cover art for episode 56 on connection and purpose with Brandon Peele

In this episode, Brandon shares lots of great resources that you can use if you’re trying to live a life that is purposeful and with intention. He stresses that it is important to build support first. I especially like his advice to pick up the phone. This makes me think that we need to keep our eyes and our ears open to finding ways that we can live in alignment with purpose, in harmony with our mission.

Brandon is a Midwesterner, best-selling author, impact entrepreneur and an expert in social learning and culture change. Prior to founding Unity Lab, he worked at two leading social learning companies, ion and Imperative, to activate empathy, trust, belonging, purpose and leadership at scale. 

Brandon trusted as a keynote speaker, consultant and program leader by organizations such as Google, Johnson & Johnson, Stanford University, JDRF, Morgan Stanley, U.S. Marine Corps, University of California – Berkeley, LinkedIn, the U.S. Navy, Slalom Consulting, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the University of Minnesota. He has written / co-written four books on purpose and leadership and his work has been featured by news organizations such as USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, and Forbes. 

At the age of 35, Brandon discovered that there was such a thing as purpose. This took him off the conventional path, and he now helps other people find and achieve their purpose. In particular, his current purpose is to shepherd a community of purpose practitioners, the Global Purpose Leaders, and to work on healing the soul of the United States with Unity Lab.

Brandon’s work aims to reverse the Cycle of Disunity. Learn more here.

We can change the world quickly by using best practices in social learning (small diverse groups, purpose inquiry, etc.).

Brandon Peele

Whatever your religious tradition, or even if you don’t practice any religious tradition at all, the opportunity, the possibility to live aligned with purpose is available to you. I hope that you will join the challenge for this week and check out the resources that Brandon shared as well. You can find all of the links in the show notes.

If you have enjoyed today’s podcast, please share it with a friend. I would also appreciate it if you would leave a review in your favorite podcast app. Let me know what you enjoyed about this episode or any other episode that you’ve listened to. If you’re living your life on purpose and with intention, and you would like to be a guest, you can find the link in the show notes to apply to be on the podcast. If you would like to recommend a guest or if you would like me to have an episode on a particular topic, please let me know. You can always reach me at contact@ changesbigandsmall.com.

Remember change begins with one small step, have a great week.

Your Challenge Invitation

Get connected. Find a men’s, women’s circle or an all gendered circle of some sort where the intention is around authentic, vulnerable connection. This type of connection is even more important than purpose. Although many of these groups work around purpose/mission, the most important thing is to first get connect with other people on the same journey as you.

When you are ready, when you don’t feel like you can live another moment misaligned with your purpose, then work with a guide or join a group program. One place that you can identify someone to work with is at globalpurposeleaders.org. You can check for options locally as well as for virtual meetups.

Contact and follow Brandon on Linkedin, Instagram or on his website.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

Purpose work empowers people to have that communication loop with that part of them that knows what is theirs to do and to be and to evoke.


Timeline of the Chat

01:59 – Favorite memory from childhood and having fun
04:22 – The Conventional path
05:28 – Changing paths
07:50 – Brandon’s purpose at the moment
09:02 – Purpose and prayer/religion
10:00 – Purpose as a Journey
13:10 – Relationships and setting boundaries
14:02 – Working with a purpose guide
19:40 – Importance of purpose
25:45 – Aligning with purpose
33:41 – Social learning and belonging
39:40 – Invitation/Challenge from Brandon
41:25 – Recommended resources
43:23 – Favorite way to play
44:26 – Closing thoughts from Brandon

It’s our birthright to know who we are and to express that here.


Quick Links

The Purpose Field Guide by Brandon Peele book cover.png

There’s a deep knowing, a truth that I individually recognize as love.


Transcript of the Episode

You didn’t come here to be somebody else’s version of themselves or success. Everything in your life good and bad has prepared you for your life of purpose. There’ve been no mistakes. Eventually when the phone rings, it says find your purpose, it’s there for you because you came here for it. My invitation is pick up the phone. Pick up the phone and go do the things.

Brandon Peele
Favorite memory from childhood and having fun [01:59]

Damianne: [01:59] So let’s start easy. What’s your favorite memory from childhood?

Brandon: [02:03] Oh, my gosh, so many.

Damianne: [02:04] I know. And even as I say the word favorite, I think that’s kind of unfair because I usually think that words like best and favorite are not necessarily so helpful, but what’s a great memory from childhood that makes you smile?

