Purpose Built

Someone I care very deeply about sent me an article titled, “What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?” by Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui, along with a text that said, “This is how I am feeling right now.” I would encourage you to read the article, but the synopsis is, “What if I am happy and fulfilled doing and being things that don’t look big or attract attention?”

Why does it seem inadequate or mediocre for us to be what we were created to be?

For instance, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport was built for speed. Certainly one of the fastest production cars ever built, the Veyron will exceed 250 mph before it’s electronic limiter kicks in. It is also expensive: roughly $2.5 million, but that’s just the purchase price. A set of the Super Sport’s special Michelin tires costs $42,000 and might last 10,000 miles if you’re careful, though they last only 15 minutes at the car’s top speed. (At that pace, however, the 26.4-gallon tank is sucked dry in just 10 minutes, and there’s no place on earth to safely go that fast that long anyway, so no worries.) At the third tire replacement, Michelin requires that you also swap out the $69,000 wheels—coincidentally, the only wheels that fit those tires—to ensure a proper bead seal.

Recap: Driving the Veyron Super Sport at top speed will make you look great, feel like a king, and probably get your picture in the paper. However, you will transport 2 people a little over 40 miles in 10 minutes at 1.6 miles to the gallon, and you’ll spend an additional $975 per mile in tires and wheels (and you’ll be out of gas).

In contrast, the Toyota Prius was built for fuel economy. Currently one of the most fuel-efficient production cars on the market, the Prius is not fast. In the Prius, the same 40 miles would take over 40 minutes. However, you can have 3 other people with you, and you will be using fuel at a rate of 1 gallon per 50+ miles. It should also be noted that you will only have about 2.5 cents per mile in additional cost for tires. (You should never have to replace the wheels unless you hit something.) You could also buy 80 Prii (Toyota decided Prii, pronounced PREE-eye, is the plural form of Prius) for the same cost as the Veyron.

So, if you need to move people 40 miles, you can do it fast and attract a lot of attention, or you can do it slow and be stunningly efficient.

Which is better?

Both have a place and a purpose. They are equal in the sense that, when needed for their specific function, each is the appropriate and best solution.

People are the same. We are each built for something, and in the right place and the right time, we are each uniquely the best person for that place and time.

The difficulty is we often think there is something wrong with us if we aren’t a Veyron. Society has lied to us over and over, saying that everyone can (and should) be able to go 250 mph and look fabulous doing it. Even worse, society doesn’t acknowledge the enormous cost of going that fast, and it often makes us feel that we should be able to run like the Veyron at the cost of a Prius. We would never make that comparison between these cars, which were obviously designed for specific and defined purposes, yet we consistently do this to people.

What Krista is saying in her article is that she is comfortable being who she was designed to be, knowing that it won’t attract attention, make the headlines, or get her name on a building. The things she was made for are significant and meaningful and important to her and the people she is doing life with. She doesn’t think her life is mediocre. The world might, because she is not a Veyron, but the people in her life need a Prius and are infinitely better off because she is there for them and willing to be who and what she was built to be.

Unfortunately, we often judge someone’s effort in the workplace by whether they are moving up, getting promoted, and advancing. We reason (wrongly) that if someone is an “A” player, they will continue to “advance” in a way that has been defined by current social norms. However, people are built for different things. While everyone can demonstrate character and leadership in any role, each person is better suited to a particular role and will be most successful and most fulfilled in that role. We need to acknowledge their intrinsic value and appreciate and reward them for being what they were created to be—a Prius, a Veyron, or something in between.

Society is blind to this paradox and will continue to lure people into trying to be everything for everybody and getting burned to a crisp in the process. However, it doesn’t have to be that way at Kimray.

Kimray is a community where we acknowledge people’s giftedness and find the best place for them to shine. We need to create new ways to demonstrate that we appreciate and value what each person brings to our community. It should be tangible and evident that we value and care for someone in an entry level role as much as we do a director or CEO. It is obvious to anyone that each person is meeting different needs within the organization. What should be just as obvious is that all those needs are important.

This is not performance vs mediocrity. The Prius completely knocks it out of the park on its intended purpose. It is not slacking or settling or underachieving (that would be the Ford C-Max Hybrid). Each and every person can be encouraged, supported, and expected to be the best version of their authentic self possible. But let’s not force them to be somebody else.

We’ve looked at the differences, but there are similarities too.

Both the Veyron and the Prius have 4 wheels, an engine, doors, seats, various controls including steering, places to put gas and some amount of luggage, exteriors, interiors, windows, etc. There are lots of things that make them both cars. Without most of these things, neither would be a good representation of a car.

So, what do people at Kimray have in common? Setting aside physical similarities, the list is both long and impressive. Kimray people have empathy and compassion for others. We strive for excellence while understanding there are imperfections in ourselves and others. At Kimray we work to be others-oriented in thought and action. We look for and embrace the seasonality of our lives at work and at home. We value character in ourselves and in others. Kimray people love who they are, who they are with, and what they do—and it shows.

We are all unique and yet we are all the same. Our sameness is what binds us together and creates community. Our uniqueness is what allows that community to grow and thrive. The world would be a strange and frustrating place if all the cars were Veyrons. It would be equally disturbing if all the cars were Prii.

I am glad we are each unique and purpose built, yet joined in a common mission. Knowing each of you allows me to experience life in ways I would never know on my own. Your contribution to my life and to our community is significant and valued. I wanted to let you know that. Maybe you will let someone else know that, too.