Purpose-driven motivation: 2 Uber drivers taught me how

by Steli Efti

Whenever I ride in an Uber (which happens often), I try to get to know the driver a bit. There are always phone calls to be made or emails to be answered, but you gotta know when to switch all that off. You’ll discover some amazing people and learn valuable lessons if you open yourself up to it.

Driving for a higher cause

On a recent drive in an Uber, I chatted with the driver and was curious why he did this job. He explained that for the last two decades, he has been doing cancer research at Stanford full-time.

Yet, he was driving an Uber two hours every day to earn some extra money—money that he would then donate to cancer research.

He’s seen so many people struggle with cancer, go through the pains and procedures, and face financial hardships that it broke his heart. But rather than being miserable about it, he decided to do something about it.

In his car, he had a photo of a small boy, who turned out to be his son, who hated that he got two hours less of “daddy time” every day because his dad was driving strangers around town. So he took a picture of his son and put it up on the dashboard, telling him: “This way you’ll always be with me when I’m driving.”

Two brothers

Another Uber driver I rode with had an older picture of two young men placed on the car cockpit.

purpose-driven-uber-driver

I inquired: “What’s the story behind this picture?”

“That’s me and my little brother.”

“Cool. Why do you have that there?”

“I’m paying for his school fees by driving Uber.”

“That’s awesome, you’re an amazing brother… and why do you have that picture there?”

“Most days I’m not motivated to do this. I have a full-time job at a factory—hard manual labor. So I don’t feel like driving other people around after work. But this pic always reminds me who I’m doing this for, and why I’m doing it. It’s motivating me to put in the time and effort. I couldn’t do this just for a couple more bucks. I’m doing this to help my brother have a better future.”

I was touched and inspired by this. But I was even more curious: why did HE have to pay for his little brother’s school?

“Our dad recently died. Our mom has cancer. Nobody else could pay for his school. I wasn’t good in school and made a lot of bad choices in my life. I can’t go back and fix that. But I can give my little brother a better future. He’s smart and ambitious, and he appreciated this opportunity. So, that’s why.”

Imagine if I had just sat in the car and answered emails. I’d have missed out on getting to know these amazing people and hearing their inspiring stories.

What about you?

Why are you doing the things you’re doing? Why are you selling? Why are you building a startup? Why are you doing your job?

If the only answers you come up with are to hit a certain revenue milestone, build a big company, get another promotion, or create a better product… take some time to ask yourself:

  • Why am I really doing this (apart from my own selfish needs)?
  • What’s the larger purpose that drives me?
  • What difference do I make in the world?

Then find a way to remind yourself of this purpose daily.

Connecting with your purpose

You’ll always have mundane tasks you’ll need to tackle, no matter how amazing your project, idea or team is.

If you ever feel frustrated or lack the motivation to tackle a task like that, ask yourself: how can I connect this to my higher purpose?

When you realize how this meaningless task relates to your bigger mission in life, it’ll transform the quality of your work and how you feel about it. That’s how you give meaning to even the trivial and seemingly pointless parts of your job and fuel your work with something much more powerful than your own self-interest.

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