Brandon: [02:21] So I mean like I said, there’s so many. I have had a very happy, safe childhood but I think the one that is coming to mind right now is the first time my stepdad took my brother and I cross-country in the Winnebago from Chicago down to San Diego. And just a sense of adventure and, you know, hike the grand Canyon. He taught us how to sneak into hotel pools. Then we went to Mexico and I got to buy fireworks and switchblades and like all this stuff you can’t really do in the suburbs of Chicago. So I’m going to say that, that sense of like boyhood adventure, mischief.

Damianne: [03:03] Do you still carry forth that sense of adventure and mischief to today?

Brandon: [03:08] I think it was more prevalent in my twenties and thirties and I mean, not all that healthy. I definitely broke more than my fair share of laws and did more than my fair share of illegal substances. And my wife is really like our adventure chairman cause she’s like, I want to see it all, I want to do it all. I’m like, I kind of did it all. I mean, that’s not true. Obviously there’s so many countries I have yet to go to and cultures I’ve yet to experience. But yeah, I mean, ever since purpose took hold, my desire for novelty and experience kind of diminished in some regard. Even though I do crave diverse cities and experiencing diverse cultures, I guess maybe I’m present to my own mortality.

 I think I got half of my life left to live and a big purpose and a world that is messed up. She kind of makes fun of me and she calls me like a workaholic, but I love this. I’m like, I’m playing my favorite video game, but my video game is humanity. And I just want to do that.

Damianne: [04:06] That does sound exciting. And I think that’s like the ideal, right, when you can merge what you do, what you spend most of your time on with something that is so compelling and so energizing for you.

Brandon: [04:18] Engrossing, they’re just like…

The Conventional path [04:22]

Damianne: [04:22] So did you have any idea of the life that he would be living today? 

Brandon: [04:26] Not as a child, I don’t think. Growing up in the Midwest in the 1980s, it’s like growing up in the 1950s anywhere else. I mean, it was very like, you know, study, play sports, marry your college sweetheart. 

Damianne: [04:40] Regimented?

 Brandon: [04:41] Yeah. Just like, you know, get on the professional services, white people train and then make a bunch of money, move to the suburbs, make some more humans and move to Florida and die. That was like the thing.

Damianne: [04:52] That sounds so depressing, even though I’m laughing.

Brandon: [04:57] Of course, I know life is much more complex and rich than I just said but I would say that, as we spoke before we started, when I went to Europe right after college and I’d been before, but this whole world had opened up like, wow, maybe America doesn’t have it all figured out, like the Charles bridge or beer gardens in Germany or French gardens, and I’m like, wow, there’s a lot more going on here than my tiny little Chicago bubble.

Changing paths [05:28]

 Damianne: [05:29] Can you identify a turning point where you got on the path that you currently are on, and we’ll definitely get into that in a bit more detail.

There were a few. I mean, that trip to Europe definitely was mind expanding. After that, I started reading and exploring intellectually different cultures. But I’ll just say that in my twenties, by day I was a hardworking, diligent, smart, professional services person. But by night I was a total party animal and just got myself in all kinds of trouble, and I kind of thought that that was like the only option, that eventually I would capitulate, marry, move to the suburbs, Florida, death, you know, the whole…

Brandon: [06:09] But I had the good fortune in my late twenties when I was in graduate school. There was this self-awareness course that was offered there, and it captivated me like a lightning bolt. I’m like, wait a minute, you mean you can play with the software. That’s cool. Let’s play with the software, meaning my own consciousness, psychology, internal growth. Like I said, there’s multiple turning points, but that program right there, I got that I was a jerk, that I was mean and dominating and oppressive and exploitive to everybody, that I was ignorant. I knew nothing about the world. I knew Excel and PowerPoint and partying, but nothing that mattered.

I knew nothing of poetry, philosophy, comparative religion, mysticism, all these deeply fascinating fields. They didn’t know who I was. I was pretty clear that, okay, this slow death March to Florida was not my future, that there was something out there. And so that’s kind of what got me off the traditional and conservative track to wealth and reproduction. And so after I graduated school, I left New York and moved to the San Francisco Bay area where I just threw myself into all things, personal, spiritual development. And for like seven years, basically it was just playing with the software. I’m still doing it, but that seven year push was really profound. It was a bunch of landmark work and men’s work and hallucinogens and burning man and going to India and meditation and therapy, and just trying to basically clear out the cobwebs, trying to find out what’s really true.

Brandon’s purpose at the moment [07:50]

Damianne: [07:50] So what did you find? How would you phrase your purpose right now?

Brandon: [07:54] So I’m going to give it to you in Spanish first cause that’s how I feel it; that’s how I say it every morning in my prayers. And I don’t know if you speak Spanish, you speak Spanish?

Damianne: [08:03] No, I don’t.

