I went looking for a job and found a purpose

When I was a kid, a job was a job. And getting one wasn’t anything more than a way to make a few bucks. A source of capital, if you will, to help fund my efforts during non-work hours to see just what kind of shenanigans I could get into.

That was satisfying for awhile. But eventually, the shenanigans got old. I felt the need to find something more compelling to pursue. So I headed off to the ivory towers of academia, to discover what I was called to do. And lo and behold, I came out on the other side of that four (and a half) year journey with a pretty solid idea of the career I wanted to pursue.


It was advertising. Now I know that working in advertising doesn’t sound like an incredibly noble pursuit. But there was something that drew me to it. Funny story - I didn’t actually study advertising in college. I was a journalism major (broadcast news) back when the journalistic quest for truth actually was more noble than what passes for the vast majority of journalism today. I gravitated to advertising because I felt like I could have a more immediate (and bigger impact) working with companies than I could working for a small station in Palookasville and working my way up.

Work became different

When I started working in the advertising field, I quickly decided I didn't like the reputation my industry had. Not that it wasn’t deserved. There were (and still are) a lot of cheesy, gimmick-driven practitioners out there that call themselves advertising professionals. They are just a shade shy of snake oil salesmen. And by a "shade shy", I mean they’re aren’t even that ethical. But I digress.

The thing is, I didn't feel like some huckster. I believed that I could make a difference for somebody. For me, it wasn’t about doing anything at all costs to get a prospect’s attention. It was more about providing something of value. Something that would help somebody make a decision. Maybe make something a little clearer. Or, help them discover something helpful that they didn’t know existed.

Was that naive? Maybe so. But it is what I believed. And it showed up in my work.

I was always looking to create something that would help. Something that would inspire.

Oh, I didn't always get stellar results. But the vast majority of efforts were successful. And they lined up with a belief that helping is the most powerful form of promotion there is. Because it doesn't just grab attention - it creates believers.

Probably the most interesting outcome of all this is that it changed work for me. Just believing I could make a difference got me excited about what I was doing. It made me want to generate really great ideas. I felt like I was contributing. I found a real passion. Because I felt like I had a purpose. Although, at the time, I didn't call it that.

Call it purpose

Today, it's much clearer to me. I find myself talking to organizations about a Big Audacious Meaning - the profound difference they can make in a life, a community, or even the world. It's incredibly rewarding to see those organizations embrace a purpose. And then to see what it can mean for all the team members, for customers, for prospects and more. 

It is an incredible feeling to be part of that journey. Looking back to when I was a kid and getting my first job, I never imagined that work could feel that way. That it could feel like more than a way to just make a few bucks. That it could feel like a pursuit. Like a pretty worthwhile way to spend the days. 

That it could feel purposeful.

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.

PurposeDan Salva