“What do you want, Geo…”.
It took me a second to realise George wasn’t behind me when I got to the bar. I looked back and saw him by the door, smiling like a lemon shark. He’d taken four steps into the pub and stopped.
He wasn’t looking at me. I followed his eyes to a group of four young women and knew immediately which one had caught his eye.
At the back, facing George, a tall girl wearing long blonde hair draped over bare shoulders. Strawberry lips, no makeup, skin of porcelain. Her eyes shone liquid blue, vaguely recalling her Viking roots.
She was smiling, too. A smile that revealed her prominent dimples and creased the corners of her eyes. A 24-carat smile. Pure undiluted sweetness.
George was captivated. Her beauty had literally stopped him in his tracks. And that smile, she wore it for George.
Then her cheeks flushed slightly, she diverted her eyes, and she went back to pretending to listen to her friends. George snapped out of his fugue and joined me at the bar.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” said George, “but I’m going to marry her.”
Her name was Christina, that was twenty-five years ago and George has been married to her for 24 of those trips around the sun.
Some people find their purpose in life and live happily ever after, like George. He was the same when he worked as a detective, He set his mind on a case and followed it through to the end.
He didn’t drop things at 5 p.m. and go home. Once he got his teeth into a case, he’d follow it through any way he could — he had purpose. It was central to his being. Ingrained in his inner nature.
The most important job I can give you
When I was a rookie cop, I was ordered to guard a crime scene overnight. One of those less taxing jobs that sergeants dish out to the least useful members of their troop.
I was new, inexperienced and naïve. Of course, I got the job.
My sergeant deposited me at the scene and gave me my orders.
“Malky, this is the most important job I can give you. We had one cop who let an unauthorised person enter a crime scene and he contaminated the evidence. I’m trusting you to ensure that this investigation isn’t ruined.”
My sergeant understood human nature. He didn’t tell me I had drawn the short straw and got the boring job because I was the rookie. He didn’t give me a bland corporate message, “Guard, watch, and patrol to…”.
Instead, he told me a story. The last cop cocked up by letting someone into the crime scene who shouldn’t have been there. In doing so, he gave me my purpose.
When I was promoted to sergeant, I ended up part of a joint project. I’d be lying if I told you I could remember what it was about. What I remember was our apathy.
I sat around a table with half a dozen other ranks and I could see my disdain for the project reflected in their faces — until the boss spoke.
“Ladies and gentlemen. We have asked to put this project together and deliver a piece of work that all of us think is a waste of our time. It’s an exercise in governance that nobody will care about and nobody will ever read.”
There was a general surprise at our boss’s honesty, but he’d nailed our doubts about it.
“But I don’t care,” he continued. “If I am going to put my name to this project, then I am going to make sure it is the best piece of work I can do. And I expect the same from all of you.”
If there is one thing that makes people sit up and take notice, it’s their expectations of you.
“If there is only one person who ever reads our finished work, then that person is going to get the best information and clearest guidelines we can produce. What we deliver will be the gold standard. Does everyone agree?”
And all at once, we nodded in agreement. He had given us our purpose.
When I was a police inspector, they gave me a newly promoted sergeant to work with. By then, I’d developed firm thoughts on my role and what I should present in terms of my management style.
My new sergeant and I sat down for a chat. After a while, I asked him how he saw his role. He bandied around some cliches for a few minutes and I nodded.
“If you could summarise all that into one specific responsibility, what would it be?”
“Um, I’m not sure, Inspector. What would you say?”
I was glad he asked.
“You are in charge of morale.”
More than anything else, a leader is in charge of morale. I’d seen too many supervisors destroy morale by over-officiousness. I’d been the victim of jobsworths who killed the spirit and bullies who kicked morale in the teeth.
“Look after your team’s morale and they will look after you.”
— Malky McEwan (Circa 2008)
You are in charge of morale
I didn’t stop there. You are in charge of morale, is just a pithy saying. It's like Nike’s
Just Do It
Just do what?
There has to be a what and a why. So I related stories to my new sergeant —
When I was a sergeant holding our daily briefing, I would always ask my troops what they had worked on the day before and get them to share their stories. It was a great way to learn from others’ experiences.
I told him about the two cops who had attended a call about a guy flashing his naked bum at his window. The next day I asked, “What’s the crack there?”
It became a thing.
I got the cops to share their stories by asking, “What’s the crack?”
I loved the stories we shared. These stories happen in any occupation, they are part of life. Humans are natural storytellers. We embrace stories. We learn from stories. And you can pass on a purpose in your stories.
I’d learned that when you look after their morale, they return the favour and look after yours.
I set out in this article to grant you a superpower. That superpower is purpose. When you give yourself a purpose in life, you are an unstoppable force.
Once you set your mind to a purpose, no amount of distractions can send you off course. Purpose is your motivation, your reason for being; it gives you drive, backbone, conviction.
“Purpose is a superpower you can bestow on yourself.”
— Malky McEwan (Circa 13:10hrs today)
Have purpose in everything you do and you will see a change — a sea change. Ask yourself what your purpose is when you get out of bed, go to the gym, or even when writing an article.
Before your fingers tinker with the keyboard, have in mind what you want to achieve.
I’ll make them laugh
I’ll explain how to write with eloquence
I’ll show them how to turn good soup into something glorious
The average person does not know what to do with their life, that is why they are average. The person who pursues a purpose is on the right track.
You can gift purpose. You can give it away — and you should. As a young cop, I stood all night outside that crime scene, alert. My sergeant had given me my purpose for being there.
Poor leaders order their people to follow them. Good leaders ask their people to follow them. Outstanding leaders give their people purpose so that they can lead the way themselves.
I gave my sergeant the power to lead the way. “You are in charge of morale.” If that one phrase guided his decisions and actions, he wouldn’t go far wrong.
About the Creator
Curious mind. Author of three funny memoirs. Top writer on Quora and Medium x 9. Writing to entertain, and inform. Goal: become the oldest person in the world (breaking my record every day).