Brandon: [08:05] I’ll break it down.

[Purpose in Spanish]

So basically what that means is my genius is to heal the soul of the nation. I share a vision, build community and a space for the discovery of soul, or the discovery of the force of soul, and the bonds of brotherhood or Commonwealth, community because I fundamentally believe we can have a planet of basically heaven, soul prosperity and peace right here and right now. That’s how I hold it now. It’s evolved over time with different experiences and purpose work, but that’s how I’m holding it presently. 

Purpose and prayer/religion [09:02]

As you recited this, there was a lot of feeling. You closed your eyes. Is this like a prayer to you? Do you have a religious tradition?

It is a prayer to me. I was raised Catholic, but pretty much it’s my own. You know, it’s a very California thing to say, like I borrow from this tradition and borrow from that tradition. So my morning ritual is a mix of prayer, meditation, essentially calling in the ancestors, the four directions, the sacred masculine above, the divine feminine below. So it’s kind of Native American, Lakota, meditation’s a little Buddhist. I can tell you, it’s just what works, and it has me find my center and presence, who I am for myself and my family and the world. And then, I would say the other spiritual practices is being married to a feminist; that’s ongoing spiritual development. 

Purpose as a Journey [10:00]

Damianne: [10:00] That’s a nice framing. You talked about how this whole idea of purpose has been a journey. And so it doesn’t quite sound or look the same way it does now as it did before. I think that anytime we’re trying to make some big change in our life, we will meet with some resistance. There will be some challenges for sure.

What kind of challenges have you faced as you’ve worked to align your life with your purpose. I guess I could also ask it in a different way. How has living your life on purpose, with purpose disrupted your life?

Brandon: [10:32] Well, I’ll put it this way. I mean, I have wounds and traumas like everybody else. And I just need to presence my privilege, you know, tall, white guy, Ivy educated. My wounds are not the same as other Americans or other humans. So I moved into my kind of spiritual purpose journey with a lot of confidence and faith that I would figure it out.

 I didn’t have any internalized depression, any societal oppression or anything like that. I’m like, Ooh, I touched this kind of live wire. This is more alive than I’ve ever felt. Let’s just keep going into that.

Damianne: [11:14] I want more

Brandon: [11:15] Now as somebody who’s also a trained purpose practitioner, there’s the internal landscape of resistance, the critic who doesn’t think I’m good enough, image consultant that just wants to look cool, the skeptic that doubts the risk manager, that doesn’t want to lose what I built, the wounded child that doesn’t want to feel any more pain.

 I was lucky in that in my early thirties, I met a purpose guide and we got to look at each of these voices, and to see kind of what their contributions are, the roles that they play and also the ways that they limit. And then to negotiate with each of them to get permission, to discover the fullness of purpose, and then also to integrate my life and my career around it. So it was a very kind of surgical process, very linear. 

It was developed by Tim Kelly, who also founded the true purpose Institute. So I didn’t have to deal with much internal resistance because of that process. When I guide people one-on-one or when I deliver programs, that’s a key piece of it because anybody can have a peak experience.

You can volunteer back, oh my gosh, my purpose is to help battered women or my purpose is to create a loving relationship between humanity and the planet. But what do you do with that when you got all these voices saying no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. So I’ll put it this way, before it began, the purpose journey was still in that kind of seven year period of deconstruction. I didn’t have a lot of mentorship and guidance and, I deeply damaged some relationships, specifically with my dad. He still hasn’t forgiven me because I essentially projected and personified everything wrong in the world on him and his worldview and his lifestyle and all that.

Relationships and setting boundaries [13:10]

So yeah, that’s taken a lot of work and unfortunately it wasn’t successful in the end. We decided to call it quits earlier this year, but that’s after multiple breakups over the last decade.

Damianne: [13:23] I’m sorry to hear that.

Brandon: [13:24] Yeah. Yeah. And that’s sometimes what you have to do. I mean setting healthy boundaries.

You know, like I am not going to be in a relationship that doesn’t have boundaries or where there’s a mutual respect or I have to bear witness to racism and sexism and anti-Semitism and all that. I’m not creating that in my life. I don’t want those things.

Damianne: [13:47] And I imagine that even when we need to make those difficult choices, those are difficult choices, I guess I could say. And they, they leave scars as well.

Brandon: [14:00] They do. Absolutely.

Working with a purpose guide [14:02]

Damianne: [14:02] A few minutes ago, you mentioned about having a guide, a purpose guide, and you also help people go through this process and you’re a purpose guide.

So did you go looking for a purpose guide? How did you find this purpose guide? And then tell us a bit about what it means to be a purpose guide in terms of your work.

