional, and some are just social or travel related. So until now, my blog has been mostly a means of driving revenue for my events and gaining credibility in the crafting community (I do some advertising, and I also post some instructional/inspirational craft projects and articles). Is it okay that the goal or “reason I exist” for my blog is different from the mission or reason I exist for my business in general (and thus my website and user groups)?

    1. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Ugh… for some reason this posted in the wrong spot…

      Good Question!

      I would dig deeper into why you do what you do, and sometimes that means really throwing yourself further into your work, talking to people, and finding out why they go to these things.

      So “why” raise awareness of crafting? What happens when crafters are more empowered? Why do they do what they do? Is it Freedom? Money? Love?

      Once you dig into that, you’ll find that your blog, (usergroups, etc) are vehicles for delivering that message, and helping on that mission. Everything else tends to fall into place after that

  7. Carmelo says:

    Hey Tommy, certainly an interesting take on success and living your mission: Needing to throw yourself into something outside your comfort zone. That’s saying that intuitively you know what would propel you – you’re resisting the very thing that “life” is trying to lead you into. So, that could be the ticket!

    But, like you say, there are other views on this. I’d say it’s a personal thing but no, I’d say it’s not that powerful to just simply state “this is my mission” and voila’ you’re off and running! Not without having that princess to save.

    And that’s the ticket more than anything else. The princess in need. Yet it’s got to jibe with your passion … that inner being “lust” that would cause you to live the journey daily whether you made money or not … risky or not.

    That’s my take! (but I like yours too.) Oh, and great success to you Tommy.

    1. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      Absolutely! You have to *Want* to save the princess… otherwise she’s like “HELLPPP HELLLP SAVE ME!”

      and you shrug and are all like “meh”

        1. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

          Oh no, I very much agree with you.

          Originally, I was fired over a pair of pants, then happened to land my first client because I went to a Superbowl party.

          I personally have “moved within the channels of my destiny” looking for the signs and following them as I’ve gone along.

          I think when you do that long enough, you find not just one but many things you become passionate about, then at some point they’ll all converge together.

          When you can’t live without that thing you do, then you find an even deeper reason to do it, that’s when life really starts getting fun.

          1. Carmelo says:

            Exactly! when it really starts getting fun, you know you’re on to something. That’s a good point about when things start connecting. Fired over a pair of pants??? What, were you wearing them on your head??

  8. Lauren says:

    So true! Everyone wants to believe their horse loves them, but they don’t want to challenge that thought because it hurts to think your horse doesn’t give a hoot about you. Yet, if they challenged it and went thru it, they could then start building that relationship and their horse actually WOULD like them.

  9. “Write” on time. That’s what you are. Some folks get to choose to jump in the water, some folks get thrown overboard (see my post today for clarification on that) but regardless, there has to be a princess, or a soul to save. A job without a mission is like eating dessert with no flavor. What’s the point? I was miserable for YEARS! I want the adventure… Thanks Danny.

  10. “I help entrepreneurs create more value by using generic phrases” is now my new anti-mantra to help me snap out of power-up mode and remember why I’m here!

    I’m already bear-hugging the thing that scares the crap out of me, and sometimes I struggle to hold on, but this helps. Thanks, Tommy.

  11. Amber King says:

    You should never venture into business without goals, if you do you would likely get lost. Look for a purpose, understand what you really want, how you can help others and what will they benefit from you.

  12. Coach Comeback says:

    Well I already have my Princess Tommy (pictured left) so everything else is just fireballs and extra men lol

    Interesting take. Great job. Looking forward to seeing season 2 a success!

  13. Amy Hagerup says:

    This came at a good time for me. One of my trainers uses the phrase “lean into” which is similar to “really embrace it” as you said. I’m not sure what is scaring me, but I think it might be really going to town with making a bunch of videos and other blog posts. I’m just dragging my feet, I guess. Gotta get going.

    1. Tommy Walker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      The work you’re meant to do is often the scariest.

      Talking about fighting the dragon, and actually being in combat are two very different things. The best you can do is swallow the lump in your throat, pick up your sword, and charge forward.

      Remember, you have a support network too. If you need help, don’t think twice about reaching out and asking for help 🙂 I know we just met, but I’m a freelance dragon slayer happy to assist 😉

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