Brandon: [14:20] I was not looking for a purpose guide, call it Providence, dumb luck. I was healing from a divorce and seeing a therapist. And when we kind of completed that work, I just kind of off the cuff said, I don’t know what I want to do. Part of me wants to launch a fight club style, take down to capitalism. A part of me wants to move to India and meditate. Part of me wants to put blinders on and marry a nice girl, take her to the suburbs, flip hamburgers and coach Little League. Part of me just wants to party and you know, vape. And he’s like, Oh, you don’t know your purpose. And then he’s like, well, there is such a thing and there’s a process and we could do that work.

So he was, he is a purpose guide and founder of the Purpose Guides Institute, Jonathan Gustin. And so that’s how I, like I said, dumb luck. I just was in the right place, the right time, saying the right thing. And somebody who was trained in that said, Oh, there’s an app for that. Like, let’s go do that.

 Now, I cannot speak on behalf of all purpose guides what it means to be a purpose guide. I’m part of an international community, as is our mutual friend, Wendy, called the Global Purpose Leaders. And so it’s an international community of practice that convenes and meets regularly to support each other in our work, develop our businesses, look at troublesome cases with clients. And it’s not just individuals; it’s organizational purpose, all sorts of stuff. So, like I said, when I tell you what it’s like to be a purpose guide is going to be different than people from all these other countries and traditions and lineages that also do this work.

 But it’s kind of similar to what I shared with you earlier. Like there’s an initial awakening, like, Oh, I kind of sense I could live my purpose more fully. And then we deconstruct the ego, the resistance that prevents us from hearing it. And then once that space is created, then we go within and we do some of the processes that evoke really what’s in our hearts to do, to give, to contribute. And then there’s that integration piece and a guide basically guides somebody through that. And then you can do it with one-on-one work, with group work. It can be more Western oriented like the Tim Kelly model; that’s more clinical and surgical. Or it could be more based on indigenous, shamanic traditions that’s potentially more organic, nature-based.

 You brought up Wendy a few minutes ago, who I interviewed in a previous episode. When she talks about purpose, she talks about the fact that we don’t have to find a purpose, but I get the idea that your conception of purpose is a little bit different than hers. So do you think that we have a purpose? What is purpose?

Yeah, great. That’s probably where we should have started. Wendy’s right in many ways. Another colleague of mine, Dave Shilcrek, talks about purpose is more of a who than a what. So you can kind of think of it like your guide and your advisor that’s on your shoulder, or like in your heart, your intuition, your belly and your loins. But I would say that purpose work empowers people to have that communication loop with that part of them that knows what is theirs to do and to be and to evoke. So yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not out there; it’s all in here but there are processes for making it easier to listen to.

 Also in my experience, it only tells you what you need in the moment. So you’re not going to get a matrix like download of the next six decades of your life. It’s more like here’s the guiding principle for this stage right now. So you’re going to do this, in this way, towards this end. And then once that either teaches you that, that, that piece of your purpose is complete or you get new information, then your purpose evolves basically. So it’s evolutionary and it’s more of a persona than something written in stone.

Damianne: [18:31] So it sounds like it’s more emergent and as you take action, as you prepare and grow, you can actually get different insights and learn different things about where you need to go next.

Brandon: [18:43] I will qualify that somewhat. It’s not like your purpose is a dentist and then your purpose is a landscaper and then your purposes is a this and it’s like lateral movements. It’s more like a refining and a broadening. So you can think about in theater, somebody might train to be an actor and then they realize they want to go behind the camera to have even greater creative expression. So they become a director and they realize that they want to essentially affect the film as a whole and become a producer. So it might’ve begun with acting and then directing. And so purpose is kind of similar in that way. It will reveal basically like a thread, a throughline that will continually make you learn new things and do things in a new way.

But that thread is always there.

Damianne: [19:31] So it’s kind of refining as you go along, as opposed to coming up with a whole new plan.

Brandon: [19:39] Yeah. Okay,

Importance of purpose [19:40]

Damianne: [19:40] So why is purpose so important? What’s the value to us individually, societally, collectively?

Brandon: [19:48] Well let me first say that purpose is not as important as safety, security and community, those basic foundations of being a human being has to be there. So in this work, there’s the distinction, like the difference between your sacred dance and your survival dance. Survival, and this comes from Africa from the Degara shamanic traditions, but basically there’s what you do to provide for yourself and your loved ones to create safety, sustenance, prosperity, and then there is what you do to fulfill your reason for being here. And initially when the path begins, those two things are different.

 I could be an accountant and I’m realizing I may want to be a science teacher. And so I study science, I watched documentaries on science, I teach my nieces and nephews science, and then all of a sudden an opportunity opens up to volunteer at a summer program on the weekends. And so it starts to get a little bit closer. And then there’s a paid opportunity somewhere else. Then eventually it’s like, Oh, wait a minute, I might have to take a little bit of a hit on my income but I get to do the thing I love. And then that’s where the sacred and survival come together and become essentially your craft, your profession or vocation.

 With so much of humanity in a survival mode, the United States, for example, arguably the wealthiest country in the world, 78% of us are paycheck to paycheck. So purpose compensation makes zero sense for those people. They need healthcare; they need a living wage; they need steady jobs; they need family, community support, all the things that are the foundations of human existence.

Now for the folks who have that, then purpose opens up kind of a next realm of expansion and prosperity and fulfillment. There’s a website that some colleagues and I curated called thescienceofpurpose.org, and that has all the data that says this is literally the bee’s knees.

Once you’re safe and secure, you find your purpose, you’re gonna make more money, you’re going to be healthy, you’re going to live longer, you’re going to have a better relationships, better sex, be a better part of society. And so it’s important in my judgment cause I do believe it is a civil right; it’s our birthright to know who we are and to express that here. To have that without safety and food, it does you no good because even if you knew it, still your number one job would be make sure there’s enough food, the lights are on and the rent is paid and all that.

Damianne: [22:26] Yeah, as you were speaking, I was thinking that purpose and finding your purpose and searching for purpose can really be a privilege. And like you said, you really do need to have things in order. So it’s a bit like, okay, maybe I want to be a musician and that’s going to be my goal, but right now I need to pay rent. And so I’m going to do what it takes to pay rent, which might not be just busking. This is also making me wonder about our education systems and the other systems within our society. Because if something’s important enough, if we value it enough, we find ways to weave it into the fabric of our society, including in education. And so I’m wondering about that.

Brandon: [23:14] Well, that’s actually exactly where the conversation is right now, like all of our systems, education is so easy to point fingers at. But all of our systems are not optimized for purpose, actualization and expression. They’re optimized for production and wealth accumulation by a few folks in cities. And so I’m not saying there’s anything bad or wrong. It’s just we’re not set up that way. We haven’t as an American society, as a globalized species, said that purpose is important. If it is important then we do everything different; we do an education different; we do culture different; we do family different; we do healthcare different; we do our economy different; everything is different. It’s all set up to basically keep us in a starvation, subsistence state so that we can’t become who we are. So right now, you’re probably witnessing, in Europe in some regard, but a lot of folks are questioning everything because they’re like, none of this makes sense. I’m not going to do that anymore; that doesn’t make sense. Why am I in this world where nothing makes sense.

Damianne: [24:18] I think one of the dangers that I see is that we’re coming to the realization of things, not making sense without necessarily having systems in place to have the conversations, to make the disruptions, to make the transformations that will allow us to deal with those nonsense things that we’re observing.

Brandon: [24:40] Yeah. That’s absolutely where we’re at. And I think there’s a growing awareness, but the leadership and political skill to communicate that and to enroll people in what the new normal needs to be is missing among those who are in power in the old system. They don’t really get it because nobody mentored them to help them find a purpose.

Nobody’s showed them that you can have a better society. They’re like, Oh, everything’s wrong and bunch of people over here are saying we needed to do it another way. But we’ve got like 60 years of being indoctrinated and being told that the current Western democratic capitalist ideal is the key for collective flourishing and none of the data supports that.

Damianne: [25:32] I think we get indoctrinated in terms of a more individualistic, consumeristic way of life, as opposed to some other cultures. And there are good things and bad things to the different ways of being as well.

Aligning with purpose [25:45]

When we think about purpose and about aligning ourselves to our purpose, how do we know when we’re aligned? You have already shared the website that you have the science of purpose. Is it, and so many of the great benefits of purpose. What about in terms of feelings within ourself and the way that we can see this manifested in our own lives? 

Brandon: [26:07] We all have an intuitive way of knowing what’s true. Do you have someone in your life that you love?

Damianne: [26:14] yes.

Brandon: [26:14] If I try to convince you, you didn’t love them with all this data, or like had all these lawyers and scientists, like love is a fiction of your imagination and you don’t love that person. You’d be like, go pound sand. I love that person regardless of what you just said. And that’s because we all have this intuitive knowing. I know I love my wife and no matter how much science fiction or neurochemistry I prize myself of, I realized there’s more going on in chemicals. There’s a deep knowing, a truth that I individually recognize as love; we all have that and we also have those other voices that doubt, that are trying to help us survive in this society that wants other things for us than our purpose. 

So in my judgment, and it’s just my judgment, I’m not the purpose Pope; I I don’t think that you can actually learn to trust that until you’ve dealt with these five things in the way. So until you have a direct relationship with the critic, skeptic, image consultant, risk manager, wounded child, otherwise, they kind of muddy the waters constantly. Like when I play guitar, I come alive but then I hear my dad saying what are you going to do, work in the music factory? Like there’s all this stuff. And so like I said, it takes training and it doesn’t have to come from a purpose guide, by the way; there are Jungian therapists, there are many spiritual traditions that train, as part of the initiation process, to learn how to trust the inner guidance.

So we have to be trained in that way, and then we can say, Oh yeah, okay, this is what that feels like; this feels alive. This feels mysterious, maybe even a little bit dangerous, like, wow, this feels good, whatever this is. The knowing piece takes some work and some guidance and some frameworks.

Even if, let’s say you get this full download, this is who I am ; this is what I do; this is how I do it; and this is to what end I’d do it for, and you have relationship to all of these internal ego parts, life, as we just discussed, is still deeply dysfunctional in just about every way. Most of us are in terrible relationships or antagonistic relationships towards work, government, civil society. And so, the last phase of the journey, at least the initial one is to align these core contexts of life, so your health, what we eat, how we move our bodies, our home, creating a home that feels like a worthy receptacle of our souls. That needs to be aligned. Your career, that needs to be aligned; your relationships with family and community, that needs to be aligned. So there’s this kind of sometimes called purpose of life sentence because we always have to align the external environments so that we can experience the majesty of our own souls.

 Another colleague of mine, she uses this metaphor around harmonics; her name is Cynthia Hendrix. She talks about these core contexts of life being like the sides of a bottle. So like kind of when you blow into a beer bottle at the right angle; that bottle is perfectly set up to amplify a particular pitch or particular force of air. Our souls, very similarly there’s a context that holds an honors, the essence of our souls. And so you’ll know you’re aligned when everything feels like it’s 95% working. Relationship is good, communication skills, work is something that fulfills you, relatively healthy, you’ve got great relationships. That’s really the deeper marker of alignment or embodiment because all that takes multiple hundreds of conversations to create.

Damianne: [30:08] And I was thinking that it’s kind of an asymptotic graph. Is that the correct word where you’re approaching, approaching, approaching, ever approaching that perfection. And I use the word perfection with some reluctance because I don’t really believe in perfection, but I guess that’s why it’s, you’re approaching. 

So that actually brings me to my next question, which is once we identify our purpose and you talk about all of these different elements and it really being a journey, do we need to protect that?

Brandon: [30:37] Yeah. The purpose journey and the healing journey are very kind of like interwoven. And so each of our wounds keeps revealing new layers of what’s there. I see you’re nodding, like yeah.

Damianne: [30:53] Yep.

Brandon: [30:55] So once we get the internal parts aligned, at least you’re in direct relationship with them and you got the guidance from your heart or soul, whatever you wanna call it. And then you get the external environment aligned. What do we want to call it, God, the universe keeps throwing things at you to kind of test. It could be a temptation or it could be advice or it could be a wound or something like that.

 There’s a Christian guy from like a hundred years ago he said this quote that I’d like to repeat often. It’s we cannot become ourselves by ourselves. So there is no such thing as a single human; we are a social group, tribal animal, and in tech societies and you know, and then there’s many in the Southern hemisphere, everybody kind of sees your soul and calls you out when you’re not in alignment with it.

Now in the West, we also need it. 

Damianne: [31:56] Absolutely.

Brandon: [31:57] My best friend I talk to every week and my men circle who I go see every week or every other week to continue to heal my wounds distinguish where I’m out of alignment with my purpose. So it takes effort to put in more structures.

If we want to live a life of purpose, we need people who love and accept us, but also stand for our greatness. They see what’s in our heart, like my wife. Like I said, it’s a privilege and a penance to be married to a very strong woman. And she’s like, you’re not showing up as king right now. 

Damianne: [32:42] So it sounds to me like it’s really important to have clear intentions and to create an environment around you that’s going to help you be successful with those intentions, so that you can stay on purpose.

Brandon: [32:57] Yeah. Yeah. And I would say even you need to have people who have an activist stance for your soul. So it could be a best friend. It could be a life partner, men’s circles, women’s circles, spiritual traditions, bible study groups, whatever, but people who see you as you are, love and accept you as you are, and they see really what you’re capable of.

Damianne: [33:20] The nobility

Brandon: [33:21] Yeah they see this is a dignified soul who is not acting in a dignified way, let’s help. And so I can’t do it by myself, you know? The whole great man myth is BS, right? I can only do it through the love and support of people that have chosen to be around me.

Social learning and belonging [33:41]

Damianne: [33:41] When I was reading your website. One thing that I noticed was very, is very important to use the whole concept of social learning. And this made me think of Vygotsky because I have background in education, but I think you meant something probably different than that. 

So why do you care about social learning? Is it connected to everything we’ve just talked about? Or is there more to the picture

Brandon: [34:02] Yeah it is connected. So we look at what’s most missing right now in Western societies, most folks do not have an experience of belonging and tribe and care and concern. And so we’re really in a crisis of connection, loneliness. Before the pandemic, 61% of Americans were lonely; that was up from 46% two years before.

 So we’re disconnected or hyper mediated falling off into like the worlds of Facebook and Amazon and Parlor and Netflix and…

Damianne: [34:38] the bottomless pit. 

Brandon: [34:40] I was talking to a buddy of mine a couple weeks ago. He’s like, so I finished Netflix,

Great series. It took me forever. So we’re really in a crisis of connection, more than a crisis of purpose. Although there are many aspects of purpose that get lived out in a relationship, family, community. That’s really the flashing light on humanity right now; we are not connected to one another.

 Many of us are lonely, disconnected, stressed out, willing to basically turn other people into enemies without any evidence. When you look at social learning, I personally hold the method that my former employer, ion, developed that is like the gold standard in terms of how we both provide transformative education to people and how we meet that deep, deep, longing to belong.

 When we’re in a small group of people learning something, we have a shared purpose together and we’re learning, ideally that small group is as diverse as possible that we learn more about the subject matter. But more importantly, we learn about ourselves and we learn about the diverse experiences of the people we’re in the small group with.

So that heals a lot of our deeper wounds around belonging. Not that it’s the only thing, but it’s a way that with an organization or in an educational context, we can still feel that sense of belonging, especially in a pandemic world where everyone’s sitting in their living room or their dining rooms, wishing they get hug people or BS about sports games and whatever. So yeah, we need to come together more and social learning is one of the most powerful tools that can do that.

Damianne: [36:26] I think one of the ways that a lot of people used to find connection was in religious traditions and we’ve seen more and more movement away from many of the cultural relationships, I guess, between religion and family life or between individuals and religious traditions. 

So, for example, I grew up Catholic even though I’m not Catholic anymore. And I remember one of the things I liked most about going to church was the fact that I could go shake people’s hands during the greeting. I don’t remember what the priest said most of the time, but that it was really about that connection. And I see some people moving towards Eastern traditions and looking at meditation or yoga or those types of traditions, looking for that connection.

 If we go back to some of the traditional ways of thinking about life, so whether or not that’s in religious tradition, indigenous traditions, there was a sense of belonging to a connection with God or with mother earth or we’ve many of those types of things, which is something that we have missed.

I often listen to Tara Brach’s podcast and she tells a story about a little boy being afraid and telling his parents that he’s afraid and they stay in, Oh, pray to God and God will help you through this fear. And his answer was I need somebody with skin on. And so as you were talking about that need for connection, I think to a lot of people, and now even more than ever where we cannot make some of the connections that we want because of COVID, I think a lot of people are feeling I need somebody with skin on.

Brandon: [38:10] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Completely agree. And that was the, at least in the United States, like this steady moderating force was that almost everyone was Christian or they were Jewish and every Saturday or Sunday or Friday, whatever the case may be, they were together. And I grew up Catholic as well, and I love that. Peace be with you. Oh yeah, peace be with you too.

Damianne: [38:38] It’s a lovely expression.

Brandon: [38:41] Yeah. Yeah, and there’s good reasons that people aren’t part of those traditions as much any longer. But we haven’t done a good job of recreating that for ourselves. I’ve been very fortunate with my work with the mankind projects that I’ve men who like I can touch and grab and love and stand for and fight with; it’s not a religion, but it’s a community with a shared purpose.

Damianne: [39:07] Which is what a religion is, in a lot of ways. 

Brandon: [39:11] Well, we don’t have a cosmology necessarily.

Damianne: [39:14] Well, yes, that is a significant difference.

Brandon: [39:19] But yeah, we need to create that. Just looking at the explosion of men’s work, 10 years ago there were two organizations; now there’s like 50. So yeah, I think a lot of folks are being called to Eastern meditation, yoga communities, but there’s also some other kind of transformative communities as well that are starting to meet that need.

Invitation/Challenge from Brandon [39:40]

Damianne: [39:40] For people who are listening, do you have an invitation or a challenge as a person who helps people with purpose? I know it’s a very big audacious journey goal to align with purpose, but is there something that people can do, some action that they can take as a first step towards that journey? 

Brandon: [39:59] If this is your individual purpose you want to activate, don’t do it alone. You cannot do it alone. You’ll hit that resistance and then life will distract you and you’ll be trying to finish Netflix. And then two years later, Oh yeah, purpose. So what would I suggest?

 First and foremost is get connected. Find a men’s, women’s circle or an all gendered circle of some sort where the intention is around authentic, vulnerable connection, cause that’s free. In my judgment, that’s what we need more than even purpose. Although many of these groups have a purpose, mission type orientation, first get connected with other people on the journey, people who also want to live their purpose, people who also want to heal their wounds, whatever the case may be. Then when you’re ready, okay, that’s it.

 I’m not going to live another minute on this earth, unless I get some clarity, some guidance as to what is mine to do, then work with a guide or join a group program. There are unfortunately not that many trained purpose people out there this way, maybe a few hundred, a thousand tops. Some of them are part of the Global Purpose Leaders. So you can go to globalpurposeleaders.org and see all the folks who do this work. Almost everyone does it virtually as well. But if you’re looking for someone local, you could potentially find someone local as well.

Recommended learning resources [41:25]

I think it’s also good to kind of wet your whistle with purpose books and podcasts. I really love Michael Meeds The Living Myth. That’s very much about soul and faith and destiny and his books are amazing too, like fate and destiny. Another one that is more of an enjoyable read is Secrets of the Talking Jaguar. My gosh, I’m forgetting his name now. 

Damianne: [41:49] I look it up and add it in the show notes. 

Brandon: [41:51] It’s about a westerner who becomes initiated into a Guatemalan tribe and also becomes a shaman.

Damianne: [41:59] I’ve heard about this book recently, but I can’t remember…

Brandon: [42:01] It’s so good. But yeah, to explore the edges. Anything you can discover about the work of Carl Jung. Bill Plotkin writes beautiful books about soul and purpose and awakening.

So there are tens of thousands of books out there. I’ve written a couple; some other folks have written. Pull up the edges of the threads and then when you’re ready, just do whatever it takes to save some money, go work with somebody and you’ll be much happier after I promise.

Damianne: [42:32] As you mentioned, you have some books as well. And I think from reading the reviews, one of them seems to be a guide book. Is that right? Can you tell us the name of that book?

Brandon: [42:42] Yeah, it’s called the Purpose Field Guide and it’s actually more of a course than a book. So it’s an ebook that’s available on Amazon but it has links to videos and guided visualizations and all this kind of stuff. 

And as I say in the book, and as I’ve said, many times don’t do it alone. You cannot do this alone. I would only recommend it if you have someone else who’s just as committed to you and you can hold each other accountable to go do it together because like I said, resistance gets in the way and makes everything else more important than purpose.

Damianne: [43:14] Well, we’ve been talking about the importance of connection. So this sounds like a great invitation as well for people to find someone to take this journey with. 

Favorite way to play [43:23]

What’s your favorite way to play?

Brandon: [43:26] So many. I would say, kind of sharing my kind of fratty upbringing, but I’d love to go out and go to a karaoke bar with a bunch of strangers and drink beer all night and sing karaoke and make small talk. I mean, that’s one of my favorite things to do. Of course I haven’t done that in many moons.

Damianne: [43:46] That’s very popular in Japan. And you may know that karaoke is a Japanese word, so that was my introduction… Actually, no, that’s not true. The first time I ever did karaoke was in Sudan. There wasn’t a lot to do for fun in Sudan but one of my colleagues had a karaoke machine. Most Friday nights we would find ourselves there and it had a scoring feature so it was competitive. I much preferred Japan because you could get a private room and it was much less embarrassing for me because I could just go with a couple of friends. 

Closing thoughts [44:26]

As we end, is there anything that you would like to mention that I haven’t asked you today?

Brandon: [44:34] Yeah, I think the last thing I just would want to leave folks with is that this is why he came here. You didn’t come here to be somebody else’s version of themselves or success. Everything in your life good and bad has prepared you for your life of purpose. There’ve been no mistakes. Eventually when the phone rings, it says find your purpose, it’s there for you because you came here for it. My invitation is pick up the phone. Pick up the phone and go do the things.

We always have to align the external environments so that we can experience the majesty of our own souls.


Credits

If we want to live a life of purpose, we need people who love and accept us, but also stand for our greatness.

This podcast interview was recorded on Nov. 24, 2020.

About the Author
I'm a curious problem solver.

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